There is the North Pole and the South Pole. All the other Poles are in London!

Posts tagged ‘what does it mean’

Identity: syntax error

So I meant to have a blog about culture, general my-life-in-London with a slice of politics and feminism here and there (I still have somewhere a note I wrote after The Stylist has done an infuriating article on motherhood).

But it appears I shot myself in the foot.

I called this blog “London Pole”, and now every time I want to write, I am faced with the dilemma: what does this even mean? Am I meant to be representative of the Polish experience in London? (I feel very special and not at all representative). Am I trying to sell a brand that has long lost the shine of novelty? Am I trying to be somebody’s voice? (and whose? and why not just mine?).

See what I mean?

I’m not necessarily deeply involved in the Polish community and events – never have been, really. It’s not like I’m going to start going out and reviewing every single one, though I might go to few. It just looks like I imposed a limiting assumption. Therefore, a conclusion: my concept of being Polish is a limiting one.

Yes, I fear being judged for it. In our international environment, class and nation differences suddenly grow to different heights. Though uni-educated, I am the first generation of a working class background family to have this kind of cultural capital and clout. And yet, I’m also the ear picking up Polish accents (mine is not so distinguishable after my stint in Netherlands, it turns out); I’m the one making friends in Polish shops, when nostalgia creeps up and I need my home food fix. I even, god help me, went to a Polish priest to bless my food for Easter, because I missed my grandma so much. It ended with an argument interesting conversation, which reminded me what institutional sexism means and why, in general, dating Polish men is a futile exercise, unless they are 1) Gender Studies graduates and, to narrow it down, 2) pansexual. It’s not a big group, though it does exist.

I cross the road when I hear drunk Polish men. Well, I cross the road when I hear drunk men, but with anything, anyone Polish it’s literally closer to home. I get embarrassed, because it’s personal and relates to me.

I have been writing in English since about age 22. But recently I’m missing Polish. There are things I want to write in Polish. I miss Polish books (last time I went home I bought two books on the airport and devoured them by the time I got home… right, first home was the one with mum, the second – the one with my partner. Ark.).

I have always had the vision of being a bridge, a go-between. But then for a long time I just disliked all things Polish – how can you be a bridge to someplace you disdain? I started getting over that (largely, though not solely because of nostalgia) and I realized that this disdain for your home country is a part of a larger phenomenon. While being in England I noticed every nation thinks they have the worst politicians and society on Earth – yes, even the Swedish! So, shockingly, it appears that all politics is full of cringe-worthy clowns, faux-paus is not reserved for Polish dinosaurs who don’t speak English, and there is institutional sexism in all Europe, not to mention the world (strangely, the last one does not make me feel better). Perhaps it’s an expat thing. All of us, expats, love to travel, but very often we leave our countries for a reason. All very well if it’s an economical one – better jobs! better paid jobs! any jobs! – but often, that’s not all of it. Outcasts Outsiders, weirdos, wrong skin colour, wrong gender identity, wrong values; tall poppy syndrome, crab mentality, avoiding the boiling frog’s fate – you name it, sometimes it gets too hot in the hometown and it’s time to hit the road.

In the end, the kinship I feel is with expats of all kinds. That is one identity that I can claim freely. As for language, Polish is as beautiful as it is restrictive, and yes, I do miss it and mourn my proficiency, slowly eroded by repetitive English programming. It’s like a hole in my heart. But at this point, if I tried to leave English behind, it wouldn’t feel much different. My self, translated, was a door to new things. It was important, and I wouldn’t change it.

So where does that leave me? Well, I wrote a note! And I hope you don’t mind if I occasionally write one in Polish.