Is Krakow overrated?
Brazil has been at the bottom of the list of all the places Lissette and I have been. But that trip was back in 2007, way before we started travelling full-time in 2014. Since then – except for a bad stay in Lisbon a few years ago – we haven’t really had a negative experience. Certainly none that significantly shaped our outlook on a country and its people.
For Lissette, Poland is now at the bottom of her list of countries (Sorry Brazil, for me you’re still ranked at the top of my “crappiest experience” category).
Our bad experiences in both Brazil and Poland had one thing in common – our experiences with the locals.
I’ll get to that a little further in this post.
Is Krakow overrated?
Krakow is one of Europe’s oldest cities and has a fascinating history. It still has remnants of the incredible fortifications that protected the city (the Barbican being the highlight), it has an impressive (but not spectacular) castle, some beautiful churches, a happening Jewish district, some interesting mounds, a river where you can walk and cycle, and some poignant day trips in the nearby vicinity. I have more detail on my Krakow Guide.
Krakow is nice. And if you’re like most travellers you’ll come here for 3 days to a week and you’ll have enough to keep you busy and will enjoy the old town.
Is Krakow interesting, pretty, and historically significant? Yes. Will you feel “blown away” by the city’s major points of interest? I doubt it.
Besides the “wow” factor, once you’ve done the Big 3 in Krakow (the Old Town, Wawel castle, and Kamimierz) you’ve basically got it all covered. You can eat some sausage, drink vodka, see the Kościuszko Mound and museum. Maybe visit Nowa Huta if you’re really looking for something to do. You can go to the farmer’s market and eat some cheese and Pierogis. You can go to the Stained Glass Museum and do a workshop (which we did and it ended up being a highlight). These are all fun things to do and you’ll learn some history and culture along the way.
As I say, Krakow is a nice. Over our month there we had walks along the river, enjoying the greenery while looking at the castle. It reminded me of the Ottawa canal. Which is fine but…
I don’t mean to slam Krakow. It’s not Krakow’s fault that people compare it to some of Europe’s most beautiful cities. And it’s not Krakow’s fault that it is jam-packed with tourists in summer.
But is Krakow overrated? Definitely. We were there a whole month and I could give you some more reasons why I think it’s overrated. But I’ll leave it there.
And if you think we’re the only ones to think this way I was surprised to find that Nomadic Matt has exactly the same opinion of Krakow.
Why a month in Poland was enough
We don’t need to be in the most beautiful city to appreciate a place. We’ve been in places (like Belgrade, Skopje, and Sarajevo) where, despite bad infrastructure and poverty, we’ve felt a connection to the city and its people.
We met a few really nice people in Krakow. Many were vendors at the Farmer’s market. One lady made us try out all her cheeses. A girl that we met at a biological-produce stand gave us some free dried fruits to take with us when told her we were leaving Krakow. The young man at the fish store was always happy to practice his English with us and would go overboard being helpful and friendly. And then there was the friendly owner at the gym where we signed up to for the month. He would always help us out with our pronunciation of Polish words.
Sometimes just a few pleasant experiences with people can leave you with a warm feeling about a place. Unfortunately every pleasant experience in Krakow was outnumbered by a larger number of unpleasant experiences.
Nowhere over the last 4 years have we encountered people as generally unfriendly as the Poles.
Not a day would go by without Lissette getting stared at. In some places she gets looked at because she looks different. People wonder what she is. In Krakow they were hard, unfriendly looks. One day we were walking and an old lady was staring at her, giving her the up-and-down with that look on her face that you get when you’ve just smelled a fart. I noticed and stared right back at her. I just wanted her to know that I didn’t appreciate the dirty looks and that she should mind her own business. She wasn’t going to back down. We ended up in a 10 second staring contest.
We’ve done a lot of travelling through Eastern/Central Europe in countries where populist, right wing governments have been elected. But travelling in places like Hungary and the Czech Republic we’ve never encountered any outward signs of racism. We’ve gotten used to thinking “well, that’s politics. Real people aren’t as racist as their politics”. Poland proved us wrong. It was the first place we outwardly felt racism.
We met a few expats while in Krakow. An Australian expat working at the local grocery store (married to a Polish man) asked me what I thought of Poland. “Fine” I said, being polite. “I hate it” she told me before going into a rant about the Poles (“unfriendly, closed, of few words, lacking in humor”).
A Polish-American wrote me on facebook, describing the Poles as “the most miserable people ever”…”racist” before recounting a few shocking examples. “And our family is Polish!”
When we think of Krakow, one word comes to mind. Heavy. Everything feels heavy. There doesn’t seem to be much joy.
Poland is the most religious country in Europe. During our first week we visited a few of the churches. One of the first we visited was the beautiful Dominican Church in the old town. The church was nearly empty. Going through the church, we walked into the back chapel. Back there, standing and sitting in silence were almost a hundred people, most young in the 20’s and 30’s. I couldn’t figure it out. Lissette did though. “They’re waiting their turn to confess”.
I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.
I have pretty definite feelings about religion which I wrote about here.
Lissette has always been more forgiving about religion. But even Poland soured her. “I’m sure Jesus is closer to my colour than to theirs” she says. “And where in the bible does it say to hate your fellow man?”
In the case of Poland you’d think history would have made them more sympathetic and open. Everyone know what happened during WWII. In the 1960’s – after all that happened during the war – the government launched an anti-semitic campaign that led to a mass exodus of Jews. The present government is trying to rewrite history on all that by the way. You’d think the Poles would have all the anti-semitism out of their system by now. There are very few Jews left living in Poland. But no. We haven’t seen as many anti-semitic signs and symbols as we’ve seen in Krakow.
Visiting all the churches in Krakow (as I say, there’s a lot of nice churches), I kept thinking of Pope John Paul II. He’s the only Polish Pope ever. When he was chosen to be Pope he was the first non-Italian Pope in over 400 years. He’s revered in Poland. Everyone loved Pope John Paul, even non religious people.
What was Pope John Paul known for? He tried to unite the different people and religions of the world. He travelled to 129 countries trying to achieve that goal. He travelled more than any other Pope.
Whenever I saw his image in church the irony struck me. Here was this great man trying to promote harmony among the different races and religions. Today the Catholic Church that he was a part of tacitly supports the the most radical right wing government in Europe.
I mentioned off the top that I have never met locals as unfriendly to me as when I was in Brazil in 2007. They had no problems with Lissette though. She fit right in.
Poland was the opposite. She was the outsider and felt it. Sometimes it was intentional (as was the case with the old lady), sometimes it was just gawking because maybe they’ve never seen a Latina in their lives. But it was never friendly and certainly never welcoming.
Lissette is the one between the two of us that is the most engaging. She’ll always talk to locals, ask them questions, make jokes. Meeting people is what she enjoys the most from travelling. Poland is the first place I’ve seen her shut down and not bother anymore. And that’s a shame.
Keep in mind that we were in Krakow for a month, living a 15 minute walk outside the center. We weren’t there for a weekend, spending all our time in the friendly confines of the touristy old town.
Summing it up, Poland was the place that we’ve felt the most uncomfortable as a mixed race couple. Enough that we feel no need to come back.
I’m going to have a lot of people really angry at me for this post. You might not like it but that was our experience and I’m just being honest.
The one thing I feel bad about is generalizing. As I mention above, we also met some very nice people in Krakow. When we travel different places it is these people we end up remembering. I’m sure there are many more Polish people who are tolerant to other people and cultures. They don’t deserve to be lumped into my generalized categorization of Poles in this post. To these people I’m sorry that I’ve offended you. Please don’t stop being open to foreigners.
* On a side note. After our Krakow experience we were nervous about what people would be like going further East. Our next destination was Ukraine. How would people be there?
We ended up in Lviv where people were amazing. Friendly, open and curious. Some of the friendliest people we’ve met anywhere. On one of our first days an old lady on the street felt the need to talk to Lissette. She had blue, twinkly eyes and a sweet smile and when she talked to Lissette she gave her an affectionate squeeze on the arm.
Related: Are Eastern Europeans unfriendly?
Related: Is Lviv (Ukraine) the most underrated city In Europe?
Related: Why Vienna and Beyonce are kind of similar (and comparisons vs Budapest)
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May I just add a footnote to the Mr. Pete`s from Ireland assertion of the Polish education system being a “joke”? According to the latest 2018 PISA international survey based on test performance by 15-year-old students Poland has one of the best school systems in the world in all three categories:
Reading – no.10 (Ireland no. 8)
Mathematics – no.10 (Ireland no. 21)
Science – no.11 (Ireland no. 22)
On a lighter note – would Mr. Pete be so kind as to divulge the name of the city in western Poland where he is/was living? Such life-threatening living conditions clearly call for a quick UN peace forces intervention. For humanitarian reasons, please do!
Thank you. Good points, nicely made.
Thanks for your reply Mr. Wojciech! I think I hit a nerve with my comments on education in Poland. I apologise, and I know it can be difficult to hear “foreigners” living your country being critical. I was simply giving my personal opinion (I never stated it to be fact). I am constantly frustrated by my daughter’s primary school here in Poland. I personally feel way too much importance is given to grades, I find the teaching approach to be extremely traditional (lots of memorising). My daughter has no break time during her entire school day (the time they’re not “working”, they just have to sit in class during the pause… yet this may be more an issue with the teacher). Complete lack of organisation… we get informed about Teacher/parent Meetings about 48 hours in advance, you well know we are today just a day from the start of the winter holidays… we still don’t know our daughter’s timetable once she returns to class… all we know is it will change as it does every semester… it would be nice to know from an parent’s organisational perspective. Again, this is just my experience. I’ve had contact both professional and as a parent with the public education systems of 5 different European countries, they all have their pros and cons, but I find the Polish system to be the most frustrating.
On this note I have quite a few friends, all of whom are Polish, and are teachers here in Poland. They all sell me that, in their opinions, the level of education has beeb dropping over the past 5 years or so, that they as teachers are expected to do more than before, but in a shorter time. They all concur that the people to suffer the most from this are the students.
Now, despite me saying sometime in the past that the system here is a “joke”… I agree a harsh word I should have avoided. I was most likely referring to what I’ve stated above and not the actual overall system.
I come into contact with Polish students aged from about 14 to 18 nearly every day in my work, and despite my personal frustrations with the schooling system, I’ve always been extremely impressed by how well educated said students I’m in contact with are.
Now, you’ve given us some statistics. Like you, I love statistics (much to the annoyance of many of my friends 🙂 ). It’s not always easy to get a true impression from a single set of statistics.
I’ve done a quick google to corroborate the ones you gave (and in why I noticed how you kindly did a comparison with Irish results). Your statistics are of course true, but if we look closer, you’ll see that an actual overall ranking (even from the very same source as you gave, the OECD), the picture is somewhat different. However, I’m glad to tell you that both Poland and Ireland rank well and pretty close together! Using your exact statistics, when combined (according to an article published in The Guardian), both Ireland and Poland had the exact same total score (508 each), placing us in 13th and 14th place… with Poland in 13th! https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/dec/07/world-education-rankings-maths-science-reading
Another statistic on “The most educated nations in 2022” placed Poland in 29th place (Ireland in 8th place).
Basically we could throw endless statistics at each other. Poland, overall ranks well based on “facts”. You’ve answered my “opinion”.
On a lighter note, no thank you, I will not tell you the city I’m still living in! Not many English speakers here, so I’m afraid I’ll get lynched!!! 🙂
All that said, and on a less light note: I’ve given my opinions which I don’t apologise for. However, I do apologise if I’ve in any way offended you, and I understand how that could be the case. I’ve found it harder to “settle” in Poland than anywhere else I’ve lived, however, I’ve grown fond of it. I’ve made many wonderful Polish friends here (I already had many from Poles I met living abroad). There are some incredibly beautiful landscapes in Poland, some wonderful architecture to be found, so despite my “criticisms”, I see huge potential here (I’m not going to get political now, but I think the upcoming general elections are immensely important on how things will develop in Poland in the short-term), and I for one, and I most probably won’t still be living here, but I only want the best for Poland!
Have a great day my friend.
I am Polish and I am often very critical of my country and of my people.
But this post and comments underneath really hurt me.
It’s a very Western perspective where people just expect everyone and everything to please them, to comfort them, to make them happy. Well, I live in the Western Europe and can speak from experience- not everywhere life is as easy as it is in rich Western countries. Therefore, people are not always as happy and relaxed as Westerners are.
Polish are definitely not as approachable as British or American are but Polish people are also not fake and two faced as the former. Once you made friends with us – we will die for you. Like we do for our Ukrainian neighbours – we host them, we cloth them, we feed them.
Yes, Polish are cold and serious- but as I know, because I am Polish and my family is Polish – we have big hearts. You just need more time than a month in Poland to find out.
I went through the whole text and it’s very interesting. Just my little imput:
I was in Warsaw for 2 days as I was flying to Japan from Copenhagen, and I have never ever ever met such unfriendly people in my life, so bad was my experience I am never ever going to step to Poland, polish or anything that comes out of there.
I mean, the people we met was working, service is terrible, unfriendly, disrespectful and zero education. Thing is I was very excited to visit Poland even for a short period of time but from now on, Poland is banned forever. Besides, crazy expensive nowadays.
Dear Frank & Lissette,
I upvote this post, totally agree with all of your opinion. I’m a Southeast Asian and I live in Wroclaw for study, it has been almost 4 years up to now. From what I feel, people here are “cold”, seems to be doesn’t care with your existence. Cynical stares are common, not surprising thing. And I (and most of my friends from the same country) had experienced verbal bullies, even if we did nothing on them. If you can’t hold on yourself, you might end in physical fight. The most traumatizing thing for me is that my friend has even been spat on. I don’t say this opinion is a generalization, but you can find racism quite easily. At least every year you might experience once or twice bullies.
However I do really found that there are also people who are genuinely kind. But this randomness between the good and bad makes psychological confusion.
Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry about the negative ones.
Hello Frank and Lissette! I read your post a week ago and it stuck in my head. I guess your experiences were a result of your ambiguous status – living in Kraków for one month you were no longer a tourist, but still not an inhabitant (with all its formal and informal contacts and possibilities to create a relation). And in a situation like this everything is, well, a question of luck. You could’ve (more or less) accidentally met someone that would’ve easily become your friend. After two chats you would’ve got invited to a birthday/name day/Christmas party and ended up being considered a part of the family, equipped with hundreds of jars of homemade preserves and getting birthday cards till the end of your life. I’m sorry you had bad luck. It seems a lot was lost in translation.
Poland is not as religious as it seems (in the UE, Romania for example is far more religious). The process of secularisation is fast, especially within younger generations. Official data doesn’t represent the reality as it is formally impossible to sign out of the catholic church – meaning that once you were baptised, they can store your data indefinitely, so people don’t bother with apostasy. Yet churches are getting emptier and theological seminaries close due to a lack of candidates. It’s true that the Catholic Church still plays a significant role in Polish politics. This is a relic of the times of the fight against communism, when the church was one of the bases for the opposition. Some older politicians believe that we still have a debt to pay. But the stronger the pressure from the right-wing government, the stronger the resistance.
The queue that you saw in the Dominican church was the exception, not the standard and has nothing to do with Polish bigotry. The Dominicans in Kraków are famous for their thoughtful, open-minded and smart confessors who attract young Catholics from all over the city. It’s more of a free psychotherapy than a sacrament. As an atheist raised in a semi-catholic family I’ve never tried them and I have some strong views on this sacrament, but whatever gives people mental comfort, especially in these dark times.
By the way, pope John Paul II is currently discussed mainly from the point of his protection of paedophiles, and for the younger generation he is just a meme.
The anti-Semitic signs that you mentioned are a result of a war between hooligan gangs of two rival Kraków football teams. They are painted over on the regular basis and reappear like mushrooms after the rain. By no means do these bandits represent views of Kraków inhabitants.
In the “about us” section you wrote that you treat chosen location as a base to explore a region, yet it seems that you’ve missed a lot while being in Kraków. There are so many beautiful places that you probably would have to give up sleeping to see them all during your stay (or at least half of them). Ojców national park, Tyniec, numerous gorgeous valleys, all can be reached by city buses, not to mention Zakrzówek, Przegorzały castle (built by the Nazis as a sanatorium for SS men; beautiful view, in a good weather you can even see the Tatra mountains) or Bagry beach that are within the city itself. Atmospheric small cinemas and one of the best Polish theatres, Teatr Stary (the old theatre), whose plays have English subtitles. In the summer, dozens of festivals, above all Jewish Culture Festival and EtnoKraków/Rozstaje (speaking of Polish close-mindedness…). And a little bit further, but still within two hours or less, Beskids mountains, beautiful Bielsko-Biała (must see while in the region), Błędów desert, Lanckorona. Even Zakopane, but it’s a tourist hell. Its surroundings are beautiful though.
And about the looking. Wherever I go, no matter if West, East or South (I haven’t been in the North, though), I’m an object of the male gaze. Sometimes impertinent, sometimes followed by calls. That’s why I was surprised that a lot of people write Poles are the ones who look. Of course there is this other type of gaze, the one saying “who is this stranger”, but once again – I’ve met it almost in every country I’ve visited, mainly from the elderly people (Polish language can cause such reactions). And I get it. Being old is often miserable. Loneliness, insomnia, pain, wondering whether to spend one’s retirement on drugs or food, because it definitely won’t cover both, seeing the people that one shared the building with for 50 years die and are replaced by young strangers. Not everyone can deal with it with dignity and smile. And depression can draw the worst from people. I guess you ended up in such a building with such people. Bad luck, not the standard Polish behaviour. Kazimierz and the old town are filled with tourists, students from abroad and people from various countries that decided to move to Kraków. It’s easy to blend in with the crowd. It’s obviously not New York, but still not a homogenous mass that reacts with surprise while seeing someone with different skin colour.
Under no circumstances am I trying to undermine your feelings and experiences. I just want to show that not everything is as it seems at the first sight:) Hope you’re doing well in Spain.
PS I’d like to clarify a thing that appeared in one of the latest comments written by your reader. The wave of aid for the Ukrainians was not a government PR. Actually, it was the other way around: uncontrolled by the government, grassroots actions of citizens and NGOs were hijacked by government’s propaganda to show that the state is doing something. Of course, such wave couldn’t last forever, as our resources – both financial and mental – are not inexhaustible. After weeks of hard work some volunteers ended up with PTSD and depression. But social media support groups (helping to find a hairdryer, furniture, flat, job or answers) are still working, as well as hundreds of more formalised initiatives. Saying it was just a government PR is a slap in the face.
Thank you for the comment Daga. I appreciate many things you say, but I also think you are excusing many things away. Yes, luck and meeting the right people can change your perspective on a place. But from the moment we arrived we had an unfriendly taxi driver, an Airbnb host who didn’t show up (I’m staying in your apartment for a month. Have the curtesy to show up), unfriendly incidences like someone telling Lissette not to take photos in St. Mary’s Basilica (to which we replied “we paid for the photo pass. So inform yourself”), to unfriendly looks which I’ve mentioned. My parents are German, I know about the almost embarrassing propensity to stare. But it’s how you stare, if you’re doing it like you just smelled a fart I don’t think it’s a “curious” stare.
I didn’t write the comment about the aid to Ukrainians and I’m not touching that because I don’t have my feet on the ground there. I’ve been impressed by the work of the Poles as far as I can tell watching the news. That would be for Pete to respond to.
I wanted to reply directly to your first mainly because you indirectly referred to me at the end of your post, and you were right to!
My I first say I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. It was a lovely post, showing great pride in your home-country, which is something I always respect. It was also so well written, and as you are obviously Polish, may I just say it was a pleasure to read such a well written internet post in a language which is not your first language.
