After getting an eyeful of so many Polish nationals, we were surprised by the very strict dress code when Ed was in the hospital.
The nurses kept insisting that he wear pajamas. Don’t get me wrong; he wasn’t running around in his birthday suit, rather a T-shirt and gym shorts. The same thing he would wear for lounging about and sleeping at home. That wasn’t good enough. We had to get a couple of pair of traditional pajamas (long pants not short). After appearing shocked that he didn’t have a robe to wear when having tests downstairs, one of the nurses was kind enough to find us a loaner.
If Poland were full of people who dress conservatively and in general, keep themselves covered up, the hospital expectations would make perfect sense. But that’s not the case. Let me give you some examples of the “eyeful” I mentioned above.
The sauna and steam room at our local gym are coed. It’s not unusual to walk into the steam room to find women topless. Men in the sauna are polite enough to drape their towel over themselves when I entered the sauna, but I have seen countless bare butts exiting the sauna and in the hallway.
School children change into their gym clothes in the classroom. My American friend who taught here, said she would always ask her students if they wouldn’t prefer to change in the restroom, but they never did. And that hasn’t changed by the time their in high school or college. The changing room for the Euro volunteers was coed. My young Polish colleagues thought nothing of “dropping trou” to change into their uniform.
It continues into adulthood. Just this week, the woman (our age) working out next to Ed in the gym at the physical therapist’s office stood up, stepped out of her pants and changed into her skirt. Yep, right there in the gym among the yoga mats and exercise bikes.
Ed and his colleagues spent an evening in a gymnasium with one of the American style football teams for a winter practice session. When their time was up, the football team left for the showers and the women’s volleyball team took their place on the floor. No one gave it a second thought when a few of the football players, sporting a healthy glow and nothing else returned to the bleachers to dress.
Are you familiar with the sheet draping technique used by American massage therapist? The way they hold the sheet while you’re turning over on the table? That doesn’t exist here. An large washcloth will be placed on your top half or your bottom half, whichever they’re not working on at the time.
As the temperature rises, we’ll see more skin at the lake, and it won’t just be young skin. There is nothing unusual here about seeing a great-grandma sunbathing on a park bench in her undies. Don’t even get me started on men urinating along the sidewalk. If only I were quicker with my camera.
As I mention all of this, I don’t mean to sound derogatory (except about the men urinating in public). Our cultures are different, and until our hospital encounter, Poles had never stuck us as hyper-modest, let’s button that top button kind of people. It seemed so ironic to me that hospital patients are expected to be fully dressed in layers, when in other areas of the city people are peeling their clothes off and no one gives it a second thought.
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.