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The proper behavior an American should show when visiting Poland


chattynettie
14 May 2007  #1
Hello, I am an American female who is of Polish Background. I am writing an Essay for College and one of my topics is the proper behavior an American should show when visiting Poland. My Grand Parents were from Poland, but have passed away years ago. I always thought they were the kindest people and miss them so much, but I never thought to ask this question. Is there anything Americans do that they should not do? Ways of being friendly? Differences between men and women as far as appropiate clothing, proper greetings? Things to be careful of as not to offend anyone? Please help with answers?
sparrow 2 | 243
15 May 2007  #2
Just be "less loud" in public. From my personal experience American tourists in Europe seem to think everyone around them is intrested in their conversations.

Don't engage in political discussions like Iraq, Bush, missile shields or global warming. If people know you're an American & engage with you on those topics, gently tell them you're here on a holiday & they should sod off.

The same polite & friendly manners apply just as in the US. Shaking hands is a good neutral way of greeting someone wether man or woman. A kiss on the cheeck may be ok sometimes, just wait for the woman to make a move if you're not sure.

Don't wear shorts and sandals when visiting a restaurant, church, etc.. Don't ask for ketchup in a restaurant if there isn't any on the table..

Flowers is a always a good gift when in doubt..

Probably more, but that's it from the top of my head
horunPoland - | 109
15 May 2007  #3
In summer you can go to the beer garden like in Krakow or Wroclaw Main Squar in shorts and sandals no problem but when you go inside to some good restaurant you should wear some lond shorts

i think there arn't many difference between polite behevior in Poland and in USA...
ladystardust - | 84
15 May 2007  #4
Don't ask for ketchup in a restaurant if there isn't any on the table..

Why not? :) I do, and I am Polish, and nobody frowns :D

I agree with Sparrow - the rules of politness are basically the same as in any Western European country...
Plus one more thing: never say, that's teh only place you're interested in while visiting Poland is Auschwitz. I know this tourist route: Cracow - Wieliczka - Auschwitz, and it's pissing lots of people off.

Express interest in Polish customs and try to respect them, even if they seem eerie. Try strange-looking food. Learn a couple of Polish words and mispronounce them - people love it when you try! Whenever you accidentally push somebody in the street, say I'm sorry. Give up your bus seat to the elderly. Don't go sightseeing churches while there is a mass. Don't compare in a loud, criticising way (while around old, dirty houses, don't say "How can people live like this, in the States we have..."). Find positive sides (My US friends were visiting and stayed in my teeny tiny studio: first they had this shocked looks, then they say "It's amazing, how practical it is! Your kitchen has only 3 square metres and still, three people can have lunch in here :D). Oh, and don't try to buy anything in lb's or inches :D
sparrow 2 | 243
15 May 2007  #5
Oh, and don't try to buy anything in lb's or inches :D

Yes, good point, download a converter for your mobile or take some sheet of paper with you.

Why not? :) I do, and I am Polish, and nobody frowns :D

Well it depends I guess. From my personal experience it's a typical American thing to do and it's not always valued in Polish or other European resto's bistro's etc... But like I said, it all depends I guess. :)

The main things are just the same as anywhere else in the western world, same politeness applies. Just be less agitated & loud than in the US & you should blend in absolutely perfectly :)
ladystardust - | 84
15 May 2007  #6
Well it depends I guess. From my personal experience it's a typical American thing to do and it's not always valued in Polish or other European resto's bistro's etc... But like I said, it all depends I guess. :)

Well, I think it depends more on what you eat. Ketchup probably wouldn't be much appreciated, if you just ordered a huge, delicious schabowy with cabbage :D But frankly, I don't think that the waiter would deny the ketchup anyways, and who cares for what he thinks? :)
OP chattynettie
15 May 2007  #7
Hello Ladystardust, Thank you very much for your answers. I would like to ask a couple more questions please. Do you think that there are any gestures other than the obvouis rude ones; that Americans do that would be rude there. Like to point at a person and ask for them to come to you? To use the thums up for good job? Are there any that would mean something different? Also, What are your views on a womans place in society? Equal? How do men treat women in the home? Do most women work know? Right now I am on my way to work, and woul like to answer to some of the replies I received. I appreciate all your help and everyone else. Very kind to help!!!
FISZ 24 | 2,116
15 May 2007  #8
know this tourist route: Cracow - Wieliczka - Auschwitz, and it's pissing lots of people off.

My first time in PL I didn't know where to go and my gf family took me to these places. What do you mean by pisses people off. PL gets a lot of money from this.

