The Foreigner’s guide to Polish Chivalry

THERE’S MORE LIKE THIS ON OUR NEW SITE – POLANDIAN.COM

Before coming to Poland, I uploaded CD 1 of ‘Colloquial Polish‘ to my mp3 player, to listen to on the tram. There’s one track where Janet Watson is writing a letter to her friend ‘Droga Susan’ (why she is writing in Polish to a friend with an Anglo-Saxon name is a mystery to me, but for the sake of practice I suppose it makes sense). She says:

– Polacy są miłe. Kobiety bardzo ładne, i męszczyny uprzejmi.

There we have it. The girls are gorgeous and the men are… uh… polite.

Chivalry is certainly more of an imperative here than back in blighty. For me, the first manifestation of this was on the tram, on my very first morning in Kraków, when my boss came to pick me up to go to work.

– I shouldn’t bother sitting down. There’s a strictly enforced tradition of giving up your seat to elderly ladies.

Little did I know. If you are male and under fifty, don’t expect to sit down, anywhere, ever. If you are female and look younger than twenty five, the same applies. Should you find yourself in possession of a seat on the tram, and a babcia of the moherowe variety looks in your direction, relinquish it immediately. This move could Save Your Life.

I have to admit, while dating a Polish guy for a bit I noticed one or two strange things: having doors opened for you and having to get into the car first (please note, if you unlock the passenger door in a Ford Fiesta before going to the driver’s door, the alarm will go off. Clearly American car manufacturers haven’t got the hang of Polish chivalry yet).

Plus I’ve definitely offended several Poles by insisting on putting my coat on all by myself. Girls, if you don’t let a guy do this for you, his friends’ll think he’s a cad and a bounder. So be kind and help him save face. If you want to.

Intrigued by the complexity of etiquette here, we quizzed our Polish teacher over a quantity of grzaniec in Nowa Prowincja.

– Absolutely the guy has to open the door for you to go through first. Honestly? Me and my friends wouldn’t look at a guy who didn’t. Bad manners are a major turn-off here.

What a minefield! How’s a poor foreign guy in Poland ever going to survive? And how, as a foreign girl, should you navigate your way through this obstacle course of potential traffic jams in doorframes, arms twisted in coatsleeves, car alarms and so on?

Well never fear! On the basis of my observations so far, here’s a short guide to the ins and outs of Polish Chivalry. Read, learn and inwardly digest. And don’t let me catch you sitting on the tram again: I’ve got a specially-sharpened umbrella with your name on it young man…

1/ Hand-kissing. Not so common any more. Some older guys or those with a quaint sense of humour will still kiss your hand. Girls: enjoy the attention. Try not to flinch, or to wipe said hand on seat of trousers. If this is a friend, it’ll probably be no problem. If it’s some fragrant drunk in the Planty, run, and get yourself to a bucket of disinfectant as soon as ever you can. Guys: it is absolutely expected and required that foreign guys kiss the hand of every Polish woman they meet. Your girlfriend’s mother will never speak to you again if you don’t.

2/ Door-holding. The rule is the girl goes first. This can get confusing if the girl is not local and doesn’t know where it is that she is supposed to be going. In Britain you often end up in situations where both parties do a little dance at the doorway (‘you first… no you, no I insist…‘) and end up both diving in at the same time and become jammed in the doorframe. Guys: let her go first. It’s simpler. Girls: walk through the damn door already.

3/ Getting into a car. A well brought-up Polish man, who is kind to old ladies and brings his babcia flowers on a Sunday, should always open the passenger door for the young lady to get in. In theory, this is a simple action and should cause no particular problems. But. Guys: Ensure Car Alarm Is Disabled before unlocking passenger door. There is nothing romantic about waking up the whole neighbourhood on your way back from a candlelit dinner for two. And the girl will probably laugh at you. Girls: remember, in Poland they use left-hand drive. Do not assume the guy is opening his own door and do not try to get in on the other side. You may end up driving home, and I assure you you will regret it.

4/ Getting the bill. Now, I’m a modern, independent, professional woman, and in the UK it is customary to share the love where picking up the check is concerned. Not that I think you should always go Dutch down to the last penny, simply that if a guy gets you dinner one night then you treat him to beer and football the next and so on. My round, your round – fair’s fair.

Things are slightly different here. Guys: you are expected to pay. It’s your round, permanently. The lady is a princess: do not forget this (on pain of beating administered by babcia). Girls: forget the feminist stuff. Real Men get the bill, and if you buy dinner for a Polish guy there’s a real chance you’ll be insulting his masculinity. The waiter will assume he has no balls. At least I think that’s how it works. Let it go, and enjoy the ride. With guys you know pretty well it may be possible to form some kind of mutual arrangement, but it makes them very uncomfortable. If you want, for effect, you can offer to pay and explain that this is customary in your uncivilised radically-feminised home country. They will think this is cute.*

5/Coat-holding. My pet hate. Maybe I just have extra-long arms or something, but I can never carry out this manoeuvre without getting into some kind of undignified tangle a la Doctor Doctor. The theory is that, when a Polish lejdi is leaving a party, restaurant, bar, or other locality, a real Polish dżentelmen should hold out her coat for her to slip her arms into. This doesn’t just apply to dates, by the way. If a girl is (rarely) unaccompanied, one of her male friends should do the honours.

