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Polish people and Politeness


k98_man
7 Jan 2010 #1
After visiting Poland, talking extensively to a Polish girl, and trying to learn as much about Polish culture I have observed one unique thing.

First of all, everyone (or most people anyway) enjoy politeness. From what I have seen, though - Polish people seem to really respond even better to politeness. For example, when I am sitting and a woman or elderly person comes on the tram, I get up and give them the spot. Usually that is nice, but seemingly Polish people seem to like this politeness even more....I feel like it makes them more happy.

On the opposite side, it seems many times Polish people are extremely polite and friendly. Obviously there are bad apples in every culture, but manners and politeness seem to be very dear to the Polish culture.

What do you think? Other than this is a blatant generalization....:)
Trevek 26 | 1,702
7 Jan 2010 #2
I think such social niceties are more common in Poland than, for example, young britain. I also think part of it is built into the language. In Poland it is socially and linguistically proper to say Sir/Madam (pan/pani) to someone older or unknown to you. In Britain this would normally be used only in a professional capacity. I can't imagine many British kids saying "Sir", let alone "Ma'am".

What is pretty prevelant (although it's certainly not solely a Polish trait) is the exploitation of politeness by some people. OK, it's polite to hold a door open... but then everyone walks through that door, often without so much as a smile or a 'thank you' as if it is your duty to hold the door for them. Likewise, loud huffing and puffing on the bus when you don't automatically dive up and lay a carpet down for some old granny (and there are empty seats down the bus).

Don't get me started on the post-office queue....

And politeness and driving are odd bedfellows where Polish cars are concerned.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #3
I'm with Trevek on the door opening point. I've only once here had a 'dziękuję' and I hold it open very often.

However, my wife's parents are polite :) :) I think Poles are naturally wary of strangers but to say that most are naturally impolite is unfair. I just feel that they need to be mindful of basic social etiquette more.
Sokrates 8 | 3,346
15 Aug 2010 #4
I'm with Trevek on the door opening point. I've only once here had a 'dziękuję' and I hold it open very often.

Thats because you're black Sean, i explained it to you many times, having murdered Mel Gibson you, like all Scots became a bunch of n*ggers and dont deserve politeness, even huge swords and bagpipes dont even the score, it was MEL GIBSON.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #5
Well, I am whiter than most Poles and that's just a fact. Now, on topic, you can't tell me that thanks are given for holding doors open when time after time I don't receive any.
Richfilth 6 | 415
15 Aug 2010 #6
I find the initial post of this thread amusing, to say the least. One of the biggest culture shocks of moving here was how cold and distant people are in their day to day life. At first I put this down to moving from an English village to a foreign city, but the more I live here the more obvious it is.

The door opening is one thing; cashiers and counter staff similarly (I still experience the opening part of "Miś" on a daily basis: .... As for the seats on trams; I've seen an old man stand up to give his seat for an older woman before any of the pretty young women in business suits even acknowledged the presence of that babcia. They develop a fixed-jaw glassy-eyed stare out the window that says "don't even think about it." I know it's charming to think of women as the fairer sex, but in Poland this isn't fairness, this is just rudeness.

I've found Poles in public to have one of the most self-centred attitudes imaginable; thoughtless, impolite to the point of insulting, and completely unwilling to help others. Which is really odd, because when among friends or family they're the most hospitable, personable and generous hosts I've ever encountered. I still can't balance this duality in my head.

Whenever I stop and help someone with a broken car (every time; I know my way round an engine) the poor stranded person comments that the only person who stopped to see if they were alright was a foreigner. Sure, the hazard lights and smoking radiator might be an elaborate trick to steal my car, but it's worth checking just in case, isn't it?
Wayman 3 | 36
15 Aug 2010 #7
Manners cost nothing' nothing wrong in being polite '

as the man said above good an bad in every nation some have manners some are dame rude .

