Enough of this!
Dear Ana Paula and everyone else,
OK, I think that’s enough daft jokes about cheese and fudge. If we continue with this, then new readers will either think we’re all bats, or they’ll think that I’m actually sick and in hospital. (New readers, please note: I'm not sick, and I'm not in hospital; my last two blogs were a joke!). Ana from Poland suggested that we should make a new rule: no more writing about food. I’ll try to follow this rule, Ana, but it might be difficult today. Ana Paula has asked me to write about my experiences in Poland, and my most memorable experience in Poland involved food.
Ten years ago, I was a newly-qualified English language teacher, and I needed a job. I looked through the newspaper and found two advertisements for suitable jobs; one was in Greece, and the other was in Poland. “Well,” I thought to myself, “I’ve been to Greece before, on holiday, and I know I like it there, but I’ve never been to Poland. I know absolutely nothing about Poland. I don’t know what the weather’s like, I don’t know what they eat, I don’t know what the people are like. In fact, I’ve never even met a Polish person in my life. What the heck, I’ll go to Poland!”
So I applied for the job, had a telephone interview, and two weeks later I was in a small town in central Poland called Wlaclawek. (By the way, I’d like to apologise to Polish readers – I know I haven’t written that name exactly right, but my computer can’t do the Polish letter ‘L’ properly!)
In fact, I had an excellent time in Poland. Wlaclawek is quite a small town, and very few people spoke English, so I had to learn the Polish language quite quickly. This wasn’t easy, as Polish grammar is horribly difficult, but I felt very proud when I said my first grammatically-correct Polish sentence.
The people there were amazingly friendly and hospitable, and I made some very good friends there, but I soon learned that there were some major cultural differences between Britain and Poland. Soon after I arrived, I had started going out with a Polish girl, Anna, and one day she asked me if I’d like to come to her parents’ house for dinner. I accepted, of course. I could only speak a few words of Polish, and her parents couldn’t speak any English at all, so there wasn’t much conversation. I arrived, they sat me down at the table, gave me a gigantic plate of food, and said one word, “jec!”. I already knew this word – it means “eat!”. It was the middle of the afternoon, not a normal meal-time. Anna and her parents weren’t eating, and I wasn’t really hungry. However, I thought it would be rude to refuse, so I ate the food. As soon as I had finished, Anna’s mother brought me another gigantic plate of food. So I ate the second plate of food. And the third, and the fourth, and the fifth… I’m serious, I ate continuously from about three o’clock in the afternoon until about ten o’clock at night. Anna’s mother kept bringing me more and more and more food, and I felt more and more sick, and my stomach became more and more painful, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I had to keep eating and eating and eating and eating and eating…
I didn’t eat for three days after that. Later, Anna and I talked about hospitality in our countries, and I finally understood my mistake. In Britain, if your host cooks some food for you, you should normally eat it. To refuse would be impolite. However, Anna explained to me that the rules in Poland are different. In Poland, or at least in that area of Poland, the host’s job is to force the guest to eat as much food as possible. The guest’s job is to refuse point-blank to eat anything at all. So, the conversation should go like this:
POLISH HOST: Eat!
POLISH GUEST: No thank you.
POLISH HOST: Go on, have something to eat!
POLISH GUEST: No, really, I’m not hungry. I just had lunch.
POLISH HOST: Eat! Eat! Eat!
POLISH GUEST: No! I absolutely refuse to eat anything at all!
POLISH HOST: Eat this food, or I’ll punch you in the face…
And so on and so on. I’m exaggerating, of course, but I realized that British and Polish ideas about politeness and hospitality are very different. After I’d realized this, I had a very good time in Poland and I didn’t have to over-eat again.
Right, let’s move on to a very serious subject: prepositions. The answers to the questions in my last blog were as follows:
1. Ana Paula was waiting anxiously for a message from her dear teacher.
2. Her finger was glued to her computer screen.
3. Soon she fell into a catatonic state.
4. We hope she recovers from this catatonic state very soon.
These were nasty questions - well done to Angelica from Codoba, whose answers were bang on the money!
Leila, your guess about the film quotation was half-right; it wasn’t from ‘The Godfather’, but it was from another film by the same director, ‘Apocalypse Now’. Two people answered this correctly: Andrea from Austria and Inok from Earth. If any readers are not from Earth, please let me know!
Oh dear. I planned to ask you some more nasty questions today, Ana Paula, but I’ve run out of time. I’ll ask you some REALLY nasty ones on Friday, I promise!
All the best,
Daft is an adjective meaning ‘silly’.
Bats looks like a plural noun, but in this case it isn’t. It’s another informal British adjective, meaning ‘crazy’.
Be careful with the word actually. In many European languages it means ‘at the moment’ or ‘right now’, but not in English. In English it means ‘really’ or ‘in fact’.
If something is easy to remember, or if it ‘sticks in your memory’, then it is memorable.
The adjective suitable means ‘good in this situation’.
’What the heck’ doesn’t really mean anything. We sometimes use this informal phrase when we decide to do something that’s a little crazy, or not completely sensible.
If you welcome strangers or new people into your home (or your workplace, etc) then you are a hospitable person. The noun hospitality refers to relationships between guests and hosts.
If you’re having a romantic relationship with someone, but you’re not married to them, we say you are going out with them. Americans would use the word ‘dating’.
Gigantic means very very big.
To refuse is to say, “no, I will NOT do this!”
To refuse point-blank means to refuse absolutely.
The adverb continuously means ‘without stopping’.
If you keep doing something, this means that you do this thing again and again and again.
If I come and visit you at your house, you are my host, and I am your guest.
To over-eat is to eat too much – it’s a negative word.
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