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From the ancient custom of greeting visitors with bread and salt, Poland’s system of social graces has developed into one that is unmatched in the world, and will often put a smile on your face. You can expect to be spoiled – every Pole wants to be the host with the most, no money and effort spared.
As a visitor you need to be prepared to be overwhelmed by the exceptional hospitality of the Polish people. Their extended everyday social rituals are old traditions and they are like no other in the world.
Hospitality is a very important aspect of the Polish culture and therefore no costs or effort will be spared. Poles are known for being kind-hearted, friendly people who have a strong sense of duty towards each other and their family. It is, for example, very important to show special consideration to senior citizens and less-abled people. Especially older Poles still value this old-fashioned courtesy. Giving up your seat to an elderly or pregnant women, gentlemen making way for ladies and saying hello and goodbye to people in an elevator is considered normal.
When in Poland, be prepared for your words to be sometimes misinterpreted, but do not worry about communication. You will find it very easy to engage in a friendly conversation, even regardless of the other speaker’s linguistic competence.
You wil be overwhelmed by the exceptional hospitality offered by the Polish people and the good-hearted everyday social rituals you will experience.
To address Poles properly you need to use “Pan” for men and “Pani” for women together with their surname. It is not customary to call people by their first name until they are good friends. Greeting can be done by shaking everyone’s hand individually while looking at their face and smiling.
Even on the first visit do not be surprised to be offered by your host a pair of slippers for your comfort. Shake hands individually, but do not shake hands over a threshold. This is considered bad luck. Come with an empty stomach. It is Polish tradition to pamper guests with quality food in abundant quantities. And definitely try a little bit of everything – usually there is a big selection of side dishes at the table, apart from the main course!
During dinner Poles usually drink alcoholic drinks but if you want to abstain from alcohol, be prepared to keep on saying no. Beer and wine are common in Poland. Vodka is popular, served in small glasses meant to drink in one gulp. Before parting, you might receive the special honor of being served a “rozchodniaczek”, a parting drink, often a self-made fruit liqueur.
Poles are proud of their country and this is with a good reason. Authentic positive relations about your sightseeing experience is a welcome subject and shows your interest in the culture. It would be nice to ask your host for recommendations.
And now few useful phrases for you:
good to see you! – miło cię widzieć!
can I take your coat? – czy mogę wziąć od ciebie kurtkę/płaszcz?
sorry we’re late – przepraszamy za spóźnienie
make yourself at home – czuj się jak u siebie w domu
do you mind if I smoke here? – mogę tu zapalić?
I’d prefer it if you went outside – wolałbym/wolałabym, żebyś wyszedł na zewnątrz
could I use your phone? – mogę skorzystać z twojego telefonu?
thanks for coming – dziękuję, że przyszliście
thanks for a lovely evening – dziękuję za uroczy wieczór