Book Review: The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Poles by Ewa Lipniacka

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I have to admit that The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Poles is one of my favourite guides to Polish-ness. No matter how many times I have read certain passages, I still cannot stop laughing.
The little booklet consists of 86 pages divided into 19 chapters and was written by Ewa Lipniacka, a London University graduate, librarian and writer. In the chapter The Flexible Pole, we can read about old Polish recipes, e.g. how to make an almond cake: if you have no almonds use ground beans and almond flavouring. In another chapter, Eating & Drinking, Ewa Lipniacka explains what Poles have for their “second breakfast”, by saying that the “[s]econd breakfast” is whatever you can get away with at work: usually another coffee and a sandwich at your desk, and if your desk happens to be in the front office of a bank, you eat in full public view. For those who are studying Polish there is a chapter on the language as well, where we can learn that anyone who tells you that the Polish alphabet consists of ‘s’ and ‘z’ is exaggerating. Only half of it does. I could easily fill the whole page with quotations from The Xenophobe’s Guide, as the booklet is filled with anecdotes and witty observations, but I do not want to spoil the pleasure of discovering them in the context and having a good laugh.  
The Xenophobe’s Guide is a real treat for Polish readers, but also for foreigners planning to visit Poland and willing to know a little bit more about the Polish mentality, beliefs and culture. The Xenophobe’s Guide points out the common stereotypes and generalisations about everything Poles do and are. If you are planning to read it, remember to take it with a pinch of salt. 

Written by Kinga Macalla

Edited by Alicja Zajdel
Photo courtesy of Kinga Macalla

All quotations come from: Xenophobe’s Guide to the POLES, Ewa Lipniacka, Oval Books, London, 2010.

Xenophobe's Guide -- Photo

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