Although this looks like a pretty gesture, in practice it’s extremely awkward, particularly if you’re not used to it. Which sleeve to start with, for example? Do you go for both at the same time, for a clean, graceful finish? Or should you start the move with one arm and cunningly slip the second in when the first is halfway down the sleeve, with a neat twist to round off the performance? What happens if one hand gets stuck? And, when your poor trapped hand is flailing about trying to find the end of the sleeve, how do you avoid smacking the unfortunate coat-holder in the groin?

I wonder if Polish girls have special sports classes to teach them the ins and outs of this particular move…

I say that we foreigners should draw the line on this one. Girls: just say no. Guys: unfortunately you don’t have a lot of choice. Remember babcia’s umbrella and do your best.

Well, I think that’s it. Go forth and navigate the complex tangles of Polish social etiquette! Good luck…

  • Gulp. Pinolona realises that in writing this post she is divulging trade secrets and will never again be treated to dinner in Poland…
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57 thoughts on “The Foreigner’s guide to Polish Chivalry

  1. Pawel says:

    Great post, very funny:)

    However I’d say it’s even more complicated… The way I see it there are no strict rules, and Poland as a whole is shifting to the Western way of doing things. This doesn’t have to apply to stiff and old-fashioned Kraków;))

    1. A young modern professional Polish woman or a feminist would be offended if someone kissed her hand. (compare: http://pl.youtube.com/watch?v=mLlCQsm34u4)

    Handshake is always acceptable – and it is a safe option. Another touch-free option for greeting women is just to say hi, smile and nod.

    And a note to wannabe-handkissers: you should never elevate woman’s arm to the hight of your mouth for kissing. This is an ultra no-no. YOU have to bend.

    What is more, many men believe that women and men are equal and there’s no place for some old chivalry non-sense. Therefore Pinolona’s rule should be applied with caution depending on who you are with.

    2. This seems logistically impossible: open the door before a lady, and then let her through the door first? :) My feminist friends hate this, and say this custom preserves a “little helpless girl” syndrome in Polish women.

    3. I live in Poland for nearly quarter of a century and I’ve never seen this live. :)

    4. Well, when you’re a student, the person who’s not broke at the moment pays;) The fact about guys and bills is that they don’t REALLY want to pay. They say they do to be polite and/or to get you to bed:) Polish guys gossip a lot, and news about women who don’t pay travel fast. I recommend insisting on paying from time to time.

  2. scatts says:

    Pinolona, congratulations on getting this post finished! From now on they will just flow out like a gushing fountain of brilliance.

    I always thought the hand kissing was reserved for older (I suppose 50ish) women? Personally, I always go straight for the French kissing routine no matter what the age!

    Door holding. I do this but it has its complications. For example in our block there are cases when letting the lady go first means that she then has to enter the security code followed by opening a heavy door because there’s just no room to do it any other way. Getting home it’s the case of first out the lift needs to unlock and open the front door. So, I tend to calculate what is going to be the best sequence for the lady and then go with that. I find doortiquette is most rigorously observed in lifts.

    Getting into a car. I have seen this happening but it is not common. I partake roughly every 50th car door just to surprise my wife.

    The bill, in my case is a moot point. My wife’s income pays for playschool and hairdoos. In every other case I am paying irrespective of who is actually making payment! ;)

    Coat holding. I think you must be deformed, this is not as difficult as you make it sound! :)

  3. Jarek A. says:

    Scatts is right about the coat holding – it’s easy, really easy.

    All you have to do is follow these 6 simple steps:

    1. Place yourself in front of the coat held by a lucky bloke.
    2. Turn your body (not just the upper body! remember you’re a vertebrate organism!) by 90°, either clockwise or counter-clockwise. The choice is entirely up to you.
    3. Slide one arm (the one that is closer to the coat) into the sleeve. Make sure your arm is safely in.
    4. Now rotate your body by 90° in the direction opposite to that in point 2.
    5. Lift your arm (the one that is NOT in a sleeve), bend it slightly to facilitate the process of sliding it into the remaining free sleeve.
    6. Repeat the above operations until you’ve reached perfection.

    PS. Does your nick (I assume it’s not your real name) have Italian origins? If so, it would explain the precision with which you’re describing Poland and the Poles :))

  4. island1 says:

    “remember you’re a vertebrate organism” :D

    A second post from Pinolona! I may have to sit down for a while…

  5. baduin says:

    However, the one holding the coat must know what he is doing. He has to hold the coat a bit low, so you can easily put your hands into sleeves, and only then move it up and close it around your neck. Otherwise, it is easy to make from it an improvised straightjacket.

  6. Piotr says:

    Re rule no. 3

    It only applies if it’s either a) a new car or b) a new girlfriend :)

  7. I am so glad that my wife has no truck with any of that foolishness. We both do stuff for each other like holding open doors, offering to carry stuff for the other person, etc. For other girls, I hold open doors. That’s about it.

    Oh and the kissing: only if I know them and they know me. Otherwise they already know that where I come from we don’t kiss a lot of people so they just shake hands. Hugging is ok.

    I think that anyone who has a fairly professional job and a decent education isn’t going to be to hung up on how exactly a guy held their coat. Maybe I’ve missed something, but as far as I can tell – based on the women I know in Poland – they’re pretty damn capable of putting on their own coats not to mention paying for dinner and doing everything else.

    The only thing I (and I think a lot of guys here) end up doing quite a lot of is driving. Out of the… (including my wife and her mother)… err… 14 women I know fairly well, three own a car and four more know how to drive but someone else usually does the driving for them. The remainder don’t know how to drive at all. I find that very strange.

