6 Common Stereotypes About Poland

6 Common Stereotypes About Poland

Piotr Obiegły

Piotr Obiegły is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Poland).
Piotr is also a Professional Translator at Evanthel Translations

Latest posts by Piotr Obiegły (see all)

Many countries see Poland as an old and poor communist country, where bears wander freely in the streets and where Poles use horses and carriages instead of cars (an authentic story from my Canadian friend).  It is probably because many foreigners place Poland too far to the east.  In fact, Poland is right in the middle of Europe (and it’s definitely not Russia).

Stereotype #1: “Poles Can’t Speak Any Foreign Language”

Well, I can’t disagree with that statement.  Compared to other European Union countries – as of 2016, only 8% of Poles stated that they can speak at least one foreign language.  But let’s leave the statistics and tables behind for a moment.  For 45 long years, Poland was under the control of Soviet Union, where studying foreign languages could mean… jail time!  And that’s also the reason why so many older people still know Russian quite well.

But what about the younger people, those who want to study and work abroad?  It’s definitely the opposite.  Nowadays it is mandatory to learn at least two foreign languages in Polish schools.  Therefore, a university graduate should know at least two at a conversational level.  Usually it is English and German, sometimes French, Italian or Spanish.

Furthermore, it has also become popular to teach kids more languages from a young age.  In Poland, people started to realize that it is mandatory to speak foreign languages if one were to get a profitable job in today’s market.

Bottomline: if you come to Poland and ask an older person where is the national museum – he or she probably won’t be able to help you.  But if you ask young locals – they will certainly tell you and show you the way.  They might even come with you, just to make sure that you don’t get lost on the way.

Krakow - The City That Stole My Heart

Stereotype #2: “Poles Always Complain”

Well, that one is only partially true.  Poles are definitely a nation which likes to complain a lot.  But who wouldn’t with such a painful history and not a very good government?  This habit also dates back to the communist times.

During that particular period, buying toilet paper or sugar would mean standing twelve hours in lines, and then just to be told that it sold out for the day.  Tell me – who wouldn’t get angry and complain?  On the other hand, during those times numerous cabaret and comedy shows were developed.  Poland was even thought of as the country with the funniest jokes, in the whole of Soviet Union.

Nowadays it’s not very popular to complain in Poland.  Poles have finally managed to become happy, content and relaxed, for the most part.

6 Common Stereotypes About PolandStereotype #3: “Poles Don’t Like Immigrants”

Like all the major stereotypes, this one is only partially based on truth.  From a national survey, we can deduct that half of Poles would happily agree to accept any immigrant into Poland.  Now with an anti-immigrant government in power, we can no longer believe what we see on TV.  Certainly there are fewer immigrants in Poland than in other European countries, and in turn there are fewer incidents, like beatings or robberies connected to immigrants.

In big cities you will definitely run into people from other countries.  Most of them are from Ukraine, but there are numerous other nationalities as well.

Stereotype #4: “Poles Drink a Ton of Vodka”

True and not so true.  From another major survey taken not too long ago, Poland ranked number 21 for the amount of consumed alcohol per person.  This could help our point that Poles don’t drink that much.  Lithuania, Belarus and Moldova for example, are much higher on the list than Poland.

Recently there’s been a major cultural shift, especially noticeable with the younger people.  They now mostly prefer light, craft beer more than vodka.

Kraków in the Rain

Stereotype #5: “There’s Too Much Crime in Poland”

I definitely can’t agree with that.  According to statistics, Poland ranks somewhere in the middle.  There are certainly fewer robberies and crimes here than in other Western-European countries.  In addition, a lot of Chinese immigrants state that it is better for them to live in Poland.  We can’t say with certainty that one country is safer than the other.  Though Poland is definitely a good place to live in, while accidents and crimes happen everywhere.

6 Common Stereotypes About Poland

Warsaw – the beautiful capital of Poland

Stereotype # 6 “All Polish Women are Beautiful”

Yes, that one is definitely true.  You can ask almost anyone and they will tell you that European and Slavic girls in particular, are the most beautiful in the World.  You don’t believe me?  Then hear this story.

There was once a Chinese author who upon returning home from his trip to Poland, wrote in his book that Polish women are the most beautiful in the World.  He said that this beauty comes from nostalgia and sadness, which creates a certain intriguing mystery.  One could not forget or mistaken this look.

Sometime later another Chinese guy who happened to read the aforementioned book, saw a beautiful girl inside a metro in China and thought that he had seen this look somewhere before.  He felt like he already knew that facial expression, the placement of eyebrows and lips.  He then thought that… she must have been from Poland.

Later he called her and was very surprised when, upon picking up her phone, she said: “Hej! No Cześć.” (which means “Hello” in Polish).  Amazing, right?

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  1. Hi, my name is Aleksandra (ola) I am from Poland and (this comment is addressing the first stereotype) I may be 12 years old but I know Polish of course, German, English and Dutch and I am not planning to stop learning new languages.

  2. This first stereotype is absurd. You have to know English to end up any polish school. From middle school you must have two foreign language. The jail time? Don’t you meant the time of world war? My parents and grandparents talk more than 2 foreign languages. The Polish living abroad is 20mln and it’s already more than 7% of poles. My foreign boyfriend was reading me that article and I’m actually pissed. Dziękuję za szerzenie stereotypów :/

  3. I am Polish. And do not agree with you.
    Polish people are racist and they do hate immigrants. It’s not only polish government how is against refugees, lots of poles are against them too. No mater they are from small village or from Warsaw.
    Did you ever walk around polish street with friend who is black? Or even worst Arabic? People are like animals –
    they are staring, pointing fingers, and sometimes use language which make me sick to be Polish.
    You wrote that there are many Ukrainians in major cities. That’s true but they are treat as poor working group and they are living in Poland as “worst kind of Poles”.
    Polish people are into immigrant if they are from “better” countries (Western Europe). If you are French or German you are welcome, people are smiling to you, try to talk in poorly English. Anyone who is from east of polish border is different story. Or if you a woman…
    Also are you aware that current polish government is supporting far-right, nationalist.
    Poland is now open-minded country. It going backward in human rights.

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