I agree with sparrow with the loudness bit. I witnessed this in almost every large city. There was always a loud American/British/German person getting too drunk and loud.

I think that it's also polite to at least try any food thats given to you. You'll be surprised that almost everything there is tasty....except maybe a few things IMO :)

...ketchup.... the PL one tastes much better ;)
ladystardust - | 84
15 May 2007  #9
My first time in PL I didn't know where to go and my gf family took me to these places. What do you mean by pisses people off. PL gets a lot of money from this.

Well, of course, it's just I have this feeling it's ONLY this, that we have nothing else to offer. Some tourist don't even bother to see Warsaw, they go straight to the camp and then you have the "Polish concentration camps", as they are referred to in the Western papers...
szarlotka 8 | 2,209
15 May 2007  #10
Some tourist don't even bother to see Warsaw

Hey it isn't easy doing 16 European countries in 2 weeks!
sparrow 2 | 243
15 May 2007  #11
Aaahh, those American / Japanese organised tourist packages are always funny. You see them coming from miles away "WE DONT HAVE TIME FOR ICE CREAM THE BUS LEAVES IN 5 MINUTES FOR PARIS!!!!"

...ketchup.... the PL one tastes much better ;)

Definitly! I always bring 3 things back from Poland or ask for them: ketchup, bread & pickles :)
ladystardust - | 84
15 May 2007  #12
Hello chattynettie ;)

Do you think that there are any gestures other than the obvouis rude ones;

yes, we recognize the middle finger, plus it is kinda rude to knock your head with your finger while someone is speaking (it means: what a load of ********!). There is also an old one, the famous "gest Kozakiewicza" (check out the pic at pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gest_Kozakiewicza) - it means more or less the same as the middle finger. You shouldn't point at people, but that's rude everywhere, I reckon. Thumbs up are widely recognized too, as well as the key-word "Okay" (it's used so widely you might think it's a Polish word :D). Hard for me to say anything else, but I promise I'll think of it tonite.

, What are your views on a womans place in society? Equal? How do men treat women in the home? Do most women work know?

Generally, Poland is a patriarchal country, but the feminist movement is kinda big here already. In some very traditional, mostly Catholic families it happens that women are not supposed to work, but the economical factor took care of this itself, as not many families may live on one person income only ;) So basically all career paths are open for women now. I feel that women are treated like partners, both in life and at work. What is problematic is pay: it's still unfortunately a rule, that women tend to get paid less than men.

This is a long, long subject... I don't want to bore people around here ;)
If you have any questions, go ahead!

Hey it isn't easy doing 16 European countries in 2 weeks!

Auschwitz - Paris - Rome - what a mixture ;) :D

Quoting: FISZ
...ketchup.... the PL one tastes much better ;)

Definitly! I always bring 3 things back from Poland or ask for them: ketchup, bread & pickles :)

Damn, I am a bad patriot ;) I always get the "McDonald's" ketchup made here in PL by some foreign company :p
FISZ 24 | 2,116
15 May 2007  #13
Well, of course, it's just I have this feeling it's ONLY this, that we have nothing else to offer. Some tourist don't even bother to see Warsaw, they go straight to the camp and then you have the "Polish concentration camps", as they are referred to in the Western papers...

I've never heard it called Polish concentration camp in America. We were taught in school that they were just located there and referred to as Auschwitz concentration camp. We all know they were operated by Germans....most of us anyway:)

I agree with seeing may different cities too. They're only a short train ride away :) Every city has sth special and worth a visit.
sparrow 2 | 243
15 May 2007  #14
Another common way for Poles to greet one another is the well-known "Spiepraj Dziadu"

A greeting popularised by our beloved president Kaczynski.
FISZ 24 | 2,116
15 May 2007  #15
Auschwitz - Paris - Rome - what a mixture ;) :D

I've never taken tour like this and I don't recommend it to anyone. I think if you visit PL you should get the culture full force and stay with a host family.
ladystardust - | 84
15 May 2007  #16
Full support in this matter here ;)

Another common way for Poles to greet one another is the well-known "Spiepraj Dziadu"

I reckon, Sparrow, you already have one of those? spieprzajdziadu.com/sklep/product_info.php?info=p71_Opaska%20Spieprzaj %20Dziadu%20-%20męska%20wypełniana.html&XTCsid=a303cbe66823d365397dfbd 071aa5831
FISZ 24 | 2,116
15 May 2007  #17
reckon, Sparrow, you already have one of those? spieprzajdziadu.com/sklep/product_info.php?info=p71_Opaska%20Spieprzaj %20Dziadu%20-%20męska%20wypełniana.html&XTCsid=a303cbe66823d365397dfbd 071aa5831

I've seen this...F off grandpa stuff...is this meant for Lech K?
ladystardust - | 84
15 May 2007  #18
The band thing is...
The original sentence was meant for some elderly person who tried to say something to His MAjesty...
sparrow 2 | 243
15 May 2007  #19
I reckon, Sparrow, you already have one of those?