    Oh, one last note about the tram/bus and seats: not unless they are absurdly elderly. I stand up for old men and women. Of course, that’s when I get a seat in the first place which is rare which is exactly why I don’t get up again unless there’s a damn good reason. As a side effect I’ve become quite adept at reading books while standing and swaying.

  8. michael farris says:

    Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned this yet, so I will.

    How not to kiss a lady’s hand:

    Also I was told that the gesture is supposed to be purely symbolic and the man’s lips (not to mention tongue) should not actually touch the hand, but stop a few centimeters short (light, tasteful air-smack is optional)

  9. pinolona says:

    Pawel – thanks! And I don’t want to be one of those girls who never pays, that’s why it feels so awkward! With the PL ex-boy we did manage to work out some kind of arrangement whereby I’d buy lunch one day, he’d do the next, etc. But I found that if for example I go to the bar with a couple of male friends and I INSIST on buying a round they look very uncomfortable and embarrassed.

    Scatts: so how come I didn’t get a snog on Friday then??!
    About the kissing thing – I tend to assume (from experience in France and Italy mostly) that anyone foreign expects a higher degree of physical contact than the Brits. So I go in for the kiss every time. Sometimes two or three. Except in Poland you don’t do this. Result: many awkward moments with embarrassed males of my acquaintance…
    And yeah, I suspect I probably am deformed, or at least chronically clumsy.

    Jarek: thanks, I’ll practice with the coat hanging on the wardrobe door or something.
    ‘Pinolona’ is a very old pet name from the lovely guy I was seeing when I started the blog. He is Italian. I am not.

    Island: I know, it’s a shocker isn’t it?! Have a cup of tea and take some magnesium.

    Piotr: I suspect it was a bit of both.

    Baduin: yes exactly. I think I must have had one or two bad experiences at the beginning and from then on I’ve been wary. Usually I just take the coat they’re holding and say ‘oh thank you’ and then put it on myself. And hope that they realise I’m just a stupid Brit!

    Brad: I have been chased out of my seat on the tram by ladies with umbrellas…
    The thing is, I’m a pretty scary independent feminist 90 per cent of the time as it is, so if once in a while a guy appears to be insisting on treating me, then why not let it go?
    Driving: I’ve driven a guy twice since coming to Poland: once to pick up his other car, the second time because he had a couple of beers at lunch time and asked me to drive him home. I think I managed the left hand drive pretty well, all things considered…

  10. pinolona says:

    oh wait, I get it: French kissing as in ‘le bisou’ on both cheeks, not as in french kissing like you do at the junior school disco…

  11. pinolona says:

    Should I put in a link to my own blog while we’re on the subject?

    http://www.pinolona.blogspot.com/

  12. scatts says:

    Jeeez, I missed out on a snog. Damn!

    By the way, an account of our recent meeting is now up – http://scatts.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/the-polandian-annual-general-meeting/

  13. guest says:

    Pinolona is really beautyful (she looks like 21 ;) ), but why does she have dark hair and not blonde (like in her avatar) ? Maybe you met the wrong Pinolona, Scatts ? :D

  14. pinolona says:

    Thanks guest! Ooh you make me blush :”>

    I’m only a blonde in Italy, I’m afraid! More cross-cultural differences…

  15. Jolanta says:

    Dear All, greetings from “the stiff and conservative” Krakow!

    I do expect men to let me go first through the door and open the car door for me. I frequently see all kinds of doors being held or opened for me.
    My coat is, most often, put on my shoulders – it is very convenient, really.

    From time to time, my hand is kissed but I’d rather ir weren’t – I keep thinking about all the bacteria in the saliva … I usully pay my bill in a restaurant or a cafe but if a man insists on doing it, I am quite grateful. The only times I had to pay a man’s bill were when I was dining with a foreigner.

    When on a tram, I offer my seat to pregnant women, women with children and any woman who looks slightly older than me, just in case. I even offer my seat to men. I hope one day someone will be kind enough to do the same for me (once I have turned into a real babcia, of course).

    J.

  16. pinolona says:

    Thanks Jolanta, that’s it exactly.

    It makes sense not to make a fuss about things like doors and car doors. Personally I can’t do the coat thing – but that’s largely a desire not to embarrass myself and the unfortunate coat-bearer, see above.

    Re bill-paying – being a freelance (ok, unemployed) bum who’s not (gulp) making her repayments, I sort of don’t have the luxury of buying dinner for guys in a radical post-feminist kind of way. If someone offers to pay, then I say yes, gratefully and with a great deal of embarrassment.

    Ultimately one takes the most practical approach to the whole thing (walk through the damn door already).

    But that doesn’t make very funny blog post material…

    Incidentally, talking with other British female acquaintances we generally conclude that Polish men being more polite than British ones is Not a Bad Thing.

  17. Kewenay says:

    Excellent post!

    But one thing nobody seems to have mentioned is something that I – being a man expected to open doors for women – have a problem with.

    It’s all very well to open doors for women when they are Pull doors (i.e. when they open towards you), but when they are Push doors (opening away from you) I find it can be very tricky trying to let a lady through and maintain the expected degree of distance and decorum. In order to hold it open you have to stand in the doorway and hold your arm across the width of the entire door. Then you have to squeeze up against the doorframe to let the lady through. This is especially difficult when the door is on a strong spring. Surely I’m not the only one to have had this trouble?

  18. yellerbelly says:

    Brilliant! So true.

