TJC Global Serving Since 1985
Doing Business in Poland
It has been a couple of years since
Recently, the traditional Polish “savour-vivre” (term for “etiquette” used in
Polish language is one of the most difficult languages on Earth. It is a Slavic language, and is second after Russian in the Slavic family of languages in usage. Due to the historical changes in
Polish people are eager to use English, so do not worry about major communication problems. Nonetheless, Polish people are always delighted to hear a few greetings in their own language: Dzień Dobry! [jen dough brie] “Good Morning”, “Good Day” and “Good Afternoon”; Dobry Wieczór! [dough bre we etch or] “Good Evening” and when leaving: Do Widzenia! [dough vidz enya] “Good Bye” and Dobranoc! [dough bra nots] “Good Night”. It is also worth using Dziękuję! [jen queue yay] “Thank you”, Proszę! [pro se] “Please”, Przepraszam! [pshep pra sham] “Excuse me”.
Poles tend to maintain strong relationship, especially in business. In dealing with foreigners they may ask their acquaintances first about their opinion on foreign colleagues. The first meeting can be quite formal due to Poles having careful approach towards unknown. After breaking the ice, business meetings may become more casual. Maintaining good work relationship with all you business colleagues would be a key factor for future success. Having lots of contacts and connections may prove to be very helpful in the future business dealings.
Generally, the working hours are from to and no lunch break exists. Poles would have their main meal after work and in case of business meetings this can be extended up to a few hours, when the main meal would be followed by different snacks and drinks afterwards. Although breakfast meetings are uncommon, business is often conducted at lunch and especially at dinners. Most entertaining is done in restaurants and invitations are hard to turn down, especially when you are told: "a guest in the house is God in the house".
Poles are conservative in dress. There is no such a statement as overdressing. Make sure you look smart at all costs. Polish people appreciate elegance no matter what the social background so in business life they also like to appear well-dressed. Women prefer natural make-up, with not too strong colours, but obviously perfect and very often expensive. For men white socks are unacceptable. Wearing hats and gloves is sign of sophistication and high standards. Bright colours are avoided, and the best choice of colour for suits is light blue and pink. Smoking has become decreasingly unpopular. In fact, it is seen as a weakness, rather than strength, in socialisation.
Polish people are very aware of body language; they study it early at school. They realize the importance of eye-contact, straight posture, open and relaxed position and a smile. While speaking they like to look into the listener's eyes, while listening they rather look at the speaking person's lips. Mistakes like playing with a pen during a speech are noticed immediately.
Shaking hands plays an important role in business. It is common everywhere, any time, regardless of gender or rank. You might notice that even colleagues in the office welcome each other with this gesture every single morning. Strong and confident handshake is a manifestation of trust, respect and politeness.
Punctuality is a virtue, so Polish business people are never late. If they are, they communicate it with their business partners on time (via phone, assistant or another message). Traditionally, fifteen minutes are permissible if there is a suitable explanation. However, lateness is not accepted in business.
Managers are trained in giving presentations and lectures, so you will find them fully prepared and aware of their audience. They usually have no notes, because they have to know the topic perfectly. Managers’ good knowledge of English allows them to avoid any misunderstandings and helps them to use their sense of humour, which is a common thing in
Making notes during presentations may be disturbing, so avoid it. You will usually receive a handout with a summary of the discussed topic, which helps to remind you of any emerging questions. Eating during a meeting is very rare, although you will have access to small snacks, coffee, tea and other drinks. Coffee and tea will be served with milk in a separate container, since not everyone likes them white. Alcohol is not allowed in offices. Eating and drinking in public places, as well as in business life, requires basic politeness and culture. You can easily manage with British cultural behaviour, unless you start scratching the plate with your knife and fork, spit or burp after the meal.
Communication & Language
Polish business people both like and try to speak English. They are very happy and confident in using this language as a tool of communication, but might also want to impress you with their knowledge. In communicating ideas they are very strict, logical and precise. They do not like to repeat themselves, unless for the sake of common understanding. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence, but asking questions about obvious facts (already mentioned before) a sign of the opposite.
Good topics for conversation
Casual conversation is always welcomed. Poles would be flattered to hear about Pope John Paul II (who is highly revered in this 95% Roman Catholic country). Also composer Frederic Chopin is a Polish national treasure and a source of great pride. Expressing a genuine appreciation of his work is a terrific icebreaker. Additionally, conversations about food, sports and the beauty of
Gifts are very often used expressing respect. Traditionally, gifts are given at the end of the meeting and usually represent values or information about
Polish cuisine is based on traditional meals from
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