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.)