I've found Poles in public to have one of the most self-centred attitudes imaginable; thoughtless, impolite to the point of rude, and completely unwilling to help others.

Funny u should say that as i work with a mixed bunch of guys it,s mad it's like us an them they stay in there own little group speak polish only speak english to u if they whant something from u 'one on one they are polite at times but it's just funny that your remark is spot on ' makes me smile the way i see them behave 'bit childish to say the least .
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #8
Richfilth is one of my favourite posters. He's like the onboard Pat Condell :)

This duality needs to be addressed. Can any Pole here proffer an explanation? I see it too. They wonder why I hold the door open, wave them ahead of me when another shop assistant becomes available (they were first) and offer to pay in small change to the exact grosz. I think a large part of it is because many are spiritually devoid! They have their religion, a boring necessity for many, but what does that bring? The emptiness in many people is astounding! I think the grunting culture stems from this dissatisfaction.

I'll finish by saying that quite a few Poles I know rise above that but that life here can be like watching paint dry. The round table dinner discussions are amongst the most boring I have ever heard and I understand everything!
Sokrates 8 | 3,346
15 Aug 2010 #9
Well, I am whiter than most Poles and

Rubbish i've seen your picture, you're black as night, i'd sell you to a sugar plantation without second thought Sean.

you can't tell me that thanks are given for holding doors open when time after time I don't receive any.

Well obviously they're not given to you *hint*.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #10
And even if I was, so what? It's impolite to constantly refer to colour as an important factor.

I don't care for hints, I care for manners!! Many people here are amongst the most boorish and self-centred I have ever seen. I'm just glad that my Polish family shows some class and rises above that.
Richfilth 6 | 415
15 Aug 2010 #11
Richfilth is one of my favourite posters. He's like the onboard Pat Condell :)

That's very charming of you to say so, even though I had no idea who he is until half an hour ago.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #12
You are welcome! Now, where were we? I was amazed at the abruptness of a doctor here. It's just as well that I learned 'go enryo', the noble Japanese concept of restraint. She was spitting venom and her younger male colleague wasn't much better. I should've just spoken English to them :) The arrogance in some people is incredible! I saw it quite often when I taught at companies. False people :(
Richfilth 6 | 415
15 Aug 2010 #13
To balance this, certainly in the commercial sector, I'd rather have the dour Polish attitude of "Co?" at the till than the cheery chirpy and utterly artificial American model of "have a nice day y'all" (which I don't quite believe anyone is really capable of saying, at least not without a lobotomy.)

Poles are generally underpaid, they're not afraid of hard work if they can see the benefit of it, and all they want is to do the minimum that allows them to sit in a chair on their dzialka in the sunshine, for as long as possible. All this modern stuff of trams and offices and meetings might facilitate this wonderful aspiration, but that doesn't mean they have to like it. At least this isn't rat-race inspired rudeness, where we don't have time to say "thank you" because we have to go back to earning money for that new iPod or BMW now now now buy buy buy.

I was reading Kapuszczynski's "Imperium", where he travels around the post-Soviet states in the early '90s, and he experiences this in a small hotel in Yakutsk:

"And now comes our turn to step up to the barmaid. The scene consists of a minimum of words and has a very businesslike character. The barmaid looks at the guest and remains silent - this means that she is waiting for the order. There is no "Good morning" here or "How are you" - the guest gets straight to the point. He says: a glass of cream, an egg, farmer cheese, cucumber, bread.

He does not say thank you; he does not say anything at all superfluous. The barmaid hands him the food, tales the money. Also without a word. She closes the cash register and looks at the next guest."

This, in a small mining town in the Arctic circle, I can comprehend. But how familiar do these words sound to you lot, living in Poland?
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #14
Oh, they take it to new levels. Almost like the Japanese in that way. About as open as a closed book.

Poles show some hope amongst the younger generation. The old ones, well, they grunt more than Monica Seles did.
wildrover 98 | 4,451
15 Aug 2010 #15
As an Englishman living in Poland i do find the Polish people to be rude and ignorant quite a lot , but i am not sure its right to judge Polish ways as someone who is not Polish....

