What (some) foreigners think about Poland


Thanks to the fine investigative journalism of onet.tv, we are able to watch a video in which 11 foreigners pass on their words of wisdom about life in Poland and Poles in general. As Polandian is dedicated to bringing you all the latest (and more importantly – accurate) international insight into matters Polski, I’ve watched the video a few times now and even taken notes! At the end of it all I’m left wondering whether it is meant to be a; documentary, educational tool or a comedy. So far, I’m leaning in the direction of the latter.

Here’s what Polandian’s own Ciocia Dorota has to say about what they had to say, so to say………

Rafael, Spanish, 3 years in PL

  • When the Police stop me I  just pretend not to speak Polish or English, only Spanish. The police keep asking me for money.
  • When Poles go to Carrefour they only buy “two lemons and a little milk”. If they want to do that they should go to the shop downstairs. When I go to Carrefour I buys tons of stuff.

Rafael clearly needs introducing to Brad Zimmerman, Polandian’s own Law & Justice party, who will put him straight about how to handle the police and how not to meet them in the first place.

As for Carrefour, I don’t know what to say! Firstly, nobody in their right mind would buy fruit or veg in Carrefour and secondly, what is a “little” milk? What I enjoyed most about Rafael’s sketch was the way he says he has to “pretend” he can’t speak English. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying!

Analisa, American, 2 years in PL

  • Polish bureaucracy is a disaster! Nobody wants to help me and nobody speaks even a word of English.
  • Old women want to take my seat on trams and the metro.

I think foreigner’s impressions of our wonderful bureaucratic system depend on two things; what system they are used to at home and how much involvement they have to have with the Polish version. For example, Brits and Yanks whine on relentlessly about Polish bureaucracy because at home it’s made a lot easier for them. Ever hear an Italian or a Spaniard moaning about Polish bureaucracy…no, point made. Then there’s the obvious problem that most foreigners who want to stay in our beautiful kraj will need to go begging to quite a few governmental institutions. This is a bad situation to be in, even for Poles.

Old women, especially those with mohair berets and army-surplus boots, will want to take everything you have, Analisa, get used to it!

Vanessa, South African, 2 years in PL

  • In the immigration department nobody speaks English.
  • “Wow! Someone smiled at me'”
  • “People ask me if I’m from another planet” {she has slightly brown skin – ED}

Vanessa, darling. Regarding immigration you can read above about Polish bureaucracy but also understand that Poland does not actually encourage immigration. I think we’re worried they will partition the country.

People smile at me all the time but perhaps that’s because I’m such a happy person and I smile at them first! Don’t worry, be happy!

The “other planet” comment is really just a by-product of not encouraging immigration. We don’t often see brown people in Poland so unless there’s a circus in town you can expect some comments like this.

Nashuk, Bangladeshi, 4 years in PL

  • Poles like to drive “fastly” (100 km/hr)
  • Poles are sad people who don’t know how to smile or look at other people.
  • I like blonde Polish girls but the Polish guys get angry about it.

Gosh, we really do have some issues here, Nashuk! Driving is a subject often discussed on Polandian so my best advice is to read through here first. Generally I have to agree that Poles drive too fastly but it may be it seems faster to you because rickshaws are very much slower? You do have rickshaws in Bangladesh, right?

Poles are sad and can’t smile or look at people. You know this came up with another person of colour, Vanessa, could it be that Poles are either scared or shy of people who look different? Perhaps they don’t want to be accused of staring?

Our blonde girls are really very nice but not the brightest of the bunch. Having said that, our very own Doda has an IQ of over 700 so perhaps I’m doing blondies and injustice? I’m a brunette myself. Polish guys get jealous at the drop of a hat, don’t worry about that.

Samitra, Thai, 3 years in PL

  • Poles just go to bus stop, go to metro……..???
  • A lot of people try to imitate Chinese people around me.

I wish I could understand you better, Samitra, but Polish people have to get places and so they travel on buses and metros. Hope that helps.

Again we have Poles being ‘awkward’ around strange looking people. Then again, it may be that they are actually speaking Chinese and you just don’t understand? Might that be it? We Poles are very well educated you know!