    Regarding my wife, I ensured we lived in the UK for 5 years before moving to Poland to rid of her of such notions! So far it has worked like a dream…still do the coat and the door thing now and again, but they’re abit english anyway.

    The tram seat scenario – this is the one that always gets me as I’m not used to public transport etiquette! The problem is when to vacate your seat, and who to target as being a viable and suitable candidate? My offer has been declined in the past by the babcias and dziadkas mentioned above, creating a rather awkward situation. Do you then sit-down again?! I always assume not and wander off down the tram…

    I have to say I find the hand-kissing all abit odd. Do you only do it after a certain age? My father-in-law does it to my mother, always causing much embarrasment and amusement!

    Thanks Pinolona for the above and great advice!

  19. guest says:

    And here a little explanation ,where all these things come from…

    “Szlachta culture”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szlachta

  20. island1 says:

    Yellerbelly raises an interesting point. Polish natives shouldn’t run away with the idea that these chivalrous pursuits are unique to Poland, all of these things were pretty much standard across the Western world (including the UK and the US) up until the last war (and long after in some cases). What’s strange for Brits is to see people still doing things that we only recognize from old movies and Noel Coward plays. In other words its seems quaint and old-fashioned not inherently weird as, say, rubbing noses like an eskimo might be.

    Just thought I’d point that out.

  21. guest says:

    Poland is just very woman friendly and conservative. That’s why the men still do such things. If I were a woman I would for example never move to southern europe. In southern europe the women are respected as long as the are young and attractive.

    And if you read the wiki page (especially the part about “szlachta culture” )you will see a small difference between Poland and the western europe.

  22. Pawel says:

    Woman friendly, that’s a good one!

    I’d say full of hypocrisy.

    No one gives a damn about women really. About how they live. Whether they have another full time job doing housework, whether they don’t get promotions, whether they earn less than men doing same jobs. Single mothers… don’t they have a nightmare trying to balance work and kids? What about women suffering violence at home, does anyone bother to be chivalric and interfere? Women are invisible in Polish system.

    But if we can pretend to be respectful and kiss a hand here and there then we do. Oh how chivalric those Poles are. Pretentious, fake and full of hypocrisy, like most things in Poland.

  23. darthsida says:

    No, Pawel, not at all.

    Hypocrisy is when you DON’T practise what you preach, when you DON’T put your money where your mouth is (etc). But when someone puts his mouth where woman’s hand is, he believes in what he does. No way can he be an example of hypocrisy.

    Both sexes should be treated equally, women will say. The retirement age for women (including women that don’t have children, family chores) comes earlier than one for men. Now, that is an example of hypocrisy.

    I think you meant it’s cheap. Yes, hand-kissing, coat-wrapping, door-holding, chair-pushing, seat-vacating are cheaper ways to show respect to a woman than co-sharing housework. Unlike, bill-paying, however, if often.

  24. pinolona says:

    Darth: OK, maybe if a guy buys me dinner then he’s putting his money where his mouth is on a small scale, but that’s not helping battered women in refuge centres and it’s not bringing women’s salaries into line with those of their male colleagues. It’s not making it any easier for a woman to get back to work after maternity leave or to access affordable childcare if she is a single parent.

    Not that I know the details, but I think that’s what Paweł was referring to.

    Having said that, these are all issues which are – arguably – equally relevant in the UK today.

  25. darthsida says:

    Pinolona,

    I just made a slightly sidetracky remark about a semantic abuse by Pawel: “hand-kissers” (let’s call them) are not hypocrites. They either believe they should kiss female hands, or they were trained to do so (in which case they react instinctively, hence don’t think, hence can’t be hypocrites either).

  26. Jacek says:

    That thesis abut unequal pay is just bullish attack for getting privileges. From my direct view – in company, where I work – women take all positions. And they earn in may cases more than me. This is privately owned company. Salary depends on education, activity, negotiation skills.. And on that invisible “seeing by worker his/her own value ” NOT on sex.
    I also know personally another woman who is CEO of cargo company working for international shipments.
    Claims, that salary depends on sex are clear propaganda.
    I know – to get higher pay – it is required to have something “strong” inside. Some women “get it”. But many men also “don’t catch it” – including me.

  27. Jolanta says:

    Jacek: I am sure you are well aware of the following facts:

    – some companies prefer not to employ women who have recently got married or women “at marriageable age” or women who are likely to get pregnant soon, for obvious reasons
    – the position of a woman who has had a full time contract but has gone on maternity leave has to wait for her; however, once the woman is back, she can be legally sacked after some time
    – it is not as infrequent as you might think that, at a job interview, a female applicant is asked “are you pregnant?” or “are you going to get pregnant”; there is no doubt that the only right answer in such circumstances is NO ( I know it from experience)
    – if there are two candidates, with identical qualifications, but one is a woman and the other is a man – who is going to get the job?

    As Pinolona said, cheap childcare is impossible to get if you do not want your children’s Ukrainian to be better than their Polish. What is more, it is extremely difficult to get a place at a kindergarten (some people book two years in advance, at least in Krakow).

    As Darthsida pointed out what really matters is to what extent the chores and the childcare are shared by the two partners. It often makes me wonder why XY can watch TV or sleep in while I have to do the dishes. mop the floors etc. It makes me wonder even more why I accept this status quo. Too much conditioning, perhaps?

    J.

