My talk at TEDxKrakow contained one throw-away observation which raised warm applause from the massed Polish audience.
I said that I had studied various languages. Polish is the only one which teaches you the verb ‘to complain’ – narzekać – as one of the VERY FIRST VERBS YOU LEARN.
This subsequently led to some merry exchanges with different Poles as to which Polish language textbooks do indeed include the verb narzekać as an example of a regularly declining verb in the –ać form.
Some do. Others? Not so much. But there is no doubt that complaining as an art-form is practised avidly in Poland. Brits love to grumble. Grumbling seems more fatalistic, withdrawn, self-absorbed, private. Poles by contrast love to complain. Complaining is more public, assertive, personal.
Complaining is arguably hot-wired into the Polish language because Poles use the very ‘formal’ third-person form of address so consistently when addressing each other:
“Would Sir like another cup of coffee?”
“Might I ask Madam Maria why she is not answering the question?”
“Sir is insulting me!”
This (as far as I can tell) creates a risk of constant thinly-suppressed indignation and affront. No dudgeon I have ever encountered reaches the giddy altitudes of Polish dudgeon. See any Polish TV political chat show.
In this complex cultural context, complaining in the sense of objecting to one’s dignity being insulted by some or other slight or misfortune makes a lot more sense than puny grumbling?