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Beata: All About Polish Lesson 8 - Top 5 things you need to know about Polish Society
Nick: Hi, and welcome back to PolishPod101.com! I'm Nick.
Beata: And I'm Beata.
Nick: Today we're going to tell you more about life in Poland.
Beata: There are so many aspects to Polish society, it's hard to know where to begin!
Nick: Why don't we start with the capital of Poland and its history?
Beata: That's a good idea. You already know that Warsaw, the capital of Poland, is the most popular tourist attraction, so why not find out more about its past and present?
Nick: Warsaw is the largest city in Poland with respect to both population and geographic size. It's also undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan city in Poland, with a vibrant and well-developed cultural and political life.
Beata: I don't know how many of our listeners know this, but Warsaw wasn't always the capital of Poland. Do you know, Nick, what year Warsaw became the official capital?
Nick: Actually, I do. In 1596, Polish King Zygmunt III Waza made the decision to move the capital from Cracow to Warsaw. Since then, Warsaw has remained the most influential city in all of Poland.
Beata: But history wasn't always so favorable to Warsaw.
Nick: That's true. Warsaw has had many tragic moments in its history, including such events as the Swedish invasion, very often referred to as the Deluge, and the final partition of the Polish nation, which took place in 1795.
Beata: However, the most destructive and devastating period for Warsaw began with the outbreak of World War II and continued through to the very end of the war.
Nick: According to post-war statistics, about eighty percent of city buildings were destroyed and half of the population of Warsaw perished.
Beata: When the war was over, Poles wanted to rebuild the "new" Warsaw to resemble its pre-war self as closely as possible. Unfortunately, the damages were so immense that it just wasn't possible.
Nick: The only part of the city that was restored to match pre-war plans was the Old Town. The rest of the city was designed with the intention of immediately providing housing for those who survived the war...
Beata: and of course for newcomers.
Nick: Within a matter of years, tall concrete "blocks" sprouted rapidly. They provided a lot of apartments; however, their quality left much to be desired.
Beata: The good thing is, however, that soon after the fall of communism, Warsaw changed markedly. With a high number of new businesses and intense cultural life, Warsaw has definitely a lot to offer to all sorts of people.
Nick: Okay, so let's talk now a bit about family life in Polish society.
Beata: There are a few interesting things to note. One is that you won't see as many big families in Polish cities. People usually have a small number of kids, and only children are not an exception. However, in the villages, there's still a need for larger families.
Nick: It makes perfect sense. Very often children in the countryside are expected to help with everyday work at the farm and, probably in time, take over the farm's operations entirely.
Beata: That's absolutely true. Also, another interesting thing about children is that they tend to live with their parents for quite some time, very often into their adult years and sometimes even until they are married.
Nick: You see, this is very different than in the United States. There, once you reach a certain age, usually sometime in your early twenties, it's time for you to go out and live on your own.
Beata: Well, in Poland it all depends on your financial situation. Living on your own is very expensive and not that many young people can manage paying the rent and sustaining themselves. Simply put, income is really low in comparison to the cost of living and real estate values.
Nick: I can see now why they wouldn't move out so soon. Living with family probably allows them to save some money toward, let's say, a wedding.
Beata: Well, speaking of marriage, more and more people are waiting until they are older to get married. The main reason for that is that they want to establish themselves in a career. For example, as soon as Poland joined the European Union, a lot of young Poles left looking for better-paid jobs and very often hoping to start their families abroad.
Nick: Delayed marriage can be kind of problematic, though, when it comes to social issues like the falling birthrate.
Beata: Yes, this is a big problem actually. Fewer and fewer children are being born each year.
Nick: Do you know whether the Polish government has been trying to do something to reverse this trend?
Beata: From what I know, the government pays a certain amount of money for every child. Let's hope that this action will help at least slow down this trend.
Nick: Okay, let's talk about Poland's economy. Beata, did you know that the Polish economy is considered to be one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Europe?
Beata: Well, yes, actually I did know that.
Nick: I mean, it has a lot of strong industries, such as machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals...so it's all of that and more.
Beata: Poland is also exporting a lot of goods. For example, Poland is known for exporting electrical and electrotechnical equipment, chemical products, machinery, and textiles—not just our world-famous vodka.
Nick: What about the Polish workforce? Do you think that Poles have a lot to offer?
Beata: Actually, in recent years, Poland has become one of the world's most popular outsourcing destinations, mainly because of its well-educated, yet cheap by comparison, workforce. Young people especially, who often speak at least two foreign languages and have master's degrees, are highly sought by companies both domestic and foreign.
Nick: That's very interesting. If you don't mind, let's go for a moment into politics. Poland is a democratic parliamentary republic with the president as the official head of state.
Beata: That's right. It's worth mentioning that the president's main role is to represent the nation in world affairs. He does possess, however, one important political function, and that is the power of veto over legislation passed by the parliament.
Nick: Could you tell us more about the Polish parliament?
Beata: It consists of two chambers, the lower house, called the "Sejm," and the upper house, called the Senate. The interesting thing about the Senate is that it was only recently established in 1989, so we can say that it's a fairly new element in the Polish government.
Nick: So who's the political head of the government, then?
Beata: The prime minister has this function. Together with a council of ministers, he represents the executive branch of the Polish government.
Nick: Whereas, as in many constitutional governments, the remaining powers are separated among the judiciary and legislative branches.
Beata: There are also some generational trends that I want to talk about. Polish society is changing quickly in a lot of ways.
Nick: So a lot of people probably aren't doing things the way their grandparents or even parents did before them.
Beata: Definitely. If you look at the older generation's attitude toward work, you'll see that there's a strong sense of loyalty to their employers, and they place work very high on their priority list.
Nick: On the other hand, the younger generation doesn't seem to have the same mind-set.
Beata: Yes, like I said before, I think attitudes are changing.
Nick: These days it doesn't seem like changing jobs is really a big deal anymore. If there's something that they're not satisfied with, they'll find a new company to work for.
Beata: They don't know how to be patient anymore.
Nick: I'm curious to see how those trends are going to change in the future.
Beata: Well, that was our glimpse into the Poland of today.
Nick: We hope you've learned a lot! We certainly covered a lot of information.
Beata: Yes, and you'll get to know more on the next All About Polish series at PolishPod101.com.