I would also like to apologise to you, as I fully understand how you could feel my comments about the Polish response to the Ukraine migrant situation being a “slap in the face” when I described it as a a PR stunt. I did not express myself clearly (it was the end of a very long post and I obviously didn’t spend sufficient time making sure what I said was clear). In no way did I want to take away from the efforts of ordinary Polish people in face of the migrant crisis. The Polish people should be proud of themselves. They helped their neighbours enormously. It was a beautiful thing to see how in the midst of such a horrific and cruel situation, how human beings can still be so humane.
I have some neighbours who helped out, I also got involved with helping them get some refugees here (who had already entered Poland), but wanted to make there way here (to the south west of the country).
You are right to be proud of how so many Polish people dropped everything, even risking their lives, to help refugees.
My “PR stunt” was referring to the current government (I may not be very objective as I really don’t like the current ruling party in Poland). My impression, and what I have both heard from other Polish people and read from Polish journalist who publish in English, is that the central government actually did very little to assist. It was the people of Poland who helped.
Anyway, I just wanted to apologise and clear that up.
I would love to add to some of your other comments, and if Frank and Lisette don’t mind me “invading” their blog post with so many comments, I would like to share some experiences I’ve had here in the 2 years I’ve been living here. I will of course add positive experiences (as there are) as well as some experiences that at the time felt very “negative” to me, but now, as time has passed, are nearly comical when I recall them.
I wish you a wonderful weekend Daga.
I am a romanian living in Krakow for a couple of months now and I can definitely tell you that Romania is not as religious as Poland and the polish people 🙂
Yes, having spent a month in Romania I didn’t think so either…
Hello Frank and Lisette, I doubt you will be attacked for this blogpost, given that us Poles/Polonians have been made the easiest of easy targets, We are constantly monstered and vilified by the most powerful media and academe in the world, so you are right on message.
It started a long time ago. My father, a para in the Polish army, and his comrades had barely got their breath back from fighting against Hitler before Poland was handed over to Stalin and they were re-defined as “fascist thugs” and barred from the Victory Parade.
Peter Godwin, whose father also fought in that army, wrote about it very movingly in his wonderful book “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun”. If you haven’t read it, please do. You are in for a treat. He says:
“In the summer of 1946, the huge victory parade takes place down the Mall in London. Two million onlookers cheer wildly as King George VI takes the salute from Allied soldiers of dozens of nations. In the skies overhead there is a massive fly-past but though they are the fourth biggest Allied army, no Polish forces march that day. The new Warsaw regime, at Stalin’s insistence, ignores its British invitation and stays away. And the Free Poles have not been invited. Anyway, they have nothing to celebrate. While everyone else is jubilant, many of them watched the Victory parade in tears.
“The new Polish government said we were traitors, just a bunch of fascist thugs, and I realised I would never be able to go home to Poland”, says my father. “And Cania, who had stayed behind with our unit in Germany, after I’d been sent back for officer training, realised the same thing. He couldn’t bear it. He walked out of his tent one evening and shot himself”.
That was followed by a campaign of vilification from the most powerful media in the world.
“”The 1970s represented a kind of watershed for Poles in Minnesota… Nationally, the entertainment industry and media singled out Polish Americans for stigmatization, and stores across Minnesota carried bigoted “Polish joke” products that were widely used. Because they had little mainstream media presence, many Polish Americans, especially young people, internalized these stereotypes. If students did not keep quiet, they faced harassment and abuse from classmates and sometimes even teachers. With the Polish White Eagle Association, this stigmatization led to occasional pressures to remove the word “Polish” from the group’s name as early as the 1960’s.”
(Poles in Minnesota, John Radzilowski, Minnesota Historical Society Press, pp.67-68)
This continues to this day, so I have come to expect this “untering” any time I read or see anything about Poland, and it is always a lovely surprise when people are positive about us – and much appreciated. So thank you Anj, and God bless you. Your kind words really touched my heart.
And, on the doubleplusgood side, this does highlight how loving and impartial our Creator, the God of Abraham is – so beautifully different from “the world”. Already he is teaching millions of us – from “every tribe and nation and tongue” – to live in peace as the brothers and sisters we truly are. So it does help me to be “no part” of the world.
The world, via its most powerful media and academe goes out of its way to tell me that my father and I are rubbish, very inferior, because we are Polish. But the Creator teaches me to honour my parents, and that therefore they are worthy of honour. As I loved both my parents very much, who am I drawn to, and what do I want to be “no part” of?
It’s not, as Basil Fawlty might have said, a proposition for Wittgenstein.
This is my 3rd contribution to your blog entry on Poland (my first about 2 years ago, then some 9 months later, and now). I’ve often wanted to contribute again, but I hesitated as at times I think perhaps you might regret this post (not because of your expressed views, but because you’ve moved on and now you concentrate much of your bogging on your newly adopted country, and a wonderful one if I can say, Spain). I’ve even thought about creating my own website to write about my experiences in Poland (I’m a web designer), but I fear the local authorities, should they discover it, might track me down and kick me out of the country (which would actually probably be a good thing) 🙂
My first post was scathing of Poland, my second one was one of acceptance. However, soon after that post, I realised it was a “forced” acceptance, as I had resigned myself to the fact I may stay here and in that case I would intensify my efforts to accept and integrate.
So here is my latest feedback on life in Poland as I’ve noticed this post on Poland has gained traction again the past few days. This morning I am once again “frustrated” by Poland, so I feel I will be more honest. Before moving on, I put “frustration” in brackets as I often feel very frustrated here.
And allow me to preface this with the fact I am a respectful person. I’ve spent well over half of my life living in foreign countries and I have always been a believer that it is me, as the foreigner, the one who must adapt to my “new” country. Also, Poland is the first country I’ve lived in where I don’t speak the language, which I believe is a key to integrating, and while being fluent in 3 languages, and getting by in 2 other languages, I have tried with Polish but my mind is just not accepting it. It is a very complex language (that’s a positive in my view), but I just can’t get my head around anything minus the absolute basics. And I’ve given up… I know I won’t be staying, so I’m no longer making the effort to learn it. I wish I could have learnt more, but I now see no need. And even after 2 years in Poland in which I have encountered on a few occasions the most unpleasant and downright rude interactions I’ve experienced in my life (and not because I’m not Polish, just because that’s the was life is here), every time I go out, I still go intent on being as respectful as possible in any interaction that arises.
This morning’s frustration comes as I help my 9 year-old daughter do her homework. Yes it’s 9:45am and we’re doing homework… a strange time to be doing homework on a Friday… well, that’s just one of my sources of frustration here: school times. My daughter starts school at either 10:45 or 11:45 depending on the day of the week. I just don’t know why they can’t just start school at a “normal” time such as 8, 8:30 or 9 like everywhere else I’ve been. And the great news, in a few months, she will start earlier as they switch the times halfway through the year every year! This morning’s frustration… After trying to understand her maths homework using an online translation tool, I’ve only just now realised that there are NO explanations in their maths books, simply exercises. I’ve experienced schooling in 5 other countries, and I’ve never seen this. I asked her if they have a separate book that actually “teaches”, and no they don’t. The teacher simply tells them how to do the exercise, and of course, then screams at them when they start doing the exercises and forget how to do them. They have no book or notes to check, it’s all based on their memories!
I could write for hours here, but I won’t. I’d like to mention a few things though and here they are (so I can refer back and remember to cover the main points):
– Frank and Lissette’s experience in Poland.
– Arriving in Poland as an EU citizen.
– Polish character.
– Customer service in Poland.
– Polish education.
– Polish children.
– Cleanliness of Poland.
– Poland’s history and current politics.
– Positives of Poland.
– What I miss living in Poland.
– My future in Poland.
So sit back and brace as you read! If any Poles are reading, please try not to take offence. I am simply trying to speak of my experiences as a foreigner in your country; a foreigner that has lived in numerous other countries and has been here for over 2 years. I have developed a sort of soft spot for Poland (which I can’t really explain), so there is certainly something positive here to have made me feel that.
Frank and Lissette’s experience in Poland.
I enjoyed reading the experience of Frank and Lisette in Krakow when I first did 2 years ago and so much of it resonated with what I was experiencing as newly arrived in Poland. I don’t think anyone should take offence at it simply their views on their experience. If you read through their blogs you will see they are open-minded well travelled people. The only thing I will say about their experience with “perceived racism”, I think this is all down to a misunderstanding of the Polish character. While I have had my first ever experiences of feeling a mild form of racism against me here in Poland (on 2 occasions and both because I don’t speak Polish), the Polish just aren’t a friendly bunch of people in general, and I can see how this could make foreign visitors feel as if they are the victims of a racism, especially when one of them looks darker than the average Pole.
Arriving in Poland as an EU citizen.
This is a positive for me. I was quite shocked at how easy the bureaucracy was for registering my arrival in Poland to reside as an EU citizen. One simple visit, without appointments, to an administrative building, where I filled out a simple form and provided a copy of my EU passport. It took about 5 minutes and that was it! Some other EU countries are also easy, and perhaps even easier, but as Spain does crop up as a comparison as the original authors now live there, and Spain is undoubtedly a very immigrant-friendly country, unlike Poland, registering in Spain (even as an EU citizen) can be quite a traumatic experience, especially if you don’t speak Spanish (which I do, fluently, yet still found the whole process rather daunting). Lots of paperwork, numerous small fees to pay, getting appointments at the “foreigner’s section” in your local police station etc. etc.
A big shock for me, as also expressed by the Blog authors, was that I had made many Polish friends before coming here. These were all Poles living abroad, as so many do, and most of them well integrated. Most of them even warned me about moving to Poland, which in retrospect I wish I had paid more attention to. Most of them are settled abroad, and don’t want to ever return to live (yes they love their country because they are Polish, but they tell me they love it but not to live in). Also, my wife is Polish, so I think this also allows me to give fairly solid views.
Before I proceed, I have met some lovely Polish people here in Poland. Of course I have, because they are human beings just like the rest of us. The thing is, unless you know them really well, they just are not a friendly group of people. Nobody greets you politely, nobody smiles. In fact, when walking down a street, people “generally” just look miserable.
Most people put this down to their history, which I’ll talk about more later on. They had a tough history, and let’s face it, their post-difficult times only ended some 30 years ago so I suppose they are still trying to “find themselves” and adapt to their newly re-found independence. Perhaps this is the reason why they are not “openly” friendly. Nobody seems to trust anyone they don’t know here. Perhaps with time this will change.
People tend to be very jealous here, jealous of what their neighbour has. The same happens in the workplace… jealousy rules, to the point that there is constant badmouthing, backstabbing and downright lying. If you do well, most will try to get you in trouble as they don’t want you doing better than them.
This brings me back to your visit to Krakow. Polish people don’t smile at you easily, and basically they don’t trust you. This is not because you are a foreigner, this is even amongst themselves. Perhaps you interpreted this as outright rudeness or even racism against you because you were “foreign visitors”? If so, it wasn’t, that’s just how they interact as a society, towards everyone whether you’re Polish or not.
I have managed to get a few Polish people to open up since being here. Well about 3 or 4 people, which is actually nothing when you consider I’ve been here 2 years, and that’s what I managed to do in every other country I lived in within a couple of weeks of being there! However, the ones who have opened up, are charming. I consider them friends now, yet not in the sense I experienced in other countries. It doesn’t mean we’ll meet for a drink, or invite each other to each other’s homes for dinner… no, not all! I have noticed, when you reach this point of “friendly acceptance”, they’re great for “suggesting” doing something together, but it never actually happens. However if we do meet on the street by chance, we’ll chat and laugh.
Its a complete joke. Well, that’s how it seems, yet I do see signs of hope. This hope comes from two things: Obviously, I’ve met some very well educated people here. Secondly, I sort of got pulled into teaching a few hours a week at a language school as they couldn’t resist the chance of having a native qualified teacher (now this is not the norm either, as to teach English here they usually want you to be fluent in Polish, a requirement I’ve never seen elsewhere in the private sector), but the director of this particular school is a very open and progressive woman. I have a “conversation” group there. Ages range from 14 up to about 60, but mainly teens or people in their early 20’s. The first classes were daunting, as they were all stone cold faced and it was impossible to get a reaction from them. I actually thought they disliked me and my teaching style. I considered stopping, but persisted, and after about a month they started to open up (this is so typical of the Polish character as I mentioned). Once they did open up, I was flabbergasted by how good their English level is, and how well educated they are. I actually end up often defending life in Poland to them (out of respect as being a foreigner in their country) as they are, once they open up, so negative about their own homeland.
So I’ve been impressed by the maturity and general education of many of these teens and young adults I’ve met. However, my experience with my 9 year-old daughter’s school is a huge source of frustration for me. She always loved school (she’s experienced school in Switzerland and Spain), but is slowly starting to hate school because of the system here.
Some of my experiences that have annoyed, shocked, angered or frustrated me:
As I mentioned earlier, the timetables. Today my daughter starts school at 11:45 am. It’s different most days, so I’m constantly checking the timetable to make sure we’re not late nor that I forget to collect her at the right time. This reflects what I see as an even bigger issue I have here in Poland… I feel everyone just thinks about themselves, that there is no respect for other people’s lives, commitments etc. While I know school is there for educating, I just don’t get why they can’t also respect/consider the fact that the parents have other duties (work), and having a fixed timetable that more or less coincides with the average working day, like everywhere else, would be great.
On the subject of timetables again: the end of this summer had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Again this is either their “lack of respect” or perhaps the expression that is very popular in Ireland “not to be able to organise a piss-up in a brewery” often comes to my mind here in Poland, so perhaps it’s just down to inefficiency, disorganisation. So, we knew she’d start school on Sep. 1st as that’s the day all schools start in Poland. We didn’t get the first information on back to school until about 7 days before Sep. 1st, which was simply a message, via another parent who managed to find out, that the kids were to go to a welcome meeting at 10am. No further information such as their timetable, nor even how long they’d be at school that day. Fortunately I decided to just hang around the playground that first day, as in the end they were only in school for about 20 minutes. They were shown their classroom, which we all knew would be the same as the previous year as kids stay with the same teacher for the first 3 years of their schooling here (keep in mind they start school at age 7 here), and given their timetable, not for the new year, but just for the next day! I actually laughed when she came out with a class time table JUST for Friday September 2nd. So I still couldn’t plan. Thankfully on the Friday she was given her timetable for the first 4 or 5 or 6 months (that we’ll find out later), which was actually modified 3 times over the next 2 weeks.
Grades… it’s all based on grades. The kids come out every day, not saying what they learnt, but saying today I got a 5- in something (grades are 0 to 6 here). I personally do not agree with so much importance being given to grades at such an early stage of education. And the grades make no sense… We do have access to an online system with their grades which appear daily or weekly, and there is NO continuity whatsoever. The teaching system seems to be very old fashioned, based on grading, and memorising.
English. This is hilarious. They learn English from day 1, and she has had 2 different English teachers. In Switzerland and Spain the teachers were happy to have a half-Irish child in their English class. I approached teacher 1 of English quite quickly expecting to find a “sort of” ally I could talk with at the school. She was very young, and I think she was close to a heart attack when I approached her in English. I wanted to question why she was giving my daughter such low grades which made no sense as she was teaching them how to say “hello” and count from 1 to 10 (despite, while my daughter is half Polish, English is her dominant and main language). I’m not sure how much she actually understood that day I spoke to her, as she seemed to run any time she ever saw me again 🙂 but at least my daughter’s grades started to reflect the reality of her English. Now in the 2nd school, I had a similar experience. All communication with this teacher had to be via email. She did seem happy to have a ntive English speaking child in the class, and contacted me numerous times after I initiated contact (she told me Polish parents never get involved with schools and she found it refreshing that I showed interest), however she told me she was “obliged” to communicate ONLY in Polish (so I never got the chance to hear her speak English).
At the end of every school year there is a “graduation” from the class. I didn’t attend the first year, but I decided to go last summer, as it’s a nice idea, the kids dress up etc. Well, it disappointed me on so many fronts. Firstly, the disorganisation for both the kids and the parents was mind boggling. They moved us around 3 different rooms for different “acts”, but nobody seemed to know when each move was meant to happen. The main act was at the end in a classroom with just the class involved. After waiting 20 minutes as they searched for the teacher (and it was a very hot day, so quite unpleasant), I found the whole “ceremony” pointless and even questionable. Ok, so remember, these kids were all 8 or just turning 9. There are about 27 in the class. They awarded gifts, but only to those who the teacher considered the best in the class. 7 children got gifts and were praised as the rest looked on. I don’t think this is fair to such young children. Then, all kids were “awarded” their report card (an official form with some pretty serious comments from the teacher, so not sure how this is considered a “reward”). However, I noticed 4 kids didn’t get a report, and I discovered the reason during the final stage of the “graduation”. Those 4 kids were told to stand up, and were told, in front of everyone, that they weren’t graduating, meaning they hadn’t successfully completed Class 2 and would have to repeat the year this next school year. There were tears. What a horrific, traumatic, humiliating and absolutely counterproductive way of treating/educating 8 year olds. (I’m happy to say my daughter graduated).
There is so much more I could say, as there is not a week when I’m not angered by the school. Just 3 stories to finish this section: 1. Last year the kids were told to bring photos of “castles” from a magazine to do a collage. All I could find was a tourist brochure of Ireland and we cut some images. My daughter went to school happily to do her collage/drawing, to be given out to, because she didn’t bring photos of Polish castles and was not allowed to use her pictures because they were Irish. I mean, come on! If the class had been on Polish castles, Polish history, Polish architecture, I’d understand, but it was simply for a Friday art class and we were told to get images of “castles” without an instruction they could only be Polish castles. 2. Last week my daughter came home shocked at something she’d learnt: the 2 most important countries in the entire history of the world: Greece (ok, I can get where that comes from), and Poland!!! (nothing against Poland, and it has a rich history, but I’m not so sure how it can be considered as the second most important country in world history!). I remained diplomatic in my response to my daughter, simply saying yes and adding that there were many important “empires” or nations that made significant contributions. 3. They started studying WWII, and here’s an interesting conversation that followed when my daughter told me about it:
Daughter “Dad, guess what we learnt in school today?
Me: “What daughter?”
Daughter: “World War II”.
Me: “Good. What did you learn about it today”.
Daughter: “My teacher said all the world abandoned Poland”.
Me: “Ok, yes, well…. It’s true in a way, but more complicated than that”
Daughter: “I know daddy, I asked my teacher what was the name of the war again, she answered “World War II”, and I said to her, well doesn’t that mean everyone was fighting and had to protect themselves, so maybe that’s why they all couldn’t just help Poland”.
I was speechless… I mean, she’s 9, and this is essentially the truth. I did ask what her teacher responded to her, and she said she just went silent and didn’t say anything to her.
I’ve met some great kids here. While this is sad, much of my social life in Poland revolves around being in the playground as my daughters play. They’ve made a few lovely friends. Interestingly, about half of them are Ukrainian (I’m not just referring to those who fled the war in Ukraine, as there were already many here beforehand). However, I have come across the most disrespectful and basically “nasty” children I have ever met. So many children here, from a very young age (as young as about 7) are just “left” to do what they want and wander the streets, often I imagine because both parents have to work and probably can’t afford childcare. Many of these children though seem to also be from more affluent families, so that must not always be the reason. I see so many groups of kids that just want to cause trouble. They come to the playground and just try to upset the younger kids. And if you dare say anything to them, you’re in trouble. I saw a Ukrainian woman step in once, asking them, kindly, to behave and not annoy the small children. She was then yelled at, cursed at and threatened for about 20 minutes. They told her they knew where she lived and they would come one night and burn down her home, they told her if they ever saw her kids out without her, they’d beat them up so badly, they’d “only” end up in hospital if lucky. Many Polish parents were watching, but none stepped in. My wife then stepped in, and one girl, about 13, spat in her face. Me, with virtually no Polish, I couldn’t take more, and intervened. The same girl then started screaming that I was a pervert (I didn’t understand). Fortunately, a Polish dad who I didn’t know spoke English, came to me afterwards, told me he’d lived in the UK and sadly returned to Poland a few years ago. He told me he had videoed along with another mum what had just happened and was going straight to the police just in case the kids told lies. He admitted Polish kids were out of control. That, fortunately, was the end of that story and I never heard nor saw that group again. But there are other groups. Another, very gentle Polish mum intervend one day at the playground. They left, and seemingly disappeared, but they were planning an ambush. Soon they took up “hidden” spots and started hurling stones at the mother in question! In my own building, which is a fairly settled, peaceful and even, by local standards, well-off building, there are two divorced mums upstairs with 5 kids in total aged about 8 to 12. They’re well dressed, but they are bold. Not as bad as the others I mentioned, but the mess they make of our building is ridiculous (and despite many complaints from neighbours, the 2 mothers, who otherwise both seem friendly and have stable jobs, do nothing.) The kids love opening the windows and spitting down on all the other neighbours when we’re outside, and they love harassing the kids in another nearby building that has a large gated play area for the neighbours.
