Poland is a popular destination for school groups, especially those studying history. For many young students, it could very well be their first experience of Eastern Europe. So here are a few things to remember to avoid upsetting your Polish hosts!
Unsurprisingly, making the effort to speak at least a little bit of Polish during your trip will be very much appreciated – while many Poles do speak some English, it is rude to simply assume they do.
The correct way to address a Pole is to use Pan (male) or Pani (female) followed by their surname. First names are usually reserved for close friends.
When greeting a Pole, a firm handshake with direct eye contact is the norm. And when saying goodbye, try to avoid doing so in a doorway – it’s thought to bring bad luck!
Some useful phrases:
Good day - dzien dobry (jyen do bri)
Hi – czesc(chesh-tch)
Good evening – dobry wieczór (do bri vyetch or)
Goodnight – dobranoc (do branots)
Goodbye – do widzenia (do vee dze nya)
Cheers – na zdrowie (nah zdroh vee ya)
Enjoy your meal – smacznego (smach neh go)
Can I have the bill? – rachunek propsze (ra hoo nek poh prosh eh)
Yes – tak (tak)
No – nie (nyeah)
Please – prosze (prosh eh)
Thank you – dziekuje (jyen koo ye)
You’re welcome – prosze bardzo (prosh eh bard zoh)
How much is it? – ile to kosztuje? (eel eh toh kost oo yeh)
I don’t understand – nie rozumiem (nyeah roh zoom yem)
Excuse me – przepraszam (pshuh prash am)
I don’t speak Polish – nie mówie po polsku (nyeah moov yeah poh pole skoo)
Tipping is not obligatory, but is common in restaurants – around 10% of the bill is normal.
Hold your knife in your right hand and your fork in your left hand at all times when eating.
Keep your elbows off the table – instead rest your wrists on the table.
When you have finished eating, pop the knife and fork parallel to each other at a slight angle on the right of your plate.
If you have not finished but need to put your cutlery down, cross the knife and fork on your plate.
If invited to dine at someone’s house, make sure you are on time and remove your shoes (you may or may not be offered slippers to wear instead).
You should wait until the host invites you to start and it will be appreciated if you try a little of everything.
Toasts may be made with spirits – if this is the case, you should attempt your own toast at some point – but let the host make the first toast.
If invited to someone’s house for dinner, appropriate gifts include wine, sweets or pastries. Flowers are also appreciated, but avoid even numbers and chrysanthemums, which are regarded as funeral flowers in Poland.
Out and about
When using public transport you should be ready to offer up your seat to an elderly or pregnant passenger. As a very family-centric society, Poles will consider you extremely rude if you refuse/neglect to do so.
Speaking of being a family-centric society, you may also notice parents and families with small children may be served ahead of others in a queue.
If entering a church, or any other sacred place, men should remove their hats.
Not so much an etiquette thing, but worth noting, is that some bathrooms may be marked with a triangle or a circle, rather than with a picture of a man or woman. Just remember, the circle is the ladies’ and the triangle is the men’s! Many public toilets also charge a small fee (often around 2PLN), although those in shopping centres tend to be free to use.