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Foreigners commenting on Poland - a minefield?


Rogalski 5 | 94  
2 Dec 2010 /  #1
I'd be interested to get people's opinions about a recent situation that has occurred and has left me wondering about the etiquette about foreigners expressing views about changes that have occurred in Poland over the past twenty years.

A taxi driver, while driving me to the train station, expressed the view yesterday that "Poles need to start thinking for themselves", meaning (I think) that for a long time, because of the Communist regime (and historically, because of the Catholic Church) people were not encouraged to be independent thinkers and the tendency was to wait until you were told what to do by an authority figure (of course, with notable exceptions). He didn't know I was foreign until I spoke for a length of time, when he spotted my accent. I said I agreed with him.

I relayed this conversation to a Polish friend, who said it sounded as if I were stereotyping Poles and she became quite angry. I'd like opinions, especially from Poles, as to whether the statement "Poles need to start thinking for themselves" does actually ring true for them or not and/or whether it does sound stereotypical. And remember, I was only agreeing with it - a Pole said it first! :-)
ShortHairThug - | 1101  
2 Dec 2010 /  #2
Rogalski your post shows how little you know about Poland and its people, where there are two Poles there’s three opinions, that’s always been the case.
grubas 12 | 1382  
2 Dec 2010 /  #3
A taxi driver

He must have been hibernated for the last 21 years.Dude it was 21 years ago,the "communism" and stuff.
welshguyinpola 23 | 463  
2 Dec 2010 /  #4
Its totally true, a Pole at work will not do anything unless he is told to, I have emplyed many of them i should know. There is no initiative there. I know supermarket managers who would rather leave shelves empty than fill them cos its not their responsibility. This is where the phrase mucking in can be applied
zetigrek  
2 Dec 2010 /  #5
Its totally true, a Pole at work will not do anything unless he is told to, I have emplyed many of them i should know.

You're the boss. You suppose to think and make orders. There is only one king in the kingdom ;)
ShortHairThug - | 1101  
2 Dec 2010 /  #6
I know supermarket managers who would rather leave shelves empty than fill them cos its not their responsibility.

And if he did go that extra mile he would be called a dumb Polack, he learns quickly, commendable.
ender 5 | 394  
2 Dec 2010 /  #7
a Pole at work will not do anything unless he is told to

total bollox. they doing what was told and they don't like to do somebody's else part particulary when he lazy Angol all day doing nothing or west indian who thinks job should be done by rasict whitey.

"Poles need to start thinking for themselves"

you really don't understand Poles and I'm not going to explain what does it mean.
welshguyinpola 23 | 463  
2 Dec 2010 /  #8
total bollox. they doing what was told and they don't like to do somebody's else part particulary when he lazy Angol all day doing nothing or west indian who thinks job should be done by rasict whitey.

I provide a service at weddings and i have to tell my workers to do everything, they can see it needs doing but wont take any initiative until its done. Please dont give me the 'you dont know Poles' ****, I am always firing them cos they really are lazy asses sometimes
PennBoy 76 | 2429  
2 Dec 2010 /  #9
a Pole at work will not do anything unless he is told to

why would anyone do something if they don't have to?
SeanBM 34 | 5786  
2 Dec 2010 /  #10
"Poles need to start thinking for themselves"

So Rogalski, when you say this it implies that Poles do not think for themselves.
Hard to put a good spin on that, no?

they doing what was told

I have to agree with this.

Staff in a bar, restaurant or anywhere else here who do not do their job have not been trained properly. Usually students because of the ZUS issue, first job and the manager expects them to know everything.

It is the manager's fault if the staff are not doing their job, noone else's in my opinion.

Sure there is always the exception, you are always going to get a lazy worker sometimes but that's in ever country and you get rid of those soon enough.
ShortHairThug - | 1101  
2 Dec 2010 /  #11
I am always firing them cos they really are lazy asses sometimes

Either that or you simply don’t pay enough, no incentive makes people care less if they lose a lousy job. Blessing in disguise if you ask me.
SeanBM 34 | 5786  
2 Dec 2010 /  #12
Rogalski, I am just thinking about this.

You kinda said that Poles are brain dead, now how did you expect that conversion to go?

Rogalski: "Hey you know what, Poles don't think for themselves".

Polish friend: "Yeah really? Well I suppose you are a foreigner and can see things from a different light and since I can't think for myself, I will agree with you. Thank you for sharing, I feel I have learned a valuable lesson from this".
delphiandomine 86 | 17823  
2 Dec 2010 /  #13
There is no initiative there.