Its quite easy to misunderstand people when you are not familiar with their customs...

I can remember when i first came here thinking that every conversation between Poles was a major argument that was about to break out in a fight , but not so , it s just their way of talking to each other...

There is a guy in one of the local shops near my farm that comes across as really rude , saying hello to him results in an icey stare , he appears to really resent selling you anything , and when you pay him he kinda throws your change at you....

Is he rude and ignorant , or just somebody who has lived his life in Poland and really is a lovely guy......????

Post offices....don,t even want to start there....!
southern 75 | 7,096
15 Aug 2010 #16
In comparison to common balkan Poles are extremely polite as I was glad to find out.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #17
I think communism hardened many into being rugged begrudgers. If that is so, we should remember that it was imposed on them and that the West played its part in that process. We have to try and understand the role it played.
poland_
15 Aug 2010 #18
The emptiness in many people is astounding!

I still can't balance this duality in my head

Very interesting posts, yesterday I was traveling by train from Jurata to Warsaw. I will not comment on on the standard of PKP trains as that is another. We had tickets with reservations which we booked separately as a two and one, this obviously means two separate cabins, but we could live with that. We boarded the train in Jurata and had a empty carriage, in

Jastarnia six people entered the cabin with reservations so no place for the third person, I helped place their baggage on the luggage rails without so much as a thank you, we decided to check out the second cabin were we had a single reservation , great news the cabin was empty - but at the next stop, we were out of luck, more passengers with reservations and plenty of bags arrived, once again I helped place their bags on the rails and this crowd were very grateful. So two very different reactions.

As we had two cabins we decided to meet later in the Wars, after eating food and drinking bucket loads of green tea, our daughter started to nod off, she was comfortable and sleeping and the Wars was empty so we carried on drinking tea and chatting. The conversation led to how young people in Poland are starting to emulate the rest of Europe in showing no sign of value in the workplace and having a complete "me attitude". My wife who is Polish beat on about the attitude in the service industry and how young Polish people has stopped to go the extra mile, the country was becoming the same as France or the Netherlands in that it was fast developing into a culture of "it is not my problem" or " that is not my job". Time was moving quickly and we were about an hour away from warsaw and it had just gone midnight. My daughter was as snug as a bug in a rug and was not moving, we were approached by one of the trolley dollies in wars and my wife joked that we were going to be given round number 8 of tea fro free. But NO , we were asked to wake up our daughter and go back to our seats as you can't sleep in Wars, at first we thought it was a joke and explained that we had been here for nearly two hours and our daughter had been sleeping most of the time, we were informed that rules are rules and you can't sleep in wars and were promptly shown the rules of PKP Wars proudly placed on the wall. We had two options either wake up our daughter or put the trolly dolly to sleep and we decided on the later, I explained to the chap that I understand his situation, but it was a very new situation for me and my 10 year daughter does not like being woken up and reacts badly, so at this point I can't follow his request, he continued to explain that these are the rules of wars. So I asked how many years he had worked for PKP and he replied "4 years" , so I explained that within the last four years he must have gained experience or maybe he had been trained to deal with a sleeping child in wars and I would like to see how he operates with children and we asked him to please wake up our daughter, he paused and I took out my iphone and started to film the situation and explained I was going to place the film on youtube and make him a star. He decided he did not want to pursue an acting career.
convex 20 | 3,978
15 Aug 2010 #19
The conversation led to how young people in Poland are starting to emulate the rest of Europe in showing no sign of value in the workplace and having a complete "me attitude".

You should check out the older people if you want a complete lack of accountability. If I want something done, I'd much rather have a young person on it than an older person. "Not my problem" seems way more prevalent in ex-socialist countries. Just drive from France to the Ukraine and plot the quality of service along the way. From French waiters who don't like you, but they do their jobs, to indifferent Polish waitstaff, to waitstaff in the Ukraine that is glued to a TV and might come out to see what you want if there is a long commercial break.

