Because it’s summer and because there’s Covid, we didn’t even dream of planning any faraway vacation. If you’re an expat like me, you know that it has its perks, but it also has its sorrows. The hard truth is you miss your friends and family. A lot. That’s why you pack up your family, you find a pet&plant sitter, and you visit the motherland. Avoiding airports, that is, which are an unnecessary risk, you decide to drive. It will be a beautiful journey, they said. That’s what she said. (Any “The Office” fans over here?;)
If your motherland happens to be Poland, you better think twice.
Poland is a beautiful place with tons and tons of good stuff to be said about it, with beautiful nature and a pretty bearable climate. But there is one thing you will probably hate when you come here, and it is the driving. It’s a national sport over here. And not in a good way.
(Having said that I must admit there was this ONE time I had actually found driving in Poland ok. That was after having lived in the Middle East for a while;)
But now – now it’s different because I now came from Holland. The country of law and order. The land of common sense and that exceptional quality the Dutch have, which is – thinking of others. *round of applause*
It’s really amazing – the respect people in The Netherlands have towards each other; you will experience something like a sense of equality(?) – also on the road. But don’t think it’s a fairytale. There’s also the law that comes in handy – very effective law. It will force you to obey all the rules because even going as high as 2 km above the speed limit – will get you fined. No exceptions.
In Poland – with its modern time (post-socialist) Wild Wild (W)East vibe – everything is allowed as long as there’s no police officer in sight. And there usually isn’t. When you’re a law-abiding citizen like yours truly, you will slow down where the sign says “up to 40/60/100 km/h”. Maybe adding a couple of km just to keep things moving. But that’s highly uncommon. Maybe it’s a matter of time that has passed since I last drove here, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so honked at my entire life. Even when I was learning how to drive. These men (because it’s usually men) will honk because you’re driving 140 where it says max 140, and they really want to go 220 or 260. Just because. That *must* prove they are big and strong and successful, right?
Or – because you can already see it in front of you – when one big truck is overtaking the other – even bigger truck – you slow down, bc – obviously. But that man in the Astra behind you doesn’t see it. Why would he? Well, likely because of all the steam that’s going through his ears. He needs that left lane, and he needs it NOW. He will subtly let you know you should move it. With his long lights and the honk. Simultaneously. Repeatedly. Making your heart pound, completely unnecessarily.
And as he is finally passing you by, you can see that he can’t even shout at you now because he suddenly discovers you’re a female person behind the wheel. A woman on a highway? Not scared of the *strong alpha in his oh so powerful car*? What do you know? And she’s driving a decent car not wanting to go 250km/h. How is this even possible(?!). Shocking, I know.
Anyway, why the heck am I writing about this? Because I am a therapist and I work with people struggling with their self worth, really wanting to believe in themselves. People who will question time and time again, whether what they are doing is ok. I myself have been questioning myself too, often on the road. That’s because of the driving situation here – all that frustration and aggression – can be really overwhelming.
And so I’m writing this to tell you – it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, what kind of car you drive, what the goal of your trip is. You don’t own anyone any explanation.
If you want to slow down to bring your family/yourself safely to your destination – don’t let a pirate driver scare you into doing something you don’t want to do. You have every right to feel safe on the road. Even if that pirate is your partner. You’d be surprised how often I hear from women they don’t know how to talk about the fact they don’t feel safe when their partner is driving.
What’s more – in a broader context – if you have an opinion, if you want things different than those around you, and you don’t hurt anyone with your actions – you don’t own anyone ANY explanation. You’re not responsible for how other people are feeling or thinking about your actions. You’re not there to please anyone or to fulfill their expectations.
Similarly – if the food the waiter brought you is inedible – communicate that.
If you’d rather not finish up this *delicious* pasta your aunt made – don’t.
If you don’t want to buy the shirt, the saleswoman swears looks awesome on you – don’t.
And so on and so forth.
You always, ALWAYS, have a right to say no and choose a way that feels right for you to communicate that.
And yes – there will always be people wanting you to behave in a certain way. People who will try and force you to change your mind and do what THEY expect of you. Don’t let that cloud your judgment.
As long as you know what you want, and there’s no harm for others – just do you.
How about you? Do you struggle with knowing and allowing what it is that you want?