Poland, like any other country, has its own unique culture. Sometimes, for travellers who are new to the country, it may be confusing as to what would be the social norms and taboos. As such, when visiting Poland, knowing a few dos and don'ts would help travellers enjoy a more fulfilling time in the country. After all, part of travelling includes learning how to be sensitive to other cultures, social norms as well as understanding the practices which are deemed to be unacceptable. Continue reading to find out what is culturally unacceptable in Poland. This will allow you to better understand the Polish culture. Below are some tips on what not to do in Poland when you are travelling to the country.
1. Don't greet over a threshold
One superstition in Poland which has been rooted in ancient times is avoiding the greeting of their guests at the door or over a threshold. The locals believe that doing so has negative connotations and therefore always avoid bidding goodbye or shaking hands beyond a certain limit. As such, when you meet a Pole, ensure that you do not go overboard in your greeting or even when bidding goodbye to someone.
2. Don’t talk about religion
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Do remember that when in Poland, avoid speaking openly about religion. Indeed, in Poland, religion equates to Catholicism. It is said that about 90% of Poles are Roman Catholics. However, this does not mean that you can openly assume their allegiance to the church. Although Poland is a Catholic country, not everyone is a church-visiting zealot. Poles have varied levels of devoutness and therefore, one needs to be careful when broaching the topic of religion.
3. Don't fall for the rural tourism advertisement
One may come across lots of tourism videos while researching your Poland trip. Indeed, there are many beautiful locations in Poland, especially during the winter when skiing is commonplace. There are also lakes located in the north of Poland which will be worth exploring. There are many cool cities everywhere around Poland to visit. For instance, as much as Krakow is amazing, Gdansk and Warsaw are also beautiful cities.
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4. Don’t say you are in Eastern Europe
Please do not ever say that you are in eastern Europe when in Poland. This has a historical reason when there was a split between western and eastern Europe. Poles tend to get offended when people categorize Poland as an eastern European country. The locals seem to want to forget the past and consider themselves more western than eastern.
5. Don't skip dessert
If you have done your fair share of research about Polish food, you will know that Polish cuisine is diverse with its wonderful range of delicious soups as well as sumptuous main dishes. Likewise, Poland is also famous for its array of fine desserts. With a wide selection of cookies and cakes to choose from, a sweet treat from Poland is always welcomed. One such popular dessert is Kolaczki, which is a folded cookie which consists of a fruit filling or sweet cheese. Yet another interesting dessert is Mazurka, a flat cake. This cake is rolled flat and contains jam. So, when in Poland, ensure you do not skip having a dessert or two.
6. Don't forget to tip
An important practice to remember when in Poland is the act of tipping. This might initially be confusing for a tourist who might be wondering how much to tip for a particular service rendered. Did you know that in Poland, when you say ‘Thank You’ to a staff who comes to pick up your bill, he takes it that you mean you do not want your change? As tipping is common practice in the country, do remember to say 'Thanks’ only when you are ready to leave and do not need the staff’s help anymore. It is strongly encouraged that you reward good service with cash.
7. Don't leave without checking the weather
When in Poland, checking the weather is akin to checking the time when going out. It is well worth the effort to check the weather as you do not want to be caught in the wrong clothes. Poland’s weather is varied and unpredictable. While winter in Poland can be frigid, summer can be stifling. As such, you may need to change as and when you decide to step out.
8. Don't wear shoes in a Polish home
You might have a Pole friend or even get the opportunity to visit a Polish home. The Poles, like many other cultures in the world, have the custom of taking off their shoes when entering the home. Since shoes are not allowed in, slippers or bare feet is the norm. Do remember this culture so that you avoid insulting the locals.
9. Don’t imbibe in public
When in Europe, one might think that walking around with alcohol in hand is acceptable. However, in Poland, this is not the case. Not many people know that there is a law in the country which governs drinking alcohol in public. One is not allowed to carry any alcohol in hand when in public spaces. Drinking has to be confined to private spaces like bars, restaurants, beer gardens and homes of course.
Enjoy a comfortable stay in Poland
The Poles are generally warm people who welcome tourists with open arms. However, it does make a traveller feel more at ease when he is aware of the social norms and culture. Take some time out to study the country’s culture and know what not to do when in Poland.
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