Poland Online - Poles and Foreigners

In Poland

Polish Forums describes itself as "PolishForums." As the description suggests, the site really is a micro-community of Polish aficionados in the virtual world. Anyone can sign up and post messages in English, although most members are Poles, either citizens of the country or expatriates. Registering on the site is quick and simple - all it takes is a valid email address, and one can become a member immediately. Even if one doesn’t want to register, one might find it fun and informative - and maybe even oddly touching-to browse these forums as a guest.

The site has hundreds of topics related to Poland listed on the forums, with issues ranging from the sacred to the profane: while one member wants to know how to get American citizenship for the woman he loves, another is more interested in Polish swear words! Some posts are warm and breezy, such as that of a student looking for a vacation job. Others are quietly desperate, such as the (many) posts that are from expatriates looking for friends and family members they have left behind in Poland. Many such posts go unanswered, and one can only imagine the futile wait of those who have posted these messages with hope. To help out such members, the site has a very useful section titled ‘Unanswered Topics,’ which one may click on to view all such listings, and provide help or information if possible.

An interesting feature of the site for those looking for specific topics is the very handy search option. Searches may be based on a myriad of options: the date of posting, the name of the poster, key words in the post, or the name of the forum. There is also an excellent Statistics section, which keeps visitors informed of the most popular topics on the boards. Strangely, the two most popular topics in recent times are both very different from each other. One is purely cultural, with remarks on contemporary Polish music, and discusses genres like Disco Polo and the music of Budka Suflera, Perfect and Bajm. The other is on how Polish students may apply for American citizenship. As one young woman puts it, "I came here from Europe having a student visa" I want to have a chance to see my family and at the same time [the right] to stay in USA just because I have more opportunities here.”

Although there is no clear demarcation between Polish visitors to the site and foreigners, there are clearly two basic strands of thread that run through these forums: one cultural, and the other political. Curiously, there is very little obvious use of the Polish language itself on these boards. This strikes one as odd, because language is what keeps communities together even while they are apart, and one would think that people far away from their homeland would want to use their native language, but there’s no evidence of any such desire here.

The message boards on the site are an interesting way for non-Poles to get to know about Polish culture, especially the Polish cuisine. For example, an American vodka enthusiast wants to know what Polish vodka is like, and is given a barrage of information on where to buy Zubrowka, what white Polonaise tastes like, and how one Polish ‘shot’ is equal to two American ones. There are recipes for Polish cheesecake and golabki, and information on where to eat out in Poland.

There are many more interesting features on the site, such as personal ads to find a Polish date, and free translation from Polish to English and vice versa performed free of charge by those who know the languages. The site is worth bookmarking, for its sheer variety if nothing else. It seems to be a fine example of how the internet has provided virtual communities outside "real-life" communities, where people can come together and talk about whatever they want to without the fear of discrimination. Also, Poland seems to be a good country to visit.