Polish Language Blog

Visiting – part 2 Posted by on Mar 24, 2010 in Culture

Since Adam’s post about going z wizytą (to visit someone) is proving quite popular (to read it, check the previous entry on the blog), let me expand on it a bit.

The “cut your meat before eating” stuff is confusing some readers. Sorry. In retrospect I realize it should have been phrased somewhat differently.

OK, so here we go (w gości, LOL!)

In Poland, it seems to be common to hold widelec (fork) in your left hand and nóż (knife) – in your right hand. You only cut a little bit of the food – as much as will fit onto the fork in one go. Daintily lift it and shove it in your mouth in a very sophisticated manner – trying not to drop any food bits along the way. And then repeat the whole procedure – cut, place on the fork (which is still in your left hand, by the way), eat, and so on.

A very European way of eating, which becomes a highly refined method of torture if you are unlucky enough to be served groszek z marchewką (green peas and carrots) along with your ziemniaki (potatoes) and mięso (meat).

As a kid I thought it rather tedious and unproductive and decided that cutting all the food all at once before eating was the way to go. Then put down the knife, transfer the fork to your right hand and enjoy.

Last year in Poland I saw more and more people eating that way, so it seems to me that it’s becoming more accepted now than it was once upon a time. Back in the olden days eating like that was a sure sign of very poor table manners.

Now, about kapcie (slippers).
Poland is not the only country in the world where taking your shoes off upon entering someone’s home is common. As a person who’s stuck doing all the floor mopping and vacuuming, I like this custom. So if you want to visit me, make sure your socks are clean.

And about Polish hospitality (gościnność).
I know of families (I come from one) where the first question you are asked when you visit is “Jadłaś już obiad?” (Have you had dinner yet?, when asking a familiar female) and then regardless of your answer, you are served a full meal. Which of course you should eat, because otherwise you’ll end up looking like an ungrateful prick with appalling manners.

But as everything else when it comes to all things Polish, this post should come with the following disclaimer – your experience may vary.

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  1. Jack Stockdale:

    Did you really intend to use such a vulgar word?
    See Merriam-Webster

    • Anna:

      @Jack Stockdale Hi Jack!
      Prick – as in “a crude insult for an obnoxious or contemptible person”

  2. Thomas F. Westcott:

    Hello Anna,

    How are you with chopsticks?

    Have you ever tryed or seen anyone using a table knife to eat peas?

    Eating left handed is not difficult, and if doing so makes your guests more comfortable then just do it.

    Three years ago some Tai guys asked me to share lunch with them. It would have been inpolite to refuse. I took a plate and dished up rice, and leafy vegetable, and a meat with sause dish and then used the chopsticks. Why should someone insist on American table manners or American food from someone of a different culture?

    I learned how to use chopsticks from a Korean lady at a Chinese restraunt in China town, San Francisco.

    When I was young, I had ocassion to eat meals with ‘southerners’ and with ‘hillbillies’ . (I am a yankee.) I can still eat peas with a table knife if needed. If a guest of mine were to do so then I would as well so as to put that guest at ease.

    When I visit my inlaws, I always take my shoes off since they do. I will bring my own slippers usually or trapse around in my socks.

    OH, and I can eat with my fingers. (fried chicken, corn on the cob, sandwiches, french fries, etc.) Well weren’t fingers invented before forks?

  3. Malcolm Rutter:

    Greetings Anna,

    The risky thing about using a swearword in a foreign language is that it carries subtle overtones that you didn’t think of. Our instructor asked us to pool our various collections of Polish swearwords and advised on which could safely be used and which couldn’t!

    Now I know what you meant, I can suggest the phrase “ungrateful boor with appalling manners”. The word you actually used is one that ladies seldom use unless they are so angry that they forget that they are ladies.


    • Anna:

      @Malcolm Rutter Hi Malcolm!
      But if you knew me IRL, then you’d realize that I’m definitely no lady. 😉
      And that somehow reminded me of that old Maryla Rodowicz song “ach damą być i na wyspach bananowych bananówkę pić”… See what you’ve done now? I’ll be singing this stupid song now for the rest of the day and terrify my neighbors!