Polish Language Blog

Conversations with Poles – What Not to Mention Posted by on Mar 7, 2010 in Culture

One thing that becomes immediately apparent from Adam’s post is that an unprepared foreigner should avoid talking politics with a Pole whenever possible, because the experience may turn out to be less than pleasant. But don’t worry, even if you get two Poles discussing politics, chances are the conversation may become very heated. How does the saying go? “Two Poles, three different opinions”? Yep, that’s us!

However, it’s only politics that should be avoided. The uninitiated and unprepared for what may transpire should also steer clear from a wide variety of topics, such as:

  • Religia (religion) – this is a tough one, because even if you are a devout Catholic and think you’re safe when discussing this subject with a Pole, you might be in for a big surprise. Poland is a Catholic country, but not everyone is a church-going zealot. In fact, my American friend dubbed Poles “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose which church teachings they want to follow.
  • Jan Paweł II (John Paul II) – even the most lax Polish Catholic worships the late pope.
  • Historia (history) – avoid, avoid, avoid. Otherwise you may be very surprised how the Polish view of history differs from… well, from just about everything you might have been taught in your history classes.
  • Druga Wojna Światowa (World War 2) – do yourself a favor and don’t go there. Change the topic to the weather or current price of lettuce (but that may lead you to politics, so be careful).

Now it’s your turn. From your experience, which topics should be avoided when talking to a Pole? And I mean, a stranger, someone you don’t know, because among friends it’s safe to discuss just about anything.

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Polish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. luistigre:

    you’re completely right! In my case I have noticed that by myself, politic is completely different than in other parts of Europe. About religia was completely different coz I don’t have any religion so it was complicated to discuss about it with my gf coz she’s extremely catholic. About the pope, i prefer to shut my mouth up and wwII i’d like to talk but it’s kind of complicated. cześć

  2. Jasiu:

    Specifically speaking:

    Avoid commenting about the suffering of your own race to Polish people. Our own people have been through more than most of the world realizes so spare us. This would mean Siberia is a bad thing to get started on as well.

    I wouldnt recommend using Stalin and Russian national hero in the same sentence especially in eastern Poland.

    And as far as history goes…What do you mean? The United States approved version of history because that itself is a joke.

    Oh and if you think you are speaking to a hard-core Polish soccer hooligan…RUN AWAY FAST

  3. Alicja:

    Hmm… Don’t even try to breach the topic of health unless you have A LOT of free time. Be prepared for a long monologue on: a) your interlocutor’s and their family’s own ailments, in excruciating detail, b) why the public health system sucks, which invariably segues into politics, c) some miraculous drug that you absolutely have to take because it has helped your neighbor’s wife’s cousin.

    Many Poles seem to think they always know better than doctors…

  4. PMK:

    WWII is still a pretty tender subject (so is anything connected to the Uprising, Soviets/Russians, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (especially in comparison with the Warsaw Uprising.))

  5. Anna:

    I come from Poland an I agree 100% with this post from Anna( acommon name in our country(: It is so so so true especially cafeteria Catholics

  6. tomek:

    man, i feel so bad to say it but during the last twenty years i’ve learned to avoid the following topics, especially when traveling through the countryside: jews and israel, homosexuality, the pope john paul II, religion and the church in general, the plane crash in smolensk, skin color related topics. to mention the worst. doesn’t sound funny, right? yep, it isn’t. but on the other hand, i wouldn’t start a conversation about politics or ww2 or homosexuality in any other country neither. you never know who you are talking to.

  7. mary:

    you are so right. talking with family and friends, anything and everything can be discussed. when got older and heard “others” talking on the same subjects as parents and friends had, I thought they were all very uninformed. So do keep your knowledge to yourself

  8. Casimir Ziezio:

    Actually, discussing any of those topics with an open mind with a Pole would be an eye opener for anyone from the US. Ignorance of the views Poles hold regarding these issues / events is a disservice to everyone.

  9. Steve White:

    I have chatted about these subjects with Polish people and it was a nice discussion. The Polish version of their history is more accurate than the UK and US versions taught in schools. I find that most Polish people are very nice to talk with. I actually left UK and now live in Lodz.

  10. Meee:

    If you want to remain an ignorant, then yes, don’t ask this questions, you might learn too much 😀

  11. Ahmd Fwzy:

    just like everywhere, in my country Egipt..it’s always lie war waged when someone open up religious or poitical topic

  12. John Smith:

    I went to the Polish institute of cultures Christmas party. I sat in a circle with three other Polish couples whose parents came from Poland. I discussed meditation and the benefits of meditation across religious lines. Several of the people who still spoke with the Polish accent became very offended and demanded that I change the subject. I was a little stunned because anywhere else that I have bought a meditation and or the neutrality of meditation and cross-cultural cross religions, I have never had a problem. I’m not sure this is indicative of all poles but just seems so narrowminded and childish to me.

  13. John Smith:

    I went to the Polish institute of cultures Christmas party. I sat in a circle with three other Polish couples. I discussed the benefits of meditation. Several over 65 people who spoke with the Polish accent became offended and angry saying that I should not be discussing religion. I try to explain that meditation cuts across religious and cultural lines. i have never had a problem discussing this with any other group before. I’m not sure if this is indicative of all poles but just seems so narrowminded and childish to me.