Lol, thanks for the link, I do now! :)
LoneStranger 3 | 382
15 May 2007  #20
Japanese organised tourist packages

Japanese students come to Poland aswell... :) ... ;) ... thats where I met my girlfriend
I think you al just come Poland... travel....see good places... behave like a normal human being.... while just being a traveller, dont get into the debates....just enjoy and have fun!...:) ... you all are always welcome! .... and all the culture etc, you'll learn more when you come, so dont worry.
OP chattynettie
15 May 2007  #22
Ladystardust, once again , thank you for the help.
I think from what you say, many things are the same as they are here. I wanted to mention that depending on where you are from in the US, some people speak very loud and I also find it quite annoying. Many people from New York seem to be that way. I find it very rude and I know I am not the only one. I also think the comments people made about wearing shorts into a restaurant is cute(As I would never do this). I use to work in a restaurant and also thought why do these tourists wear shorts here??? I found that most were out traveling for the day, and did not know the proper attire for the places and did not know they should change. I think in the US the only restaurants you can wear shorts in would be a fast food restaurant or a restaurant with an outdoor patio would also, maybe be ok. Here you should not wear shorts to Church or Court House. Any ways, if you can think of anything else that might be helpful please send! My report is mostly about what you should expext when traveling to Poland and how to be polite and not offend any one. Another question I was asked is Do I think the Polish Language is one that people use their hands when they are talking?? Also, when they speak to you, do they talk directly to the point, or do you have to understand the culture to understand the meaning of what a person is saying? Thank you so much for all your help! I appreciate it!
FISZ 24 | 2,116
15 May 2007  #23
Many people from New York seem to be that way.

Watch it! That's the oldest stereotype. Loud rude New Yorkers :P I'm not loud at all. Pfff ;)

Also, when they speak to you, do they talk directly to the point, or do you have to understand the culture to understand the meaning of what a person is saying?

I didn't have any problems with understanding conversation. English may be a bit broken with some, but it's easy to communicate. I was able to talk for hours with my gf's father and I speak few words PL and he spoke no eng. Lots of hand gestures...it was also guy talk, so it was easier after a few beers :)
AvJoeUK
15 May 2007  #24
I concur to the "loud part", In warsaw I had to eat a meal in a nice resturant listening to the life story of an american female visiting a Polish professor. Over the other end of the room!

...mind you us English are just as guilty in groups.
sparrow 2 | 243
15 May 2007  #25
lol, I swear each time I'm in Bruges or Cracow & I happen to be near a tourist spot you can play "spot the Yank" with a decibels meter ;)

not trying to be rude! we all have our little things :)
sledz 23 | 2,250
15 May 2007  #26
I have some friends that are so loud, I call thier home " the loud house"

You can hear them down the street

His wife will be sitting across the table from me and she screams while she talks

Geez
OP chattynettie
15 May 2007  #27
FISZ, Thank you for the comments! When did you move and where from? So you found it easy to acclimate to the culture and way of life easily? Do you know the best way to travel? Bus or Train and how expensive is it?

p.s. I like your picture, very cool!

There is also an old one, the famous "gest Kozakiewicza" (check out the pic at pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gest_Kozakiewicza) - it means more or less the same as the middle finger.

Thank you for this website. I have not seen Americans do this, but I live where there are many Hispanics, and I have seen them do this, so I asked whent it ment and they say this means you are Cheap, tight wad. Not a good thing. Thanks for the advice!
ladystardust - | 84
16 May 2007  #28
Well, I would expect it to be the same as with every other country, plus it depends on what you're talking about.
Really, chattynettie, we are pretty normal folk,eating in McDonalds and stuff ;) nothing unusual about us :D
Johnathan2000
16 Feb 2009  #29
I had questions on the feminist stuff, I've seen women be offended at doors being held open for them and stuff of that sort. Is this offensive in Poland?
Wroclaw 44 | 5,389
16 Feb 2009  #30
Is this offensive in Poland?

it is polite to hold the door open for the next person... man or woman.

If you open the door, when in the company of others, make sure that you are the last person to pass through.


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