Latest posts by Piotr Obiegły (see all)
- 6 Common Stereotypes About Poland - November 4, 2017
- Celebrating The Religious And The National Holidays in Poland - September 14, 2017
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.
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.
Stereotype #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.
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.
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?