Peanut Butter in Poland
Stephanie Olsen is
an American woman who, because of her husband's business,
is presently living in Poland with two small children.
She writes... If any of you Journeywomen are happening
my way, I'd love to have you over for coffee but please
bring me a jar of peanut butter. I'm desperate for a taste
of home! E-mail:
I felt completely
and utterly stranded. As the mother of a twelve week
newborn and her two-year old sister, I was far too busy
to learn how to speak Polish, yet here I was with my spouse
in Poland. An American city girl, born and bred, I was
now living on a farm. Completely dependent on my husband's
linguistic abilities, I was often alone for weeks at a
time while he traveled on business for which we had relocated
in the first place.
I expected culture
shock but never believed that food would be such an exceptionally
big hurdle for me to overcome. Somehow I just couldn't
get used to sour cream, beet soup or Polish sausages and
was absolutely shocked to discover that peanut butter
is an, as yet, unappreciated staple in Poland. In fact,
peanut butter is impossible to buy, beg, borrow or steal
"Peanut butter! Get
me peanut butter!" I didn't mean to sob, but I think the
anguished wail was heard throughout Europe. What IS it
with these people; how can an entire continent be unaware
of a staple food redolent with childhood memories? Who
in North America does not personally know that delicious
feeling of squishing her peanut butter and jelly sandwich
(on white bread) and rolling it up into little balls while
trying to clear the roof of her mouth so that speech is
once again possible?
God bless my mom...
"What else do you
need over there?" ("Over there" to my mother being anywhere
that malls aren't and English isn't spoken).
"Loose-leaf." A groan escapes me despite resolutions and
tight lips. "Ma", I whisper, looking around, "they all
write on graph paper over here. I can't stand it. I'm
nearly blind. Send me some real paper."
"How's your supply of red licorice?" (My mother is a saint,
"Very low, as a matter of fact. Oh, and don't forget the
Cheerios, mom! They've only got those sugar-coated ones
over here; nothing plain for the kids to snack on."
"Okay, hon." I hear scribbling 3,000 miles away. "I've
already sent the Sea-Monkey food and some paperbacks.
Lessee...oh! I nearly forgot - did you ever find Zip-Loc
are there no Zip-Locs, but I've run out of cream of tartar
and food coloring again!"
"You and the kids making lots of homemade playdough, eh?
Well, don't you worry! I'll pick up a supply today and
slip it in with the knitting markers and those 3-ply lotion-soft
Kleenexes you like so much."
Phew! Now that I know a box of America is on the way to
this temporary expat in Poland, I can relax and enjoy
all things Polish. Vive la difference and God bless my
Women's words on culture
Whether you are a
French woman living in Britain, a Japanese woman working
in Amsterdam or an American woman visiting in Thailand
-- sooner or later you will suffer from bouts of culture
shock. This condition has much less to do with the culture
you are trying to adjust to and much more to do with your
own need for finding something familiar to associate with.
At some point during your stay you will absolutely crave
the foods you are used to and you will reject completely
the delicacies and specialties of your new home. Don't
despair. You eventually get past the old longings and
begin to appreciate the fresh experiences. This usually
happens no matter where you come from and how different
the country you are visiting is.
(Evelyn Hannon, Editor, Journeywoman)
You may find you
get, on occasion, unaccountably irritable and frustrated
by local ways of doing things. These are signs of mild
culture shock and certainly shouldn't lead you to think
you have to get on the next plane home. Once you're aware
of what's happening you can take steps to slow down, relax
and take more time to explore the differences around you
at your own pace. After all you've come all this way because
it is going to be different -- that is the reason you're
travelling at all.
(Maggie & Gemma Moss, authors of Handbook for Women