The problem is, in Poland, that culturally, it wasn't expected of them for so many years - if ever. From what I've read, the II RP wasn't big on personal initiative (respect your elders and so on) and obviously the PRL wasn't about initiative (unless it involved stealing from work) - indeed, mediocre people rose to the top. And even now, many elder Polish bosses have the attitude that people shouldn't be showing any sort of personality or initiative - and even the 40-something generation can be guilty of this.

I know exactly what you mean, and it's frustrating to watch people act like this - but it's all down to cultural expectations. Many of them may simply be afraid to do what they think is best, out of fear of being shouted at or given into trouble. Many managers have absolutely no interpersonal skills too.

I am always firing them cos they really are lazy asses sometimes

I think quite a few people also have the attitude of "why should I work hard for 8zl an hour?" - especially younger people.

and they don't like to do somebody's else part particulary when he lazy Angol all day doing nothing or west indian who thinks job should be done by rasict whitey.

And they get fired.

It is the manager's fault if the staff are not doing their job, noone else's in my opinion.

Same problem in the UK, really.

My problem with Poland is that there is a certain school of management which says "always assume that the staff don't know how to do the job". I refuse point blank to work for anyone like this.
SeanBM 34 | 5786  
2 Dec 2010 /  #14
I refuse point blank to work for anyone like this.

Why?
How are you expected to know things in a job you have just started?

Take students employed in a bar/restaurant, who seem to think the radio is there to be blared so they can hear it or the T.V. should face the staff behind the bar so they can watch it.

They have to be told exactly what is happening, otherwise how would they know, people will do the minimum especially for minimum wage.
I see it as a strictly managerial problem and new staff should be walked through absolutely everything.
They should taste the food they are going to present, they should be told how to act, talk and walk. This is what I would consider to be the job.
delphiandomine 86 | 17823  
2 Dec 2010 /  #15
How are you expected to know things in a job have started?

Ah, what I mean is in relation to teaching English to corporate clients. I'm working with 6 different schools at the minute - I really don't need to be told how to teach corporate clients ;) I'm all for gaining information about what they expect, who they are, etc - but I draw the line at being asked to spend a weekend attending a training course about how to teach them.

(for what it's worth, I get the distinct impression that individuality isn't valued in Poland)
SeanBM 34 | 5786  
2 Dec 2010 /  #16
teaching English

No, not those bunch of drunken layabouts, shagging all the students and raking in the cash to blow on the casinos.
We don't all live the James Bond teacher in Poland lifestyle, you know ;p

But it does bring us back to the OP's friend's point

who said it sounded as if I were stereotyping Poles and she became quite angry.

because it is a very general thing to say and can be misinterpreted, like we have just done.
Seanus 15 | 19668  
2 Dec 2010 /  #17
Some can think on their feet and some can't. It has been said that many Polish women lack initiative but I don't know those 'many women' so I can't say. Most American guys I've known here say they are easily led but stubborn. Isn't that an oxymoron? ;)
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1082  
3 Dec 2010 /  #18
Its totally true, a Pole at work will not do anything unless he is told to

To understand that you should learn how it works in Poland. You are the boss. You pay the salary and have to make orders. We are expected to carry out orders not to thinking. Because our thinking (even logical) may not harmonize with boses thinking. They may be gangstas, thieves or swindlers and you never know what is their present plan. co poeta ma na myśli ;)

So you should gather employees and say I want you guys to be creative now. Thinking is welcomed and will be appreciated ;)
Seanus 15 | 19668  
3 Dec 2010 /  #19
If that is the case, I'd hate to see a Polish R&D dept ;) ;)
Trevek 25 | 1699  
3 Dec 2010 /  #20
I know supermarket managers who would rather leave shelves empty than fill them cos its not their responsibility.

I had something like that in a Tesco near me in Olsztyn. There had been a bottle of water spilled in one of the aisles. There was water all over the floor. In UK it would have been cleaned up as it constitued a major health and safety risk. As a customer I pointed it out to a worker in the shop. She just shrugged... not her problem.

I think quite a few people also have the attitude of "why should I work hard for 8zl an hour?" - especially younger people.

Indeed. I was teaching English to a manager at one Polish firm and she was amazed that 'kids' only about 8 years younger had no concept of working in a firm. they'd turn up a couple of hours late with a "so what, I'm here now, aren't I?"