  28. Anonymous says:

    q: “- if there are two candidates, with identical qualifications, but one is a woman and the other is a man – who is going to get the job?”
    a: Those with better negotiation skills and higher self-esteem.

    q: “It makes me wonder even more why I accept this status quo. Too much conditioning, perhaps?”
    If you feel like looser – only you can get out of this. Independently of sex. And women have better self-help organizations that men.
    Crying: “Employer – have mercy on loosers” is not effective.
    This is sociological and psychological issue. NOT political.

  29. Pawel says:

    Darth: I meant hypocrisy. Respect is shown in ceremonial situations, not in life-important situations, or there where power is involved.

    Examples of equality were given. Here’s an example from my environment.
    Declared ideals somehow are not represented in reality. At my university none of the Faculty heads is a woman. Whereas all the secretarial positions (it’s always “pani z dziekanatu” ) are filled with women.

    Coincidence? Equal opportunities?

  30. darthsida says:

    Paweł,
    = hypocrisy, have your definition.
    = equality, have your delusion. Female secretaries and male bosses, female nurses and male doctors, I know the cliches. PC, newspeak and politics [to replace biology or common sense] want to make the answer? Puh-lease.
    Kill some women first, for their number and the number of men are not equal in the world. Then decree that women of, say, Poland, Britain, Africa and India should be equal. So like, earn equal. Feminism cannot be local thing, can it?

  31. pinolona says:

    Darth- it’s not about literal equality, its about equal opportunities (there, now I sound like a Blair babe).

    Of course it would be brilliant if a woman in Burkina Faso were paid as much as a woman in Basingstoke. But if you’d like to try and solve problems such as famine, third world debt, dictatorships and pandemics, go right on ahead, because those are the issues that you’d have to deal with before getting equal rights for women and indeed for men worldwide.

    How dare you suggest that it is biology and common sense that a woman in the UK (for example) should be a nurse or a secretary rather than a boss or a doctor? I know some excellent female team managers and brilliant male nurses.

    There are some skills areas where women seem to do better on the whole (e.g. interpreting and translation), however that refers to different sectors and not different levels on the corporate ladder. A woman should not be relegated to a low-level position simply because ‘biology and common sense’ say that she will do it better than a man would.

    Issues such as maternity leave, lack of childcare and poor attitudes on the part of employers mean that talented female employees have a natural disadvantage when trying to reach the top positions of which they are worthy.

    Darth is this what you meant by ‘biology and common sense’?

  32. darthsida says:

    Pinolona,

    1. You say: “it’s not about literal equality, its about equal opportunities”. And the word “equal” in “equal opportunities” relates to some “equality” other than “literal”?

    2. if “equal opportunities” means “local-scale artificially-imposed equal opportunities for people of certain age in selected sectors of economy”, then at least may someone have the decency to label the meme properly.

    3. I didn’t write “biology and common sense”. I wrote “biology or common sense”. The two don’t go together always. But what’s more important:
    How dare you suggest that I had suggested that a woman in UK [etc.]?

    When you write “There are some skills areas where women seem to do better on the whole”, I would prefer to see “There is that skill S where woman A is better than man B (and than woman C ), and that’s why A deserves post P, for which the skill S is topforemostly required, more than B and C”.

    I don’t know much about ‘a woman in the UK’ but I know why I could not become a secretary in Poland the other time. I didn’t seem to have the required sex appeal of a blonde bimbo. Only females had the sex appeal of a blonde bimbo (though not all of them). Blonde bimbosity was “the skill S” then and there.

    So, I am looking with suspicion at your employment of the general-plural and refraining from the specific-singular. General statements / plurals are welcome, of course, when they refer to biology / common sense. Common beliefs, at least. [Example of biology: it’s women who bear children, not men. Example of common sense: when we have a system with retirees, its retirement age for women and for men should be the same.]

  33. darthsida says:

    Paweł,

    I guess I know where we missed one another. You think that ‘kissing a hand’ is showing respect to a woman, don’t you? I think it is another way of saying ‘hello’. Some people were trained to kiss hands, some people were trained to utter helloes. A method of greeting has little to do with ‘respect’ here (in other sense that it’s not too polite not to say hello at all.)

  34. pinolona says:

    Maybe if I were a doctoral student with endless time and funding on my hands I’d have time to write you a beautifully-argumented essay with specific examples. Unfortunately I have real work to do.

    The bimbo secretary example is highly offensive: do you imagine that it is a compliment to suggest that women are employed for having sex appeal?

    I have an awful lot more to say on the subject but I suspect that Jamie will censor me for upsetting the readers.

    Yes there is sexual discrimination in Poland. I experience it every day. I am constantly overlooked, treated unkindly, patronised and ignored because I am a woman. And I am unable to sit in peace on a bench in the Planty without being approached by drunken tramps who assume that a woman alone is in need of their company.

    In my experience Polish men are rude, inconsiderate bastards. Thank you for providing me with another example of this genre.

  35. darthsida says:

    A [non-sex-related] difference between you and me is that I have quoted you and you don’t quote me. So either quote me from where it can be taken I allegedly “imply that a woman has no right to a decent salary simply because she is the one who is left holding the baby” or, well, don’t quote me.

    The bimbo secretary example may seem ridiculous to you (and it seemed ‘funny’ to others) but be assured it has been neither ridiculous nor funny to me. The labour market saw me as WORSE to get a secretarial post THAN a woman hired for her sex appeal. If your example of equality is that only women can choose to be prostitutes, than I have no further questions.