As always, I am not saying Polish kids are bad. I’ve met many wonderful children here, but I have also noticed that there is a much higher presence of out of control children than I’ve ever seen anywhere else.
Customer service in Poland.
It’s non-existent so nothing to say. Just never approach a store attendant expecting help, a smile or friendliness, and you’ll be fine! Nothing else to say.
Cleanliness of Poland.
This is an interesting one. If you strictly stick to the areas of a city that are the “historic centre”, or other places tourists may be (airports, major train stations), everywhere is spotless. To the extent it often reminds me of very clean Switzerland. However, once you stray a few metres away, that changes. In the city I’m in, not particularly famous, yet quite prosperous (lots of foriegn companies based here), the centre of the “touristy” city centre comprises 4 or 5 streets and a couple of squares. They are spotless. But as soon as you leave that area, just by a matter of metres, to where the immense majority of people live, it is filthy to an extent I’ve never seen anywhere in Europe. Pavements (sidewalks, paths, whatever you want to call them) are filthy. Public rubbish bins are few and far apart. There are broken beer and vodka bottles everywhere, the same ones often for days on end. People just throw their litter on the ground. So many drunks in public. People spitting everywhere (which is one of my pet peeves, I can’t stand people spitting in public). There are areas of the city, slightly further off the main beaten track, where pavements seem to be covered with what must by an accumulation of dust and dirt over many years without any cleaning. I recently learnt a possible explanation to this. Apparently, most pavements belong to the building that borders them and their cleanliness depends on said building. So if there happens to be a cleaning service for a building, you’ll see them outside cleaning the pavement, but many apartment buildings here in the cities are extremely uncared for, and so nobody cleans the pavements in front of them.
Home rubbish. Here you have one bin point for often 5 or 6 apartment blocks, so perhaps for some 60 to 100 families. And you’ll find just 4 or 5 or 6 containers. The rubbish is only collected twice weekly (and we’re in the city centre). These rubbish points are filthy, with rubbish thrown everywhere and anywhere within the vicinity of the containers. It’s disgusting.
Another disgusting thing… many Poles still get rid of their rubbish by burning it in their fireplaces during the winter, so in addition to all the smog from coal-buring fires, the odours also include the burning of rubbish, which leaves me nearly passing out as I hold my breath for long periods trying not to breathe in what must be quite toxic air.
Poland’s history and current politics.
Poland has had a very hard history. This is still very present in the people’s minds, and well, since the Russians were still here just some 30 years ago, you can understand how present it still is. Polish people love talking about their terrible history, how nobody helped them, nobody cared for them and that their country literally disappeared off the map. I was horrified when I first heard from them how Poland “disappeared off the map”, and this was long before coming here. Now, to be honest, I’ve grown a bit tired of it as I think it’s used as a general excuse for all the country’s faults (and all countries have faults!). I’m even more so tired of it since about a month ago I saw a post on Facebook. Now I’ve mentioned I’m Irish. Well I saw this timeline lapse of the British Isles, with the two islands and their respective areas with the flags governing them during different periods. Suddenly the entire Isles were covered in the Union Jack, representing the nearly 200 years when Ireland was under complete British control. And for the first time ever, despite my awareness of the brutality of Irish history, I realised that Ireland also “disappeared off the map”. Basically national borders have changed over time, to greater or lesser extents, more recently or further aback. However, here in Poland they see themselves as the only country to have ever had that misfortune. Perhaps they just need time, but I think for Poland’s good, they need to start moving on from this and keep in mind it is “history” and today, if they take advantage of it, they are in a very positive position to grow and bloom as they wish.
The current politics… a disgrace. I’m in western Poland, where the current governing PiS party lost, however, I fear that if the current party wins another election, the short term and even midterm prospects for Poland are not good. This government has reversed much of the progress Poland made. Polls suggest people are slowly realising, and next year may see a change in Polish politics. My finger’s are genuinely crossed for Poland, as despite how anything I’ve said here may be perceived as criticism, I only wish good things for Poland and its people.
Positives of Poland.
I think Poland deserves to be on the destination list of tourists. Perhaps just for short visits. There are beautiful cities (and as the country continues to progress this will allow them to continue “renovating” much of what is still “ruined” due to WWII and subsequent Russian occupation). Poland has some breathtaking scenery (like just anywhere), but there are certainly some breathtaking landscapes in certain areas of the country (particularly the south in the Tatra mountains).
Positives I directly feel living here. Not many to be honest. Their donuts are pretty good, as are their cakes in general. I do not consider Polish cuisine as being anywhere near one of the better, HOWEVER, I’ve grown fond of pierogi and another couple of typical dishes. In general I find their cuisine to be quite heavy, yet reminiscent of comfort food. I’m not impressed by the quality of produce to be found in markets or supermarkets, but their pork (which they have a lot of) is always of great quality, but that’s about it.
Their women. Yes, I’m married to a Pole and am totally loyal, but I am a man with eyes, and wow, there is an overwhelming proportion of attractive women here. In different categories, some truly beautiful women because of their highly attractive Slavic facial features. Also many women who just do themselves up and I can only describe them as looking very sexy! It makes sightseeing as you walk around Polish streets even more pleasant! 🙂
To finish this section, I’ve of course had some lovely experiences dealing with Polish people. Sadly these are the exceptions.
What I miss while living in Poland.
Social interaction – I miss the ease of social interaction. I miss people greeting each other. I miss smiles. I miss cleanliness. I miss good winter weather (even as an Irish person, who spent all my childhood there, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but give me an Irish winter any day over a Polish one… however this is simply a geographic question). I miss recognition (what do I mean here?… well anywhere I’ve lived, after 3 or 4 visits to the same shop, the staff would recognise me and show me that recognition leading to different levels of pleasantries that would put a smile on your face; here there are a few stores I’ve been going to 2 or 3 times a week for some 2 years and with only one exception, despite speaking to the same staff numerous times a week, asking for the same thing, there is not a single one where I’m recognised, and on each visit I’m met with a stone face as if they’ve never seen me before and I have to explain, once again, what I want which is the exact same thing I always ask for).
I think it’s important to highlight that, no matter what positive spin Polish authorities try to put on statistics to make Poland look great (this summer they claimed Poland is the No. 1 tourist destination in the world… I laughed so hard when I saw this, not because I think Poland isn’t deserving, but simply because it is not true… but alas, that’s typical Polish government propaganda which is a subject for another day), the average Polish person struggles to make ends meet. Yes, there are people doing well financially, especially in certain cities, but the majority of Poles have to get by on about €500 a month after tax, and those salaries do not reflect the current cost of living in Poland. I know so many people who work 2 or 3 jobs just to survive, many 6 and even 7 days a week! And a recent problem is inflation. Yes, I know it’s everywhere, but inflation was already skyrocketing over a year ago here long before the Ukraine war etc which is being used as the reason for inflation elsewhere. On an anecdotal level, average prices for supermarkets have been steadily increasing since we arrived 2 years ago, and just about everything is at least double the price today than it was this time 2 years ago. So, the Pole struggles to live, and I can understand why so many of them look so miserable so often. So many also dream of leaving Poland (which is sad) and many, who like my wife, have returned, all regret that and are trying to leave again.
My future in Poland.
Coming to an end I hope. We’re already here longer than we wanted. Somebody posted the other day that when living in Poland it’s a country you always want to leave. This is my case, the case of my eldest daughter (only 9) and the case of my Polish wife (she says she’s experienced how nice life is elsewhere, so why stay here; and she doesn’t want our children learning the Polish mentality). Finger’s crossed we’ll bid farewell to Poland within the next 6 to 9 months.
I finish by apologising to anyone who takes offence, as believe it or not, I don’t want to offend. My opinions are shared by many, even many Poles, I’ve encountered living here. You may think I don’t like Poland, that I don’t like the Polish: No! That is not the case, simply there are many things I don’t like about living in this country, but I truly wish the best for Poland, and while I believe with the current government, Poland is at a turning point that could be very negative, if the government does change, there is huge potential here.
To Frank and Lissette I apologise for “hijacking” your blog. It’s sort of like therapy for me, but I promise to not write such a long post again.
No need to apologize. I appreciate this long post which I found very interesting.
You’ve come full circle. I remember when you first commented (2 years ago?) when you hated being in Poland. Then you changed your mind about 6 months later. Now you sound negative about it. My point is not that you’ve changed your mind, it’s that you’re not biased either way. You’ve been honest about your opinions and feelings which I appreciate (as for changing our minds about places, we all do it. We’re mostly happy in Spain but we often question if it is a place where we see ourselves in the future…)
Anyway, I appreciate your efforts in writing down your feelings. Some will agree, others won’t. That’s the way of the world.
Some of you points were shocking, especially about English (I have the feeling those English teachers speak no English at all) and history. One of the things I often get on this post is lengthy diatribes from Poles who talk about the Jews and how they collaborated with the Nazis. I’m not sure why, but this part of WWII history seems to be very relevant to them. I delete those comments. The Balkans is another place where they haven’t gotten over history, although theirs is more recent (but bring up the Serbs during the Balkan wars and they’ll bring up how they were prosecuted by the Croat puppet government during WWII. The circle never ends…). Anyway, I’m straying…we see the protests on the streets of Poland regarding things like abortion issues but obviously there’s enough support in Poland pushing these right wing agendas.
My views of Poland have been much more favorable since the war in Ukraine started. I think it’s admirable how they’ve helped the refugees and how they’ve been strong in condemning Russia. For that they’ve earned my respect. Wish this new government in Germany would be as steadfast. But would I want to re-visit Poland? No…
Thank you for taking the time to write all this.
So where will you live after Poland?
Thank you for your kind reply Frank!
I understand when you say you wonder sometimes if Spain is the place where you see ourselves in the future. I often feel, that as somebody who has move around a lot, like yourselves, that perhaps I’ve lost any roots and spend too much times questioning whether where I am is the right place, because perhaps X would be better. On the other hand, I, as I’m sure you do, feel that the experience of living in different countries provides so much in the sense of opening up the world (and seeing we are all basically the same, despite our differences!) is a unique and incredible experience.
I love Spain. Before coming here we were actually just down the road from you in La Herradura. We weren’t there long, and had Covid not happened we’d probably still be there. I do know that life in Spain can be complex when it comes to bureaucracy, which tends to drive many foreigners crazy, however, you just need to accept it and realise that with a bit of friendly banter, you can usually get things done. Their rules are so abundant and complex that even the authorities often get confused, and if you use the right amount of charm, this can play in your favour!
As you asked, our next destination is a new one for us, but I hope will be “the one” where we finally settle as we’ve already experienced a similar lifestyle and scenery… Austria!
I also get how your views on Poland’s response to the Ukraine conflict has improved your views. However, and I hate saying this, I personally feel it was more a major PR stunt by the ruling party than an actual desire to help. Many Poles did help, however the “hype” about helping died down extremely quickly. Within about 2 weeks of the outbreak, all went quiet in the city we’re in. Lots of Ukrainians arrived, many are still here but a significant amount either decided to return home or move elsewhere in Europe. The general feel I get from locals here is that while they are too polite to openly criticise, they are not happy about the influx. I see Ukrainians at the playground everyday, and while I’ve never been to their country, I’m shocked that despite their similarities with the Poles, they are so much more open and friendly. They are the only ones (minus 2 or 3 exceptions) who greet me with a smile when they see me at the playground. Many have even tried chatting with me when they hear me speaking English. I also note they do not mingle with the locals (and vice-a-versa) and in general the Ukrainian kids all play in one corner of the playground and the Poles elsewhere. When I mentioned a PR stunt, and perhaps I’m being cynical, but Poland does have a very low level of unemployment and needs workers. The Ukrainians could be seen as “even cheaper” labour and easier to integrate. Regarding how many actual came to Poland (I recently saw the government claiming there are over 5 million here), I doubt the figure is that high. I read an article in English by a Polish journalist who said that during the beginning of the crisis, they didn’t distinguish refugee status at the border, nor even nationality, so basically anyone who crossed a Ukraine/Polish border was later considered as a Ukrainian refugee. How true this is, I don’t know, but nothing would surprise me.
Anyway, that enough of me filling up your great blog for today!
Happy Spanish weekend.
Spent a total of 6 months in Ukraine. Loved the place and its people.
Take care Pete. And look forward to your take on Austria 🙂
I’ve also been in Poland about a year and as someone from “the west” I have to say I tend to agree.
Ironically though I’m a Finn and while we aren’t known for being outwardly friendly or outgoing I still get a way different vibe in Poland.
My girlfriends father almost on schedule will complain and blame Russia, Germany, whatever for the reason Poland is the way it is, like you mentioned. He’s also right wing and very close minded.
I’m beginning to think that Poland is two places. It’s the modern progressive place if you can stay in that circle of people but more and more it’s a regressing place that is returning to its more communist roots.
The politics of Poland are the personification of the people and the reality is the majority are supporting that regressive view. Anti western, anti progressive.
As someone who would normally not even classify myself as being very progressive (just moderate, I can usually find common ground on both sides) I have to say being in Poland has made me feel like an extremely progressive and liberal person.
Even when I lived in the US, taking fairly libertarian or freedom loving values to Poland makes you really feel like you’re in the minority and ironically I felt a bit more on the right wing side of things in the US. It’s just a whole different measuring scale it seems like.
Maybe the best I can describe is that Poland in every way feels how my parents describe the US as being more in the 40s and 50s
So I’m counting the days until I’m out of here also. Good luck 🙂
Excellent comment. Very well said.
Great comment Alex, very well put!
I think you are very right about Poland being two places… I also see that: I know people who are “progressive” and even smile quite a bit, then I know many who are far more regressive.
Good luck with your “counting the days”. I’m the exact same, which I admit, is a shame.
I lived in Krakow for nearly 3 years. I also lived in Warsaw and Poznan and a few other places. Poland is a place you can’t wait to get out of. Poles are arrogant for no reason. Polska dal Polakow. Poland for Poles. They don’t like foreigners, don’t want foreigners, but will always travel outside Poland to make money, but do not want you coming to live in their country. Poles hate everybody, even themselves.
Why did you live in Poland Michael? Work?
I went there as a student in Jagiellonian University. I wanted to leave Poland after just a few months, but I met someone and I stayed longer than I should have. And it’s Polska dla Polakow. Work? When I was there, a foreigner couldn’t work in Poland. They most certainly leave and expect to come to the USA, to England, to Ireland, and work and stay and whatever else, and even become citizens of other countries, but they never want you to come to Poland and do anything except be a tourist. Poles are small minded people. Very secluded attitude toward the world.
Also sorry for the comment spam, but regarding Krakow, I just had to share something – I was there for a couple days months ago and there was a guy who was not Polish trying to pick up a package from a small shop. I guess DHL or something deliver to small shops in some areas and you can get your packages from there instead of your house. Anyway, he didn’t speak Polish and the woman at the register didn’t speak much English, but they were getting through it. She was having issues getting some code or whatever document from the guy to clear the transaction and give him the package.
After about 2 or 3 minutes a line started to form and she was still struggling. I think it was mostly her issue and not understanding how to use the register. Anyway, a Polish guy standing in front of us in the line started shouting (literally, raised his voice to her even though he was within about a meter of her) in Polish. I don’t speak it, probably for the better in this case. My girlfriend does, she’s Polish, and told me after what he said. He called her an idiot, said he would call some guys to the store to wreck the place and beat her up, said she always has an issue and she shouldn’t have a job.
Then he just stood there and she told him to leave the store. He refused for minutes. I was about to actually just step in because he was so obviously an asshole that you didn’t even need to know Polish to understand. She was red, embarassed and obviously had her feelings hurt by it. The icing on the cake, the guy had a “Whole Foods” canvas bag he was bagging his food in.
I don’t know if he was originally from Poland or what, but these kinds of things happen often when I go to stores around Poland – and I was so blown away that nobody thought to step in and defend her. The level of rude was insane. I didn’t realize what he had said until we left and my girlfriend told me, or else I think the Police would have been called because in most places I’ve been, that kind of stuff isn’t tolerated. I hate to be an internet macho man but that guy deserved to have his ass kicked, to put it incredibly bluntly. But nobody else in the store, who speaks Polish, stood up to him.
Eventually he left, and on his way out, said in English to the foreign guy with the package that she’s an idiot. The poor guy was just standing there wanting his package.
And to top it off, right after he left, an old woman stepped up next to me out of line and complained to the woman that the line was long and don’t they have any other employees.
Again, translated after the fact. My girlfriend outside was so ashamed of everything when she translated it to me, embarrassed of the whole situation and how it looked.
And this was in Krakow, the supposedly educated and foreign friendly city that so many rave we should visit.
Just one of the thousands of experiences I’ve had in Poland.
Wow!! You’re writing a book. But I appreciate you writing about your experiences.
I’ve heard the same from Czechs about other Czechs…but despite seeing some bad behaviour haven’t seen anything that compares to your Polish experiences.
I’m curious what your Polish girlfriend says. Are these just extraordinary/unusual experiences? Has she travelled outside Poland and can she compare?
Sorry, a bit long winded for sure. It’s hard to compress and year of experience into a couple points. I wrote something then would think of something else. Ha.
Regarding the girlfriend, yes, she agrees that it’s an issue. And in fact other Poles I met also do. Especially those who have traveled a bit.
I think that’s the issue. If you don’t know much English or feel comfortable with English it’s probably kind of hard to travel from Poland. They don’t use Euros and Polish doesn’t necessarily travel well much outside of Poland. So it seems most Poles just stay in Poland. Kind of similar to Americans in that regard.
But her and I go most places together as we’ve been on somewhat of an extended vacation with a little business and we have both seen a lot of these experiences. I wish I could say they seem isolated but she even agrees it was the case prior to me being here as well.
Which is too bad honestly.
Firstly I’m about as white as it comes, so I can’t really say I understand or felt the same as you guys did, but I can definitely see it happening.
Although I’m not entirely sure it’s as much flat our racism as much as it is, shall we call it, nationalism or outsiderism.
But even then, people speak to me in Polish first so I must not look that far away from being a Pole – and I still see and experience a lot of the things you talk about. I think the issue is that it’s not really even racism, or outsiders, it’s just the culture of many (not even most, but sometimes it feels like most) in Poland to just be rude to each other. You see it daily in interactions between Poles if you look. They are generally fairly rude to each other unless they know each other or are doing some sort of business. But even then, don’t get me started on business practices in Poland, I came here and tried to do some business – the legal and government offices aside (which are rivaling or worse than Italy, and that’s notorious for being slow and bad) just the general lack of professionalism in Poland was amazing to me. I’ve been in 3 cities so far and it’s been the same experience. Not everyone but a large % of people just refuse to call you back or answer the phone when you call, resorting to you have to play SMS tag with them and then often they just don’t even answer those. Sometimes they show up anyway on time to do a job you wanted them to do, but without actually confirming. Other times they just don’t show up.
Or, other times they refuse to answer the phone and dodge all of your attempts to contact them to resolve the issue. Yes, some people answer, show up, do a good job and are fair, but there is a SIGNIFICANTLY higher % of people here in Poland who don’t than in most other developed, Western countries.