Hussein, Turkish, 3 years in PL

  • It’s better to be English or American in Poland than to be an Arab / Turk.
  • Poles manage to find lots of vodka whenever anyone comes around and then they drink a lot of it in small glasses.

Hussein, bravo to you for speaking Polish so well after only three years. Running a kebab shop as you do is obviously one way to quickly get up the Polish język learning curve. Is it not better to be British or American in any country, other than Turkey or Arabia of course? Just a thought.

Vodka, yes, it’s a dying art but we are still quite good at that.

Yusif, Azerbaijani, 6 months in PL

  • Poles get aggressive when they get drunk.
  • Poles think everything in Poland is great.

Yusif, I think you just need more time. If you think Poles get aggressive when drunk, you should hear what my son has to say about living in England!

As for Poles thinking Poland is great, I would only ask what you think about Azerbijan? Perhaps not.

Marco, Italian, 14 years in PL

  • Something about not being able to handle 5 vodkas and liking to drink juice??

Marco, top marks for speaking Polish but after fourteen years I did expect to be able to understand more than 25% of what you said! Anyway, each to his own on the drinks front. You like juice, go for it, you’re Italian so you can probably escape the accusations of being gay! He he.

Robert, Austrian, 3 years in the basement, PL

  • Some people get drunk.
  • A lot of people say kurwa.

Robert, might I suggest that these two points are connected? Nice and concise summary though, as expected from a good Austrian!

Luigi, Italian, 4 years in PL

  • The espresso in Poland is horrible but the cappuccino może być.

Luigi, did we really need to add the word ‘Italian’ after that I wonder?! Last time I spoke to a coffee expert they said the stuff Italians drink every day was pretty naff but then you’re a lawyer so perhaps you can afford the good stuff and need it to stay awake! Anyway, try Coffee Heaven, we all love it. If that doesn’t work, find something more important to worry about or just stick to cappuccino.

Jure, Slovenian, 6 months in PL

  • There are too many people handing out flyers (fliers?)

Jure, after only six months you manage to come up with more  sense than the combined 38.5 years of your colleagues! Good for you, you see it takes a fellow Slav to really understand what’s going on here. Yes, this is a problem and we ALL hope it ends soon. Fiddling with other people’s windscreen wipers should carry a death sentence!

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34 thoughts on “What (some) foreigners think about Poland

  1. Pawel says:

    LOL, lol LOL hahahah aaaah I spilled my milk

    Ciocia Dorota, you should post more often!:)

    But you are cruel sometimes;)

    Just a thought about what Raphael said tho: as far as I know, if you are not a resident of Poland, you have to pay your ticket/fine on the spot with cash (no one sends tickets to foreign addresses) – so maybe that’s why police asked him money?

    And I was wondering – why was that girl surprised people don’t speak English at immigration office? Shouldn’t immigrants speak Polish if they want to settle? I mean if it’s so hard at the immigration office, how will they live their everyday lives in Poland?…

  2. Sylwia says:

    LOL I agree with Jure, obviously.

  3. Pawel says:

    PS. Ian! Jure is Slovenian not Slovakian:) You know that new country squeezed near Italy.

  4. Scatts says:

    Aha. Just showing off my own cultural indiversity! Edited. Thnx.

  5. Anglopole says:

    What a fun way to end the day! LOL! Cool post, Scatts! I can see things have not changed in Poland that much! ;-)

  6. Cristóbal says:

    I don’t know if in Poland you have little tetra-pack milk cartons. Probably that’s what Rafael meant to say.

  7. Gabriela says:

    But after reading the post I started wondering: do I make myself clear enough composing in English? I’m afraid not to…
    And I agree with Pawel’s last paragraph…
    ¡Saludos desde el Perú!

  8. Brad Zimmerman says:

    Ironically, the Law and Justice party would have nothing to do with me because I’m a foreigner AND obviously descended from Germans AND have a “Jewish-sounding” surname (I still find it quite odd when people ask if I am after hearing my name and then ask again, pointing out my big nose).

    Anyway, a lot of what people apparently think about Poles can be said of people/countries anywhere. Jealous people, people that stare at “different” people, alcoholics/ism, the coffee “here” (wherever that may be) sucks, my country is less bureaucratic (or is more so but in a somehow reasonable way), and so on. These sorts of benchmarks are silly. Buuut I still say that most (not all) of them tend (not always) to drive in a manic, careless manner.