On the opposite side, it seems many times Polish people are extremely polite and friendly.

Institutionalized politeness, lack of true compassion towards strangers.
king polkakamon - | 544
15 Aug 2010 #20
of PKP

In PKP they took me for Ukrainian.Imagine what followed.It is disgrace anyway no comments about this service.
wildrover 98 | 4,451
15 Aug 2010 #21
to waitstaff in the Ukraine that is glued to a TV and might come out to see what you want if there is a long commercial break.

I can only say the staff that served us in a Pizza resteraunt in Kiev , Ukraine were a wonderfull bunch of friendly people , but the reception folks in the hotel were a bit off hand...
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #22
Warszawski, they are not accustomed to free thinking enough yet. Procedures are to be followed and that's that in their eyes. There is a real lack of grasping practicalities and it's all too black&white.

If it's not in the job specification, don't expect anything ;)
convex 20 | 3,978
15 Aug 2010 #23
I can only say the staff that served us in a Pizza resteraunt in Kiev , Ukraine were a wonderfull bunch of friendly people , but the reception folks in the hotel were a bit off hand...

I have this scene in Mariupol burned into my mind. Nice restaurant, nice terrace, nice food, packed to the gills, very, very, very slow service. I go to the bathroom, every last one of them glued to the TV. Every once in a while they'd take a break. The hotel staff were very nice however, even took a picture with the Panda :)

Warszawski, they are not accustomed to free thinking enough yet.

Pretty damn good at free thinking when they've got something to get out of it...
poland_
15 Aug 2010 #24
"Not my problem" seems way more prevalent in ex-socialist countries

I would probably have said the same two years ago, but I can see a complete deterioration in the quality of service. This is also the same in the workplace. If I want something done I want the best person on the job young or old.

Do not be fooled by the exterior convex it is still the same underneath. Poland has reached the summit of change there is now a decline on the other side and if you cannot see that you are not " eyes wide open"
Seanus 15 | 19,706
15 Aug 2010 #25
Very well said, war :) There is an element of a Scottish approach here. Too many cling to their jobs without them being the best person anymore. Too many old people occupy positions in service industries and are SOOOO slow. Tusk is going to compound the problem as he is proposing the raising of the age of retirement to 70 :( :(
convex 20 | 3,978
15 Aug 2010 #26
complete deterioration in the quality of service

Compared to when? It seems to be getting much better once consumers realized that there are options. In the workplace, quality and leadership are more often becoming part of the metrics that employees are being judged on. Baby steps, but you wouldn't have seen that at all ten years ago.
enkidu 7 | 623
15 Aug 2010 #27
I would like to answer some of your questions.
NOTE: I am not interested in flamewar, ok? You are asking some question about things that are interesting for you. I answer them. OK? That's it.

OK, it's polite to hold a door open... but then everyone walks through that door, often without so much as a smile or a 'thank you' as if it is your duty to hold the door for them.

There are only one reason to hold a door. When you are a man, and you are doing it for a woman that is with you, the woman, you care for.

Other instances:
- Holding a door for the group of your friends.
This may be seen as a joke. "Come here ladies. Humble servant is holding a door for you. lol"
Expect laugh but not thanks.

- Holding a door for the group of strangers.
You just imposing your western politeness on them. They didn't ask for it. They don't want to be your friends. They just ignore you.

- Holding a door for a woman you don't know.
It's like saying a compliment to a stranger. It says: Wow! You are attractive. I would like to bang you. Expect embarrassed, shy smile (well - unless she want to bang YOU), but not thanks.

- Holding a door for a man you don't know.
WARNING! Strong gay alert. Don't expect anything good to happen (well - unless you are gay).

I know that in the UK the things are different. But you ask for an answer from Polish perspective. And you got it. I didn't invented it. It's just how it is.