In fact all of the stereotypes I hear about “fake Americans” (I was living in the US for years, but I’m not from there) actually apply here in Poland, and often across Europe even, more than they do in the US. I have never experienced so much frustrating trying to just do simple tasks in Poland than I have anywhere else. Maybe Afghanistan, but really, is this the type of comparison we want? (I’m laughing, but seriously guys)
Even in the airport returning from outside of Poland I heard some businessmen who were talking about doing business in Poland talking about the driving and how it’s kind of a culture thing reflected throughout the culture in Poland. These guys were from a more modern and what most would consider “ideal” European country – comparing the culture between the two places and laughing that their company didn’t want to even deal with driving and insurance for Poland because of how bad it is. I had to laugh because yes, it’s kind of true.
Poles are aggressive drivers. Not all of them, but a substantial amount. In fact if you drive for 5 minutes anywhere in Poland, there is a great chance you’re going to be passed on a double solid line by someone going about twice the limit. I’ve driven all through the country and a lot of Poles claim it’s just Warsaw, but it’s everywhere. They also tailgate, they drive through crosswalks when people haven’t even finished crossing and I can’t even tell you how many times they have driven through a red light because they didn’t want to wait and didn’t think traffic was heavy enough to stop.
It might seem like I’m complaining – and I’m sure a lot of Poles would be so mad to read this – but hey, as someone who has lived in multiple countries I think I can compare it – it’s the worst place I’ve been, throwing out the actual third world places that people would compare it to.
And it’s not really do to with things like beauty and architecture. Who cares. Poland is not that clean. The roads are generally in bad condition. You know what else is like that? Lots of other places. But they don’t have the same culture issues that Poland does. Honestly, this will piss off a lot of people, but Poland still smells strongly of communism and eastern european stereotype. I won’t go as far as to say Russian stereotype, but if you listen to the Poles talk about their general distain for Russians (they vacation in a lot of the same warm climates and interact, apparently) you’ll hear a lot of disgust from Poles about their behavior.
Well, that’s how I felt coming to Poland. After 30 seconds of being off the plane and leaving the airport on my little outside trip, I was reminded that this country is about 60 years behind the rest of modern Europe.
And I haven’t even gotten into half of it. A ban on doing business on Sundays? Yeah, Poland has that. But a lot of Poles, especially the ones who voted for that, will talk about Polish freedom. Ironic, eh?
It’s just surprising to me that a country with SO much history and so much trauma in its past is still so slow moving and unprogressive. In many ways its regressing from Europe. You see the push from a lot of Polish people to shun the EU (especially now that Russia is pushing into Ukraine, this is dangerous for Poland to alienate outsiders) and the economy is sputtering. The markets are down and have been for years in Poland and the people continue to vote for the same politics that put them there to begin with.
But this is how it is in Poland.
Honestly, there have been some amazingly great people I’ve met here and I really enjoy them. Poland is not every Polish person. So I won’t say they’re all terrible people.
But the accepted bar for behavior and culture in Poland is low, on average. Much lower than some places and noticeably lower than others.
All of the reasons you stated are in addition to what I stated, I didn’t want to repeat myself, but generally I just have to say that after being here for a year, I won’t ever come back. I’ve already taken steps to pull my finances out of the economy here and I’m moving on to another country. It’s just not worth it, in general, to do much business here. It’s been more frustrating than the profits are worth.
I laugh because when I was first coming here I was sitting in an office to get my PESEL and there was an English man there trying to discuss some paperwork that he couldn’t understand why he was having to file it – trying to use a translator to speak to the woman at the office and he was growing more and more agitated at the pointless nature of it all.
I should have just taken the hint and left that day.
Hi! Thank you for sharing your personal experiences en Krakow. I have had a quite similar situación there and in Prague… I am a short, golden brown and long dark hair costarican and many people cannot help but look at me. This time I didn’t care anymore but I just kept my face up, walked straight and smile back to however stares (except to some creepy dudes). However, Krakow triggers serious panic attacks in me and that’s kind of weird I guess is by being almost the only brown women there? I mean it is hard, and it is part of claiming our rights to be respected and I deeply hope more Latinos visit these areas so they can finally stop being that “curious” once they met us better
Thank you Elena for commenting. Don’t stop travelling and don’t smile back at creepy dudes 🙂
Because I speak Polish, my visits to Kraków are easier. I went recently to help refugees. My experience is that people appear unfriendly, But get real nice when you talk to them, especially if you need help (such as results from my propensity to go on the wrong streetcar!)
I think it is great that you went to help the Ukrainian refugees. We didn’t have a great experience in Krakow – but the recent history has really helped us see the best of the Poles. Thank you for taking the time to comment.
They like the way you look. Looking at you is not racism 🙂 so don’t misinterpret, this is else ridiculous
Have a great travel!
Thank you Nathan for your long comment. Very happy you enjoy Krakow and that you’ve had nothing but good experiences.
I don’t really want to rehash the rest, I’ve had many similar comments to yours as well as many others with similar experiences to ours. As I always say, people’s experiences are unique which always keeps travel interesting.
I’m sry. This was a bit of a subjective assessment of mine regarding Germany, but I was born and grew up there and left for obvious reasons, I can put thousands of reasons for this.. now residing temporarily in Switzerland . But for me it’s obnoxious to see how Poland is constantly degraded by so called ” cultivated westerners” who claim how aweful Poland is, how racist it is, how antisemitic how this and that, not appreciating the reality how much this country suffered from foreign invasion, from communism, from this and that. People in Poland are by no means bad people and this country is achieving a lot and continues to progress, despite all the hardships.. And it is a success story. But this success can be endangered if polish start to spit on their culture, supported by western opinion how bad polish culture is.,how racist it is, how religious backwards at is….
Thats not fair nor really helpful to put this generalization for a whole society and the whole country.
Poland is not a paradise on earth but Canada is not as well. You can find great people in Canada as well as racist idiots, same goes for Poland and everywhere.
You don’t need to like Poland but it doesn’t deserve to be that devaluated in public – in light of the hardships and the difficult history it survived.
Andre, I live in a city that has the second largest population of Polaks in the world and let me tell you that they are the most arrogant and racist pricks I have ever encountered. You know after being invaded several times throughout your sad [deleted] history and being dominated under the yoke of other nations, that they’d learn some humility and grace. But no, they decided that being a [deleted]
Appreciate your comments John but I’d ask that you tone down the language, I don’t allow it here. There’s a way of saying things without being hateful and vulgar. I had to delete your other comments.
Found this blog by complete chance. I travel a lot for work, and I have 3 bases, one for each quarter. Corona made me pull back to two, and one is Krakow. (I am staying in KRK base since June, in New Year’s eve I will spend my half a year in CH base)
Poland is not a touristic country, it cares not that you “visited”, it cares you “understood”. Poles look down on most of their country, but woe betide the foreigner who does the same. They are the kings of complaining but get surprised if you say you actually like it here.
Culturally, they do not react well to foreigners. What you perceived as racism is mere curiosity: they are deciding a response to your presence. US and Canada values and mindsets are bound to clash here. My brother, SIL and their kids/grandkids are Canadian (Ontario-based) He worked in Poland and had a hard time adapting.
Yes, there is a lot of alcoholism and mental issues rooted deep in the country. I have witnessed and been subject of physical battery – with a counter on my side both times. Still, much better than any country in LATAM.
Treatment of women? I would say exactly the same.
If you had cared to take a brief look into their history, wired your mindset neutral and not aiming to be “welcomed/worshipped”, then maybe the outcome could have changed.
I can answer only simple questions if people address me in Polish. This, in turn, made people open up to me. All I gave was my will to understand their ethos and pathos.
I am from Chile, and I can say, despite the expat community, English here is not enough to carry you places or forge bonds. Another issue is, expats come and go so they are resented nearly as much as the tourists.
I do not consider myself Latin American in nature, actually I detest my birth continent. I feel more at home in Poland, so I am not entirely unbiased.
You clearly clashed with Polish culture and made no move to try to understand them, besides the museum workshopping and sightseeing. I agree on and commend your decision to not return to Poland: it will not change for you.
The same happened to me in my two years in Brazil and ten in Mexico, definitely I am never going there again if it’s not a stop-over.
In short: Poland has treated me way better than Chile. Way better than 95% of the 40 countries I have been to so far.
And that’s ‘nough sayin’…
Apart from the few little digs that you had to insert in your comment, I appreciate what is mostly informative feedback. I’m not sure where anyone gets the idea we need to be “welcomed/worshipped” – as I’ve previously written, you just want to visit a place and not have people act nasty towards you. We travelled the world for 6 years, visited over 50 countries, and Poland stood out for its unfriendliness. We may not have had the time or the will to dig into their ethos/pathos, but we did come in with an open mind and attitude.
I personally love Mexico, as does my mother who’s lived there for 10 years. The people are warm and open. But I guess if we all loved the same places the world would be a boring place…
as a Pole – thank you for saying that Andre. This post and comments of foreigners are so unfair and so hurtful.
Hello. I am from Poland. Some of the comments here are pretty hard, but I have to agree ( sadly ) with some of the arguments. Kraków in general have a big problem with soccer hooligans turned gangsters, and they are known to be extremely brutal, using machetes in fights with other hooligans from different clubs. I was in Krakow twice, it looks nice but like you wrote, it just feels heavy. I would agree that Poles should be a little more approachable i smile a little bit more.
Hope you will give it a second chance.
My wife and I stopped in Poland. Oswiecem to be specific… To visit Auschwitz. Setting aside my HUGE mistake in not pre-reserving ‘tickets’…(I had been to many camps in Germany and wrongly assumed it would be the same as them… You may just go to them freely during their open hours. We were turned away, kicked out of the camp. We’ve traveled all this way with all of our belongings through the terrible heat of the day to be turned away. This frustrating event, though, had no bearing on my opinion of the country.
We were only in the country for about 1.5 days and I will sum it up by stating simply that I cannot imagine and won’t ever be in an experience to spend 30 days among the shockingly awful souls that occupy it.
In 24 hours, we had the most miserable experience encountering literally every human we came across. (Other than the German guy who stopped to ask us directions to Auschwitz camp as we were walking to the bus stop. Hilariously he asked us in German if we spoke German and I said yeah… He asks where Auschwitz entrance was and I unconsciously started telling where to go, but in English. Hahaha)
Zero. I mean ZERO people were friendly in even the slightest degree. 9/10 if we spoke English and peppered some polish in to help, they’d refuse to even attempt to understand and just wave us away.
It became a game of me asking for things in German (and I’m not crazy fluent… Just fairly fluent) which was a 50/50 chance of positive response. I’m assuming German is a very polarizing language there… But it got us farther than English would.
I might also my wife and I are about as white as you can be without being transparent. So there’s not a racist issue going on with us that I could tell. It was an outsider issue… And I’m sincerely not exaggerating the level of rude, almost aggressively unhelpful attitudes of the people we encountered.
One one occasion, In the train station I was hungry and decided to get a subway sandwich and was waiting in line. (lines… Hah) A nearby train had just arrived with many older teens flooding into the station. Many seemed drunk. This was late at night while we were travelling into Osweicem.
As I stood in line at Subway… A few entered and just as it was becoming my turn to order and the employee was done ringing up the last person they walked past me and began ordering…
Now… I’d been in there for about 6 minutes, the employee knew I was in there… But sure go ahead and continue with these guys. I chalk it up to whatever and continue standing in line… I shit you not the same thing happens again. They are getting rung up and I’m next to go and another group cuts in.
I haven’t said anything to anyone… For all anyone knows, I’m polish or at am from the area…
At that point, real irritated and hangry from travel… I open my mouth and say “wtf do we not know what lines are in Poland!?”
People look at me confused. I begin pointing to myself, to them, to the counter, back to myself and back to them. Universal signal of “what’s the goddamn deal with this”
The employee looks at me with recognition. He knows what I’m talking about even if he doesn’t understand me. And he puts the new group on pause while he comes to handle my order instead, visibly annoyed.
I’ve lost my appetite at this point but I know my wife is hungry so I just simply order the menu combo with my fingers. Number 2 and a number 3 or whatever. He points at the ingredients and I signal yes or no. He rings me up. I pay with polish funny money.
I then look around and say “THANK YOU” and go back to my wife.
We encountered another line issue while waiting for out flixbus… The people waiting with us MOBBING the driver/door when it arrives.
I was told later that in Poland, because it used to be communist, people don’t believe in lines because being polite and waiting for bread meant you didn’t get any.
At any rate I won’t ever go back. You couldn’t pay me to ever go there again.
Wow, thanks for sharing your experience! Good for you for not shutting up. Might not do any good but you got it off your chest 🙂
Lines – I don’t remember that from Poland but on the other hand we didn’t do a lot of travelling outside Krakow. But it reminds me of the Balkans where they have their own communist past. You sometimes unfortunately need sharp elbows to get ahead…
Can confirm about lines. They just don’t use them. People stand next to you, step in front of you often, and generally everyone just pushes for the opening like herding cattle.
If they do stand behind you, usually they immediately take the spot you vacate which leaves them effectively standing in your back pocket.
Covid and the 2m distance rule was actually amazing because even though most people didn’t follow it, they finally gave you what most would consider normal personal space. LOL. It’s taken all of my self control in many cases to not turn around and just demand people step away from my butt while I’m standing in line. Or if they have kids, their kids are spread out all over and bumping you.
It’s just a completely different society here than Western Europe. Like I’ve said many times, it’s still got a ton of scar tissue from communism and it will take a long time to get rid of it.
I am right now in Portland… In the Tri-City area. I’ve traveled all over the world and never encountered a people so cold.
It is obvious that the European Union should stand up to Poland and suspend them preemptively from the European Union.
They need shock excommunication (something they understand) to understand who they are to be if they are to be welcome in a positive forward looking European Union.
It is utterly disgusting that the poles have learned so little from WWII, their communist times, and other periods where they were technically under the rule of others.
The EU should wake up …
I just had to respond to your post (and I’ve hesitate about doing so since I read it this morning).
Firstly, where are you now? You say your in the Tri-City area in Portland (which exists), yet I see on Google that there is also a Try-City area in Poland (Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot in the north).
You feel that the EU should “stand up to Poland” and “preemptively suspend Poland” from the EU! For what, may I ask? I imagine you’re referring to the current extremely conservative (traditional) government with elements of Euroscepticism. Well, I as an EU national who has been living in Poland for just over a year now, I’d agree that it will be great once the current government loses power in an upcoming democratic election, but to go as far as saying that the EU should punish the entire Polish nation is just ridiculous. I’m only starting to get an understanding for Polish politics, which is a right mess. I see Donald Tusk (former President of the European Council) who was very popular in that post, and just happens to be Polish, is now leading the opposition in the hope of changing the current very conservative and traditional government in Poland. Finger’s crossed.
You know, I have not met a single Polish person who is anti-EU. Everyone I’ve spoken to is proud to be a member, and is fully aware of the HUGE benefits EU membership has and continues to give Poland. So, amongst the general population, there certainly doesn’t appear to any desire to follow the UK and voluntarily leave the EU. Likewise, I’ve only met a couple of people who voted for the current government (and of course there are a lot of them), and everyone else didn’t and can’t wait to see the back of the current government as they all feel they are dragging Poland back to darker times and creating division within the country (à la Trump in the US, Boris in the UK and so many other rather extreme leaders who are/have been I power recently). Now, this current government keeps brining out lots of new social benefits, tax cuts etc which are simply buying votes by enticing the less educated or less “urban” populations as well as many on low incomes… a very clever tactic sadly.
Anyway I could go on and on, however I don’t think Frank wrote this post with the intention of a political debate on Poland or a bashing thread about said country.
I will finish off by saying yet again how my initial impressions of Poland have changed since my first post on this thread. This is what I feel today:
– Are the Polish cold as so many claim? NOT AT ALL. Yes, they are more reserved than some other countries I’m used to, but this is just how they are with people they don’t know. Once the ice is broken with them (which is easy, simply there needs to be an opportunity to have an actual exchange with a real purpose, not just commenting to a complete stranger about the weather), they are, in my opinion, very polite, very friendly, and basically just very nice down-to-earth no-fuss and no-bullshit people.
– Is Poland backward? NOT AT ALL. I read from time to time articles that freak me out a bit, about how the government is making life impossible for LGBT, for non-Catholics… well, then I go out on the streets of this town of some 100.000 inhabitants I live in, and I’m quite surprise that I do, from time to time, see homosexuals being open and nobody bats an eyelid or seems to care at all; then I read and get the impression religion is being shoved down our throats… yes the church bells ring a lot, which I like, but I don’t see many crowds heading to mass, and in the publish school my daughter is on, Religion is a completely optional subjects and while the majority attend it (like in many other EU countries I’ve lived in), there are quite a few in her class who are exempt from attending because they/their parents didn’t want them to. Are the town full of ugly communist blocks and basically ugly? NOT AT ALL… very few of those terrible blocks in the town I live in (despite, like most of Poland, having been totally dominated by the German and then Russians in the not so distant past), the town centre is spotlessly clean (can’t say the same about some other parts of town), the buildings are picturesque and colorful like in a other Central European countries and the street are filled with life (people out walking, café and restaurant terraces, live music events, lovely parks)…
So, your idea that Poland should be suspended is ridiculous, and thankfully something that the EU has no appetite for doing, and nor do I think the current government (who I don’t like) will actually ever go far enough to make such a suggestion something that could be seriously contemplated by the EU.
Have a great day whether you’re in Poland or Portland!!! 🙂
I had an experience quite a few years ago in Bruge Belgium. My partner is a filipina and that day her and I had a argument and she strolled off ahead of me. Anyway, I was close behind her and this European woman thought she was alone (unlucky for her) and demanded she got off the pavement to make way for her and stated yelling slightly at her.
I quickly ran up and have this cow hell. She ran off quickly realising she messed up and picked on the wrong filipina that day. She said some words and I followed up with ‘Eurotrash bitch’ comments and showed that I’d bury the bitch if she came back in my direction.
Very much arseholes towards foreigners in that touristy town. I’ll never visit again no loss for me.
Visited Philippines and had the time of our lives lovely ppl in the following year.
Been together for 7 years and counting I’m very lucky to have a sweet woman like her. To hell with mainland Europe thus far.
Thanks for that Paul. Haven’t been to Bruge yet so I can’t give you our thoughts on that. But in most of Europe we’ve had no problems at all. Sorry to hear about your experience.
But Philippines on our list of places we want to go and I’ve met many Filipinos – very nice people.
Person of colour? Lisette doesn’t not look like a person of colour…she looks like she might be Italian or Greek. If you felt singled out for any reason, it wasn’t racism unless a blatantly racist comment was made to you. And as was pointed out earlier, Polish culture is brusque and very direct. They are not apt to smile at strangers on the street and may think you have a mental problem if you go around smiling and greeting them when they don’t know you. If there is a reason behind this, it may be that Poland was occupied by the Nazis and government by the Communists for a total of 50 years. There was no good reason to be publicly gregarious and friendly during those days and all strangers were treated with suspicion (and sometime you couldn’t even trust your friends) because a person could easily get into trouble with the authorities for a seemingly minor thing. Yeah, Poland hasn’t been Communist for 30 years now, but generational trauma and habits take a long time to heal. So I’m sorry if you two had a bad experience but I think this is a misunderstanding on your part.
Nah, I think it’s a misunderstanding on your part. How would you know? And who cares if they have a miserable past. If they want tourists then they’ll have to learn to change. That’s the free market for you.
Some of your perceptions are really in point, but most of them are definitely wrong in my opinion. Nevertheless talking about Poland and Poles in the bad way and accuse all of them to be racists, after visiting just one place is really inappropriate.
Hi Kuba, as I mentioned in the last paragraph I’m sorry about the generalizing and I know there are a lot of Poles who are open. We met some in our month in Krakow as also have a lot of Polish Facebook friends. I don’t think I’m accusing everyone of being a racist. But we write about our experiences when travelling – are we supposed to just not mention anything?
