Return PolishForums LIVE
  PolishForums Archive :
Archives - 2005-2009 / Life  % width 30

How to behave in Poland? General etiquette questions.


markpol 4 | 21  
7 May 2009 /  #1
Hello,
I am going to Poland this year for the first time, to visit family and explore the nation. I would like to know if there are any specific ways that people should behave? Are there things that I should do, and things that I should avoid doing?

For example, when greeting, how many times do you kiss on cheeks? I've heard its a European thing.

Also, when do you call someone by 'sir'('pan') or 'ma'am'('pani'). Do you call people around your same age group by 'pan' or 'pani', or do you talk by using 'you' ('ty')?

Any pointers on how to behave in Poland?
Thanks,
Mark
esek 2 | 228  
7 May 2009 /  #2
Are there things that I should do, and things that I should avoid doing?

maybe a few... we take off shoes when we enter to someone's house - but it's common that your host will tell you not to do that - and then this is ok to not take them off ;)

For example, when greeting, how many times do you kiss on cheeks? I've heard its a European thing.

It's common by some people... personally I don't understand this - sometimes it's acceptable to kiss on cheek(s) when you meet your familly (female). Still... this is personall thing and depends on you - nobody (except your grand mother maybe?) will expect that.

Also, when do you call someone by 'sir'('pan') or 'ma'am'('pani'). Do you call people around your same age group by 'pan' or 'pani', or do you talk by using 'you' ('ty')?

Again.. depends on situation. When you talk to clerk in shop, postman, policeman, some stranger met on the street (say aged >20yrs) then you will rather use official form (sir - pan). In less official situations it is rather ok to call someone by 'Ty'.

Any pointers on how to behave in Poland?

naturally, this is not an Asia, Africa .... Poland is modern EU country, very similar standards to US ones...
OP markpol 4 | 21  
7 May 2009 /  #3
Thanks for that. I suppose it will be necessary to 'GO with the FLOW' and do what the others are doing.

Oh, lol, and Poland couldn't be anymore in the center of EU than it already is. I personally wouldn't call it eastern.
puercoespin - | 129  
7 May 2009 /  #4
How to behave in Poland?

be yourself..be natural..in general Poles hate fake people
plk123 8 | 4,148  
7 May 2009 /  #5
skip the kissing. firm handshake is what you need.

keep your shoes ON.

pan/pani most of the time... do you actually speak polish? and, where are you from?

Poles hate fake people

huh? a lot of poles are fake as hell.. probably more so then any other nation i know people from.
Mr Grunwald 33 | 2,019  
7 May 2009 /  #6
probably more so then any other nation i know people from

How many nations do you know? :)

Just do as other have told you above, and remember when on a bus or public transport they will look down upon you if an old person stands next to you while you sit.

I had "troubbles" one time, looked like I was an outcast or something you don't wanna experience that!
southern 75 | 7,096  
7 May 2009 /  #7
How to behave in Poland?

Like a Russian.
Ksysia 25 | 430  
7 May 2009 /  #8
Some people say that we avoid eye contact. It rings true.

I live in UK and try to use this information - and catch people's eyes. But I always fail, because I look at say 20 yard distance, I don't receive eye contact, so I look away - and at this moment the Briton looks for eye contact. 100% misses...

Generally people who have not been introduced will avoid all contact with a stranger. Introduced = acquainted.

Kissing is optional, strangers will generally shake hands. I tend to hug rather than kiss.

I also noticed that in the UK people are expecting others to look all over them. I learned when I was walking in London not staring at anyone, and somebody pointed his finger at me and shouted 'averted eyes'. So I started staring and checking people out, and they started smiling.

I guess that by reversing, we do not want to be checked out. Normally we look in the eye or on the brow, but not at the body.

I suppose that with this lack of contact on the street if you will want to ask a stranger for time, it's best to wave to them to attract attention.

I also hear that people in the shops are surly and never greet you. That's true, but not 100%. Person who goes in the room should greet first, even if that's a shop and shopkeepers should be extra nice. If you greet them they will generally respond nicely.

You can get western food from supermarkets, so don't worry about our sour food too much. But if you like steaks there's very little chance for that.

Have fun!
OP markpol 4 | 21  
7 May 2009 /  #9
do you actually speak polish? and, where are you from?

I speak a bit of polish, enough to communicate fluently. I am from Australia, born to polish parents.

what do you guys mean by fake people?
username  
7 May 2009 /  #10
Never ever say please or thankyou, Don't put milk in your tea, Always aim to look as miserable as possible so smiling is banned as is eye contact. Your must randomly change the subject when talking. When waiting in a line for something you must always push. If you are male never wear antiperspirant or aftershave as you will be seen as gay, The same can be said for showering regulary and using hair gel. The immense smell of BO will help you push through queues with ease.

Other than that I don't really think etiquette exists in Poland....
Torq  
7 May 2009 /  #11
I don't really think

That's true.
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
7 May 2009 /  #12
Never ever say please or thankyou, Don't put milk in your tea, Always aim to look as miserable as possible so smiling is banned as is eye contact. Your must randomly change the subject when talking. When waiting in a line for something you must always push. If you are male never wear antiperspirant or aftershave as you will be seen as gay, The same can be said for showering regulary and using hair gel. The immense smell of BO will help you push through queues with ease.

Don't have the courage to state who you are and always be anonymous.

