How would you describe the Polish mentality?

The people and lifestyles of Poland

You can get to know a country through the windows of coaches and hotel rooms, and by contenting yourself with information from a travel guide. If you are satisfied with that, then as a tourist you turn into a kind of reference work after a certain period of time: you know the facts, dates, figures and individual pictures. However, an emotional relationship with the places visited only comes about through direct contact with people. Only when we get to know their customs, culture and tradition makes it possible for us to remember individual areas.

Encounters with residents of other countries are a wonderful experience. Provided you don't hurt them with an inappropriate word or gesture. You should also master the art of correctly interpreting the behavior of your hosts in order to avoid funny and sometimes even unfortunate misunderstandings. We present you a travel guide that tells you nothing about historical monuments and national parks, but rather brings you closer to the customs and mentality of the Poles.


The Poles like to say hello. If the pronunciation of “cześć” is too difficult for a foreigner, he can also use the English equivalent “hello”. You are guaranteed to understand him. When we come to a meeting, we shake hands with the person we're meeting with. In a larger company, of course, you don't shake hands with everyone present. The first few minutes usually pass with everyone greeting everyone. This loosens the atmosphere and makes life easier for the shy. Don't be surprised if some guests kiss as they greet you. This is not a sign of love, but an expression of familiarity. The right amount is required by the greeting kiss, which is actually a gentle touch of the cheeks.


When traveling to Poland for the first time or spending time with native speakers, it is helpful to master some vocabulary in order to introduce yourself in a few sentences. If you have very little or no command of Polish, you can use the German-Polish dictionary from Woxikon as an aid to put together important vocabulary and a few empty phrases. So it is not difficult to say "My name is ..." and "I come from ...".

Words and gestures

After the greeting, you start a conversation. In a group of people there is sure to be someone who speaks English. It is the most widely spoken foreign language in Poland. The others will eagerly try to teach the foreigner Polish. You are sure to ask him to repeat the following sentence: “W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie” (“In [the village] Szczebrzeszyn a beetle is buzzing in the reeds.” Say: F ​​Schchebscheschünnje chschonschtsch bschmi f chschchinje). He's a tongue twister even for Poles. Foreigners can try to repeat it and they will put the crowd in a good mood. Then a conversation with gestures and using the most important verbs in the infinitive may develop.

First name, surname and ...

You have to approach a Pole with Mrs. (Pani) or Mr. (Pan). If you limit yourself to naming titles such as director or professions such as waiter, driver or cashier, that is perceived as impolite. It sounds even worse when you call someone by their last name. After the words “Kowalski, give me a teaspoon”, we are suspected of treating Kowalski without respect. The form "Panie Kowalski" is acceptable, but recently the association of Pani / Pan with the given name has become widespread. If we address someone we already know as Pani Beato (Ms. Beate) or Panie Jacku (Mr. Jacek), we can be sure not to hurt anyone.

Don't forget the name day!

Switching to you not only makes life a lot easier. It also comes with certain obligations. The most important is to remember the name day. This celebration is more important to Poles than in any other culture, and it is celebrated in a special way. To avoid embarrassing situations in the future, you should use the calendar and mark the appropriate days. Poles celebrate their name days at home, sometimes in a restaurant and very rarely at work, which now only happens after work. When we meet the name day child in person, we should definitely express our wishes to him. Small gifts such as flowers, books or cuddly toys are always welcome. If you limit yourself to the wishes, that is not a faux pas either. The most important thing, and you will hear it several times, is that you think about it. If we can't see the person celebrating their name day in person, just give us a call. You can also send your congratulations via SMS or email. He will definitely remember what deepens the relationship.

Everything for the lady

The kiss on the hand is slowly going out of style. However, it has not yet completely disappeared and it is not known who still remembers this custom. It could just as well be the distinguished old man in whom the soul of the salon lion awakens, or it could also be a broad-shouldered youth. In such moments, the beloved should keep calm, gracefully stretch her right hand forward, with the inside facing the floor. It is possible that “she” spends a few weeks in Poland without getting a single kiss on the hand. By the way: every well-behaved Pole will give way to a lady at the door. It is a well-known way of showing respect for the fair sex. Even the most radical advocates of equality will not protest here. Compliments like “What a beautiful hairstyle!”, “Your dress looks very elegant!” Are understood in a similar way. Poland is an exceptionally friendly country for foreign women, where men like to look after women and offer them a place on the tram. They also like to give them flowers or invite them over for a coffee.