  36. darthsida says:

    Pinolona,
    as you see my comment above refers to your comment before you post-edited it.

    PS Not all “doctoral students” are male. Sometimes females are “doctoral students” (and then they don’t deal with any work that is ‘real’).

  37. scatts says:

    Going WAAAAY back to Jolanta’s comment.

    The question of pregnancy is a difficult one and I think it is unfair to view it entirely from the employees viewpoint. After all, in most cases, the job is on offer because the company needs somebody to do something that will help them make money to pay that employee and other employees. If that employee suddenly disappears it not only disrupts the whole process but also increases costs, not altogether a good thing despite the overall wonderfulness of the whole having a baby thing.

    But lets assume your once key employee does go off to have a baby. Then there’s the uncertainty the employer faces as to “what kind of a pregnancy this is going to be”. I’m sad to report that most of the ones I’ve witnessed have had have obviously been “the pregnancy from hell” because as soon as it is remotely sensible, the sick notes start arriving and then just keep on coming up to and way beyond delivery. That’s about a year, more in some cases, a terribly long time to be in doubt about an employees intentions to ever return to the post you are holding open for them. There are obviously some women, perhaps many but not in my experience, who take employment seriously and wish to be as fair to their employer as their employer is being to them but all too many choose the irresponsible route of taking whatever advantage they can get and giving everybody a bad name.

    We male employers do understand the whole idea of pregnancy and are, for the most part, prepared (happy even) to deal with it when it happens but nobody likes to feel they are being taken advantage of.

    I make a point of asking both make and female candidates alike what their family situation is – married, single, children, no children, etc. I think this is nothing more than good management practice and I don’t see anything wrong with it.

    As to your last point about identical candidates, my answer would most of the time be “the woman”.

    (as long as she looks like Doda)(joke!) ;)

  38. guest says:

    “to suggest that women are employed for having sex appeal?

    I have an awful lot more to say on the subject but I suspect that Jamie will censor me for upsetting the readers.

    Yes there is sexual discrimination in Poland. I experience it every day. I am constantly overlooked, treated unkindly, patronised and ignored because I am a woman. And I am unable to sit in peace on a bench in the Planty without being approached by drunken tramps who assume that a woman alone is in need of their company.

    In my experience Polish men are rude, inconsiderate bastards. Thank you for providing me with another example of this genre”

    WOW ! pinolona ,what happened to you ? :totallysadandconfused:

  39. Jolanta says:

    Anonymous: I do not feel like a loser because I am self-employed; I do not work for anyone but myself and I am in charge of my own destiny (to a considerable extent at least, as long as I am strong enough to work for the ZUS and the Tax Office). I am not particularly worried about me mopping the floor and XY being comfortably seated in front of the sofa at the same time because I am capable of hitting him on the head with the mop when the right moment comes (metaphorically speaking, of course). The intention behind the mop and TV example was to show the mechanism /behaviour which I often observe in Polish families.

    Scatts: I do know all the problems with pregnant employees and mothers with young children. My mother has a small company and such employees have always been a burden on the company’s limited funds. My mother, a woman of extremely charitable nature, does not get a złoty from the company at present; all the money generated by the employees is spent on the rent, on the office facilities and goes back to them in the form of their salary and other benefits. My mother’s income comes from the work she does personally and after hours. What a woman!

    Pinolona: I could not agree more. On the wrong side of thirty, so no longer particularly young or attractive ( neither blonde nor a bimbo) and of fairly slight stature, I have been patronised and ignored countless times. I have been treated like a village idiot by municipal “gardeners”, builders, workers, clerks; I have been accosted in the street by drunkards, beggars, drug addicts, Gypsies. None of this has happened to my partner who is tall and well-built (and a male). The situation gets a little better when I am on the phone and I am extremely efficient on paper – no more patronising!

    When I was younger and prettier I was frequently approached by all kinds of men who wanted to “ask me out” or “take a photo of me” and they were reluctant to take “no” for an answer. I also got nasty “breathing” phone calls. I would not have dreamt about sitting on a bench in the Planty and I still do not do it.

    However, when there is trouble in the street, on the tram or train, I am the one who intervenes, not my partner nor the other men around. I simply think that the hooligans will not be interested in getting into a fight with a tiny woman; I may be proved wrong one day, though. So far, I have been successful ( and I am still in one piece).

    J.

  40. guest says:

    Jolanta ,but this is not a “Polish” (and not only a woman-man) thing ,that some idiots behave like this. I live in Germany in a multicultural city and believe me ,the women here are treated like trash by the italians ,turks ,greeks, and so on.. They work all day long in their kebab or pizza shops ,rise their 5 children ,make all the “paper job” (because the men do not speak german wery well) and the men drive with their BMW and visit all the girlfriends.

    Just look at the story about Dutreux in Belgium or Joseph Fritzl in Austria…

    or read this

    http://www.thehamburgexpress.com/content/view/744/61/

    Poland is of course not a women paradise ,but you should not be too negative…

  41. Jolanta says:

    Guest, I never said that it was typical of Poland / Polish men only.

    What I wanted to point out is the difference in the attitude towards men and women, especially among people who work in “male-professions” (builders and the like) as well as those who represent some authority.
    For example, when I talk to the police or the city guards about birds being currently plastered alive due to some building renovation they seem to think that I need to be transported to the nearest psychiatric ward (even though I do know the relevant law much better than they do) but when a male friend of mine deals with them, the whole thing becomes a different story altogether.

    J.