As I’ve said before, travel is very subjective and based on people’s experience. Maybe if we went back a 2nd time we would have a totally different experience? But that wasn’t the case this time and we always believe in being honest about our experiences.
oh, well, Anglosaxon arrogance at work yet again. I wonder if they would ever accept something like cultural variety exists and that theirs is not the point of refference for others. Let me explain a few mistakes you made. First of all Latinoamericans are rather liked in Poland and your Lisette judging from the pic could easily pass for a Pole by looks. I admit Poles shamefully can be rude to people too obviously different, but your staring contest probably had completely different background. My bet is your behaviour violated some social rules and old ladies tend to be very particular about it. Trust me, I have a grandmother. What is more important, Poles, like all northern Slavs, do not smile without a reason. The reason could be as trivial as ,,because the sun is shining”, or ,,because I feel like it” or ,,because I like your face”. If I don’t like your face, however, I have problems at work or home, or a headache, or the Anglosaxon that approaches me is too loud, too pushy and overbearring and breaks my personal safety zone despite all the kind signals I send for him/her to slow down – I will not smile only because such is the social expectation in anglosaxon circles. I might even frown or send a warning look that you tresspass my personal borders, if the kind signals give no effect. Now, lack of smile for other Pole is neutral and comfortable, it says: I have no reason to smile at this particular moment. For an Anglosaxon used to go around with barred teeth, all smiles, radiant, and outgoing, lack of smile is hostile and disturbing. I quite understand it. This is why when I am in US, UK, or Australia I am smiling till my cheek muscles ache, feeling like an idiot, but I do not want to make people feel uncomfortable around me. In my own country though, I want to be myself, smile when I want and not apologise when I do not feel like being happy. Now, please, suppress your reflex to tell me this is not how it should be and leave out the instructions on how Poles should behave. Like my Australian friend who has been living here for 20 years, made friends, started family and business but still on every occasion points out how Poles do things differently from Australians – surprise! – and what the proper way to do things should be. I know assimilation and cultural sensitivity is not among Anglosaxon attributes so when I meet foreigner here I use my experience to communicate but particularly older people had hardly ever met other cultures from behind the iron curtain so they know very little on how to talk to or behave towards two odd Canadians. Have a good day!
Thanks Hubert. But you seem to have your own bias here about our “Anglosaxon arrogance”. I wrote this (Are Eastern Europeans unfriendly?) which you might enjoy and which is much what you describe.
So we’re used to, and even find comfort, in “Eastern European unfriendliness”.
So blame it on us if it makes you feel better, but we know unfriendly when we see it and it had nothing to do with cultural differences.
no, it will not make me feel better, I have simply seen it too often both at work and social life, including that final argument: I know things when I see them! Having said this though, i can not deny your experience even though I still think you misinterpreted some behaviours. I did not mean to attack you and I have a feeling that is how you felt. I apologise. This nation has never been so torn and divided as in recent years. The rhetorics of the current government I consider criminal , terryfying and scary. In order to secure votes they use old technique of finding an enemy (be it educated people, liberals, immigrants, muslims, European Union or LGBT, just name it) and position themselves as the only defenders of our traditional way of life. Some people respond to it, more and more. Add galloping inflation, raising taxes beyond peole’s capacity, and the tension in the nation is such that a spark may cause explosion.
well said mister, well said…
Wow ! You sound really sad and angry.
Everything we experience on the outside is a reflection of our inner world – so I guess that says a lot about you and your post …. which is more vindictive and less objective and full of contempt based on your personal experience .
I’ve had the most beautiful and magical experiences all over Poland and having lived in and traveled all over the Asia and Europe, from Japan to Northern Sweden, I can say that Poland is one of my favourite places now with diverse food, nature and people, an accepting, humble and intelligent culture, great music and rich complex history. And unending raw untouched beautiful Nature.
Sorry for you that you did not get to see that.
Everything is subjective and based on people’s experiences. Great that you enjoyed Poland. I’ve received similar comments from other people, people who loved Poland. But I ask them – are you from a visible minority? If I had travelled to Poland on my own and not with my wife I may have come away with different feelings. But obviously that wasn’t the case. Sad? Yes, we had looked forward to visiting Poland for a long time and have Polish facebook friends that were very welcoming. So we were disappointed. Angry? Nobody likes to see their spouse feel like they’re being discriminated against.
Again, travel is subjective and other people may not have the same experience. Others, as you see in this comments section, have had some of the same issues.
Thank you for having taken the time to comment.
Think majority of it was in both your heads and you’re both acting neurotic (idk are you surprised going into a European country filled with Europeans?), I wouldn’t say latinas are exactly that “heavily mixed” either they’re very white themselves, most are Amerindian and Spaniard
Jeez, I don’t know where to start so I won’t bother.
I’ve been stuck in Poland for the past year and a half, due to the pandemic, and a few other events, etc.
For background I’ve spent half of my live in the EU and the other half in North America (mostly US and a bit in Canada).
I just counted, I have spent 21 months here, some in Wroclaw, some in small towns, etc.
Nature is very nice, and the food is good quality. This is where the nice things stop.
Being in Poland all this time has been as pleasant as a never-ending dentist appointment.
The weather is horrible, it’s boring, everything is always closing super early, social gatherings are centered around alcohol, no one seems happy, everyone is always looking stressed and they’re always rushing for everything.
I have met some super nice Polish people and my girlfriend is Polish as well: I met all of them outside of Poland, when they were expats, so I don’t think they fit in the general Polish culture where happiness can only be attained if you are drunk or can feel superior to people around you.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I don’t always reply to comments but I see you spent a lot of time and effort so I’ll make a few remarks:
You have a few inaccuracies in your criticism.
– Lissette never said Poles “take it to the extreme”. I have problems with religion and over-religious people (no matter the religion) and I said that. She doesn’t have issues with religion – her comment was that religion should not create hate and prejudice towards others and that was said after repeated unfriendly encounters.
– I don’t understand your comment about religion in Canada and Scientology. Canadians are less religious than Poles for sure (as are most Western countries). Scientology is a cult and to insinuate Canadians embrace Scientology is just silly.
– I’m the one who stared hard at the old woman, not Lissette. How would you feel if you were somewhere with your wife (or child) and someone looked at her as if she was garbage?
You make it sound like we’ve travelled very little and know nothing of the history of Central and Eastern Europe. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been to over 50 countries and in 48 of those we had nothing but good experiences with locals. Ukraine, Czech Republic and Hungary don’t use the excuse of Soviet occupation to explain being unwelcoming to foreigners.
– “Don’t expect that just because you are on vacation and expect to be pampered or worshiped”. A few other people have commented the same and I find it disingenuous. And as I told them, we came to Poland because we were curious and wanted to see your country. We wanted to explore and learn without glares or dirty looks. So I think that’s pretty far from expecting to be pampered or worshiped.
– I don’t understand your comments about living in Canada and can’t relate or even understand them. Canada is a country of immigrants and is relatively very open, even if no place is perfect. You mention no interest in Europeans unless they are from France. From that I’m assuming that you lived in Quebec, probably Montreal. But that stems from language and culture, Quebeckers are different than English Canadians (I can say this having been born in Quebec, having lived there 25+ years, but also having lived all over Canada). But again, like anywhere, you get back what you give so if you tell me that we expected to be pampered or worshiped then I can in the same breath say that maybe you didn’t immigrate to Canada with the right attitude. And to compare Canadians to Americans and say that they never asked you about your accent – then I have to suggest you met a very small sample size of people. Lissette was born in the US and lived in both countries 20+ years and will be the first to tell you that Canadians are much more open to foreigners.
“Hopefully one day we can live without prejudice towards others”. Yes, of course. And it was exactly the lack of that during our trip to Poland that made me write this post.
Thank you again for your thoughts.
Ukrainians are friendly now but they were German collaborators during the War and in Lwów (Lviv) they still worship Stepan Bandera who was a German agent. I’ve seen older Ukrainians selling photos of Ukrainian members of SS-Galizien in Lviv’s flea market. Their still proud of it.
I’ve had a few people bringing that up. As you say in another comment, others did the same (including Poles). I’ll allow this comment but I’m not allowing anymore such comments, it’s going off track with the subject of this post.
Sadly, I agree 100% with your views on Poland, Frank, and more so its people. I am currently here, unfortunately, and have been for the longest 5 months of my life.
I have never met such miserable, sad, cold, unwelcoming, unfriendly and down right rude people in all my life. And I have travelled quite extensively and lived in 5 different European countries. In fact I have never disliked a country I’ve visited before, but Poland, well I can’t stand the place.
And I’m married to a beautiful and wonderful Polish woman!
The strange thing is I have many very good Polish friends from over the years, and generally I’ve always found them to be lovely people. Hence why I was shocked as soon as I arrived here and they all looksmed as though they just don’t know what a smile is. Of course, I’ve dealt with a few these 5 months who have been polite and/or “friendly”, but I’ve noticed the most friendly Poles I’ve met while here are ones who lived abroad before, and they all say that’s what opened them up, made them friendly, and they’re all miserable to be back in Poland and all want to leave again.
As I have a family connection through my wife, it saddens me so much to have this view of Poland. However, she says these 5 months here have reminded her why she left Poland 15 years ago and never wants to settle here again.
Also, our 7 year-old daughter, on arriving in Poland, seemed to notice the rudeness and unfriendliness ever quicker than I did.
I have never in my life made such sweeping generalisations about an entire nation and I apologise if anyone is offended. I don’t think the people here are bad, just unfriendly etc.
I hope I’ll be proven wrong, but 5 months into being here, I’m losing hope…
Thank you for your comment Pete.
Contrary to some of the comments people have left, it gave us no pleasure to write this post on Poland. We had Polish facebook friends and our impressions of them was what you mention of Polish people you met who had lived abroad. Unfortunately those were not the majority of people we met while in Poland. We had high hopes and that’s why we had planned a month there.
It’s especially interesting reading your comment since you have a Polish wife. And your daughter is perceptive. Lissette felt exactly the same way within 10 minutes of hopping in the taxi that would take us from the train station to the apartment where we stayed.
Thank you for taking the time to write your comment 🙂
Thanks for your reply Frank.
I understand that you got no pleasure in writing your comments on the negatives your experienced here in Poland as I felt exactly the same as you.
On a positive note I’m delighted to have discovered your site and will certainly follow Lisette and your travels.
I’m itching to travel again once the pandemic settles… not only because we can’t wait to leave Poland, but also just to be able to explore new places and cultures again.
same again, I just wrote a comment on why Poles do not smile and how it is misinterpreted by Anglosaxons because of their own cultural conditioning and filters. Let me refer to rudnesss now. As you probably know English is a very non direct language, you hint things, suggesst, use coded speech and understatement and put as many pleases, thank yous and sorrys as possible not to lose the senese of the sentence. This is considered polite. Polish on the other hand has a very direct construction: the object (noun), the a verb, and all the rest. Because of the language our communication style is very direct which for evasive and non-direct English seems rude. If a Pole speaks basic or intermediate English they would translate Polish sentences in their heads into English words unaware of the cultural aspect which may of course be too direct for English ears. At least they can speak English, as the other way round does not happen. Also for a Pole one ,,please” in a sentence is perfectly enough to put kindness and friendliness into their communication. Are you curious how YOU sound to Poles? most people can not stand American enthusiasm as too pushy and arrogant, leaving no space for the interlocutor. Too many nicieties in a sentence would cause rolling of the eyes, impatience and irritation and ,,get to the point” reaction. Also if you use your coded speech and understatements, people with the average knowledge of English would not understand what you are saying. If you say perhaps: ,,Would you consider if keeping your dog on a shorter leash whatever…”, Polish ear will hear: noun: you, verb: consider, all the rest (less important and not giving main meaning to the sentence): keepingyour dog on aleash. So a Pole would kindly react and consider as you asked, if he/she considers not to, you get frustrated and a Poleis perfectly happy and oblivious to your frustration. Honestly Frank, living here and being married to a Polish woman, you could put more effort into learning the culture you married into and stop being typical Anglosaxon. And by the way, Polish culture is that of low trust as in opposite to hight or medium-trust American, Australian, British or Canadian. It means we keep distance and act aloof to strangers, they receive no credit of trust at the begining, they have to earn it. Once they do, Poles are friendly, loyal, and friends for life. Just a little hint. Good luck then
I apologise for confusing your name Pete, I was writing a reply to your comment.
I really appreciate your reply, and they have encouraged me to respond as I had recently been planning on updating my post anyway.
Let me just preface this so you know a bit more about who I am as you have, quite understandably, assumed I am Anglo-Saxon and have advised that I put “more effort into learning the culture I’ve married into” 🙂 I am not Anglo-Saxon (well that’s a dispute for a separate discussion, but overall the Irish are not deemed as Anglo Saxons). I have spent my entire adult life living outside Ireland. I speak 3 languages fluently, and I have varying lower levels of 3 other languages. I have lived, prior to Poland, in 3 other countries, all with different languages and quite distinct cultures, and I fully integrated in all of them. That’s my little presentation as I fully agree with you that many Anglo-Saxons tend to make little to no effort to integrate and assume everyone must speak English… and I assure you I am not like that.
I would love to write so much on my thoughts about all of this, but I’m going to be brief and tell you why I had wanted to update my comments on this great Blog site and I hope you’ll be happy to hear it. It is now 10 months since I arrived “temporarily” in Poland, and about 4 months since I wrote the comments you responded to you. You will see in my original post I did say at the end that I was relatively new in Poland and that I hoped I would be proven wrong in my rather “negative” views… well here’s the news… I have most certainly been proven wrong!
You see, I arrived to a not very nice area of the city I’m in, and well my early impressions was that the atmosphere represented the whole county. Completely false, and every city in the world has bad areas. Also I was quite closed, because it is the first time I’ve come to a country (not on holidays) in which I didn’t speak the language, and I was actually “ashamed” and instead of making the effort I was shying away.
I now live in a different area of the same city, and I feel “at home”. I am getting to know lots of neighbours (many of whom are delighted to have the opportunity to precise their English with me), and even starting to be recognized by people around the city centre or at the playgrounds where I bring my children and they all “smile” at me now and wish me a friendly “Dzień dory” when I arrive and a “do widzenia” when I leave. The street are extremely clean. The bars and restaurants are excellent. And well, the countryside is incredibly varied and stunningly beautiful.
So, in just 4 months I have gone from being “temporarily” here to now seriously considering making Poland my “home”. I’ve started defending the country then my Polish wife criticizes everything, and she now also agrees with the advantages of staying here. I believe Poland is still only in its growing process and that the future is very bright here. While life is still hard financially on many Poles on minimum salaries, this is why I’ve decided to stay here:
– Beautiful country with amazing nature and architecture.
– There are 4 clearly defined seasons climate-wise.
– Poland remains cheap compared to most Western European countries, and I believe one can enjoy an excellent standard of living here compared to neighboring countries in Western Europe.
– Very safe country (this is so important for quality of life, and the statistics show it, Poland is indeed one of the safest countries in the world).
– I don’t really like the current ruling party, but that’s political and not a view on Poland, and I don’t believe they’ll be in power much longer. Once that happens, I believe Poland will continue to grow impressively as I do feel a sense of positivity/optimism here.
Quickly going back to the Polish and politeness/friendliness etc. As I said, I have had many excellent Polish friends for years and I was a bit take a back when I arrived here. However much of that was due to the area I was in. I think your explanations sum it up. The first impression is certainly that Polish people aren’t as “friendly” or smile as much as other, but once you better understand and scrape below the surface, I would describe the Polish as being somewhat “reserved” which I actually consider to be highly respectful of others. Once you attempt to speak to them or they start to recognize you, the Polish are not just as friendly as other nationalities I know, but I would say even friendlier than many! I get what you say about mistrust, and others have said this to me, so perhaps it is true, however my feeling of the people who are welcoming me into their country is that they are honest, friendly once they know you and extremely generous people. Not one single person has made me feel unwelcome since arriving.
Now I do find service levels to be quite low at time in some shops, but again, I’ve had many very friendly encounters in shops as well.
One can never generalize.
So basically Hubert, I have fallen for your country, I’ve decided this is the place I want to live in which I think is as much proof as I can give you.
I’m so sorry about my initial impressions, but I’m so happy I have had the time to discover just how wrong I was.
I would certainly encourage Frank and Lisette to give the country another try.
I’m also saddened by a lot of the negative press coverage Poland is getting abroad. And I have read so many Poles online who think it’s an anti-Polish sentiment. In my opinion it is not at all anti-Polish, but it is the fault of the current Polish government ant the sentiment in the press is anti that political party, not anti-Polish!
Before coming here I lived only 5km. from the town the now live in, and while I have always adored Spain, and I do miss so much there, I now see advantages to staying here (and of course going to Spain for some holidays or who knows to retire one day).
And Hubert, man to man, one has to admit that walking down a Polish street isn’t only interesting for looking at nice architecture, seeing Polish women is also very pleasant. I mean… I have never in my life see so many truly beautiful women! And going back to the subject of smiling again, while there is a famous song about my nationality that goes “when Irish eyes are smiling”, I have noticed that while the Polish might not smile as much at strangers, when they do smile, their whole face and eyes light up, it’s quite incredible and I find it very charming.
Now, I am starting to try to seriously learn Polish, but I admit I’m terrified. It is a difficult language for non-natives, but it’s a challenge I’m happily taking on. But I do think some of my fears are justified… I mean just today I was looking at how to spell the number 2. Now in English it’s two, in Spanish it’s dos, in French it’s deux, however in Polish it’s: dwa, but also dwie, not to mention also dwoje, and dwóch (or dwu) as well as : dwaj, dwiema, dwoma (or dwóm), dwojga, dwojgu, dwojgiem, dwójka, dwójki, dwójkę, dwójką, dwójce, dwójko… if I’ve got them all!!! 😉
Anyway, thank you for your reply. And I’m very happy to be in your country!
Pete (happy to be in Poland)
Hi Peter! Thanks for the update on your situation and I’m glad to hear your outlook has changed for the better. Maybe there’s hope for us yet 🙂 Very much appreciate your lengthy report, very helpful for everyone.
Wow… Are we talking about the same country? I lived in Poland for five years and never met more kind or hospitable people than the Poles. They can be rough around the edges at first but I felt a part of so many families! I literally stayed in the country for five years because I loved the Poles so much! All of my best friends are Polish. I lived in a small town though so maybe small town people are friendlier than big city slickers. Still, an interesting read 🙂
Yes…but are you a person of color? Or gay or any other minority? Because that’s what I’m talking about. I never had issues personally being a white male. But again, who people chose to be friendly or unfriendly to says a lot…
But glad to hear you’ve had only good experiences.
I must ask how you are able to condemn an entire country by one city? Did you stay any length of time in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Poznan? Did you visit the lake district in the north?
im pole unfortunately, and i agree 100% with this opinion. I hate this country. Dont come back to this shitty country. I hope i get a f**k out of this shithole after pandemic asap.
Why do you hate this country? What makes you want to leave it?
Sounds more like you should have done your homework prior to travelling to Poland. Understanding the history and general culture alone is critical – which one would assume you would know this by now if you travel a lot… You’re acting as if Poland hasn’t recently recovered from Soviet control and thousands of years of oppression and wars – nothing that western Europe (or much of the world, specifically western) can even fathom.
Also, being friendly is not the same as being extroverted and entertaining. It sounds like you may have expected a dance and show for the simple fact you’re a tourist instead of showing respect to the people in Krakow. Learn about the people and culture first before choosing to spend a month in their home.
I like how it’s our fault and that we’re expecting people to “give us a dance and show”. We’ve gotten several comments along that line.