The family is above everything

As opinion polls have shown for years, of all values, the most important thing for Poles is a harmonious family life. With its divorce rate, Poland is far behind in the European comparison, which certainly has to do with the great importance of religion in the life of Poles. But not just with that. A harmonious family life is worth more to all Poles than money and their professional position. Talking to them you can get the impression that the Polish family is unusually large. But that would be a big mistake. In everyday language one also says sister-in-law and cousin sister, calls the cousin brother and describes uncle and aunt as friends of the house. The most common family model is 2 + 2, with conscientious statisticians already speaking of 2 + 1.5.

The number of four-legged household members increases in proportion to the decline in natural growth. Today you can hardly find a household without a dog, cat, turtle, rabbit, dachshund or white mouse.


One of the most popular pastimes is walking the dog. The Poles are also playing sports more and more often. Cycling, fitness training, bowling and inline skating are modern. The only thing that is more popular is television, with which Poles spend an average of four hours a day. In recent years, even trips to shopping and entertainment centers have become one of the most popular leisure activities. However, they are not recommended for foreigners because these wholesale markets are no different from those in the EU or the USA. You could go to the cinema. The theaters and concert halls are good recommendations. But be careful - the Poles consider z. B. a visit to the theater as an extraordinary event, which is why they dress elegantly for it, unless it is an avant-garde theater. If you don't want to attract attention, you shouldn't come to the theater in a T-shirt and torn jeans. Such an outfit is ideal for a walk into the city.

On road

There are fewer cars in Poland than in the west. However, they are enough to cause traffic jams in all major cities. That is why you should be patient enough for a trip to the countryside. Especially because the streets are getting more and more congested. You have to get used to a large number of trucks on the roads, which are not too wide, because almost every truck that travels between Eastern and Western Europe travels through Poland. For your own safety, it is better not to race them and take into account when planning your trip that you will drive more slowly than on EU roads. Anyone who exceeds the prescribed speed must expect to come into contact with one of the numerous police patrols anyway. The parking tickets are very expensive and can significantly increase travel costs to Poland.

Fast Intercity and Eurocity trains run between the largest cities. So it's worth considering whether you want to spend four to five hours in the car when you can cover the same distance by train in half the time. This is especially important on weekends when the departure and especially the return to the city can take a long time due to the traffic jams. If you get hungry along the way, you can also take a seat in one of the numerous train restaurants. However, there is no substitute for home-made Polish cuisine.

On diet

Many Poles cook lunch at home. They say you can't compare a restaurant to what their hands can do. Statistics show that Polish women are constantly losing weight, which is why they like to talk about their diet before serving. You should listen to them in a friendly way, nod and wait patiently for the delicacies they have prepared. In the Polish understanding, losing weight does not mean that you save on food. The breakfast is quite decent. Lunch is usually eaten after returning home from work and is even more hearty. Only the supper is a little more modest. Provided that no guests have been invited. Then the principle applies that the guests can help themselves from all the food that is in the house.

Richly laid table

In France you cannot list all types of cheese and in Poland you cannot list all the sausages and cold cuts. Lately, among meat-eating Poles, grilling has become a modern form of feast. Meat is fried almost everywhere - on the weekend property, in the garden, on the lawn in front of the house and sometimes even on the balcony. Special occasions, e.g. B. If a foreign guest comes to visit, however, require the preparation of elaborate dishes that you will not find anywhere else. Coming to Poland without tasting the bigos made from sauerkraut, cabbage and various types of minced meat would be like visiting Paris without climbing the Eiffel Tower. Bigos was once a hunter's dish that was served after the hunt. Anyone can get it these days.

The traditionalists who do not want to eat anything other than the specialties from their own kitchen can travel to Poland without hesitation. Here you will easily find restaurants that serve Japanese sushi, Mexican taco, American beef steaks, and Greek salads. The only exception is seafood, which the majority of Poles are not into. When visiting the mountains, you should definitely try the sheep's cheese Oscypek try something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It has the shape of two connected cones. And because aesthetics are important to the mountain dwellers in addition to quality, these pieces of cheese are adorned with beautiful ornaments. Oscypek is not only a delicacy, but also a nice souvenir from Poland.

For the benefit of the guests

Beer is much more popular with Poles than pure alcohol. As a foreigner, you no longer have to worry about having to drink strong vodka. Wine and cocktails dominate at parties. And if you visit friends, you can ask to dilute the vodka with orange juice or cola. Nobody will find this funny. It is just as normal to politely refuse to drink alcohol at all. But if you do decide to enjoy this, you should prepare yourself for toasting. The first usually comes from the host: "To the health of my guests." As one can easily imagine, the guests then drink to the host's health. After that, the imagination is already left free and you can toast everything that comes to mind. To the next get-together, to the successful return home and above all to the health of the women.

The national drinks of Poles, however, are not drinks, but tea and coffee. No sooner have you crossed the threshold as a guest than you are asked whether you want tea or coffee. There is filtered coffee though. However, many traditionalists pour boiling water over the ground bean. Tea is served with sugar and lemon. Mostly in a glass.