Other than that I don't really think etiquette exists in Poland....

I agree with the first clause of the sentence.
polishcanuck 7 | 462  
7 May 2009 /  #13
For example, when greeting, how many times do you kiss on cheeks? I've heard its a European thing.

From what i've noticed on my many trips to Poland, kissing on the cheeks is only common among family members - usually only one cheek, but sometimes 2. I always give my grandmas, aunts etc a kiss on the cheek when greeting/parting. In the rare occasion that i forget to kiss, they seem somewhat offended, and quite often remind me:) As for kissing strangers, don't, those times are long gone:)

My cousins kiss their opposite sex lifelong friends on the cheeks as a greeting and goodbye - but i'm not sure how common this is in poland.
time means 5 | 1,309  
7 May 2009 /  #14
Bear wrestling is a favourite Polish custom, do not be offended if your host asks you to wrestle the brown bear tethered in the garden :-)
pgtx 30 | 3,156  
7 May 2009 /  #15
after comments like that one somebody might think that Poland is sto lat za murzynami...
;)
time means 5 | 1,309  
7 May 2009 /  #16
On my frequent visits to Poland i wrestled the bear lots of times and having been in the pub all afternoon (from 11.30) all my posts should be taken with a pinch of salt :-)
pgtx 30 | 3,156  
7 May 2009 /  #17
all my posts should be taken with a pinch of salt :-)

hey, you never know... we all are very serious people here and take things seriously...
;)
time means 5 | 1,309  
7 May 2009 /  #18
take things seriously

Every Pole has a brown bear tethered up in their back garden for wrestling purposes, it is a well known fact.
pgtx 30 | 3,156  
7 May 2009 /  #19
we take off shoes when we enter to someone's house - but it's common that your host will tell you not to do that - and then this is ok to not take them off ;)

yes...

skip the kissing. firm handshake is what you need.

yes...

remember when on a bus or public transport they will look down upon you if an old person stands next to you while you sit.

yes... let an elderly person sit down...

and if you are visiting somebody, don't go empty handed...
time means 5 | 1,309  
7 May 2009 /  #20
remember when on a bus or public transport they will look down upon you if an old person stands next to you while you sit.

that is just good manners.
plk123 8 | 4,148  
7 May 2009 /  #21
I tend to hug rather than kiss.

huge faux pas, if with strangers. that is definitely invasive to one's personal space.. don't ever do it in PL unless you know the people well.. not just know them but well.

When waiting in a line for something you must always push.

elbows out buddy. :D
OP markpol 4 | 21  
9 May 2009 /  #22
What about buying drinks in a bar? My British friends and I always buy each other drinks, where as my Australian friends have this system were each person buy themselves a drink separately. Can I assume in Poland its similar to Britain (buying each other drinks). How does this work?

Thanks.
Cardno85 31 | 976  
9 May 2009 /  #23
Tough one, totally depends the situation. There is no round system (like in the UK) but it's not a big "buy your own" thing. Just talk with your friends and decide amongst yourselves.
plk123 8 | 4,148  
9 May 2009 /  #24
i guarantee you no pole will turn your drink down but most likely will not reciprocate unless that was discussed prior.
leszek38 - | 31  
9 May 2009 /  #25
About the "taking off your shoes" thing, I for one dont care if someone keeps them on or not (unless it is REALLY dripping with mud) and never comment on it.

But, when after entering someone else's house, the first thing I hear is "Keep your shoes on" I know it actully means "Dont forget to take off your shoes".
isthatu2 4 | 2,702  
9 May 2009 /  #26
I take it these quaint rules are for smaller towns then,my impresion of places like Warsaw go more like;
Waiting in line=What lines,remember highschool rugby scrums to get anywhere.

Buses=Sitting down= You'll be lucky. If you do manage to sit down and do see an elderly person get on dont what ever you do give up your seat untill the very last moment or some little tracksuit wearing toe wrag will take it.

Buses=Speaking in English=2 things to watch out for;1,On certain routes this is a sure fire way to invite half the youths on the bus to try to get their grubby little hands in your pocket/bag. 2,On most routes this is also seen as an open invitation for some old relic of a commie b*tch to loudly complain to all who will listen that she cant understand what you are saying,it is irelevent that you are holding a private conversation with your Polish friend.

Buses=Nuns,they travel in packs and have the sharpest elbows in Europe :)

Hand Kissing and bowing= Old people you meet will love this,anyone under 70 will think your off your head or taking the proverbial.(obviously dont kiss an old boys hand,but a polite nod of the head as you shake hands seems to go down well.)
Trevek 26 | 1,702  
11 May 2009 /  #27
Every Pole has a brown bear tethered up in their back garden for wrestling purposes, it is a well known fact.

Isn't that the mother-in-law?
McCoy 27 | 1,269  
11 May 2009 /  #28
bear for training mother in law for official fights
time means 5 | 1,309  
11 May 2009 /  #29
Isn't that the mother-in-law?

my ex mother in law was/is a lovely women! However she was not Polish so maybe this has a BEARING on your post :-)))
kendriannna 7 | 32  
11 May 2009 /  #30
Always at all times know where your money is. Don't smile at people. And don't take to much offense if people sit and stare at you in the bus when your not doing anything. If you drive, drive as if you are delivering pizza or a cab driver.

Archives - 2005-2009 / Life / How to behave in Poland? General etiquette questions.Archived