  42. guest says:

    And here is an other example…

    When I enter a newborn-station and want to talk to the nurses or the female doctors they seem to think that I need to be transported to the nearest psychiatric ward because i could be a potential child kidnappr or o pervert or a divorced man who wants to kill his wife…. but when a female friend of mine deals with them, the whole thing becomes a different story altogether and they talk to her all day long and explain everything, even if I am the father and not my sister ;)

    And do you know what ?

    I am NOT angry about that and i DO NOT call it “anti male” behavior “sexism” “rudeness” and so on. because i ACCEPT the human/female nature and i know that in some cases women/men are more open if they talk to their counterpart woman/man….

    Sometimes you women are too sensitive in this area and you try to explain way too many things with “dumb anti woman sexism”. :)

  43. Jolanta says:

    Guest, please do not put any words into my mouth (and thoughts into my mind either). I did not write about “sexism”, I wrote about downright stupidity demonstrated by some men I have dealt with. I am not “anti male”. If I were, my XY , despite his heart of gold, would have left me a long time ago.
    I do not wave flags with sexist slogans; the only thing I want is to be seen as a good brain on good legs, in this order exactly, more often than I actually am. And I would like the clerks who supposedly work for my beloved city (so for me too) and other officials to treat me with a little respect BEFORE they get the well-worded letters with the numbers of paragraphs etc. from me. Maybe I am asking too much.
    J.

    PS. I love the image of you (whoever you are) in the maternity ward, really.

  44. pinolona says:

    guest (and indeed Darth): sorry. am hurt, unstable, rubbish person and deserve everything I get from the sexists. :..(

  45. guest says:

    no ,no ,no ! I am NOT Darth ! :D

    And YES you are VERY unstable Pinolona :D

    When the weather gets bad in Krakow you start to go crazy and become semi depressed. You need some sun !

  46. scatts says:

    Not much of that where she’s going! (sun) :)

    Why have smileys stopped working?

  47. island1 says:

    Guest: Mate, isn’t it a little rude to describe somebody as VERY unstable?

    Darth: I get the feeling you’re trying to argue Pinolona out of the veracity of her own experience. If she genuinely feels that she’s at a disadvantage as a women in Poland I think it would make more sense to discuss that rather than explaining to her that she isn’t.

  48. guest says:

    “unstable” or “very unstable” is not a rude or negative word.

    “Unstable” people at least show some emotions and are not cold like a brick…

  49. darthsida says:

    Hi, everyone

    => Guest
    I’m not you either. Are we relieved to learn it? ;)

    => Scatts
    It is me who deactivated the smiley thing. Smileys did come not welcome at times. (Jolanta may bear witness. Me too.)

    => Island, re Guest (?) and, perhaps, me
    Our bon-motage may vary. I think it is easy to trespass (unawarely) some barriers of ‘little rudeness’ by just stepping in the usage of a non-native language. (The word “unstable” may press different weights in various tongues. Or knowing what “lunatic” means may differ among users of English.)

    => Island, re Pinolona
    Awfully sorry, but I got lost about “you feeling” about what “I’m trying” to do, the more that “she [Pinolona] genuinely feels” something / anything. Am I guessing you correctly that I can’t argue Pinolona out of her feeling? Yes, that’s possible (with about anyone’s die-hard feelings).

    => Pinolona :)
    IMO, you write excellently and I enjoy your stuff a mighty lot. I do acknowledge your feeling(s) about existence of sexism in Poland, though it’s not a thing I could share — not only am I not a UK woman, but I am not any woman. Needed to say, I’m not a tramp to harass Planty benchsitters.

    If asked: is there sexism in Poland, I’d say: yes, there may be instances of it. I gave the example myself (didn’t mean to infuriate anyone, I thought it’s good to use one’s own expereince) — the example about seeing female wannabe secretaries as sex models AND about seeing me, a wannabe secretary, as not eligible to become a sex model. An example of double (if not triple) sexism then, it was.

    By the by, every time I retell the story to Polish guys – I get condescending smirks, sort of (“dude, was / is it not beneath you to be a secretary?”) and every time I retell my story to Polish guyettes – I get bashed, sort of, that I promote nearly-prostiution or that I don’t feel sorry for females who have to play the sex model game.

    More about your original post:

    There are women who don’t want doors opened for them. So true. And there are women [doing modelling for a living, from Q/A’s I read on a WordPress blog last week]: they say what some major turn-offs during their first dates can be: man’s bad hygiene — or man’s not being prepared (no stops en route at an ATM or gas station) — or man’s trying to pass past “first base” — or man’s leaving any “doors unopened”. Gee!

    Generally, if you (or anyone) asked me: should there be equality, I’d say: I do not consider “shoulds” where I know there is the irrevocable “cannot”. As in: Equality cannot exist, (equality of opportunities included).

    Excepting exceptions, I believe the way out of things-taken- as- examples- of- sexism is to make case-by-case human-to-human arrangements (see agreement with XY Jolanta mentions in her comments above).

    When women don’t want to form a pro-women party and vote it into ruling this land, I take it as the will of the majority of the sorority – not as a calling for female quota in the parliament for instance. Where feminism asks for more sympathy / help from males but will not give up female privileges (earlier retirement age to start with), I tend to give it a suspicious look: is it about a fairer world, or about a more woman-friendly friend? Then it hits me: the movement’s name is feminism, not both-sex-equalism?