Guest in the house, God in the house

When seated at the table, one should praise the hosts for the wonderful welcome. The Poles are convinced that they belong to the exceptionally hospitable nations. And they love to be affirmed in it. That is not by accident. In the past, their ancestors used to say: "Guest in the house, God in the house", which means that you should only offer the best to the guest. When the best was missing, the next maxim was: "Noble the world is perishing". So it happened that you charged yourself debts for hospitality that you would pay for years to come. The desire to make guests happy continues to this day. A lot has changed these days. A modestly set table, however, leads to lively discussions as it did centuries ago.

Evening talks from Poland

For the sake of peace, one should not initiate a discussion about politics. Discussions once arose through history and life itself. In the 19th and 20th centuries Poland was independent for only 32 years (1918-39 and since 1989). So the topics of conversation almost naturally imposed themselves. Its content was the consideration of current mishaps and the memory of the good old days. Of course, the next step was the search for the culprits for the fact that the transfigured past had turned into a gray everyday life. Everyone had a different opinion on this. It was said: “When two Poles discuss, three parties arise”. That means that every Pole has his point of view. A mentality has developed over generations that is difficult to break away from today, although Poland is already under the protective umbrella of NATO and is preparing for integration into the EU. A foreigner who carelessly engages in a political discussion should pay attention to every word. The Poles know their weaknesses very well, but do not want to be reminded of them by strangers. If the atmosphere gets tricky, it is better to change the subject immediately and z. B. ask how the Poles manage to live on a European level under such difficult conditions. Then comes the answer that you always have to know how to help yourself.

Great improvisation

It is not without reason that the “Great Improvisation” is one of the greatest national works by the poet Adam Mickiewicz. The Poles always knew how to help each other better than in everyday life in extraordinary situations, for which one had to mobilize forces. In view of the danger, they passed the first constitution in Europe and, after the American one, the second constitution worldwide. But they weren't able to keep it up.

That is why they improvised later during the uprisings and wars as well as at the round table, where the building of a democracy began. The actual construction, which required great effort and perseverance, was more difficult for them. The ability to know how to help in any difficult situation continues to be useful for Poland's foreign guests and business partners. If a Pole really wants something, then he can do it. The only question is - as the famous Polish poet Stanisław Wyspiański put it - whether he “really wants it”.

Work and pay

The combination of the Polish tendency towards improvisation with western administrative techniques brought interesting results. Ambitious, success-oriented young people have developed into capable managers. They work very intensively without insisting on their legally regulated evening hours. What counts is the goal and the results, not bureaucratic rules. Workers and employees also appreciate their work. You do them with the same zeal so as not to lose them. In the Polish statistics of fears, fear of unemployment comes first. The question of earnings does not make much sense when almost everyone says what they earn on the hand, starts to complain and compares their purchasing power with that of their counterpart in the EU.

Poland's hustle and bustle and entrepreneurship find their best expression in trade.There is a bazaar where you least expect it. B. the largest in Europe. But bazaars can also be found in cities in central squares or in the open field. Merchants from all over the world are drawn there, from Peru to Korea. Incidentally, most of the products in supermarkets are labeled in several languages, which makes shopping very easy. Paying is just as convenient. There are numerous exchange offices, banks and ATMs where you can get zloty. In addition, every major establishment accepts credit cards.

What you should know about Poland

The climate is changeable. Four seasons can be clearly distinguished. Spring is full of surprises. March and April are either warm and sunny or cold and rainy. Even snow is possible. In summer it is warm, sometimes rainy. It is the best time of the year to visit Poland. Autumn is colorful and sunny and is therefore ideal for lovers of forest walks. However, you have to expect rain towards the end. In winter the temperature fluctuates around zero degrees. Snow is only guaranteed in the mountains. Because of the whims of the weather, the television forecast is one of the most watched programs.

Health insurance: You should inquire with your insurance company what protection you need for Poland, as private treatment in Poland is expensive. The pharmacies have a wide range.

Churches: Sundays and public holidays should not be chosen for visiting places of worship, as the Poles are a very religious people and the churches are overcrowded during masses. Not to mention taking photos during this time. You don't like to see someone dress too loosely when you go to church.

Telephoning: Poland is covered by the networks of three mobile phone providers. International calls from the fixed network are among the most expensive in Europe.

Email: There are internet cafes in every major city. Most companies now have Internet access and the number of private Internet users is increasing.

Security: Poland's crime rate is among the lowest in Europe. Nevertheless, it is better to avoid certain parts of the city in the evening that travel guides and friends warned about. Tearing away pockets is unlikely to happen. However, beware of pickpockets, especially in overcrowded trams, buses and trains. Under no circumstances should you leave the radio or other valuable items in the car.