Here’s the latest episode of our summer/winter reflective series “12 things I’ve learnt living 12 months in Poland“.
5. How to live without a backyard
For an Australian, your own backyard seems to be a rite of passage. Even in my student share houses, there was always a backyard, usually under-used and overgrown. I hardly knew anyone who lived in an apartment – that’s something only for rich, inner-city, business people. Here in Poland (and the majority of the world), that equation is rather reversed.
Almost everyone lives in an apartment here – and so, I too found myself for the first time in my life living above ground, without a private green space of my own. At first, it was really hard to get use to, I felt cooped up! Keeping pets seemed cruel! And even trying to do the simple act of keeping pot plants became a mystery – where the hell could I put all this dirt?! It seemed unnatural to me that children should grow up in apartment blocks with no place to run and play outside…
But then I realised that there were these spaces to run and play and be outdoors – parks. I also realised that these shared outdoor spaces meant that kids (and dogs (and adults)) tend to go out and use public parks more than we do in Australia, where we stay hidden from each other behind our large, secure fences. And this simply means people get to meet each other more. Far from a deprived childhood, these Polish kids who grow up living in apartment blocks (even the grey communist ones) have memories of always having a gang of other children to play with and make fun with (and apparently the bars between the blocks for hitting the dust out of carpets made the best monkey bars!) A contrast to my own childhood growing up with a bit of land out of town, where I’d only had my siblings and sometimes the neighbours kids to play with. Living in an apartment doesn’t mean being trapped in a small indoor space. I’ve learnt it means getting out and using your city as your backyard instead.