Tuning in Poland

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend some time in Poland while conducting qualitative research for a global technology manufacturer. Although I can’t share any of the insights we gained from the study, I would like to share an observation we made while wandering the streets of Krakow.

Krakow is considered to be the ‘cultural capital’ of Poland, with throngs of University students and young adults providing a poignant juxtaposition to the ancient architecture of the city. According to
government statistics, 35.9% of the Polish population is under the age of 24; that sunny weekend in Krakow, it seemed as if all 35.9% had descended on to the city streets.
An observation in A-minor
In many western societies the act of whistling is something you'd often associate with older generations, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard a teenager whistling a Kanye West song on the streets of Krakow. It seemed odd, very odd. Why would a teenager whistle a song instead of just listening to it?

That’s when it hit me; none of the people I saw on the streets were listening to music. Those little white earphones which have become so ubiquitous on the streets of Vancouver, London or New York, were noticeably absent. Instead of being wrapped in a cocoon of sound, people were whistling, talking and engaging with the outside world.
So what does this mean?
To be honest, I have no idea. The absence of iPods could have been a function of anything (from observational bias to economic crises). But what I found fascinating was how the absence seemed to improve the social environment. Where the people of Vancouver often choose to tune each other out, the people of Krakow were tuning each other in.