Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Few Notes on Jokes

Working and living in a foreign country can be quite a challenge.  Not the least by the conformity you must undergo, and obstacles with language and culture, plus differences in work place laws (learning about Polish/EU labor laws has really been eye-opening for me.)  One of the largest gaps I find hardest to bridge is that of humor.
Now, one of the first things foreigners notice about Poles is their apparent lack of joy (the Poles will admit this themselves) and their totally cynical, depressing view on the world.  This is a pretty broad brush with which to paint the whole Polish Nation, and I don't endorse the view 100%, but it has been brought to my attention.  Humor, it may seem, is pretty hard to root out; it's hidden away in some deep, dark spot in the Polish national consciousness.
It turns out, that there is humor (I wrote about a joke or two I learned some years back.)  But the gap between American and English humor and Polish humor is wide and deep.  I don't get 99% of their jokes and they are more likely to get indignant about my jokes than anything else.  It happens quite often that a co-worker will say something witty and clever and the whole office will burst into reams of laughter, workers shaking with tears streaming down their faces, while I sit at my desk and wonder, "Was a funny just made?  Guess this one is a little over my head."  Being the odd man out is no fun.

I've given up telling jokes to these people.  It mostly ends up with quizzical faces, shaking heads, and a muttering in Polish I don't understand.  But, I haven't given up trying to grasp the essence of Polish humor. So, every-so-often, I ask around for a joke, or by happenstance I get to hear one that I can actually make sense of.

Here's one:  The foreman of a Polish construction site visited the site one day to see how progress was going.  To his dismay, there was very little built, but the workers were running back and forth with empty wheelbarrows, not bothering to load them up with materials.  When the foreman inquired why the workers were scurrying about without actually loading the barrows, the workers replied, "We're too busy."

I heard another, which involves Polish wordplay.  Now, everyone should know that I am a HUGE fan of puns and try to fit them into conversation whenever possible.  This does, usually, come out in the form of innuendo, which is has gotten me in trouble more than once.

Kto ma jaja w Stanach?
(Who has the eggs (balls) in the States?)

(Obama.  Oba ma is Polish for "He has both".  The pun is on Obama's name.)

Pretty clever.


Anonymous said...

Old Polish joke:

- Why are there so many Polish houses painted white recently?

- Because Gorbachov/Kruchchov/whatever ruler of USSR was at that time/ promised no bomb will fall on the White House

Another one:

Krushchov phones to the head of the scientists academy in Moscow:

- I have a new project for you - assign all the best scientists to it - let's make all the world have the same time everywhere

- Why, tovarishch Krushchow?

- Because it is very annoying to have different time everywhere - I phone to English Queen to say happy birthsday, and it was yesterday, I phone to Vatican to give condolences because of death of the Pope, and it didn't happened yet.

taio said...

excelent articol

Borre Kool said...

nice post :), I'm following you

Wintermute said...

very clever jokes indeed friend

Secrets said...

i like it.

Willy Wade said...

That Obama joke's pretty good

hemorrhage said...

Im polish and id never laughed of obama so dont worry :d

Anonymous said...

Hello, I 've just arrived to your blog and like it a lot! I think you're not right about Polish lack of humour - it's the same thing as with Swedish people. You have to "break the ice" and "get into their world" and then you'll see their amazing humour feeling!

One joke (don't take it too serousely!):

An American man was walking along the beach in Poland. There are many beautiful women lying in the sun, and he really wants to meet one. But try as he might, the women don't seem to be at all interested. Finally, as a last resort, he walks up to a Pole lying on the beach who is surrounded by adoring women.

"Excuse me," he says, taking the guy aside, "but I've been trying to meet one of those women for about an hour now, and I just can't seem to get anywhere with them. You're Polish. You know these women. What do they want?"

"Maybe I can help a little bit," says the Pole. "What you do is you go to the store. You buy a little bikini sweeming suit. You walk up and down the beach. You meet girl very quickly this way."

"Wow! Thanks!" says the American, and off he goes to the store. He buys a skimpy red bathing suit, puts it on, and goes back to the beach. He parades up and down the beach but still has no luck with the ladies. So he goes back to the Pole.

"I'm sorry to bother you again," he says, "but I went to the store, I got a swimsuit, and I still haven't been able to meet a girl."

"Okay," says the Pole, "I tell you what you do. You go to the store. You buy potato. You put potato in sweeming suit and walk up and down the beach. You will meet girl very, very quickly this way."

"Thanks!" says the guy, and runs off to the store. He buys the potato, puts it in the swimsuit, and marches up and down the beach. Up and down, up and down he walks, but the women will hardly even look at him.

After half an hour he can't take it anymore and goes back to the Pole. "Look," he says, "I got the suit, I put the potato in it, and I walked up and down the beach, and still nothing! What more can I do?" "Well," says the Pole, "maybe I can help you a little bit. Why don't you try moving the potato to the front of the sweeming suit?"


PolishMeKnob said...

It's OK. I don't mind.

Everybody loves a good Soviet joke.

I'm not saying Poles don't have a sense of humor (the jokes were case-in-point.) I'm saying that I don't often get their quips.
Also, I've heard that joke before (it wasn't a joke about Americans, it was just a "two friends" kind of joke. Besides, American jokes don't bother me none.)

James Langston Evans said...

haha, i always have a humor that people sometimes appreciate and sometimes don't. but it never bothers me, cause if i think it is funny, that is enough (as long as it doesnt offend people)

munchies? said...

First of all i really like your writing style. To the story: I have a polish friend and his humor is different to mine thats for sure, but we still get along pretty good ;)

Kolin said...


Warsaw blog-meet coming up, if you're interested. Meet the other english speaking bloggers out there . . .


AC Compressor said...

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Not a Troll said...

Hahaha, nice! My roomates were wondering why I was cackling.

Anonymous said...

Haha cool jokes man!

Sean said...

I love joke. I have to say though not all of these are too funny.

FunkyDuckman said...

Really cool. My ancestors are all Polski and I've always wanted to go. Look forward to following.

daniel said...


philmin9 said...

Do your polish coworkers like polish jokes?

Intraman said...

haha that's funny. My polish math teacher would always talk about "polish rules" when someones wrote down a wrong theorem.

Lealeepo said...

Haha nice jokes. I love funny things where you need to know something essential to laugh!

Yono said...

Why'd do move to Poland?

Mathron Nailo said...

Great post

Nitrokills said...

hilarious man! love this post!

The Suit said...

I bet it can be pretty tough sometimes.

Pappa Püllï said...

Wonderfull! Nice blog, keep on blogging =D

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