No, like the 50 or so countries we’ve visited, we just want to explore and learn without glares or dirty looks. Somehow the other 49 countries can pull that off…
Zosia. Oh shut it you snowflake..I’ve been in Russia,Ukraine,Belarus,Czech Republic,Bosnia and Serbia and all of those countries/nations were under “soviet control” but guess what ? People of those countries are gentle,kind,funny with a lot of sense of humor and they are friendly and welcoming, while polish people are one of the most intolerant,sad/angry xenophobic people I’ve ever seen in my entire 57 years of life.Yes polish people are antisemitic,racist,homophobic,islamophobic (to the point of hysteria) and they are very rude.And of course there is one more huge problem with polish people – they cannot stand any form of criticism regardless how objective it is.You don’t like for example polish beer (while you’re a foreigner) bam wham ! you got yourself an entire lecture about it.They hate like everything and everyone and they think very highly of themselves.
Yes in Poland we dislike everyone because we are suspicious and after so many years of oppression that no other country in Europe ever experienced as we, it make us very suspicious of strangers and their intentions especially in contemporary times when racism towards polish people is very big in the west, it’s really hard to nice and friendly in this type od europe we are living. Poland was very big country it contributed massively to civilisation of europe and world (Copernicus etc) it was most liberal multicultural tolerant and free country that had no paraller in whole europe yet because of that all our neighbours tried to destroy us. How do you think we can trust strangers if for all our contributions, freedoms, tolerance, and multiculturalism we were almost anihilated completely and racism in europe towards us today is still present.
Sorry, but I know a little Russia & Ukraine and you cannot be serious. Cannot judge about Czech Republic & the Balkans though.
Shut your mouth piece Zosia. I am a Pole and what you wrote is just a pure nonsense.
Thanks for this review. I live in Poland since 7 years and i used to live in Kraków, been there 2 years and half. Poles have this horrible habit to stare at foreigners and especially Kraków is a city where I never felt at home. One thing i would like to mention os that people aptitude change according to the city. I have been lived as well in poznań, Wrocław and currently in Katowice and there people are nicer. While in wrocław i have been passed through cases of extremely high racism to case of extreme Kindness and i think the second were the most relevant to me. But Poznań and Katowice i have been met such a lovely and friendly people! My advice is to give a second chance to those 3 cities I mentioned, i found Wrocław and Poznań more beautiful than Kraków. About Katowice i do like it a lot but i feel it is a better place where to live permanently rather than be a tourist 😉but once again, good job with this honest and precise review, i was looking for someone objective, will follow yoir blog from today on 👍
Thanks for this post!
I’d like to add that I love to visit Krakow for a couple of days. I haven’t seen mentioned the Wieliczka Salt Mines and Auschwitz as 2 major drawing points of the area while there are more places that can be visited from this base (e.g. Zakopane). But this is for a short visit which -as you mentioned- could be quite nice.
On the other hand, living in Poland -even in Krakow- is a whole different story and even a young white male I had a lot of shit since I had long hair, wasn’t religious (or outspoken atheist to fit in the other group) and generally was different it just wasn’t accepted fully, even by young people.
My experience is from 2010 from the city of Poznan.
Yeah, maybe thats why Poland was rated 3rd most welcoming country in the world by thousands of tourists.
This blog is literally LMAO.. You were travelling around Poland with ur prejudice about racism and intolerance just to find proofs thats it all truth and Poland is bad. You are probably indoctrinated guy with jewish roots , you hate Poland and you visited Poland just to “confirm” all these prejudices about this country. Noone believes you tho.
You’ve linked a post that’s based on booking.com reviews and a forum thread that’s based on the same post. I’m sure you can do better than that if trying to make a point.
So I’ve been indoctrinated by Jews? Interesting
LOL you must be indoctrinated by a pure idiocy Greg. Ogarnij się.
Frank I’d say everyone’s got right to their own opinion, I disagree with yours. I grew up in Mississauga, and over the years I’ve seen how the city has changed, same goes for T.O. and it hasn’t been a change for the better. Now I happen to live in Kraków for just over a year. You say people ain’t friendly? I guess you’d never experienced how the real Canadians (kids) treat immigrants (other kids). Not gonna get into details as it’s not the point. Poles are very open and warm people once you get to know them. Don’t expect to get the “fake” how are you?, like in US/Canada, from a complete stranger that doesn’t give a damn. Being white, I’ve been to places in Detroit or Chicago where I was the only white person. I was starred down at, like what is this fool doing here. Racism is a 2 way street, for all I care you can be green as long as you treat me with respect. I’ve been ignored in Quebec when I spoke English till I started cursing at the person in a foreign language other than English.
I’ve traveled to some remote areas in BC, AB,SK,ON and NU and met some great people and some total a*holes, same goes for east and west coast of the US.
Over the last year I’ve ran into many foreigners in Kraków, they like Poland and keep coming back. Bottom line is you may not like Poland for what it is, but I’ve got neighbors who are non-white from different parts of the world and love it here. Not gonna try to change your mind about Poland, just keep in mind there’s always two sides ( or more) to every story. Good luck with your trips from a “gloomy,doomy and homophobic” Pole
I was going to ask you if you had non white or non-straight friends Mario. Because it’s very easy to say people are friendly and welcoming when you check all the boxes.
But I’m happy to hear your experience – and those of your non-white neighbors – have been good. People can only base their feelings on their own experiences.
Also totally agree that racism is a 2 way street. As I said, I felt it directed towards me in Brazil. Lissette was fine there. In Poland it was the opposite.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Once again, you have written something that hits close to the bone. This is one reason I keep coming back to your blog: you talk about issues that are not usually discussed, if acknowledged at all, in the travel blogs I have come across.
Hamtramck, a town that is completely surrounded by Detroit, Michigan, where I am from originally, has been a mecca for Polish ex pats for generations. And yes, the racism there is so thick one can cut it with a knife, primarily among the Polish.
I had acquaintances ( called them friends before realizing how right wing they were in 2016) there, originally from Poland. After a couple of drinks, I found them often preoccupied with talking about “the Jewish people” (and how well they treated them, despite thier Jewish ness) back in Poland. I remember dropping one of them off at his parents house more than once; I had to park a block away and was never introduced ( I have Native and African heritage) to his parents.
Today, Hamtramck has accumulated a significant Muslim population, from Bangladesh, Yemen and other places. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people of Polish descent mention how troublesome the “others”are, and that they are “taking over”. Someone taking over a place YOU IMMIGRATED to…the irony is unbearable.
Hamtramck is very racially diverse. I have had mostly positive interactions with Bosnians, Bangladesh, Yemeni, Ukranians, Black and White Americans, as well as others whose ethnicities I cannot identify. It seems the Polish population there is the only group obsessed with pointing out the “inferiority” of people who do not look like them or worship as they do. What you say smacks of a truth most of us do not wish to acknowledge.
I always worry about how I will be received when traveling because of what I look like. People have asked why I enjoy visiting Canada so much. It is simple. There, I am just a man. In Canada, the further from the states I travel, the more normal I feel. It is a shame that I have to go to another country so as to live like a regular human being for a while. I feel more comfortable in Montreal, Toronto, and London than in any state in the USA, my nation of birth. Sad. You are fortunate to have a Canadian passport. Keep writing.
Thanks very much for the feedback FP.
Very interesting what you say. I really don’t have too much exposure to Poles except that I had a Polish guy in Montreal who cut my hair every month or so. So it was a bit of a surprise when we arrived in Poland and felt what we felt. Poland was on our travel list for a few years and we have Polish Facebook friends who seem very nice…but you never know how the general feeling of a place is until you actually go there. It disappointed us.
I’m glad you feel comfortable in Canada. I won’t tell you that every little place is open (there are some small rural towns where you might get looks) but people will never say anything to your face or be rude. That would be very un-Canadian. As far as big cities go, they’re totally multicultural. It’s one of the great things about Canada (not that we’re perfect, but I think it’s a pretty tolerant country generally).
Each person has a different experience, and even if I disagree with you (As I told you before, in Poland I have had only god experiences as spanish person… and I think many polish people genuinely like Spain) I respect that you are honest about your feelings. Things are complicated, because small things as for example the neighbourhood where you stay (and the people who live there) can change dramatically your experience. And the luck is extremely important (for example as I wrote in another comment, in Czech Republic I had really bad luck with many people that I met… and in Poland it was the opossite for me… but I can’t judge because in the end I only met less than 0’001% of the population of these countries!).
Again I disagree with religion; for example, in Spain the regions where people are religious, are usually friendlier than the more secular (people in the south of Spain are much more open and easy going than in the north). People in the balkans are much more friendly than people in Britain (being the Balkans much more religious and conservative than Britain).
When you talk about Ukraine, you have to keep in mind that is a country that is more conservative than Poland: regarding LGTB, genders, etc. You can check the data on the internet. Again, countries that you know like Georgia or Armenia are more much more conservative than poland (in the Caucusus, for example, to see local girls with shorts skirts it’s still rare… compare it to how polish girls dress in summer).
Anyway, to be honest I don’t think that in general the ideology or the religion of a country determines the friendliness of the people (well, with the exception of some extreme cases, for example Saudi Arabia or North Korea… where every aspec in their normal lifes is related with religion or ideology).
Hi Spanish Guy,
It’s more than about religion, it’s the mix of religion and politics. We lived in Croatia 14 months, where they are very religious, and we never faced dirty looks or comments. And as you say, we were in Sevilla for 2 months and people were very welcoming towards Lissette. So much so that, as I’ve mentioned, we’re looking to make Spain home next year. By the way, Lissette was a bit nervous about our stay in Spain after hearing a few negative things. People were great and we found language and not colour to be the uniting factor.
So it’s not just about religion or being conservative.
I agree with you about experiences being subjective. We could go back tomorrow and maybe just have great experiences. But when you are somewhere a month you get a pretty good sample. I disagree with you that you “can’t judge”. We judge everything in our lives, from our experience going to a restaurant, a cafe, or from buying a product. Experiences might not be 100% accurate because every experience is unique (just like going to a restaurant on a day the chef is having a bad day) but it wouldn’t be human nature to have an experience and not form an opinion from it. Besides which, if I didn’t have an opinion what the heck would I write about? 🙂
Tom @ Adventurous Travels
Hi Frank! It was interesting to read your post. A bit sad that you had such an experience. But at the start I want to say that you should not apologize for offending someone with this post! It’s just an opinion. Opinions vary (just like experiences) and everyone is entitled to have one. Even if others don’t like it or “feel” offended by it. This hyper sensitivity drives me crazy nowadays. Everyone is offended and triggered by every little thing. My experiences in some places (Thailand) were horrible while others loved it.
I know Poland had a communist past – I’ve traveled through a lot of countries in Eastern Europe and sometimes the stares are annoying. Krakow is nice and pretty but it’s nothing that special.
Even for me – a local from there, in Krakow, once I went to a restaurant after a hike since I got hungry. Of course, I wasn’t very nicely dressed but the place wasn’t fancy at all. And I heard some dumb people commenting about me and looking at me up and down. Why can’t they just look after their own business. So I understand what you’re saying. On the other hand, I traveled to Poland with my really dark skinned friends from Mauritius/Brazil and they had no problems at all – and they traveled on their own for a couple of days – even to smaller, unknown towns.
When I traveled to countries like Azerbaijan, India or South East Asia, I got a lot of weird looks to as I stood out. But I couldn’t care less 🙂 You should have visited the mountains down south instead of staying in Krakow for so long – it’s a natural paradise. Or go to other cities – I assume the cities in the West are more liberal and free.
Hi Tom! Nice to hear from you, it’s been a while. And I see you’ve been busy writing on some interesting places on your blog.
Thank you so much for your comment, it’s very much appreciated coming from a Pole. Lissette especially appreciates it, having felt like the subject of a lot of stares. She laughed at your “Why can’t they just look at their own business”. Exactly. But more importantly, “I couldn’t care less”. That’ll be her new motto going forward 🙂
The thing is that everyone (bloggers) talks about Krakow and some even compare it to Prague or Budapest. How can you compare Krakow to these two cities? I think these bloggers who go somewhere for 2-3 days are deluded and they actually do a disservice to a place by misrepresenting it. I expected more from Krakow…but that’s not because Krakow is a horrible place (it isn’t) – it’s just not what you expect based on all the hoopla.
Tom @ Adventurous Travels
Hi Frank, yes, I believe Krakow should be treated as a visit in a town – then the expectations wouldn’t be as high. Krakow has its nice parts but to be honest, for me one day is enough to walk all over the old town. Prague is way more grand and also bigger. I haven’t visited Budapest yet although it’s closer for me to go to Budapest than to Warsaw haha. And I must admit I didn’t visit other cities in Poland properly… My favorite will still be the Tatra mountains because of the amazing nature. Yes, I should keep writing but I work full time at the same time and travel. It’s quite difficult – I have so many more places to write about. Next destination is Egypt – what about you?
Egypt?! That should be interesting. I’m off to visit my mom in Mexico in a couple of weeks and then I have a 5 week solo trip to Morocco. Look forward to that.
Where in Poland are you from Tomasz?
I would visit the Tatra mountains but on a solo trip. Hiking not Lissette’s thing. Maybe one day.
I wrote a huge reply, but then I realized that it’s probably not change anything. I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry that you experienced racism but also I am sorry that we didn’t have a chance to talk or to meet. You said you don’t want to generalize and you do it in the next sentence. I think it’s really unfair, and even though I like Krakôw I can’t imagine to be there for one month… It’s not THAT interesting….and I think you missed a lot, its a pity that you did not go to see Mazury, Baltic sea, Tatry mountains and Warsaw! I am sorry that you did not visit JCC in Krakôw, visit us in JCC in Warsaw, talk with some Polish Jew, dig deeper, look broader. Till the next time. Hugs from Warsaw
Hello Aleksandra. Thank you for your comment. I write here about how we travel and why we do it the way we do. How we like a place usually isn’t just about the tourist sights – we were for example in Brno for a month before coming to Krakow ad then in Lviv after Krakow. Both a small cities but we enjoyed them. Previously, when planning, we really expected Poland to be our highlight. Maybe we were unlucky? I don’t know. But thank you for your sentiments.
Anita @ No Particular Place to Go
Sadly, many religions seem to be all about pious superiority accompanied by sweeping judgments, racism and misogyny rather than inclusiveness and charity. Perhaps in Poland, one of the most religious countries in Europe, all that religion is why people are so miserable. (? !)
My thoughts exactly Anita.
In my opinion you are a racist for yourself, becouse you think that you are treated baddly becouse of the color of you skinn.
No, polish people threat themselfes even worse.
All music to my ears. Now I feel better.
I find this entry blog very very shallow, quite disappointing for a proper traveller he really wants to get to know a place and it’s people.
So do you like everyone you meet and get to know Mart? Because places are like people – some you’ll love right away and you’ll know you’ll always love them, some you’ll enjoy for a few days until they wear on you, some you’ll never like no matter how much time you get to know them. And maybe, as in our case, they don’t love you back either.
No, what’s shallow is when bloggers portray everything in a positive light and can’t be honest in recounting their real experiences. Because nobody loves every place they visit.
Well the old lady is the only example I found reading, so you should understand me being upset, when someone calls Poles rasist and intolerant. You can find bad apple among ANY nations, Canadians probably too, does not mean every people are like that. I’m a traveler too, and I was robbed once in Madrid by a gipsy girl Should I hate gipsy people in general, should I have bas feelings about the city? Should I say I’ll never go to Spain because of what happened? No. Because this could happen to me anywhere, just like you could have a bad luck to meet few unfriendly bad apples in Krakow. Does not mean Poles suck and Krakow is not worth a visit.
It’s a pity that our Wawel Castle did not impressed you, or Jewish quarter, but in that case you could easily make a Krakow perfect gateway city, and – if you did not enjoeyd it itself – you could enjoy what’s around it. Rent a car or take the train. Who knows, maybe you would meet some nice Poles? Didi you wen to any museum or gallery tehre are n Krakow? Seriously, nothing moved you? Even rainbow stairs? And yes, I agree that Lviv is awesome, but so what?
Yes, miserable was not what you said, and yet it is in you text as a quote, to prove your point and for me it is hard to read, because I hate when people generalize. It’s like saying that all Americans are stupid, Canadians are polite and French people eat cheese. One could expect more form travel blogger traveling full time for 4 years…
So basically, based on 4 weeks stay in one place you say that Polish people are reliogous and intolerant? Not to mention anti-semits. Thanks!
95% of the posts on this blog are positive on the places we’ve visited. Funny enough my first negative post was on my own province of Quebec. I said Quebeckers can be insular, racist and a bunch of hicks: https://bbqboy.net/road-trip-to-tadoussac-the-saguenay-fjord-and-parc-des-hautes-gorges-de-la-riviere-malbaie/ I said it because it was true. It doesn’t mean they all are, I know many that are not. But I also know a great many that are, especially as you go into rural Eastern Quebec.
In this case I never said Poles were racist, but I did say they were generally unfriendly and that we felt racism. That’s what we felt. It’s not the same as saying Americans are stupid and Canadians are polite.
Again, I’m sorry I offended you. But this is a personal blog and I write about our personal experiences.
Hi Ewa, I spent 3 years in Poland. Is that enough to form an opinion?
I visited all major polish cities except Poznan (well, technically I’ve been there but I have seen it only through the train window).
During my time in Poland I met a lot of Polish people and whether you like it or not, I corroborate author’s opinion. I have often felt unwelcome or looked at negatively especially when Ithey heard me speaking with accent.
Typicall antyreligious, leftwing traveller. Of course Poland is religious country with right wing goverment so they are bad and every leftwing traveller just must write something bad of Poland. Because it is so evil to belive in God and ever worst to be Catholic, and when you have also rightwing goverment it’s means that all country and people are fucked up or in you text it’s something like crime – typicall left wing way of thinking. I am Polish and I live around one year in Prague, all my expat friends who lived in Kraków before and live right now in Prague told me that Polish people are much more friendly and open than Czech, and if in Poland they could earn as much as in Prague, for sure they will move back to Kraków. Racism in Poland because someone looked on you in way you don’t like? Are you crazy or what? How do you know that this women was Polish? Did you ask her, did you spoke with her? You cannot find any proof that Polish people are racists so you wrote some bullshit about “bad look in the eyes”, for me it’s looks like that you read too much antypolish press and before you came here you already got your bad opinion about Poland and this one month you spent to find proof, you couldn’t find any so you wrote some bullshit about racist because someone look on you or your girlfriend in bad way. Isn’t is? All comments people here tried to prove you’re wrong, but you don’t want to listen them, you’ve got your own opinion. If you know history you will know that there is no jews in Poland because 3 mln Polish Jews were killed by Germans durind II WW. In 1968 Soviet Communist in Moscow sent order to Polish goverment to exalie rest of Polish Jews, Poland wasn’t independent state at this time but satellite of USSR, Polish people had to do whatever Moscov said. Something for you ” operation Most”, “Irena Sendlerowa”, “Żegota”. Before II WW the biggest community of Jews in Europe and the second biggest after USA lived in Poland, I know that leftwing people are not good in logic, but how doest it possible that in country of people who you called ” antisemites” lived the biggest olpopulation of Jews in Europe? Cause Polish people are not antysemits, and they refuser colaboration with Germans who killed milions of Jews during II WW? How do you think? Poland was the only country occupied by Germans which refused collaborated with them, only in Poland for hide Jew you received death penalty, because almost no one colaborater with Germans but almost everone hide or helped to hide Jews. For example in France French police helped Germans to catch Jews and sent them to death camps. You don’t need to belive you can check all this facts in internet or in books. Start from “Żegota” and Irena Sendlerowa. Did you know that half of people honored by Izrael Jad VaShen institute for helped save Jews are Polish?
I think I’ve addressed most of the above in other comments so I won’t repeat myself here.
So I already had a bad opinion of Poland and wanted to spend a month here to find proof? Yes, that makes a lot of sense.
I didn’t bring up collaboration. But since you did maybe you should do some reading.
Your version of history is exactly what the government would have you believe.
