Do's and Don'ts
- Approach any negative subject with tact and sensitivity. Though Poles may communicate quite frankly, they tend to soften difficult conversations with more approaches.
- Make an effort to reciprocate the generosity shown to you by showing care and consideration towards people in small gestures. For example, if someone falls or has a minor incident, lend a hand to help.
- Be very sensitive when raising the topic of World War II or politics, especially around older Polish people.
- When talking about the current financial and social situation in Poland, you can expect to be politely asked your opinion. However, Poles are more likely to fervently discuss it among themselves. They may get quite emotional and raise their voices to talk over one another.
- Expect Poles to justify and defend themselves quite strongly if they feel they have been unduly criticised.
- Do not make comments that could be perceived to have a disrespectful undertone. Poles tend to be sensitive to condescension.
- Avoid being overly enthusiastic and complimentary of Ukrainians and particularly Russians. As a result of Poland’s domination by the Soviet regime, there is still an underlying resentment and mistrust of Russia. This may be influenced by national stereotypes, historical legacies, personal experience, current events or political relations. If the topic does arise, expect frank opinions to be shared.
- Do not assume all Poles are Catholic Christians. While this religion has been a cultural force in Poland, it is not relevant to all people’s lives and the public visibility of Catholicism is less prominent than it used to be.
- Do not speak critically of religious institutions or faith. Consider that despite being the majority, the Christian Church was once suppressed in Poland and so blasphemy is arguably taken more seriously than it would be in Australia.
- Avoid provoking discussion of ethical issues such as abortion, gay rights or soft drug use. If doing so, consider that the general Polish opinion on these topics is known to align with that of the Catholic Church.
- Being a highly religious country, topics of sex or sexuality are generally avoided in casual conversation.
- Do not assume that all Polish people hate communism/communists. While there were systemic flaws to the Soviet regime in Poland, many people benefited from it and personal opinion will vary depending on whom you talk to.
- Do not make jokes about young Polish women being easy brides for foreign men to attract. Such comments can be deeply offending.
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