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Why Poles don’t say hello to the strangers on the street? Posted by on Apr 22, 2016 in Culture

I remember my first impression when I came to USA: how friendly most of the people were and how people on the street were saying hello to me! I thought to myself: what a great, positive, friendly experience! I loved how people were smiling, saying hello and asking how was I doing. I have never really experienced this in Poland…sadly. However, I know that there are so many differences in Polish and American culture and people in Poland are just not used to saying hi to strangers while passing them on the streets.

When my husband visited Poland for the first time, I remember borrowing my parents car and driving to the local village store. He rolled the window down and was waving to everyone he saw, with a big smile! Now, imagine little village where everyone knows each other…and of course they recognize my parents car. And there is a stranger waving and smiling…It was actually pretty funny:) It seems like something pretty normal here in US, but it’s definitely not something you see all the time in Poland!

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My husband and I visiting Kraków! This guy didn’t mind to say hello and pose for a picture with us…

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…I think he actually liked meeting us…or me…

 

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…my husband was a little jealous, but look, he is still smiling:)

So why Polish people don’t greet strangers on the street? I think it’s just a difference between our cultures. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just different. I think that Americans meet someone and want to have a good relationship immediately. Poles need a little time to warm up. After you know each other for a little while, it usually changes completely. I think generally Poles are a little wary or distrusting of others. Something left over from the past… In reality, if you need something from an American, they’re probably nowhere to be found. Why? Too inconvenient. Need something from a Pole? They help you, make you dinner, feed you cake and give you a place to sleep. And offer you a drink:) Americans are more friendly, but I think Poles are more hospitable. Of course there are different people everywhere, there are exceptions and there are different Americans and different Poles, so please don’t think I’m trying to judge everyone. I definitely do not mean to offend anyone.

I have to admit I really like when people say hello to me everywhere! I don’t try to push it when I’m visiting Poland, but I definitely try to at least smile to strangers…and it must work, because a lot of them smile back!

 

 

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


Comments:

  1. Mike:

    I’ve been traveling regularly in Poland for past 12 years and I agree completely with your observations. I have stayed with about 30 families who I met there and they invited me into their homes. One thing I’ve discovered, even though my Polish language skills are almost nil, just making an effort helps break the ice. The first years I traveled there, I would just say “mam pytanie” and Polish people broke into a big smile (at my pronunciation no doubt) then respond in English and before long I felt like family. Gosc w dom, Bog w dom!

    • Gosia:

      @Mike I m Polish living in South Africa and will never undetstand culture of How are you ??? Here everywhere and to everyone….If you forget it is rude…

  2. Richard:

    It is also common in the UK to greet people you pass on the street. My wife was pleasantly surprised by it on her first visit to England, she though it was really nice how people out walking their dog or people in their front garden will always cheerily say good morning. I often wondered why polish people don’t do the same. I guess it may well have something to do with the Polish custom of shaking hands. In Poland it is customary to accompany every greeting with a handshake and it is rather rude not to offer your hand. It would, of course be impractical to offer a handshake to every stranger you pass on the street. Therefore, people only greet the people they know as perhaps a way of not seeming rude to those they don’t.