Well, you guys have spent a month in Krakow and all you saw was the Old Town, Wawel castle, and Kazimierz, Nowa Huta and tried sausage and vodka? Well, sorry my friend don’t blame Krakow for your bad expieriences – blame yourslef! There is so much more to do – expecially when you are longer than just for a weekend. Research before the trip or while you were there and you’re good. What about Wieliczka? One day trip to Zalipie? Lanckorona? Przegorzały Castle? – I can really keep going …
Of course I don’t want to tell you how to feel, but rasizm is VERY strong word and staring old lady is all you base this statement at?
Most miserable people ever? Really? Have you met ALL the people? That is sad when someone gives this general statements.. It’s irresponsible, and as a travel blogger you should think more about the consequences of your words.
Also what is your problem with us being religious? It’s not like we are the only one in Europe/world?! By the way number of churches vs. people with faith = 2 different things, you should think about it.
Sorry I offended you Ewa but it’s a blog, which means its our personal experiences. As I say, we’ve travelled full-time for 4 years and in all that time Krakow is the place where we’ve felt the most unwelcome. Of course it’s not one old lady as I’ve mentioned above.
All the places you mention are either on the outskirts of Krakow or towns outside Krakow. We walked ALL over Krakow. Sorry we weren’t impressed. We found Lviv much more impressive (and the people there very friendly).
“miserable” wasn’t what I said if you re-read above. And as I did say, we also met some very nice people along the way.
I didn’t compare the number of churches with the people of faith. Tons of European countries have lots of churches and are no longer religious. What I did say was that Poland was the most religious country in Europe which is documented here. I also have no problem with religious people when they’re tolerant, the problem I have with religion is when they aren’t.
I agree with you, Ewa. There are many more things to see in Krakow than what was mentioned in this blog. What about the underground museum under the old town in Krakow? What about the Schindler museum? There’s also the old synagogue as well as all the beautiful churches. There are art museums, the ethnographic museum and many more things, all within walking distance. There were free concerts in the summer in old town. I was there for 7 weeks and I never ran out of things to do, plus you can easily and inexpensively get on a train and go to other cities.
This post wasn’t meant to be a guide, I cover the highlights of Krakow here.
You travelled to Poland to spend a month in Krakow? You didn’t visit anywhere else?
What a monumental waste of time
We’re full time travellers. It’s how we travel: https://bbqboy.net/about-us/
Being Polish and originally from Krakow, I have mixed feelings about your experience. I guess Budapest is more exciting and so are lots of other places in Europe. Still, I studied in the old town and believe me I had something to do every day and was never bored. The list of tourist attractions is made to cater to a typical 2-7-day traveller. Had you made some friends, they would have taken you to many more atmospheric places.
The people and racism. Indeed, there is some negative sentiment about skin colour these days. My guess is Lisette must have been taken for a Muslim and people were surprised to see her without a hijab 9e something. This is bad enough but here in Poland many cannot understand why Germans want to invite to Europe and impose on us, too, an uncontrollable influx of millions of people who hate our way of life, create ghettos and stage terrorist attacks, whose victims include Polish people in the West. Hence, possibly, the looks. I can only speculate it must have coincided with the recent immigrant crisis and Poland-bashing in the EU. The “antisemitic symbols” were what Wisla fans spray against the supporters of Cracovia, who have a nickname “Jews”. The rivalry is fierce and violent, for many reasons. OK, it means that Wisla fans do not like Jews if they use the symbol as an offensive label. But Cracovia hooligans call themselves Jude Gang, so if you have been beaten by these thugs, you will spray the star of David on the gallows.
I was also captivated by your political (and religious) comments that show you blame Poland for “rewriting” history. I thought it sounded like American and German propaganda these days. Here in Poland we have had enough of being blamed for what was not our fault during WWII by people who thus want to.force us to pay hundreds of billions of dollars worth of compensation for what we are not guilty of or what, as a country, we have settled already in internationally accepted ways.
With so many negative preconceptions about things that typify so many Poles (e.g. religiousness, lack of.political correctness) perhaps the locals felt you just did not like them?
I have just completed my sixth month in China and have encountered a lot of rude behaviour in Shanghai. I’d never try to generalize about that place in a negative sense,though, just because some people stared at me, did not want to give me a leaflet or pushed their way ahead of me on the subway.
Still, I can fully understand you do not want to go back. I do not want to excuse people who behaved badly. We have never been a very polite nation, sadly. Still, normally, and in Krakow in particular, people are welcoming of foreigners.
I actually agree with you on Merkel and the mistake of opening Europe’s doors to migrants, most young men with no documentation. Having said that, I’m a big believer in multiculturalism. Being “taken for a Muslim” is exactly the point. That’s unfortunately how Lissette felt. Reminds me of recent news stories from the US where some Sikhs were murdered for being mistaken as Muslim (“funny thing on head, dark skinned, must be Muslim”). It’s ignorance.
The rewriting of history is very recent and there was no mention of compensation. It just seems to be about current-day politics. And that’s why I’ve included it.
I’d never want to compare with rudeness in China. In that respect I don’t think the Poles can compete 🙂
Indeed Frank, there is a lot of ignorance about multiculturalism (and Islam in particular) in Poland, but this is because the only Muslims we used to have until recently were the Tartars. There are so few of them and they have blended in so much that we tend not to notice them. Most of the knowledge we have comes from the West and our people hardly mix with the liberal, educated Muslims as most Poles tend to do blue-collar jobs and live in poorer areas close to Muslim no-go zones. The rest comes from propaganda: both the PC “religion of peace” mantra and the anti-Muslim hate speech. It would really take the kind of travelling experience you and me have to appreciate multiculturalism in its nice form, which most pe0ple simply cannot have, even if, as is the case in Krakow, more than 75% have higher education.
Enjoy Lviv, with its largely Polish heritage ;-). Sure, to be clear, Ukrainians deserve their own country, even though the way they allow themselves to be ruled pushes millions out of their country. This is another case in point: there are an estimated 1.5 million of them living and working in Poland and the treatment they are getting is probably better than what is being made out of and done about our 1m immigrants in the UK. Overall, considering the troubled history between us and the Ukrainians, we are indeed doing our best to be inclusive, tolerant and fair.
PS. Bill no 447 was passed in the US senate in December, 2017. Our “rewriting of history” is a somewhat recent but also late reaction to outward lies and extortion attempts. It had never got so tough before as we did not want to alienate our “strategic partner”, with its very sensitive stance on some issues. I’d be more cautious using a broad brush to paint quite subtle and complex pictures.
Disappointing to see you agreeing with Leslaw and not condemning the hideous Islamaphobic treatment of someone if they happen to be an innocent muslim.
Everyone deserves a place in this world with the freedom to view it, the actions of a few do not represent the majority. An innocent muslim traveller deserves just as many rights as you and does not deserve bad treatment period!
No, you’re putting words in my mouth.
I don’t agree the policies of Merkel that opened the doors of Europe to undocumented migrants. But I don’t agree with any Ismamaphobic treatment. As I’ve said, I’m a big believer in multiculturalism. It totally agree with your 2nd paragraph and never said anything contrary to that.
Ps. I’m allowing this comment. But I see you’re leaving other comments with a fake name which says a lot.
You spend a month in Krakow? It’s no wonder you have a negative opinion about Poland. Get out and see the rest of the country, it’s one of the most beautiful and welcoming countries in the world and they might stare at people but they certainly don’t have guns and kills people. Poland has the lowest terrorist attacks rate in Europe since 2001. Countries like the USA, Germany and England could learn a lot from Poland.
It’s the way we travel Jonny. Before Krakow we stayed a month in Brno, since Krakow a month in Lviv. We enjoyed both Brno and Lviv even if neither fall on many lists. But never took to Krakow.
True about violence but I can say the same about most of Europe. We’ve spent the last 4 years mostly in Europe (mostly Eastern Europe/Balkans) and never an issue. I kind of chuckle to myself when I get comments from Americans asking how safe it is travelling in places like Croatia, Bosnia, or Macedonia…
Polish Girl :)
So sorry to hear about your experiences. I’m Polish, right after high school I moved to England and then to Warsaw after 6 years. I know that every experience is different, when I lived in London a lot of Poles said they experienced a lot of xenophobia and “you’re stealing our jobs” kind of behaviour in the U.K., where I never had that, not even a single occurrence. Still, I grew up in a little town in western Poland where it was totally different for my foreign friends than it is in Warsaw. I’m surprised that you experienced so much of the “little town” mentality in Krakow. This is not to say all little towns have that problem, but they are certainly more likely to. Perhaps the fact that there are groups of tourists coming to krakow a lot for cheap stag parties and doing a lot of harm has made people hostile towards foreigners, which, especially for a touristic city like that, I think would be a terrible shame. Still, I am ashamed to say racism IS on the rise with the current government turning the blind eye on it, and it hurts me every time I see it. Even though most of my foreigner friends are not experiencing any harmful looks or actions in poland, it would be a lie to deny that there are a lot of Poles who are closed minded and stupid that way. I always wondered why that was, we always seem to be divided in this country, on one side you have incredibly open, friendly, loving people, on the other hostile, racist ignorants. I think it’s an inferiority complex mixed with distrust – if you look at our history, we were betrayed and attacked by our neighboring countries multiple times. Sadly a lot of people seem to forget that it was a different era, and many decades ago. On behalf of the open minded ones of us Poles, I’m sorry. I hope you will at some point in the future make a choice to come back to Poland, maybe a different city, and have a better experience. Please, and I thank you for acknowledging that, don’t judge all of us on the actions of some, and again I’m sorry about your experience xxx
That is a lovely comment Polish Girl. I really appreciate hearing a local’s perspective. Of course I know the history but you’ve put it in a Pole’s perspective and I think it’s very helpful for the outsider.
We’ve compared Poland to some of the other places we’ve visited in this post. But the truth is that no place is immune to hostile and racist people, including places we come from. Lissette faced some of the same glares in rural Quebec (I was born in rural Quebec. The mentality is not much different than you describe in little town Poland). She also lived 20 years in the USA (she was born in NY) and faced more racism there than she’s faced in all our travels. The racism that’s come out under Trump has always existed, he’s just given it legitimacy.
Thank you for your comment, I read it to lissette and she was moved. As I said in the post, it’s usually the nice people we end up remembering in the end 🙂
Interesting what you say about Ukraine too. When I lived there, I found Ukrainians to be quite rude and cold. More so women than men, not sure why that would be, maybe they don’t trust or think foreigners are only there to meet women? Sadly I have had more negative experiences with people in Ukraine and it’s one reason why I won’t return. I have just moved to Poland and hope I have a better experience than you!
I find your comment quite surprising Daniel. We’ve found people very warm in the Ukraine. And the women are gorgeous and friendly.
Oh well, everyone has a different experience!
Everyone’s experience is different. I am an Indian girl living in Poland for about 3 years and I have personally never faced such situations. It’s true that people stare sometimes but it’s just out of curiosity and get a good look to see how people from the rest of the world looks like. That’s not necessarily racism. Most people who stared at your wife has probably never seen a latino women. While one might interpret it as racism or hate, it doesn’t necessarily have to be right.
I have a couple of thins that I’d like to point out in your article.
” Going through the church, we walked into the back chapel. Back there, standing and sitting in silence were almost a hundred people, most young in the 20’s and 30’s. I couldn’t figure it out. Lissette did though. “They’re waiting their turn to confess”. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” – Not sure what is so unusual about this. Poles are catholic and they like to pray and go for confessions regularly. As a foreigner this is probably something new for you and from reading what you wrote you were probably surprised and potentially may have “stared” at what they were doing there. This is the same curiosity some old polish ladies may have when they see your wife.
That being said, not sure how to interpret this line “Lissette has always been more forgiving about religion”. She’s been more forgiving because it’s something awful and she’s been kind enough to forgive???
You’re right that it doesn’t have to be right. And she’s been stared at in other places. But usually a person will smile when they’ve been caught staring. What she felt was “unfriendly staring”. And again, you could be right. But when you’re on the receiving end you usually get a feeling whether it’s friendly or not.
About my comment. I touch on my thoughts on religion on the link I included in that paragraph. Summarizing in short: I don’t have tolerance for the intolerance of religion. Lissette was raised a Catholic, she see’s the good sides of religion and is also more “forgiving” of the negatives. That’s what I meant there.
We lived a year in Croatia which is very Catholic as well. But we never got stared at in a negative way. And about the confessions – I’m talking about the numbers. Never saw as many people waiting to confess at any given time as we did in Krakow. I was just making a point about the level of religiosity.
Anyway, glad to hear about your positive experiences. A few other people have said the same so that’s good to hear. It won’t change our experiences or personal feelings but it’s good to know that maybe we were maybe in the minority and not the majority.
Was very surprised by this. I am a black woman and I fell in love with Poland when I went there for the first time. Krakow was WOW and Warsaw was even better. So much so I decided to move there and I did for 1.5 years and would move back in a heartbeat if the political wind hadn’t shifted as much as it did. People stared at me yes, but I wouldn’t call that racism per se. Many older people in Eastern Europe especially are not used to seeing non-whites. If you went to many cities in Asia not only will people BLATENLY stare at you for not being Asian, they will also take photos without your permission and you would be all over their Wechat application– but I digress. I never faced racism in Poland, in my entire 1.5 years living in Warsaw. People were very kind to me and I made many, many Polish friends. I left my heart in Poland and as soon as the political winds change again for the better I just may go back.
Thanks for the feedback Samantha. Kemkem (a black blogger who we know well. She commented above) felt like we felt in Warsaw. But she had no issues in Krakow. It’s funny to see how different people have different experiences.
Blacks in Asia – yes. We haven’t had issues (Lissette pretty fair skinned) but have heard much the same.
I’m Brazilian, and I been living in Warsaw for 7 months and been travelling many times to Poland. And I haven’t felt racism or haven’t had any bad experiences. There are three things that a lot of people mistake to being something racist or xenophobic but its not… 1) Polish people have hard faces and love staring. Its not because you look different or you’re black, they just love staring at anyone. For old people staring is what they do all the time, its like a sport. And they don’t stare because they are afraid or think you will rob them, its just something they do. Staring is not considered unpolite and parents never teach kids not to stare. 2) People providing services are just rude, its a fact. It comes from comunist time that people that are providing a service don’t put any effort in making the service better. On the other side, hardly someone in a shop will be looking at you because they think you’re going to rob them, they will ignore you and maybe only look when you are paying. 3) If your’re speaking english or other foreign languages in public transport people will give you a hard stare or may even scream at you. But the problem is not the language, the problem is that you’re suppose to be very quiet in public transport, so if you talk you should do it in very low voice and only pickup your phone in emergecies, and speak in very low voice. The same goes for any social behavior that is not acceptable (i.e. trying to enter public transport first before people exit, not giving a seat to older people or pregnant women, not respecting lines, not cleaning after yourself, being too loud in open spaces, not following road rules, etc)
Thank you for taking the time to comment Caio. We didn’t have issues with either bad service or people yelling at us (we try to be considerate in public 🙂 ). But the staring at Lissette was a constant and it wasn’t in a friendly way. And staring is something we know about (my mom is German, staring is something they do as well). I know what you’re saying and intentions can be misconstrued…but it didn’t feel like that in Krakow.
Again, our experience and our opinions. Glad to hear you’ve had better experiences.
Staring at Lissette couldn’t have been driven by any form of racism. First, there are Polish women with Lissette’s complexion / skin color. Second, on first look people would think she is either Italian or Spanish. No one in Poland has any hard feelings towards either nation – in fact we like them. Poles on average like most nations except Russians and Germans, but that is for obvious reasons.
I think the photos might be misleading Andy – when there’s sun she gets a deep tan and can even pass as a light Indian. She can pass the whole range from Italian/Spanish to Indian.
Honestly I think she looks quite different from most Polish women. I think Lewslaw above has it right, probably mistaken for a Muslim.
Caio, you got me here 🙂 🙂 I never considered Poles to be a staring nation but after reading your comment I started thinking and analysing every day situations and I guess you are right. In public transport or institutions, parks, restaurants we look at people. I do! I also catch stare of other people, sometimes they catch me looking at them. But I never thought it was a cultural trait 🙂 Why we look at people? I have no idea. Because people are interesting? Because you have nothing better to do at the time? Because we are a low-trust nation (keep strangers at a distance before they earn our trust) also you evaluate if you want to get into interaction with the person or not? Because it is regarded polite to show interest to people as an opposite to keeping you nose in your mobile? Normally when I catch someones eye I either ignore it or smile, but it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I remember I once saw a mother and a daughter, mother was white, daughter was black but they had the same face they were so alike. I was so fascinated to see how face features translate from one race to another I couldn’t take my eyes from them. Ups, you made me feel sorry for them now 😉 And I thought I was very discreet 😀 😀 But is it really unique to Poland? I often travel to USA, people there are even more upfront. They would stare at you quite openly, and even approach you, ask you questions you consider private and reseved for close friends and definitely not for strangers.
Been to several cities in Poland. My experience proved Krakow to be the friendliest one compared to Warsaw, Lublin, Poznan and Wroclaw. I met an Italian guy who had lived in Krakow for five years and never had any issues being a foreigner and who never learned any ‘Dzien dobry’ or ‘czesc’ or ‘dziekuje’, not a single Polish word but somehow managed to live there. I spent some time in the Czech Republic and Hungary. Too much snobism in Prague, very open and friendly people in Budapest. I enjoyed Hungary for its people. I don’t want to return to Prague. So… we all have our own experiences. I felt comfortable in Krakow, less comfortable in Warsaw, far less in Prague although it was beautiful and nice.
Totally agree about the Budapest. The people make it one of our favorite cities.
Prague. We’ve stayed 6 times for a combined 4 months and I know how they come across. The first time we stayed in a working class neighborhood outside the center and thought people were cold and kind of miserable. But it was never because of race or being foreigners. We’ve stayed in more middle class neighborhoods on our most recent visits and people have been great and we’ve seen a totally different side of the Czechs. Actually like them now generally speaking, but you can still get an encounter where someone outright rolls their eyes at you and sighs like they’re doing you a big favor…
For us Poland was about being different and that’s what I have issue with. Some lesbian bloggers we know mentioned the same thing to us. So maybe it all depends on who you are and your sexual orientation.
Funny, we met a few Italians in Krakow. I wonder what draws them there?
Hi Frank. Thanks for accepting my subscription to your blog. I used to be all alone while in Krakow and so, I can’t relate to your experience as a couple. As for Prague, I’ve been there twice. I assume it’s not enough to make a clearer picture. That’s just what I felt.
Italians… The guy I met there had his business in Krakow. I met a Ukrainian business lady in Krakow who had lived there for five years, too, and yet she did not speak Polish though understood it well. In my opinion, the city is very friendly to foreigners compared to other Polish cities, although there are, just like everywhere else, some people who ruin the overall amicable atmosphere.
I’d love to hear your opinion on Ukraine. I used to live there and can relate to your feelings about it being open-hearted and friendly.
We’ve been in Lviv a month and love the place. For us it’s everything Krakow is not. We were nervous coming further east after Krakow. They’ve blown our socks off and we can honestly say it’s one of the friendliest places we’ve encountered. And stunning and unique. Buildings are crumbling, streets all have those cobblestones (really hurts the feet!), you see old Russian built cars everywhere. But it’s the people. Almost Latin in temperment. And the women are stunning.
We’ve joined a gym and Lissette takes her aerobics classes everyday and has only been received with warmth. We’re always looking for non-Schengen bases and Lviv is a place we’ll be coming back to. Living is easy, inexpensive, people are warm, and it really is pretty. We’re thinking of maybe coming back next summer. I’ll be writing a lot on Lviv in tehe next little while.
We’ll be in Kiev next week and don’t know what that will be like. I’m told people a bit less friendly. But we’ll be there a month and look forward to that as well.
