Polish Culture


Primary Author
Nina Evason,

Basic Etiquette

  • In Poland, people are expected to maintain a basic appearance of courtesy at all times. This involves paying attention and giving consideration to one’s smaller actions, being helpful and generally professional.
  • Casual clothing can be considered inappropriate in public. For example, one would rarely be seen barefoot in public. People tend to dress neatly.
  • It is considered impolite to ask a woman her age.
  • Some Poles (especially those who are older) take the time to show women a heightened degree of respect and consideration. They may offer their hand to assist a woman in getting out of her seat, offer their arm for women to walk, and hold or open doors for women. It is also polite to stand when a woman enters the room or offer her your seat if she needs one. This chivalry may not be so relevant for those born after the 1960s.
  • It’s considered bad manners to keep your hands in your pockets while talking to someone.
  • Avoid resting your ankle on your other knee whilst sitting.
  • Jaywalking, drinking in public places and smoking in non-designated areas are all generally frowned upon.
  • Lateness is a sign of bad manners and carelessness in Poland. People are expected to be punctual in both professional and social situations. However, tardiness is still fairly common. Furthermore, it is good to be flexible as events and schedules can be delayed or changed quite rapidly around unforeseen circumstances.


  • Visits from family and friends may occur unannounced in Poland.
  • People may bring a bottle of wine, flowers (see Gift Giving below) or chocolates as a courtesy gift on arrival. The host will usually open these or place them on a table so that both hosts and guests can enjoy what was brought.
  • Offer to remove your shoes before entering someone else’s home. It is not always necessary to do so, but it is a polite gesture to ask.
  • Make an effort to compliment a host’s hospitality during your visit. If dining at their home, this can be done graciously through a toast (see Eating below for more information).


  • If you are a guest for a meal, it is best to arrive with an empty stomach to accommodate how much food will be served. Guests are usually served first and encouraged to eat more.
  • In Poland, lunch (obiad) is often eaten between about 2 or 3pm (or even later). It is the main meal of the day and may consist of multiple courses.
  • Dinner is generally quite a light meal.
  • For religious reasons, some Polish people do not eat meat on Fridays and may replace it with fish instead.
  • When about to dine, it is polite to wait for a moment to see if someone will say a prayer of thanks prior to eating their meal. Older Catholic Poles may say ‘grace’ before a meal.
  • It is traditional Polish hospitality to offer alcohol with meals; however, it is often not drunk until someone has proposed a toast. People often toast with hard liquor to “your health” (na zdrowie) and “friendship”. If your host stands to toast, follow suit. If proposing a toast yourself, it is important that you make eye contact with the people at the table as you speak.
  • If you do not wish to drink, make it clear that your refusal is earnest and not just a gesture of .
  • If you only give a faint refusal when offered a second or third serving of food, expect it to be ignored.
  • If at a restaurant, it is polite to tip around 10% of the bill. However, this is not obligatory.

Gift Giving

  • When visiting a home, it’s a kind gesture to give the hostess an odd number of flowers, unwrapped.
  • Avoid red or white flowers, especially roses (reserved for lovers), carnations (a symbol of the labour movement) and chrysanthemums (used at funerals). Gerberas may be the preferred flower.
  • Gifts may not be opened in front of the giver.
  • Hard liquors as well as liqueurs are good gifts, as well as gourmet coffee and perfume.
  • Avoid giving excessively expensive gifts. The grandness of the gesture can embarrass the recipient.

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