The article ‘Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos for Poland is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Poland, tips for communicating in Poland, and strategies for doing business with Poland to help with understanding the culture in Poland. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step!
Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this article and of the bestselling book, ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Education, and a distinguished Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle to be a conference speaker for your events! She is a cross cultural expert that will entertain and inspire audiences of all sizes with her fresh, unique, and humorous approach to cross-cultural communication and social business etiquette. Gayle travels worldwide from business bases in Texas and Switzerland.
Cultural Tips for Poland – including some valuable business travel tips!
When doing business in Poland, learn some basic Polish words, like hello “dzien dobry”, good bye “do widzenia”, excuse me “przepraszam”, and thank you “dziekuje”. A basic Polish language guide can help you with proper pronunciation
The standard greeting is a firm handshake. The same applies to farewells. Kissing and hugging are reserved for very good friends.
There is no general rule as to how Polish people address each other. In initial contacts they may use the person’s title or surname however, after two or three meetings the use of first names is welcomed.
Polish people are sensitive to body language and watch it carefully. Avoid overly demonstrative or closed off body language. Smile, be yourself, and be moderately expressive as you speak.
It is good to maintain direct eye contact during a conversation. Be sincere, genuine, and avoid sounding egocentric.
Polish businesspeople love to conduct discussions on a wide range of topics including public life, family and career. To generate conversation, ask open-ended questions starting with who, what, where, when, why, and how.
The more you converse with someone Polish, the more gesture oriented they may become. Typical business standoffishness may eventually transform into a friendly conversation with backslapping!
If you are in a group, avoid conducting private conversations. It is better to involve everyone in the discussion.
Be punctual. If you cannot be on time, be sure to inform everyone about the circumstances which have delayed you, otherwise you may appear unreliable.
When entering a meeting room, wait for your host to indicate where you are going to sit. If there are people you do not know, wait for your host to carry out the introductions.
Polish negotiations tend to be reserved. Periods of silence during negotiations are not unusual. Do not try to fill the silence with unnecessary talk. The essential information is what counts.
The Polish will usually negotiate with a group of individuals rather than just one. If you gain their trust, it will typically be followed up by a contract.
Be thoroughly prepared for any meeting or negotiation, and make sure you have the authority to make concessions from your side.
In addition to Polish, English or German are the languages of most business transactions.
Every kind of meeting starts with some small talk. This socializing allows everybody to relax and make a good impression.
Be patient. In Poland, the decision making process is slower than in North America. Be prepared to have several meetings before finalizing a business deal.
According to Polish business etiquette, gifts are given at the beginning of a relationship, especially when contacts are made for the first time, and at the end of a successful business venture.
The best gifts are always items which are typical of your culture. If you are from Switzerland, you could buy some carefully chosen chocolate. Another good gift is a book describing your country or the region you are from which adds a personal touch.
If you want to get to know your business partners better, invite them for a cup of coffee, lunch, or dinner. This should be a time to socialize, so don’t bring up business unless they do first.
A toast is usually performed before or after eating. If you propose a toast it is important to maintain eye contact. Do not begin drinking until your host has proposed a toast. If your host stands when proposing a toast, so should you. In Poland the common toast is ‘na zdrowie!’
It is important to show special consideration to the elderly. For example, when public transportation becomes crowded, younger people are expected to give up their seats to the elderly.
5 Key Conversation Tips
- Your home country, city, and way of life
- Your education and work experience
- Humorous anecdotes and stories are always appreciated
- Hobbies and things of personal interest
- Art, music, and culture
5 Key Conversation Taboos
- Politics in general, unless they bring it up first
- Emphasizing or boasting about money and wealth
- Avoid speaking with your hands in your pockets
- Religion in general, unless they bring it up first
- Don’t sit with one ankle resting on the other knee
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To learn more about the Do’s & Taboos for Poland, doing business in Poland, and the communication and business styles of Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order my bestselling book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’ available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book
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Cross-cultural article: Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos for POLAND
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