Teenagers in Poland and Great Britain differ on many levels. Our culture and history, economical status or position in the world politics made our countries totally different. But we are all living in the same global village now and both, English and Polish kids, can watch MTV or eat Big Mac in McDonald’s nowadays.
Before overcoming communism in Poland in 1989 we didn’t have as many possibilities to develop our interests as people in GB. Getting new rock albums or watching the latest movie hits wasn’t such an obvious activity as in Britain. Not all of us were lucky enough to see James Bond’s adventures straight after being released. Many of us heard funny stories from our parents about recording music hits from ‘trójka’. Marek Niedziwiecki’s ‘Lista przebojów trójki’ or Piotr Kaczkowski’s ‘Minimax’ were the only broadcasts where you could hear western music. No one even dreamed about listening to music in stereo. Mono spool tape recorders had to do it. Of course some of us had friends in Britain, France or an other democratic country who provided us with books, music and magazines. Listening about all those bans in PRL can make you think that Polish teenagers couldn’t have the same interests as guys in England. Well, that’s only half true. Maybe collecting Matchboxes wasn’t possible but, for example, we had our punks or football supporters too. As we all know, punks in capitalistic countries were fighting with the ‘system’. They were against politic power, commercial way of life or unfair relations in society. Here in Poland it was impossible to come out against spreading McDonald’s restaurants or life based on consumption. Problems like these didn’t exist in Poland in the ‘80’s when the punk movement was strongest. But we had our ‘system’ and we were fighting for our freedom too. We also had our punk festival in Jarocin which has taken place ever since. Our punk bands aren’t popular now like 10-15 years ago. Young people in Poland more often listen to Iggy Pop or Sex Pistols than to Dezerter etc. But now they’re becoming popular again. The ‘system’ has changed but it still restricts people’s mental and physical freedom.
In early 90’s everything changed. Poland has become a free, democratic country. Slogans saying ‘punk is dead’ or ‘rock. is dead’ were almost everywhere. Pop stars like Madonna or Michael Jackson were at their peak. But the revolution was to come. In 1991 Nirvana released their ‘Nevermind’ album which sold 14,000,000 copies. Rock bands all over the world started to play grunge. Teenagers in almost every part of the world went mad about Kurt Cubain and rock. In the same year, the British band The Prodigy released their first album ‘Experience’. People started to listen to electronic music, house, rave and eventually techno. This was something totally new, music without band, lyrics and typical instruments. Only DJ with his equipment: sampler, turntable etc. Love, music and fun; perfect slogans for kids tired of thinking and fighting with anything. They are looking only for something which will allow them to move. They don’t need music in conventional meaning. In order to have a better sensation, they take ecstasy or LSD, not very popular among old rock players. The techno culture appeared in Britain in the turn of the decade. It came to Poland in middle 90’s. Although kids dressed like ‘aliens’ aren’t very popular in Poland. Many young techno fans don’t get the idea of this culture and just copy the MTV pattern. Teenagers in Poland quite often are wrong taking dance music as techno. There aren’t many really good techno clubs here and people have very often misunderstood the techno movement. They don’t have a chance to feel the sense of it. But on the other hand, people in Poland are more interested in industrial music than Englishmen. It’s not a culture or movement actually. I can mention here only particular bands but not the philosophy. It’s a very popular music style in the USA and other countries all over the world. I’m talking about bands like Nine Inch Nails or TOOl. These two are very popular among industrial fans and both come from USA. The latest TOOL album achieved bigger commercial success here in Poland than in Britain. Kids with TOOL t-shirts are very common in the streets. Youth in Britain favour their own bands like Prodigy, Radiohead, Oasis, Blur and all the classic rock and metal bands. Of course I can also mention subcultures like goths, hippies, metals etc but I think they’re as common here as in Britain. Unfortunately we don’t have many rock festivals in Poland. It’s hard to satisfy a Polish audience. We are too poor to organize big events. I think Polish teenagers to often want to be just like American kids. We want to look like them and act like them. But our reality differs from theirs and we have to create our own style, not just copy patterns from MTV.
Talking about contemporary youth interests you can’t forget about computers and the internet. Now you can find a computer with access to the internet in almost every home. Playing computer games or writing an e-mail are activities as common as going to work or school. Some of us spend hours every day in the virtual reality. Sometimes it’s just sitting at home and playing computer games with the computer as the opponent. But sometimes we compete with people all around the world. Many teenagers write letters to each other in electronic form.The internet gives us the opportunity to have a chat with people from different parts of the world. You can meet people with different hobbies and interests. Sometimes it helps to find a friend, sometimes it’s just a way of spending time. It’s also an unexplored world full of information. Internet is the first media which is available in the same extent for Poles and youth in Great Britain. Internet connects us both with the world.
Naturally teenagers don’t spend all their spare time listening to the music or playing computer games. Both, Poles and Englishmen like doing and watching sports. We love football like the youth in Great Britain but rugby or cricket isn’t very popular in Poland.
These are the main youth interests in the last 20 years. Of course teenagers have also other hobbies, for example: model making, reading, writing, painting or web mastering. All of us have other interests. But you can’t say that the youth likes reading books if suddenly millions of them read Harry Potters adventures. It’s only a fashion and it’s variable. Interests stay much longer.

Andrzej Warzyński

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