Here’s the next bite of our summer/winter reflective series “12 things I’ve learnt living 12 months in Poland“.
3. If it ain’t broke, fix it!
While the modern shopping mall is now a completely normal part of capitalistic life in Poland, unlike back home, it is still possible to meet all of your needs without entering these shiny temples of consumption. In fact, absolutely unlike life in Australia, it is still possible (and affordable) to get most things repaired, instead of throwing away and buying new.
Bikes are repaired, shoes are repaired, electronics are repaired, tailors adjust your clothes… Someone even told me there are still 3 places in Kraków where you can have your umbrella fixed! Even an Aussie who considers herself quite thrifty, has been able to reassess and learn a lot from this mentality. When our house vacuum cleaner broke, my first thought was, ‘okay, we’ll have to go buy a new one’, while my housemates were already planning the trip to the repairman (who managed to get the old one going again!) While the low, competitive prices of capitalism threaten this repair culture, at least for now these trades and skills are still viable in Poland.
The communistic years, at which time you could wait years to receive commodities such as washing machines, televisions, coffee machines, etc, trained the population to become incredibly skilled at making home repairs of… well, just about anything! These skills and pride in fixing your own has been passed on to the next generation. I was amazed with the contraption my housemate Łukasz came up with to keep our coffee grinder working when the original lid got lost, using a pencil, Inka container lid and tin foil (MacGyver style). Most Polish people wouldn’t think of upgrading their laptop, without at least trying to sell the old one…meanwhile I’m aware of multiple old, unused electronic corpses occupying space in cupboards at my mother’s house! Many times I’ve heard stories of Polish workers in the UK proudly bragging that they furnished their whole apartment with (and sometimes even sell) things they found left on the street by ‘stupid’ Brits – putting perfectly good things out on the street corner seems crazy to Poles!
Of course times are changing in Poland, wages and standard of living are improving, but for now, those of us coming from the West can learn a bloody lot about making do, repairing and getting the full lifespan from our purchases here in Poland – and that’s not some hip green thinking, that’s just common sense!