Na poczcie – At the Post Office Posted by on Apr 26, 2009 in Culture

I had to go to the Post Office yesterday and managed to make a total fool out of myself in the process. And all this shame and public humiliation could have been avoided, if only I had paid closer attention when reading blogi (blogs) by foreign expats in Poland.

So, this is what happened. I had with me the packet I wanted to send, I had with me the appropriate address form, already filled out too – I wanted to send my packet as EMS, which in Poland is known as Pocztex, and bravely made my way to the window.

I don’t normally frequent post offices, because there are better things in life than waiting in looooong, sloooooow moving lines. But post offices in Poland are kind of fun, in a weirdly interesting kind of way. They not only handle the usual post-officy business, but also provide banking, insurance and who-knows-what-else services. And apart from stamps, you can also purchase a wide range of items there: facial tissue packets, bus tickets, pantyhose, books, and even cemetery candles. My local post office also sells condoms (and this is not a joke), probably because you just never know when you might need one, right?

One thing that Poczta Polska (Polish Post Office) cannot do, however, is to accept bank cards and credit cards. In other words, you either pay in cash or not at all.

So what do you do if you end up like me, standing at the stamp window without enough złotys in your wallet? Just ignore the sour look of the stamp selling lady and the annoyed sights of the people waiting in line behind you and ask “W którym okienku jest bankomat?” (In which window is there an ATM?)

I was sent over to window number 3 where a “bankomat” lady informed me that yes, I could withdraw cash there. I handed her my bank card, she swiped it, I punched in my PIN code and expected her to give me the money.

Not so fast! She wanted my dowód osobisty (ID card) first. I didn’t have it with me. I had my paszport (passport) though. Nope. Not good enough. It had to be dowód osobisty or nothing. When I asked her why she needed it, since I obviously knew my PIN and the name on my passport matched the name on my card, she couldn’t really answer me. “Przepisy,” (rules) she said.

I told her to cancel the transaction, told the lady at the stamp window to hold on to my packet and ran outside. There were eight banks in the immediate vicinity of the post office. I went to the nearest “real”ATM, withdrew some cash (no dowód osobisty necessary) and returned to the post office. I proceeded straight to the postage stamp lady and attempted to finally send my packet on its merry EMS way.

THEN, and only then she informed me that she was all out of those special Pocztex plastic envelopes, that she couldn’t accept my packet packaged as it was (a normal bubble-wrap padded envelope), and that I had to go and find me a different post office.

Ahhhhh, it’s great to be back in Poland.

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  1. expateek:

    Ha ha! Excellent. Glad to know that the Polish postal ladies are even-handed in their abuse of customers!

  2. Dziadek Majko:

    Droga Anna,
    Great post office experience…..How about the authoritative Stamp cancellations… I recorded the loud noise that they make and then when returning to any post office I would play it in the lull of quietness..that drove them mad…..another time they torn the envelope while stamping it and I had to buy one of theirs…..I then placed a pad of red ink in the area of the stamp telling then to be easy…..Oh, how they listen….No, they had to do their thing and wham o, the cost of the stamp was well worth the experience for what followed…
    It’s time to return to Poland and drive the post office crazy……


    That is so typical poczta polska. lol

  4. Bill Bojanowski:

    I was in Poland last September, 2008. I sent about 38 post cards from a small town called Nowe nad Wisła, where my grandfather had been born and raised. One to each cousin and some to friends. I didn’t have enough cash, so my cousin, Wojtek, talked them into taking my credit card. As it turned out, they used it to get a cash advance instead of credit. When I saw the charges on my credit card bill, I called customer service and explained that I was making a purchase and hadn’t asked for a cash advance, and they got rid of the extra charges for me.
    When the post office person asked if I wanted the cards sent express, I said no, I was not in a hurry, and it cost a lot just to send them regular mail. She looked at me like I was nuts. Well, it took 10 weeks before most people in the US got those cards! At least they got here, though. I had given them up for lost.

  5. Jed:

    Przepisy, przepisy.

    Seems like no matter what country you go to, the post office is the most confusing place and only if you live there the past 10 years do you know all the rules.

  6. Hoosier41:


    Really enjoy your blog and check it everyday for something new.

    Using MS Windows how does one get the Polish character set ?

    Would it be possible to have an audio file with the Polish words ? I really have problems with the pronunciation of words.


  7. Michael L. (dziadek):

    Droga Anna,

    They don’t make those type of films like Sami swoi anymore. Those two male characters were something.
    Dziadek Majko

  8. Mchl:

    Hoosier41: Here’s a link to Microsft’s FAQ about keyboard layouts.

    The one you want to install is called ‘Polish (Programmers)’.