    The rest of it… “Poles are very family-oriented”, “deeply Catholic”, friendly (or not depending on who you ask), alcoholic, cheap or anything else is just too broad. I bet most people posting here know someone that isn’t Catholic, hates their parents (or doesn’t want children of their own), doesn’t drink, is generous with their money, etc…

    Oh and while I do think that Poles do tend to be manic, careless drivers… I don’t think it’s something in the water or genetic. It’s just because there is little enforcement of traffic laws, few functional speed cameras and laughably small fines (assuming the police officer that stops you doesn’t ask for a bribe) when someone is actually caught. The Scandinavian system of massive, heart-attack inducing fines has resulted in a lot of apparently relaxed drivers/driving in my experience.

    Ultimately, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with holding Poles – or anyone else – to high standards and expecting great things from one’s political, scientific, business and social leaders.

  9. guest says:

    quote: “It’s better to be English or American in Poland than to be an Arab / Turk.”

    Arabs and Turks can stay in london, Paris and Berlin. I wish them all the best.

  10. Jubal says:

    Is it only me that founds it strange, that the guests with strong opinions are always too shy to use a name, any name?

  11. MaterialGirl says:

    I think saying “A little milk” Rafael meant that milk is uncountable in English. :D

    True is that a lot of people go to hipermarkets to compare the prices or just to look what is new. In the early 90s hipermarkets were really temples for hungry of goods eyes. Now I think more people think: “there’s so many goods I don’t need and can live without”.

    I saw this, but only once. (More – is just a waste of time).

    Every bureaucracy is disaster (but sometimes teach, especially young people order).

    Not every old women want to take your place in the public transport, but some are really insolent. If I remember good, Analisa said: “old women want to take MY PLACE, even when there’s some free nearby”.
    It’s unfortunately true! I said to myself, that the next time I will sit on the knee of such a lady who instead of taking place close to sit on mine, when I’m moving my ass to let her pass by!

    Polish people don’t smile at the street to the straingers (also Poles, but unknown), because don’t want to be taken for the fools! (There’s sth in polish mentality, that causes if sb goes street smiles and talks or sings or whistle to him/herself is treated as a crazy man by observers. There’s even a proverb: “Co się tak śmiejesz jak głupi do sera?” / “What/(Why do) you smile as a fool to a cheese?”!

    Vanessa said: “People (especially older) look at me as if I were from another planet”.
    Yes, the older generation hadn’t had possibility to meet people with different than white colour of skin, so they are curious.
    One of my friend had got some Mulatto boyfriend, and her grandpa was peeping out of the door at him, because she was probably a little bit frightened but curious too”! :D


    not every blonde is stupid!

    Some polish guys are racist unfortunately!

  12. MaterialGirl says:

    Samitra wanted to say (as I understood it) that polish people go to bus or tube and don’t look around (admire clouds, shop windows etc.), they’ve just concentrated on the way.

    She said not: “A lot of people try to imitate Chinese people around me.” but “A lot of CHILDREN try to imitate Chinese speech”. It’s just game and the way to accost Asian people. Chinese is difficult for us and sounds fun. I also said in my childhood “Ciąg ciele ciąg” without any aggressiv and bad intentions.

    I think Hussein meant saying: “It’s better to be English or American in Poland than to be an Arab / Turk.” that Poles are directly servile when they heard english (only I and Ania kick sometimes your virtual asses).

  13. MaterialGirl says:

    “Generally I have to agree that Poles drive too fastly but it may be it seems faster to you because rickshaws are very much slower? You do have rickshaws in Bangladesh, right?”

    I don’t like this, because it looks a little bit like “I’m a master, you are servant” (though your intention was defence of polish drivers).!

    Ian, it’ll be probably read in America as incorrect political sentence, but perhaps Bob (as American) should said sth about it.

  14. Pawel says:


    “Co się śmiejesz jak głupi do sera” – is about laughing (śmiać) not smiling (uśmiechać).

    “Why do you laugh like a fool to a cheese”. When someone laughs and it drives you nuts.