  50. […] Pierwsza Miłość, Poland, Polsat, RTE, sitcom, Soupy Norman There was an animated debate here on Polandian about hand-kissing and Polish chivalry. Irish television finally explaines it […]

  51. Ika says:

    Well, maybe it’s too late to join the discussion, but I can’t help adding my personal opinion to the whole thing. Being a woman born and raised in Poland, and a self-proclaimed feminist (well, I should add that no ideology I support is always tantamount to what I’ think; I don’t adopt those views that I regard as being not very proportionate to reality without analysing my own reflections). Well, I’ve never personally (an important word) felt discriminated in my country, and therefore it’s clear that I don’t regard such thing as door-holding as a manifestation of this. The truth is that such patterns of behaviour are a part of a culture code among the most of male inhabitants of the country, being incorporated into their own everyday behaviour on the basis of their own observations. I myself often (subconsciously) feel that something’s wrong when I see a man entering the building first, and after a moment I realize that the picture of a situation you described stuck in my mind after years of observing it. That’s why I think that the most of those men open the doors thoughtlessy, some of them have no intention of patronising, trying to show that they have good manners;

    as far as the matter of paying the bills is concerned, I’d also not treat it as sth that’s based on the sex deifferences; when sb asks you to go to the restaurant with them in here, they often feel like having the responsibilities similar to those when they invite you to your own house (you are their guest). It’s often regardless of sex, I even argued with my female (!) friends for a numver of times, when they tried to pay for my beer saying either that they invited me or that they just want to do it, cause they like me. But I can’t say, that there weren’t moments being embarrassing for me. pointing to sb’s opinion above, I wouldn’t call it all a hypocrisy; I obviously agree that our state do not necessarily notices the problems that concern a PART of the female population, but is it the only area where people feel rejected or forgotten? Our country still isn’t politically stabilized enough to take care of such matters; when our hospitals have debts and people go on season-strikes that impair our budget, who the hell thinks about a mother escaping home violence? Hardly anyone-and it’s not a simple matter of discrimination; we could afford to support female workers in the respect of maternal leaves if we had the conditions ( ecoconomical strenght and political stability combined) that exist in, let’s say, Sweden. Provided we had, I can;t believe that a woman afflicted bu home violence wouldn’t be given a flat and an opportunity to divorce without spending a single zloty. There could possibly be the right to abortion, the issue now supported by many, but there’s the Catholic Church that gave some people, even those not really keen on going to the church, a delusion that: “if you don’t agree with us, your neighbours won’t respect you”, blah, blah, blah. So, let’s be realistic- Poland isn’t the women’s paradise, yet it still isn’t hell.

    I’ve personally never noticed such a situation when a woman earns less than a man, performing similar tasks-believe me, it’s the issue of nepotism which is a far greater problem in Poland. If I had, I would react-I don’t need my state to ptronise me, cause I’m strong enough to deal with it, despite the fact that I’ve never had a chance to come across scuh a situation. Any regulations forcing the employers to make the salaries equal wouldn;t really work. We live in a country where people hate regulations of any kind. BTW-Poland has the largest propotion of women running business among all the EU countries, which may be suprising for some. Apart from that, I have just been offered a job-there were about 370 of us applying for it, and it eventually turn out that the group that succeeded consisted of 5 women and 1 man only.

    But, ok, let’s get back to the topic-I fully understand those who feel like their position in society is diminished by door-opening or sth, there’s alway some element of culture-clash in such situations, but I simply got accustomed to that- I just think it’s nice. Nothing more, nothing less. When some drunk tries to involve me into a conversation in a park, I treat it humourosly as long, as it;s not offensive- people under the influence often need someone to chat. the hand-kissing’s also sth that depends on a situation to be commented on-for me, it’s far more tolerable than the way of cheek-kissing I experienced in the USA ( I often got kissed by people of both sexes whom I met a few moments earlier). It’s simply a matter of where you were brought up; the longest part of my post is the expression of what I think about adding links to the imaginary discrimination of women in everyday situations while talking about unimportant habits. There are places, you see, even the European ones, where the situation;s much worse.

  52. Sylwia says:

    Pinolina – ask the men to hold your coat lower, usually that’s the obstacle.

    Paweł said: “A young modern professional Polish woman or a feminist would be offended if someone kissed her hand. (compare: http://pl.youtube.com/watch?v=mLlCQsm34u4)”

    How about a deal? If you refrain from judging Polish professional women by Polish feminists, especially Kazimiera Szczuka, I’ll refrain from judging you by Roman Giertych!

    Good points, Ika!

    Personally I find the idea that men are patronizing women by holding doors for them ridiculous. Does anyone really believe that men think that a woman isn’t capable of opening doors? Is it so difficult to recognize a courtesy?

  53. pinolona says:

    Ladies… the post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek…

  54. Sylwia says:

    Your post is very funny! The comments are not.

  55. Steven Woodruff says:

    I’m American but since moving here have become an avid hand kisser. I can’t believe we get away with this here. …. And that Ford you mentioned is actually a European Ford. We have no such problems with Fords in the US.

  56. Croeso says:

    When helping a women into a coat, especially after a good bottle of wine, it is considered chivalrous to ensure you help her into her coat and not into yours.

    And please, don’t put her in backwards, even if she doesn’t notice.

    And, in extremous, don’t attempt to get into her coat with her, no matter how cold it may be. This creates a bad impression, especially after an introductory meal with her parents.

  57. […] [Comments for Polandian] Comment on The Foreigner’s guide to Polish Chivalry by Croeso […]

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