In my previous post, “Why are you single? International edition,” I described what single people in Poland had to say about why they were living single. The research came from Julita Czernecka’s book, Single and the City. In her research, the author interviewed 60 financially stable college graduates between the ages of 27 and 41 who had not been in a serious romantic relationship for at least two years, had never been married and had no children.
Here I want to share more about the lives of single people in Poland, and add some of my own observations about how their experiences seem to compare to those of single people in the U.S.
In Poland, as in so many other nations around the world, individualistic values have become increasingly important. (I wrote about this previously in “Millions living alone: The result of centuries of growing individualism?“) Author Julita Czernecka believes that the emergence of those values has been important in the rise of single people and their particular characteristics. In contrast to the single Polish people from decades ago, contemporary singles “are active, ambitious, and live on their own because they want to, not because they have to.”
When Czernecka asked the 60 single people about their values, they most often said it was important to be “free and independent.” The number who said it was important to develop their career and have a good job was no smaller than the number who said it was important to find love and an ideal partner. The single people more often described education as one of their values than having a family and kids.
Research in the U.S. has found that single people are especially likely to value meaningful work. Czernecka did not compare work values of single people to married people, but among the singles she studied, she did find that work is important to them. Though some worked primarily to earn the income they needed to support themselves, for others work was “a source of development, self-esteem, and satisfaction.”
Perhaps because the singles she studied are so dedicated to their work, they also care a great deal about their leisure time. In fact, Czernecka’s sense is that singles value their free time more than other Poles do. She notes that “singles use their free time to gain new experiences, emotions, and impressions.”
As in the U.S., singles in Poland are very unlikely to be socially isolated. “The vast majority of singles get emotional and material support or help in everyday duties from their family and friends.” And yet, the same scare stories about being lonely and alone when they grow old are peddled to them, and too many internalize those fears.
One last finding from Czernecka’s research on singles in Poland: “…the majority of singles do not feel any pressure to find a partner, not from their closest family, nor from their friends.” I don’t know of any systematic research on that in the U.S.; I wonder whether we’ve reached the same majority status. Wouldn’t that be nice?