  15. Sylwia says:

    Pawel, Material Girl has it quite right. There are cultural reasons for not smiling.

    I don’t think Poles smile or laugh any less than the English queen does. Diana’s smile didn’t strike me as Julia Roberts’s either.

    I’m going to write a post about it, _with_ Colin Firth in it, and since I don’t know who’s Billy there’ll be one James Bond instead. :D

  16. Ania says:

    Don’t be so hard on us Poles, Girl. Last Sunday even Paweł defended his pride in his comments. I was very positively impressed!

    This servile attitude goes away very quickly if one stays abroad for some time. It’s simply due to propaganda: all our soldiers and our government were once trapped in the “West” (including Argentina, which is South), and we wanted something that we couldn’t have. Even if this West now proves to be no better than ‘here’.

    You’ll know what I mean when you look closely at their films: when they are not showing façades but backs of buildings: pipes are outside, rubbish is everywhere, naked red brick, old dirty windows. Superiority, really, is all about ‘looking’ in their culture. If I go running in sweat clothes, I get different reactions than when I go somewhere in my white linen suits.

    But, I’ll tell you a secret. I know how it feels when one’s country gets commented on, from students from Kazakhstan and Georgia in my Uni. So none of the things I post here I actually tell the Brits in Britain. It would feel grisly for them.

    i realise clearly than our past is ‘siermiężna’… But I like it, investing in peasant culture, customs, food. folk:

    this is posted here because you said we don’t appreciate peasants, Girl. We do. It’s the burghers who don’t.

    oh, and never mind the American and ‘her place’. She is homesick in a different way than we, because they socialise much easier. And must miss the over sweetened food, so she is dressing in her best greatness… which has just been purchased by China and India… Doomed are those who don’t learn Mandarin!

    I am however surprised with the Turk – I was utterly convinced that we get along fine?? They being the Grand Foes of so many centuries.

    as for boys defending their blondes – I may have two offensive suggestions. One is that our mating rituals are obviously different, even from those in London (hey, can I sit next to you, BTW, I’m a DJ), so a foreigner just might appear sleazy. And two – natural blond around here is not very light, and peroxide blond is not the paragon of style. Thus a peroxide blonde might not be in a stylish company… or attract polite attention.

  17. Ania says:

    Do look him up, Sylwia. He’s playing the Captain in the Boat that Rocked. In a ‘Titanic’ moment of pledges he salutes his crew in a Polish way – to the Eagle on the cap, albeit invisible. This moved me. It’s good to know that one can count on the bastards, even if within reason, and a few.

  18. Brad Zimmerman says:

    Quick update related to my earlier comment regarding Polish driving (and the related accidents):

    “185,000 cars are driving on Polish roads without passing car safety tests required by the Ministry of Transport, shows the report by the Supreme Chamber of Control (NIK).

    “The NIK inspectors checked MOT stations in 52 cities and towns and found that 75 percent of them operated without legal documents stating that they were properly equipped and safe enough to carry out MOT tests. ”


    This confirms – to a degree – what I said earlier, specifically, “Oh and while I do think that Poles do tend to be manic, careless drivers… I don’t think it’s something in the water or genetic.”

    We just need more inspections, more enforcement of the current laws with fixed monetary penalties and/or jail time. We’ll never get the accident rates (or traffic offenses) down to zero but it would be easy to make a big dent in the issue with work like NIK is doing.

  19. Bogusław says:


    I second that. Problem with Poles is that we love finding out all the time those bloody easy excuses wich is a little bit tedious. Better coordination, logistic and regulations could solve many of those “inevitable” traffic offences.

    BTW – and yes i am a Pole myself. An ethnic one ;)

  20. Scatts says:

    MG – I had a word with Ciocia Dorota and she said she’d be mortified to think she might offend anybody but (like most Poles) she’s not been exposed to the tsunami of political correctness yet and really doesn’t know much about Bangladesh either.

    Jubal – not only you.

    guest – that Auschwitz thing is to be expected, sadly.

    Brad – the MOT testing system was similarly awful in the UK years ago until they had a “crack down”. Of course if you go far enough back there was no MOT test at all. The number of accidents caused by faulty mechanics must be a drop in the ocean compared to those caused by bad driving though.

