Being married to a Polish person means you get a crash course in the rich culture of Poland. Here are a few fun facts about Poland that may prove useful for anyone thinking of a trip there (or indeed in marrying a Polish person)! As with all national stereotypes, these facts should be read with tongue firmly in cheek!
1: Never turn up anywhere without a healthy appetite
I’ve never left an event, gathering or any table in Poland with room to eat more. You’ll be fed well, and with wonderful food! The variety of sausages and pierogi (small filled dumplings) are especially memorable. If you eat all you’re given (or at least make a valiant attempt to) you will please your host immensely! If you don’t manage it all, volunteer to take it home and you’ll recover the situation!
And lastly, living as a vegetarian is possible in Poland, but it’s really not easy. I wouldn’t recommend it……
2: Never turn up anywhere at any time without a present
As a guest in Poland you’ll be treated like royalty. Return the compliment by taking along a little something to give to your host. And it’s not just as a guest that presents are exchanged. There are numerous other occasions including Birthdays, Name Days, St Nicholas, Easter, Christmas etc. Most Poles keep a ready supply of presents, cards and vast amounts of wrapping materials handy to service these occasions.
On reflection, it’s probably an idea to keep some reserve presents in your car just in case you forget an occasion.
3: The church is the hub of the village or townActually this isn’t accurate. Since there is always more than one church there are multiple hubs, and they are normally the largest and nicest buildings in town. The wooden peace churches of Silesia are justly listed as UNESCO world heritage sites
The Polish population is 90% plus Catholic so the churches certainly have enough people to attend them. However, the attendance levels are often thought to be because people are worried what would be said about them if they didn’t go. Clearly the need to “keep up appearances” is well practised in Poland too.
4: You need to learn to drink Vodka
My advice is get used to drinking it – if you can’t handle your vodka then you have no chance of marrying into a Polish family! And I can say that having been subjected to a surreptitious “test” early on when I met my wife to be. Once I emerged the morning-after looking relatively unscathed, there were some very clear nods of approval from the Polish men who’d poured me glass after glass!
5: Polish ladies are all beautiful
OK I’m biased on this – I married one. But let’s face it – most supermodels come from eastern or central Europe so either there’s something in the water, or Polish genes are pretty kind to the female gender. Given that just about every other shop or house in Poland operates as a nail parlour or beauticians, it seems Polish ladies like keep it that way too. A significant share of income as a result goes on running maintenance.
6: Being stubborn is an art form
Having an opinion or position is normal in every culture. An ability to stick to that position no matter how wrong it’s been proven is most definitely a speciality in Poland.
Within families, this can often form a kind of sport around the dinner-table, where opinions are proferred to be met by scorns of disapproval from others. This disapproval simply fires up the owner of the opinion to state their opinion more loudly and vehemently, or alternatively to pretend to be terribly wounded by the lack of agreement with them.
It’s really an art form. I thought I was a pretty good debater or arguer till I went to Poland – I soon found out I was an amateur.
7: Make space for some John-Paul II memorabilia
Poland as a staunchly Catholic land is proud of their Pope. You’ll see memorabilia of him for sale almost everywhere. Get extra brownie points from grandma by buying something to display in your home. Having visited the Vatican and seen what was on sale, it seems a fridge magnet is acceptable.
8: Wear waterproofs on Easter Monday
Easter Monday has a different name in Poland – Smigus-Dyngus. This essentially means wet Monday. Nobody is exactly sure about the origins of this tradition, but since it involves throwing water at people it’s hugely popular. Be prepared – you’ll be soaked, and probably when you’re least expecting it!
9: It’s a Dogs Life
If you’re scared of dogs, Poland is not a good country to visit. There is one dog for every five people in Poland, and almost half of all Polish households own one. Some are very friendly like my good friend Nicey above. Others turn into wild bundles of rage when you go near them.
My first experience of the sheer volume of dogs was when I took Nicey for a walk. I was walking down a semi-rural road, when all of a sudden a pack of dogs appeared at a fence next to me barking loudly. This set off a dog on the other side of the road. Then to my horror, IN the road ahead of me appeared another barking dog coming towards us. Nicey was straining at the leash to run away, and as she was the local I decided to go with her instincts. We both ran away.
10: Polskie Sklep, and how they colonised the worldLast but not least, is the formidable Polski Sklep (Polish shop). Even if you’ve never been near Poland, you’ll have for sure passed a Polski Sklep. There’s thousands in Poland – some part of chains, others independent, and they’re open long-hours every day. Wherever there’s a Polish diaspora (basically everywhere), you’ll see a Polski Sklep or ten popping up. They normally have great traditional foods, and lots of Tyskie beer.
if you develop a taste for Polish foods, the good news is that you’ll never be far from a Polski Sklep!
Thanks for reading!