Poles are the substandard workies and shy, blonde-haired waitresses of Europe, the people you call when no one else will do your dirty work. Well, they used to be anyway and the exodus which took place when Poland joined the EU in 2004 saw scores of young professionals skip off to the UK and Germany to become dish-washers, toilet cleaners and the like. Money was the sole motivation and it didn’t do the Polish people any favours in terms of stereotypes.
However, with one or two exceptions, the Poles are a warm and generous lot and deserve a bit more credit. It is a truly daunting experience, for example, to come face-to-face with a middle-aged, prodigiously-moustachioed man hellbent on pickling your liver with some unpronounceable brand of vodka but such is the old style Polish welcome. You will drink this vodka until you’re convinced that it’s water, simultaneously being force-fed all the food that the man and his family possess, and no excuses will be tolerated. If that isn’t generosity then what is?
Poland is a largely agricultural country and so the closely-knit family unit and old traditions, such as making guests sweat vodka, are still very much part of the social make-up. Traditional family roles are adhered to and a perfect example is that men still expect all cooking, cleaning and nappy changing to be done by their lovely obedient wives who work just as hard as they do. Incredibly, they are humoured in this matter.
However, the Polish woman is a cunning creature and knows exactly what she is doing. The result is the biggest gathering of mummy’s boys you will ever encounter and, no matter how big their biceps are or how shaven-headed they may be (for this is the one and only fashion), these guys rely on their mothers and wives for everything. It would obviously be a mistake to ever point that out to them but, rest assured, when the whip cracks they move.
The natural outcome of such a set-up is that the granny is queen bee and, as such, should be treated with extra respect. The normally comforting sight of a little old lady hobbling your way should strike fear into your soul in Poland and if you are asked to do something it is wise to cooperate fully. Giving up your seat on the tram or holding the door open is an absolute must.
Younger Polish women enjoy a reputation for being naturally good-looking and it is a fact that cannot be denied. Competition is definitely high in that respect so figure and fashion are top of the priority list and princessy behaviour is standard. Unfortunately, the current look consists of skimpy tops, dyed hair, talon-like nails, knee-high boots and tight jeans with something sequinned across the backside, making them look very much like French prostitutes.
Of course, this doesn’t stop the British and Italian men from flocking in to try their luck but any Romeos out there should beware. The very hounds of hell could scarcely boast a grip as vice-like as that of a Polish girl â€žin love” and many a lucky suitor has woken up the next morning to find himself in metaphorical chains. When the whip cracks, you’ll move.
Regardless of your reasons for visiting, the real key to getting along in Poland for all visitors is respect. Communication is no problem, as most Poles know at least one other language (99% of young people can speak English to some degree and older people are usually well-versed in German and Russian), but the locals love the fact that they have â€žthe hardest language in the world after Chinese” and a few well-rehearsed lines will go a long way.
It should also be remembered that this is a country more Catholic than the Vatican itself and, with 85% of the population attached firmly to their rosary beads, displays of arrogance or flamboyance will not be well-received. This religious aspect, along with the fact that the entire population is white, has also sadly encouraged extreme right-wing knuckle-heads in their endeavours so people with darker skin should beware.