  21. Bob says:



  22. boattown guest says:

    See, foreigners are so used to that question that instead of answering to “what do you thing about Poland” they say what they think about Poles. No one mentioned that the city od Cracow is beautiful, that the capital is very modern and that our Bieszczady or Tatry are great and that our sea is cold. Nope, nada.
    I know that the country is known for its inhabitants, but still, I’m disappointed.

  23. Ania says:


    nothing really matters… Swedes are sadder, English more acerbic, Spanish party better, Arabic are more hospitable, Nigerian more friendly, Japanese better educated, Chinese more hard-working, Brazilian more beautiful, Mongolian eat more meat, Indian eat more veg, Greek eat more fish.

    Those kids in the film pointed at what struck them as different from their ‘normal’. But what would me truly interesting is: is there anything that is not just done differently than ‘normal’, but something so weird that nobody else does it? Are we anything else but a nation on a crossroads?

    And I don’t mean the whining, as portrayed by Hoogslag

    Anybody can moan.

  24. Zarazek says:

    ‘Polish bureaucracy is a disaster! Nobody wants to help me and nobody speaks even a word of English.’
    Typica yankee thinking. Why does she expect people to speak English? In case she hasn’t noticed, Poland is not an English-speaking country. And in my opinion, 2 years of living in Poland should have been enough to learn Polish.

  25. Ania says:

    somebody broke your website.
    Oh, and look here: commonwealth.pl

  26. Anonymous says:

    Nice try scatts, but we all know the truth :) Maybe yo have been living in this country for too long and can’t see it, and people from the interview can.

    btw: I understood every single word from those 2 Polish speaking foreigners, must say their Polish is really, really good, I wouldn’t expect a freigner to speak such good Polsish (gramatically and so on…well done).

  27. island1 says:

    Ania: Define ‘broke’ ?

    There is a certain amount of fiddling around going on as we switch over to a different setup. Previously a lot of people were having display problems in IE.

    Something not working for you?

  28. Scatts says:

    Anon – you’re ‘avin a larf mate! :)

  29. Marcin says:

    Robert, Austrian, 3 years in the basement

    ROTFL :-D

    You have to clean my screen now, you bad man!

  30. Stephen Hawke says:

    – The Spanish Guy sounds like he’s from Extramadura and should go back to making Jamon.
    – Analisa has clearly never had an experience with the DMV nor your friendly subway booth operator
    – Vanessa should refer to above comment about subway booth people, hell they don’t speak English and they’re born bread in the States. And um, I’ve been to RSA, didn’t see much smiling in certain places there either.
    – Nashuk, because the streets of Dhaka are filled with the most courteous drivers in the world. And as far as the girls go, get over yourself.
    – Samitra, yeah, you’ve got dumb teenagers everywhere, Thailand included I bet. As for walking a->b well… I’ve never seen friendly conversations in the London tube all that often, any Brits disagree?
    – Hussein, most muslim countries are getting a pretty bad rap these days, PL is no different. As for the vodka thing, go to Spain, everyone drinks wine, in Germany they drink beer, in England… well… ;D
    – Yusif, I’ve spent over 5 years in PL cumulative, and I’ve hardly ever seen a violent person. But that’s just moi.
    – Marco, utilizing the same argumentative form, I can’t eat pasta 5 days in a row. And I didn’t understand a bloody thing you said.
    – Robert, in Austria, * Some people get drunk. * A lot of people say sheise. – but at least the Poles don’t keep their daughters locked up in their cellars. :o
    – Luigi, if that’s all you have to complain about, well on. I agree the coffee sucks in Poland, but the Vodka is good, ask Marco about it. ;D In fact, I would go so far as to say coffee sucks all over Europe outside of Italy and Spain.
    – Jure, It’s been a while, but I’ll take your word for it.

  31. Aneczka says:

    agreed^ :]

  32. MAJESTY says:

    I agree as far as her learning Polish – in 2 years She could learn a lot.
    But I disagree about the Polish bureaucracy – iIT ISt is a disaster !!!
    I’m surprised that she didn;t get a black eye. LOL
    And English, come on, it is an international language now. Everybody speaks English now. If people living in Poland refuse to learn English, well, that only shows their ignorance.

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