Mind you, I had similar problem with British student temps working in factories in UK.
Seanus 15 | 19668  
3 Dec 2010 /  #21
That's what I've experienced here too. If it's not in their contract, they tend not to bother with it. I chose to buy communal toilet paper (8 rolls) as nobody else would in the building where I sometimes teach. I had no obligation to and always brought my own paper. The Polish guy told me to take it into the room where we have our classes as he wondered why I wanted to help others out. I think that sums up the mentality of many here. He was protecting me against sharing with the unwilling but also advocating hoarding.
Trevek 25 | 1699  
3 Dec 2010 /  #22
If it's not in their contract, they tend not to bother with it.

How many times do you have to put paper in the xerox maxcine?
Seanus 15 | 19668  
3 Dec 2010 /  #23
All the time as nobody else does it. I've worked out that they put in only as much as they need as it's often empty. Too much to be coincidental. Also, the files which I teach from are higgledy-piggledy. The photocopies are done wrong and placed haphazardly.

Also, the cleaner has a nasty habit of stuffing the paper towel holder full to the max so that you have to pull out way too much. It's just done maliciously.
Trevek 25 | 1699  
3 Dec 2010 /  #24
...and borrowing books from the school bookshelf?
delphiandomine 86 | 17823  
3 Dec 2010 /  #25
She just shrugged... not her problem.

Yep, normal. It's because she has a job, she is doing her job and it's not her job to deal with such things. The concept of "take responsibility" just doesn't exist here among low level employees.

I've also never seen a manager get stuck in either here - again, same attitude of "not my responsibility".

Indeed. I was teaching English to a manager at one Polish firm and she was amazed that 'kids' only about 8 years younger had no concept of working in a firm.

I think this is a lot to do with the way that getting work experience as a kid/student is still seen as "omg, no way, it's time to party" in Poland. I might cross swords frequently with Fuzzywickets, but he's bang on the money when he says that Poles are leaving university at 25 with absolutely no experience.
Seanus 15 | 19668  
3 Dec 2010 /  #26
I haven't come across that one yet. Trying to catch you out seems to be a favourite for some. Pinning the blame and not taking any also. It would be hard to get a murder conviction here as they are never wrong.
Trevek 25 | 1699  
3 Dec 2010 /  #27
but he's bang on the money when he says that Poles are leaving university at 25 with absolutely no experience.

These weren't work-experience guys, they were uni students working at a telesales place. Mind you, I know in UK plenty of studes never used to have much work experience either (although they left at 21)

I've also never seen a manager get stuck in either here - again, same attitude of "not my responsibility".

See, that's the difference, I think. The company getting their ass sued is the responsibility of the workers.
poland_  
3 Dec 2010 /  #28
I'm working with 6 different schools at the minute

Delph, if you take on a job with a school, do they all have individual programmes, that they follow verbatim, or do they say " on you go fellow ,do your best" or do they not care as long as the money comes in.
delphiandomine 86 | 17823  
3 Dec 2010 /  #29
All three "approaches" are used by schools, but in my opinion, the best schools are the ones which give you the freedom to approach the class as you wish. The ones I work for now all have the same attitude - do what you want, but keep us informed and keep them happy.

With the first approach that you mentioned - it's a recipe for disaster in a corporate environment. It's rare that they have the time to learn a programme "properly" - yet you have the constant pressure of "they need to follow the programme!". I did this for a year - and it was frankly a nightmare. How on earth can you tell someone 40-something that they need to do homework at the weekend rather than spending time with their families? Needless to say, the programmes are almost universally rubbish.

The second approach - usually what happens is that the schools offer me some classes in companies. I'll visit the director, we'll chat about who they are, what they want, what level, what they've been doing to date, etc. Then - I'll go there and talk to the students themselves. Usually after this, you have a fixed aim in mind - and good schools will respect the wishes of the students. The directors are also very happy to give me free reign - it's usually a case of "can you do it? yes? okay, go do it!". They want the client to be satisfied, and they aren't fussed how you get there.

The third approach is quite common too, and it's not a satisfactory state of affairs. The students are well aware that the school isn't interested in them, only their money. The schools are usually a nightmare to deal with, obsessed with petty bureaucracy and generally completely useless.

For me, the best director I work with is someone who takes an active interest in what I'm doing, but isn't overbearing and trusts me to get the job done.
OP Rogalski 5 | 94  
4 Dec 2010 /  #30
Interesting replies, which help to iron out the misunderstanding which occurred. Not sure if SeanBM just skim read my question or whether he is being deliberately provocative but to the rest of you, thanks for some frank answers.

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