As for the seats on trams; I've seen an old man stand up to give his seat for an older woman before any of the pretty young women in business suits even acknowledged the presence of that babcia.

In Poland the tradition of chivalry towards women are quite strong, especially in the older generations. A man is supposed to give up his seat to the woman. In this situation - this old gentleman just demonstrated that he is still a man, not an old prick. Maybe his legs would hurt a little bit, but his pride is intact.

Let's take another situation: A young woman is giving up her seat to the old man. He may accept it. His legs will rest, but he also demonstrate publicly that he is not a man any more. Just an old, miserable great-granddad. Therefore the gesture of this young woman may be seen as impolite.

I've found Poles in public to have one of the most self-centred attitudes imaginable

This duality needs to be addressed. Can any Pole here proffer an explanation?

This is a case of strong sense of privacy that is embossed in Polish culture. It's a long story, so I just give some free advice to you: Don't impose your politeness, don't offer any help to a Pole unless you've been asked for it. Respect people's privacy and their right to deal with their problems. If someone fell down on the street - let him stand up on his own (unless its a woman or elderly)

Favours are exchanged among friends and family only. And every favour has to be paid back. If you will help a stranger - you put him in the embarrassing situation: He is in your debts, but you are not his friend.

Another example - a gay parades. Some people in Poland that are opposing are genuine homophobic. But most of them are just embarrassed by breaking a strong cultural taboo: Parades are bringing into the public space something that is seen as a strictly private matter (sexual life in this case).

The barmaid hands him the food, tales the money. Also without a word. She closes the cash register and looks at the next guest.

By being too friendly, the clerk/salesperson/ticket lady (whatever) is in the risk of invading your private space. Believe it or not but this "cold" and reserved way of dealing with the customers is actually a sign of politeness. Yes, I know - it sound strange. But that's how it is.

I can remember when i first came here thinking that every conversation between Poles was a major argument that was about to break out in a fight , but not so , it s just their way of talking to each other...

It's funny thing. In the UK is very impolite to say something bad about a person in the conversation . Like - "I don't like you. You are wrong. Your actions are stupid". In Poland it's a sign of honesty and respect. lol

I think communism hardened many into being rugged begrudgers.

I think, you are wrong. It's not a hardened people. It just a different culture and tradition that is easily misunderstood by the most of westerners.

He decided he did not want to pursue an acting career.

You just blackmailed this poor guy. I don't see why are you happy.
The rules are the rules. It was this guy's job to execute it. He wasn't a man who invented them. It simple like that - If you don't accept the rules of WARS - don't go there. :-)
king polkakamon - | 544
15 Aug 2010 #28
In Poland the tradition of chivalry towards women are quite strong,

Yes,I was surprised to be accused for lack of it by polish women,they told me I couldn't believe you are so selfish you did not at all care for me etc.
Richfilth 6 | 415
15 Aug 2010 #29
enkidu, those are some very good explanations and I appreciate them. The only point I can comment on is that Kapuszczynski quote: if it had been written by any other tourist, I can see why it would look strange and would be printed in a book, but if a Polish journalist makes that observation about Russians, can he not see it in his own culture too? Was he trying to say how awful it is, or how Poles and Russians share some cultural features? I don't know.

Maybe I'm looking too deeply at it, but when reading it the first time I thought "Ryszard K., you bloody hypocrite!"

I do admire Poles' honesty in feelings ("you are wrong, that is stupid, you're an idiot"); this is much better than the English polite-to-their-face, rude-to-their-back approach.
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,441
15 Aug 2010 #30
You just blackmailed this poor guy. I don't see why are you happy.

he had no other choice, since some of those rules are silly, such as no sleeping in Wars, which probably comes from the time, when people due to lack of seating room were dosing off in Wars on long trips. One needs to be reasonable and flexible and this guy was trying to get rid of them for sitting too long, so he started picking on the sleeping child.


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