I had to fight like hell to convince people I was beautiful in my own Polish half-breed way. Janice Dickinson
I am trying to find an answer to the question of what makes a person very Polish. If I see a person who is excessively gesticulating I would immediately think that it must be someone from Italy. If I see a lady who is smoking, drinking wine and and is wearing a stylish scarf I would associate her with France. German people are well organized. Greek men like to discuss problems, but apparently it takes them a lot of time to apply practical solutions….
They sound like stereotypes, but at the same time there are certain features in each country that leave tourists with specific impressions.
When would a foreigner say ‘It is sooooo Polish!’?
Hand bag on the floor
A typical Polish lady does not want to leave her bag on the floor. This is because she believes that if a handbag is below the level of her knees her money escapes from it. If anyone wonders about the origin of this belief here it is: by placing her handbag on the floor a woman shows that she does not care about material objects and that she is always in a rush. These features do not pair up with an ability to save money. Let’s rephrase the famous saying time is money to your hand bag is your money…
The importance of slippers.
During the lecture about culture my professor once told us how shocked she was when she ended up reading about Poland in one of the San Francisco’s libraries. In the expat guide for American managers she found a chapter about customs in Poland. The American author of the book explained that wearing shoes at home is not tolerated in Poland. What is more he recommended that guests bring their own slippers when they are paying a visit at someone’s house. This point needs an explanation. What the author was trying to warn the reader about is the custom of giving guests slippers. It is true that wearing shoes is not accepted in many homes. The reason for that are clod winters and consequently the wide use of carpets which are difficult to clean. Because of the cold it is very important to keep one’s feet warm. As the host expects the shoes to be taken off he or she offers slippers instead to make sure the guest does not catch a cold. The problem that foreign guests see in this custom lies in hygiene. It is not recommended to share shoes with other people because of the spread of fungal infections and viruses which are quite common in general. What should we do then? It is not a bad idea to carry your own pair of warm socks. This way you an prevent catching a cold and feet diseases.
Men in Poland like to complement women. They openly express their opinion about women and their looks. This feature makes Polish men different from their Czech. Ukrainian or German neighbors. Why do men do it? The thought about woman’s beauty comes to a man’s head automatically, but verbalizing it is determined by culture. The Polish culture says it is okay to make comments about women’s beauty. This is because many of our cultural leaders: poets, writers and painters have been expressing it through their art for centuries. The 18th and 19th century Poland was strongly influenced by France. And this might be the Polish version of a well preserved old romantic French attitude….
There has been a battle about pooping dogs for years in Poland. Of course nobody can deprive dogs of their natural needs. The problem is that dogs’s owners do not feel that they own their dog’s poop. The vast majority of them still do not equip themselves with anything that would make it easier for them to clean after their dogs. The result can be dramatic. One needs to be careful when going to a park and lying down on the grass to relax…. but according to the popular Polish belief stepping in dog’s poop brings luck.
Right to sit down
Apart from the widely spread rule that disable people and pregnant women should be given priority to sit down on public transportation Poland has additional rules. Those are unwritten rules for those with great manners.
1) A younger person is supposed give up their seat to an older person.
2) A man can show very good manners by giving up his seat to a lady.
3) Everyone lets a parent with a small child sit down to make sure that the child is close to the parent and does not get lost in the crowd.
4) If an old lady refuses to take your seat is is because she is getting off at the next stop or she does not want to look needy. One should stand up anyways.
Following the rules above makes city life more pleasant. Additionally, you never know who the person next to you is. It might be someone that you will encounter at some point in your life.
As far as most people know there are two standard ways of washing one’s body- standing up or lying down. Poland has the third way which requires squatting or sitting and showering. The reason why one gets stuck in between having a bath and a shower is that in many houses a) there is no holder for the hand shower on the wall and b) there is no curtain or door so standing up would result with flooding the bathroom. At the same time there is no time to have a bath. A person who is not used to showering this way may feel uncomfortable at first. However, once the way of operating the hand shower is mastered, things should start going smoother…