The Silver Lining of Communication Issues

My arrival in Poland was slightly delayed thanks to a broken bus. When I finally arrived it was 23:30, dark, and rainy. To top it all off no one around me spoke English. I was standing still with two large bags as the world was spinning around me. I was cold, wet, and buzzing with nervous energy. How could I survive here if I can’t communicate with anyone? I had to decide what to do with myself before the rain soaked my luggage. Luckily I spotted a hotel on the drive into the city; I quickly made a dash for it.

When I arrived I was shocked by the immediate change in atmosphere. The hotel felt modern, the fresh coat of strawberry red paint gave the room a feeling of warmth. The memory of that room is strong because of how thankful I was to be out of the cold. I was dripping wet from the rain, but the biggest surprise for me was when I was greeted in English.

Like many when I arrived in Poland I had little knowledge of the country. Most of the knowledge I had was from friend’s stories and a few sentences from “The Lonely Planet”. The information that I had gathered pointed towards communication being an issue; and it was. What I was not aware of was the attitudes of the Polish citizens that spoke English.

The hotel attendant was cheerful, kind, but most of all helpful. He quickly asked me where I came from, I told him Canada. He was brimming with excitement. He had visited Toronto before and was eager to tell me how much he loved my country. I was weary from travel, but the attitude of the attendant gave me the will to muster a conversation. We spoke for several minutes before he helped me with booking a hotel room, figuring out public transit to find my apartment the following day, and give me advice on how to spend my time in Wroclaw.

This experience has proved to be a common scenario in Poland. Communication is an issue, which is a fact. English is not spoken by a large percentage of the population. However, those that do speak English are very helpful and kind. Building small fleeting connections with the people of Poland to facilitate daily life has been a wonderful challenge that I hope everyone has the opportunity to experience.

David Hilborn

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