Back from my vacation!
It’s interesting to see how attitude towards travelling changes over time. The first I set foot in Europe (back in 2001), the excitement I felt was because of fresh cold breeze I felt like I had never felt before, greenery I saw like I had never seen before and travelling over 120 Kms on road which I had never done before. People were not needed for this excitement. After a while, the point of travelling became merely a pursuit of checklist, another country off the list, another place to talk about (read as show off) to friends and family. But that phase passed soon as well. Now, as I travel over 1000 Kms from Poland back to Belgium, it feels no different than travelling from Bangalore to Goa, because the geography of Europe is just as familiar, if not more, as in India. The cherished experiences from travel is now derived from the people I meet, not places I visit and I mean this for the Swiss Alps or New York too.
I was lucky to meet a wonderful family in Wroclaw on this trip. I visited my friend who let me stay in a wonderful apartment. The surprises though came from the family. For Easter, the father invited me to a speedway race, which he has been visiting for the past 5 decades! As I approach 30, often I wonder if I’ve gotten old too quickly, But after the speedway race, I realise age has little to do with ageing, for I felt a lot older among speedway fans, many of whom were twice my age. They cheered louder than me, cursed just as loud and I must admit they were thrilled by the race a lot more than I was. My friend’s mom cooked great (Polish) food throughout the stay. I did not least miss home food during this week. Every dish was tasty and I think I put on weight within a week :) I was a wonderful experience and a new one too!
Here’s what I find intriguing about this trip. Wroclaw is a student city. Anybody who knows something about student cities in Central and Eastern Europe knows that the general culture borders on Hedonism (I agree its stereo typing, but has some truth in it). As an outsider, the only music one hears is techno, trance or R&B, there are more nightclubs in the city than good restaurants, the downtown is filled with drinking holes and party places and just as you move away from the downtown, there are innumerable parks to laze around or get a good sun tan, which a majority of people take advantage of. You can also see other ways in which the parks are taken advantage of by the number of beer cans left over at 5 AM in the morning. A majority of the population lives in the right now and right here. This attitude is understandable in most student cities or college campuses around the world, but I found that concept to be pushed to its limits in this part of the world. The philosophy of life is so simple and uncomplicated that it becomes seductive… after all, why not maximize pleasure and minimize pain every day when you know life is short! It’s like constantly living in a proxy Ibiza island. The objectives of life being get through the boring weekdays and then hit the dance floor from Thursday through Saturday, the only constraint being depth of pockets…
Come to think of it, this is the part of the world which has seen most violence in the past century even in comparison to Middle East and Africa! Clearly people have witnessed tremendous pain and I wonder if that is the reason that this Hedonistic culture among youngsters is tolerated by the older generations even though Poland is one of the most catholic countries in the world.
The business implication is interesting to. Imagine, managing a team in India and another in Poland and both teams are supposed to perform similar operations for different geographies. Given similar volumes, simple mathematical model would suggest the same headcount to be staffed in both locations. But given the difference in cultural environment, the Indian benchmark simply won’t be sufficient in Poland. It’s rare to find any employee staying in office beyond the 9th hour in Poland as opposed to having the entire team stay in office beyond the 12th hour in India :) We could go around blaming leadership, operating model, efficiency and other business buzz words… but all that it come down to is this: Irrespective of the pros and cons, few cultures have figured how to have fun each week, others count on their annual vacation for fun and this has an impact on how business should be conducted :)