I met a beautiful girl. What shouldn’t I do?
She is Polish. Does it matter? It probably does matter for someone from a completely different cultural background. However, men and women come from different planets anyways, so even if you were Polish it would not necessarily allow you to understand your new date better.
There are a handful of myths about Polish women: pretty, blond, feminine, conservative, mean, weird, easy, super easy, not that easy, boring, funny, smart, not so smart, cheap, gold diggers, not as materialistic as girls in other countries, not as pretty as the Ukrainian and Czech girls …. The more you research the more contradicting descriptions you will find. It is better to stop drawing general conclusions from individual encounters about the personality of a large group of people. A group’s personality profile may be accurate, but only for this group. If one’s opinion is formed and based on such a group profile, a lot of surprises and faux-pas are unavoidable when dealing with an individual.
I heard a story about one foreign friend who came to Poland as a foreign expert for an American multinational company. As a successful and highly skilled professional he received perfect care from his company in the form of a large modern apartment, a car, all the possible benefits and salary exceeding the Polish average at least 15 times. As soon as he realized how high his social status was compared to the vast majority of Poles he imagined himself as David Beckham. One time he entered a night club with such a mindset. He was with his Polish friend who later told me the story. Apparently he spotted a beautiful girl and, encouraged by his Polish friend, he approached her offering a drink. The girl was friendly and they continued to chat for quite a while. All of the sudden things stopped working and the girl fled. Curious about the girls’ reaction my Polish friend approached her and asked what happened. She was indignant saying that the guy suddenly started talking about his large apartment, how great his job is and how much money he makes. ‘Who does he think I am?’ she complained.
The story is a classic example of a faux-pas one is bound to commit while approaching others with fixed assumptions about them.
It does not mean that there are no specific things that a Polish person would appreciate in their new date. There are such things and they are determined by the traditions and culture of Poland. The key issue is to show respect towards things that are important for the local society. By bragging about his wealth and apartment our foreign friend very obviously expressed his assumption that local girls value money over manners. Unfortunately for him the sample that he picked did not confirm his hypothesis.
What is valued in Poland? The list below represents the most obvious issues:
– Showing great manners (such as ‘Ladies first’, carrying heavy items for a woman, opening the car door, complementing, no interrupting her in her speech flow, consideration for her safety),
– Maintaining a ‘romantic approach’
– Some knowledge of the Polish history
– Long-term orientation
– Interest in spending time with family and for family traditions
– Honest intentions
– Willingness to participate in holiday celebrations
– Interest in spending time with Polish people in spite of the language barrier
– Getting used to the Polish food and openly praising it
– Knowledge about popular tourist destinations in Poland
For many years the situation of women has seemed to be more difficult in Poland than it is in western countries. This is due to the fact that in general Poland is one of the poorer countries in Europe. The natural consequence of it is a lack of facilities or help for working mothers. Such facilities make taking care of children less time consuming. This constriction was especially significant when Poland was a communist country. Grandparents’ help was the only solution for women who wished to follow their professional carriers and have a family, which obviously made it impossible for many women to develop professionally.
In spite of this fact many women worked full time in communist Poland. The communist system put a lot of pressure on women to go to work, but the idea of female participation in enterprise development had been sown long before. Many years of invasions and wars that took place in Poland through 18th to 20th century, resulted in deaths of large numbers of men and taking over their duties by women. The proof of the increase of women’s rights was the fact that Poland was one of the first European countries (after Sweden and Finland) that allowed women to vote. Although Polish women mastered handling work and taking care of their family quite well, until the 1990’s there were no laws that would protect them and children when they were forced to get divorced. It created many social issues mainly because in the boring and sad communist reality men tended to regularly dip their sorrows in vodka, which in the long term was destructive to family life. Because of the lack of legal and financial support women were forced to live with their alcoholic husbands and children were forced to grow up with aggressive and unconscious fathers. This issue clearly divided the Polish society on those who grew up in ‘normal’ homes and ‘pathology’. Many women were the only hope for their children- they brought the whole salary home, made sure that their kids were not hungry and got good grades at school. Those simple things were extremely difficult to control in alcoholic homes. Nevertheless, many children who grew up in such homes managed to get good education and have a ‘normal’ life and the whole credit for that goes to their mothers.
Nowadays the law is on the woman’s side. But young women who are aware of the social issues of the past are more careful about their decisions. Many women hesitate when it comes to giving up a full time job and having children. There is a lack of trust towards men. This attitude is proven by a very low birth rate and relatively high rate of women holding top management positions (Poland is amongst the first ten countries in the world: http://www.internationalbusinessreport.com/files/ibr2012%20-%20women%20in%20senior%20management%20master.pdf ).
Young Polish men and women have different priorities and different expectations towards each other. This is due to the fact that their perception of the past situation of women is different and the reaction to change of both groups is different. However, this trend is changing as the reality of Poland is becoming more and more stable.
When the world opened up for Poland in the mid 90’s women were the first ones to start looking into different options. The main advantages of dating a foreigner depended on his origin: ‘Western’ men won women with their generosity and showing appreciation for their efforts, ‘Southern’ men were very direct and easy to get to know while ‘Eastern’ men were extremely carrying and protective. Polish men were more hesitant to date a foreign person, but it was only a matter of time.
However, the original admiration for ‘the exotic’ that Polish people could find in foreigners in the past is slowly diminishing. Just the fact that someone is foreign does not make him or her instantly attractive for a Polish person anymore. This is why some hints on how to behave are of the great importance.
Voice of Poland