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Do Polish people have a problem saying "I don't know" or "no"?


solaris783 4 | 7
22 Feb 2014 #1
I know a lot of cultures do, and in my short experience in Krakow, I'm wondering if Polish people do as well.
I seem to encounter it a lot, but maybe my personal experience is skewed. General questions, like "where is the closest bus stop?" are answered with generalities and hand-waving rather than concrete answers, like, "oh, they're everywhere" which doesn't help me at all but tells me that maybe they don't want to admit they don't know. They could say, "I don't know, but they are not hard to find", but they don't. If I say, "Does that station have an automated public transit machine", they'll say "yes" even if it doesn't, rather than "I don't know", or even "I think so, but I'm not sure". Even "Does this bus take me to Old Town", will be answered with "yes", instead of what they really mean, "No, but you can take it to a station where you can switch to one that does"; although one time the answer was "you can take any bus to get there". Gee thanks! I told a clerk at a restaurant that I can't eat anything with wheat like general flour, breads, etc, then asked if their soup has any, to which she responded "No" even though it did. Perhaps she just wanted a sale, or perhaps she was confunsed, but I was in a world of hurt afterwards. There are many more examples, but I don't want this to sound like a rant. I just want to tell people that saying, "I don't know" is more helpful than a misleading answer, but I don't know if it would sink in.

If my premise is correct, is there a better way to ask Polish people questions?
Wulkan - | 3,251
22 Feb 2014 #2
is there a better way to ask Polish people questions?

do it in Polish
pam
22 Feb 2014 #3
General questions, like "where is the closest bus stop?" are answered with generalities and hand-waving rather than concrete answers, like, "oh, they're everywhere" which doesn't help me at all but tells me that maybe they don't want to admit they don't know.

Being more specific would probably help.
If you don't give a destination, what would be the point of directing you to the nearest bus stop?
Generally speaking, Poles are to the point and don't waste time on having unnecessary conversation, especially if they're in a hurry.
I don't think it's a question of them admitting that they don't know, more that you haven't given them enough information in the first place to provide you with the answer!
OP solaris783 4 | 7
22 Feb 2014 #4
do it in Polish

I did.

Being more specific would probably help.

Examples:
"Does that station [in the distance] have a ticket machine?"
A: "yes it does"... *No, it didn't*
"Is this the way to Gołębia street?"
A: "yes"... *It was in the opposite direction*
"Which way to the closest bus stop" 3 choices, 1 where I came from
A: "That way"... *The direction I had come from, at least a mile with no bus stops. Found one nearby around the corner*

...and several more examples.

So, this really doesn't seem cultural to you?
Idk, maybe locals like to screw with visitors? I asked a pretty good cross-section of people, I'd be surprised it's coincidence. It includes people I'm doing business with, who can only lose by screwing with me.

Maybe I give off a weird vibe and don't realize it? They seem to understand, language-wise, and I have verified in English if they speak English (such as the people I do business with) to make sure it's not bad communication. It really honestly seems cultural. Like saying "I don't know" is shameful.
lunacy - | 73
22 Feb 2014 #5
Like saying "I don't know" is shameful.

That's what I wanted to write. Most of the Polish people (not all) would rather die than admit they don't know something ;) It's definitely a cultural thing and I experienced it in many ways throughout my life as well.

As it comes to larger cities, a lot of people you pass by might be not locals, but newcomers, students etc. - people who often don't know the surroundings well themselves (not yet), so they just guess on the basis of their own experience. It's definitely NOT a case of intentional misleading, but people guessing/assuming in order to actually help someone. The problem is, they often guess wrongly.
OP solaris783 4 | 7
22 Feb 2014 #6
That's what I wanted to write. Most of the Polish people (not all) would rather die than admit they don't know something ;) It's definitely a cultural thing and I experienced it in many ways throughout my life as well.

Thank you so much for your response. I was starting to think I was going crazy.

We kind'a have the opposite problem in the USA, where people say "I don't know" even if they do, because they don't want to be responsible for your actions/mistakes.

As time goes on I have fewer and fewer problems in Krakow because I get to know the city better and better, and more people recognize me every day, and (I think) my Polish is improving every day.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
22 Feb 2014 #7
Many Europeans don't wish to appear at a loss for correct information, imagining somehow that this makes them seem stupid or ignorant instead of merely human:-) Americans are on the whole, far less concerned with the opinion of their fellow citizens as regards intellect or cultural knowledge. Heck, we voted for W. twice, didn't we?LOL
OP solaris783 4 | 7
22 Feb 2014 #8
Well in the US we currently have the idoletry of ignorance (as an extension of the idolatry of youth, I presume), evident in hits like honeybooboo and Jersey shore. There is general distrust of intellectuals. George W. winning was a pretty good example of that.

In Poland I have to become a better judge of when someone actually knows the answer, and when they are trying to seem helpful.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
22 Feb 2014 #9
Indeed, Solaris:-)

Sadly, we here seem to bow down to ignorance.
4 eigner 2 | 831
22 Feb 2014 #10
Well in the US we currently have the idoletry of ignorance

true but go to Europe and you'll observe exactly the same, the entire world is developing backwards.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
22 Feb 2014 #11
I've noticed though that the European regression is still going in a different direction as compared with that from which it originated. Europeans are frequently mired in their academic arrogance of thinking that they know better because they've LEARNED better. American ignorance is to believe that they too know better precisely because they HAVEN'T learned it, and therefore are mired in their lack of knowledge to begin with.

Neither option's that good,4eigner, I'm with you on that:-)


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