|Dos & Don’ts In Poland
Who’s that speaking?
You shouldn’t be surprised to hear Elizabeth Taylor or Kate Winslet
sound like a wolf pretending to be a granny. Almost all the foreign
shows are dubbed over by a speaker who reads out all the dialogue
with one voice. The speakers, known as lektorzy, are audio celebrities
here with some voices firmly attached to certain shows. Some
channels were trying to challenge this custom by introducing subtitles
but had to go back to the old ways sooner or later, forced by
letters from disgruntled viewers and sharp drops in ratings.
Feel the heat
We know what a real winter is and we have learnt to abuse central heating
at every possible occasion. Do not be surprised to find our homes,
offices and shops obscenely overheated, in spite of shrinking resources.
Climate change? What climate change? It was -10 this morning.
The secret language of kissing
The Polish kissing code is very vague and liberal. When you’re greeting
a friend you can exchange somewhere between one and three
kisses, the exact number is a matter of personal judgement. Kisses
are exchanged eagerly between women, more reluctantly between
a woman and a man. Between men a handshake or a bear hug is just
enough, except for close relatives or very very good or long-missed
friends. A kiss on the woman’s hand is treated by some as a sign of old
fashioned chivalry, by others – as disgusting and uncivilised.
Slowly ousted by the omnipresence of espresso machines, so-called
Turkish coffee used to be the proper coffee for an average Pole. If
you want to try the thick, strong brew, vaguely reminiscent of actual
Turkish coffee, look out for kawa po turecku on the menus or startle
a waiter at a posh restaurant by asking to give you one.
Taking tea with milk is considered English extravagance in Poland.
The proper way is to put a slice of lemon in it.
Beware, Italians, Spaniards, Greeks and other hot-blooded Mediterraneans!
At family functions Poles can get very loud indeed, but raising
your voice in a restaurant, on a train or in a street often comes
across as rude or an act of desperate attention-seeking.
‘No’ does not always mean no
It is embedded deep within the nation’s psyche that it would come
across as rude to answer too enthusiastically to an offer of a drink or
a snack. The first answer is usually nie, dziękuję (no, thanks), no matter
how hungry or thirsty on is. This will be undoubtedly followed by
repeating the offer (może jednak?), to which you are allowed to answer
a hesitant poproszę (yes, please) accompanied by many maybes,
thankyous and excuses.
Once you think you are done eating what you first so politely refused
to eat, you will undoubtedly be offered another one, and another
one. The ritual will be repeated. Refusing at least one extra bite will
probably taken as an offence.
On public transportation, in waiting rooms, airport lounges, in hotel
lobbies – wherever you are and there are no seats left, keep your eyes
open and make sure to offer yours to any woman (unless of course
you are one yourself), an elderly or a disabled person, a pregnant
woman or a woman with a baby. One out of ten of the persons you’ll
consider senior citizens make take offense because they still like to
think of themselves as middle-aged, but the rest will appreciate your
My Home is My Mosque
Make sure to wear nice socks! Officially, taking your shoes off when
visiting somebody’s place is considered a faux pas, but you may be
asked to do so in many homes, especially in the countryside.