Where did you live in the Ukraine Greg? And how long? And what brought you here? Just curious, don’t mean to be snoopy 🙂
I spent three years in Kyiv, the capital, and then five years in Kherson, South of Ukraine. I was a missionary 🙂 I learned some Ukrainian and Russian back then. I found Ukrainians to be open-hearted and friendly everywhere. Of course, you can meet some hostility in any country, and Ukraine is not an exclusion. I had several unpleasant encounters but, overall, my eight-year experience proved to be nice, mostly thanks to local people.
Ah, you’re a Ukrainian expert then! That’s a lot of time spent here. I’m impressed you learned some of the language.
Thanks for the comments Greg, I’ll be writing about Ukraine in the next little while.
Agness of eTramping
It was very interesting to read such a perspective of exploring Krakow, Frank. Sorry to hear about such experience but I am also aware that we can’t love every place we visit!
I know you guys are Polish Agness. Sorry to be negative on your homeland, I know you and Cez are open minded and don’t fit the generality I portrayed. I’d be very interested though on your thoughts as Poles. We were there a month so impressions are impressions…
Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels
I’ve never been to Poland and Krakow is definitely on my to visit list. of course, it’s different to visit it for the weekend than to stay a whole month. but I’m surprised to read about your awful experience.
Tanja, if you have a chance go to Lviv instead.
Love Lviv and the people have been fantastic. Besides, it’s a place most people don’t go because they’ve never heard about it…
I admire your honesty Frank and that you are not scared of being criticised for it. The people we meet along the way make a huge impact on how we perceive a place. I have never been to Poland, so can’t comment. But I remember Rome being full of very rude encouters and being shouted at few times by very impatient Italians. Customers service there was the worst I have ever experienced…yet I loved Rome and will go back there in the future for sure. Poland is not top of my list, but it is a country I would like to explore some time in the future, although will not be in a hurry to get there? My experience of Polish people here in England has been very positive, they are extremely hard working and effective.
I’ve met quite a lot of Polish people in Canada Gilda and as you say they are known to be good moral people and extremely hard workers. I think that is what they are really known for.
I don’t like criticizing a nation of people. But if someone goes to a restaurant and gets screamed at, they’ll complain on Trip Advisor about it right? If we spend a month somewhere and people are intentionally being nasty I think it’s good to be honest about that as well. In the end I’m writing about our experiences and I’d be doing a disservice both to ourselves and readers I think.
You’re right service in Rome not great. We didn’t have any bad experience but sure is stressful all the lines you have to get into to get service in Italy. They should bring in a bunch of Germans to organize things 😉
Thank you for frankness, Frank. (Your name obliges you.)
I have never been in Poland and I guess I will never go there. I thought so even before reading of this post.
Why’s that Victor?
Your post answers this question, Frank.
Who likes places where he/she isn’t welcome? I can’t even imagine people who may not like such a pretty woman as your wife.
Awww. Thank you Victor. You just made her day.
You are a great guy Victor. What is a point of not visiting a country which you don’t find interesting? Comment of some guy who spend a month in a city and thinks he knows it all about history and mentality of the Poles. That is a funny thing. How Poles in general could be racist if they don’t have barely experience of colour folks? Is the fact that 99,9% of Poles are white and of polish nationality makes us racists or it is caused by WWII when 1/3 of country’s population was ethnicly diversed. Guess what?? That 1/3 wasn’t killed by ”racist” Poles. Giving a comment about antisemithism based on a Kraków experience is not a good thing when you don’t know the whole story. There is a civil war beetwen 2 Largest football crews involving murders and one of this group is called „Jewish Gang” (Some of Cracovia players where Jewish). So anti Jewish signs are ment for the other fans. Yes it is stupid, but that is the story. If you are keen on polish antisemithism, try to hear other part of the story. Interesting that Jews lived in Poland in large Numbers for hundred of years and if Poles where So damn antisemithic, there would be no holocaust on Polish soil cause all Jews would be gone. Try to think of it.
Wojtek – I didn’t say that I know all about the history and mentality of the Poles. But based on our experience, why would we want to return? Do you think it’s pleasant going somewhere and being greeted by unfriendly stares?
Forget all the other stuff. That’s what it comes down to.
Interesting about the response based on age. When dealing with whole country, we can only generalize. There are always specific places which are different.
The under 40’s tends to be the most friendly.
I found the same in England–a lot. It’s the single most unfriendly country I’ve lived in, worked or visited. Most of it class based as well, with the native middle class being the worst (immigrants are okay generally speaking). There are some areas which are friendly though, but they are few and far between.
Yes, I think you’re right, generally speaking.
Surprised about England. But I haven’t spent enough time there…we are planning a couple of months next year in the UK though which will include at least a month in England.
I may or may not be here Frank. If I am, let me know and we’ll meet up.
Will let you know when we plan to be there Ted 🙂
Interesting to read the comments from the Spanish guy above. We visited Krakow for a week and couldn’t have had a better experience. We both loved it and didn’t feel any hostility at all, at least that l noticed and even thought..yeah.. I could live here. Just goes to show you how experiences can differ, and we stayed at an AirBnB about 20 minutes walk from the center among the locals. Warsaw though.. No thank you! I felt extremely unwanted there and got the stares and rudeness pretty much at every turn. I wrote about it and l got someone write me too who felt l was being harsh and she never experienced anything but love..blah..blah. I had to explain to her because bless her heart, she was blond and of course had nothing to worry about. It was hard for her to fathom that people could be reacting to my black skin. We travel with such baggage that doesn’t occur to most. I travel without fear and intend to keep on traveling, but as a mixed couple..yeah..there are some snags. I’m sorry you had to encounter such crap, but we gotta keep doing it :-). I have had other black women say they had an amazing time in Warsaw..so you just never know.
Ah, so your Warsaw was our Krakow.
Well, that’s the thing about experiences right? It’s like our trip in Brazil back in 2007 which I’ll never forget. But ask people and many will tell you they love the Brazilians, that they’re outgoing and friendly…
Maybe if I went back after 10 years I would have a totally different experience and would come back loving the place. But I doubt it. And why go back to a place where you had nothing but negative experiences?
For us a month in Krakow (and Poland) was enough. Maybe we got unlucky. But we just don’t feel the need to go back. It just left us with a negative impression.
interesting post Frank. I liked Poland on the whole, but obviously didnt have Lisette’s experience. I had a little romance with a girl there…. so that obviously impacted how I felt about the place. I liked Krakow, but as you said there is not an abundance of things to do and see there – however there is that Salt Mine! Also, it was 2004 and the tourist number in general in Eastern Europe were not what they are today. The language is impossible. the younger people were friendlier in Krakow but outside of there I found it hard to find people to talk to.
Yes, the Salt mine – I left it for the last week and then found out tickets were all sold out. Happened for a few other things as well, wanted to visit the underground for example and the soonest we could do it was 2 days later.
As you say, just a whole lot more people visiting these days.
Ah, a foreign romance. Nothing makes you feel better about a place 🙂 Plus you get shown around by a local.
Now these wildly different sentiments are really interesting. Perhaps its generational? I too am looking forward to hearing about your time in Ukraine.
I think younger people for sure more open, plus they speak more English and more willing to communicate with foreigners. I think that’s true everywhere.
The Ukraine has been great so far. Very impressed. And people have been very friendly.
Frank Poland was filled with various people Ukrainians, Armenians, Tatars, Belarusians and Jews until very recently.. some of these people can be much darker than your average dark Pole (or other dark East/South/Central Euro)… older Polish people are really not “racist” in the way you would find many old people in the west. First of all again, their view of race is different.. and unless you are very obviously non-Caucasoid looking (or if you’re obviously distinctly Middle Eastern and dark).. than they probably wouldn’t perceive you as different much less non-Euro.. and this is the case with Lissette.. even if they thought Lissette wasn’t Polish, they wouldn’t think she was non-European… trust me on this. That’s what I mean that the construct of race is broader in parts of Eastern Europe as they don’t have the defined “whiteness” as people in the west and Americas do. Polish people, when racist, are usually so when it comes to culture.. and they can be xenephobic (regardless of race). I’ll be honest.. if Lissette was visibly what would be considered black… than that might be another issue because anti-blackness is global and a lot of older people are influenced by the media, and are more likely to “other” visibly black people (I mean people who are much darker and non-Europeanish in their looks than Lissette), and be scared of them due to the negative stereotypes. But I actually don’t think this is common at all either, my girlfriend is also Brazilian however she is what we call a “Mulata” and outside of stares.. she hasn’t experienced any negative things from old people. The only bad experiences she has had was with a young dude on the train, and it was vague, in fact she had a worse experience in Spain where the racism was blatant.
Also since you commented about Ukraine, I can tell you if you didn’t experience the same in Ukraine, than I can 100% assure you that it was misunderstanding. Because Ukrainians are the same way as Poles in that respect, but even more removed due to being less developed as a country.
I’m sorry Lissette was made to feel that way, but I hope you guys understand that it had nothing to do with “appearances” and more to do with a specific culture in Poland. That’s all.
Ok, I can’t keep up with all your writing so I’m trying to answer both of your different comments in one shot.
As I say, we were in Krakow. I don’t recall seeing dark Poles. As far as Lissette is concerned she can pass for anything: she can pass for Spanish, Italian, Indian. She could easily pass for Brazilian as she has the kinky hair thing going. She passes as mixed in South Africa. She can pass as one of the many gypsys we’ve seen in parts of Eastern Europe. But she can also very easily pass as Muslim. In many ways she’s lucky because whereever we go she’ll fit in more than I do.
I don’t think I ever said Latinos was a “race”, I’m identifying her as Latina because that’s what she is. So are you saying that because Latino is not a race that you’re not categorizing it as “racism” but as “cultural”? Hmmm, that might be just playing with words…
You also mention Hungary. I think more than comparing country to country, you have to compare towns to cities. We’ve spent a lot of time in Budapest and people were always exceedingly friendly without a trace of racism. We spent a week in Eger (a small town) and they were fine there too even though she did get a few more looks. But the Hungarians are generally also darker than the Poles. We met a lot of golden skinned Hungarians with kinky hair. I read all the comments you make about darker skinned people in Poland but I didn’t see any of that in Krakow. In Krakow she stood out. She didn’t in Hungary.
You can argue with our experience as much as you want Marek but it won’t change our experience. Ukrainians were very friendly towards her and towards us, both in Lviv and Kiev. Poles in Krakow were not. You can call it racism or culturalism or whatever you want to call it. But it doesn’t change the fact that it was a negative experience for her.
Oh…another comment from you. I’ll reply to that later, agree with most of it. But I have to get away from the computer for a little while.
Thanks for the comments.
I was in Wroclaw… but I also traveled around the country. It’s interesting to read a different point of view. For spanish students, Poland it’s the most popular spot for erasmus (this scholarship that you get in your last year of University)… so many spanish students (mostly boys) go there to study one year… many of them come back with a polish girlfriend. When I was in Poland I was a spanish teacher and I had a lot of work… latin culture in Wroclaw it’s a big thing especially among polish young girls: for example, you can find there many salsa clubs… For this reason, I find your experience really surprising… I could imagine some hostility against muslims… but I would have never imagined something like the things to write. Also I dated some polish girls: they were Catholics but also quite open minded… they had gay friends… and I didnt see a big difference to be honest between them and other girls that I have dated in western countries…
Maybe because you’re younger and met other younger people? Also if you’re going to university chances are you’re meeting other students. University students universally more open minded. And if those girls going to Salsa class you know they’re not praying every night 🙂
Most of the time we felt the hostility from older people. It was a working class neighborhood, slightly older, not many tourists.
Thanks for your feedback, nice to hear a different experience.
I was going to mention the age. I found some rude polish people but usually they were much older. I remember being yelled a couple of times in the train station by ladies in their 60’s… I had similar experiences in other eastern European countries… the same with the customer service, some people who grew up during comunism still don’t get the concept of customer service… anyway I’m looking forward to read your experiencies about Ukraine.
Now that sounds like our experience 🙂
Polish people in customer service sectors are definitely very rude.. and they always look miserable. It’s just a part of the culture.. funny enough this is my experience with Polish Brazilians who are less assimilated and Polish north Americans. Polish people (and other East Euros) also rarely smile.. and think its weird when westerners do all the time.
I agree with that, very true. Especially North Americans tend to be overly (fake) friendly.
I find your comment about girls who go to salsa class are not “praying every night” extremely unsettling and disturbing. I have to say, I’ve followed your blog for a while but just realized this is totally uncalled for. What the hell? Someone can enoy salsa and pray every night, what does one have to do with the other? I’m incredibly disturbed by this! I’m latina, learning salsa comes from a very young age, I’m not personally a religious person but close to people who are Christian/Catholics and them knowing salsa or not has nothing to do with what they do/don’t at nighttime. It’s been a few years, just came to your blog to re-eead your post about Poland as I’m planning to move there next year, but I’m not coming back. Just wanted to say that because of these opinions/thoughts, women who dance are often sexualized. And no, having a wife who is latina does not make your comment acceptable.
You obviously don’t understand my comment. What I’m saying is that a Polish girl who takes Salsa lessons is obviously not the insulated, nationalistic type that I’ve described in the post. How you came to your conclusion on my comment is beyond me honestly.
I guess that every experience it’s different. I was living for 6 months in Poland and people were extremely friendly with me. I’m spanish, and polish people were really interested in Spain and spanish culture. I made some latinos friends (colombians and mexicans) and they were really enjoying their time in Poland. Polish girls really find them attractive, when we were going out polish girls were really complimenting their dark skin… to be honest, I only have nice words for polish people… I felt really welcomed there. Five years later all my latinos friends are married with polish girls and live there… and in one week I’m going to the wedding of a spanish friend in Poland. Each person has a different experience so I understand your words… even if for me it’s almost difficult to believe because my experience in Poland was totally different. Five years after I left Poland some of my best friends are polish. For me it was much more complicated to make friends when I was living in Czech Republic. Anyway, it’s interesting to read a different opinion. I think in Spain in general, there is a kind of simpathy towards polish people… in fact, polish immigrants in Spain enjoy a good reputation and they are considered very hardworking.
Hi Spanish Guy,
Wow! I’m really impressed and also surprised. Where in Poland?
Whereas we’ve never had issues in the Czech Republic. We spent the previous month in Brno and everything was great. And we’ve spent a combined 6 months in Prague with never an issue .
I’m happy for you and that’s good to hear. But in our case there’s no denying it. It wasn’t one day or one bad experience…it was a constant.
Hardworking? Yes, definitely. They are hard working.
Thank you for the feedback.
You cant take Krakow as an example for the entire country. The Same happens in France, People in Paris are terrible and unfriendly. But if you go to smaller towns things change completely.
And back up all that Spanish Guy said, as I have a similar experience as him!
Also I dont like krakow very much! to much tourism!
I think much has to do with your circle – in the case of Spanish Guy he was a student. So he would have met younger people who are much more open generally. Which is a good thing, it means the mentality changing with the new generations.
Most of the hostility we felt were by older people in our neighborhood.
Good to know someone else not crazy about Krakow!
As a Polish inhabitant of Warsaw who is often in Krakow I can just say your description corresponds well with the way Warsaw inhabitants see Krakow.
Also, unpleasant staring at anything different is a cultural trait unfortunately.
Thank you for the feedback Wojtek. Is Warsaw more cosmopolitan?
Frank, I’m sorry but I don’t think you saw many Polish people if you think Lissette stands out like a sore thumb, trust me.. I’m a Brazilian of Polish descent living most of my life in Poland.. and this is the second time I seen you make such a odd comment, first time was when you said you stood out as a “white man” in Brazil (LOL).. where white people are on of the largest groups. I think maybe you guys need to stop blaming appearances and understand the culture? Starring is part of Polish culture.. I look like your typical Polish person but when I get on a rural bus all of the old ladies star at me… it’s typical (also you said Germans do.. but this is actually not true these days at least, a lot of Germans have told me that Polish people are weird for starring).. but starring is TYPICAL of all of Eastern Europe.
We’re very used to travelling in Eastern Europe, have a look around the blog. We’ve spent a combined 7 months in the Czech Republic, spent 2 months in Ukraine…but the 1 month in Poland is where we’ve gotten the most unfriendly looks (Lissette specifically) anywhere. And I’m not sure what you mean – but Lissette does look closer to a Brazilian than she would a typical Pole. And I’m sorry, but it wasn’t the typical stare in Krakow. She knows what she felt.
You probably landed here after coming from my Brazil post which is why we’re talking about colour again (by the way, I’ve got about 350 posts on this blog and these are the only 2 that I recall where I mentioned skin color as an issue). Just mentioning that in case people think race and skin tones are something we obsess about.
But in the case of Brazil, when I mentioned being white it was in the context of being identified as “American”. That trip dates back over 10 years when there was quite a lot of tension over the whole new reciprocal Visa thing. There was anti-American sentiment at the time. I know there are lots of white Brazilians (although I don’t remember so many in Rio?) but they don’t all look like tourists…
So, you’re of Polish descent living in Poland (so you would fit right in colour-wise) but I guess you lived most of your life in Brazil. Does that mean you have an accent? Or did your parents always speak to you in Polish? Do you fit in seamlessly in Poland?
Secondly, I would not think Lissette was foreign. Also you keep referring to Latinos as a race.. when they’re not, lol. See the thing is Slavs, Romanians, Hungarians etc. all range a lot from North to Southern European looking.. and have their own unique “Eastenr European” looks.. and there are many people who have “Asiatic(ish) looks to them that in the US maybe perceived as Mestizo aka what you probably think when you say Latino. So in fact many lighter Mestizos could easily pass as Eastern Europeans because of the overlapping looks. This is what I mean:
You get the picture? And I’m sure of this, as my father has such an appearance (yet he’s 100% Polish in ancestry).. and a lot of Americans think he is “Mexican” (it doesn’t help that we mostly speak Portuguese with each other) and so his “looks” + Portuguese (which many think is Spanish)… gives them that bias. However, my dad has never been seen as foreign in Poland (because many Poles look like him). In fact.. Poland has a lot of diversity of looks.. and in my experience Eastern Europeans are more lax in their views of “whiteness”, because of more diversity among their native populations (imo) and because of the lack of colonial history that westerners have. A lot of people who would not be considered as “white” by some Anglo Americans would not get an eye blink in Eastern Europe. People in Krakow are mostly pale because they’re urbanites and don’t spend much time in the sun (plus Poland is not very hot).. but when you go to rural areas where people might be out most of the day and throw in the various Polish people who look like this and add the sun (since you say she could get quite dark) and add a tan after the summer: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_NbKGZ2NH2Fo/TDTtTihvw9I/AAAAAAAAAB0/t4_tUkoTUGw/s1600/25485_us_Alb_t_eminaC0030_122_519lo.jpg
and she would in no way stand out. THe problem with your insinuation is that her features are way too European-like (she’s clearly of predominately European ancestry.. again “Latinos” aren’t a race)… she’d have to have more obvious black or Indigenous features to stand out and be darker. Again, I don’t know where in Poland you were and where in Brazil… but something tells me you’re very not preceptive LOL… and seem to think things are about race when they aren’t. :/
Secondly, you even said you didn’t experience this in Hungary.. trust me if you were going to experience something, you’d experience it first in Hungary (various reasons for it)… this is again I repeat nothing to do with your appearances, but Polish culture. Also secondly, a weird comment you made is that you think she could pass as I|talian or Spaniard.. if she can pass as either of those nationalities… than she can pass as Polish because the darkest individuals in those countries can be found in Poland (albeit just in fewer numbers obviously). The problem is that again you seem to not realize that.. people in Italy and Spain are in very hot areas and out in the sun more often than people in Poland.. so they’re more likely to be tan all year around. Whereas in places like Krakow where people are becoming more home bodies and where the sun is not so strong and is out for short times of the year, you’re not going to have a lot of people with heavy tans. But many Polish people can get quite dark after a good summer vacation to a hotter area, especially those with the complexions I posted above. So again.. you seem to have a very limited view of Poland and Polish people.
Sorry Frank, last comment. Since I saw you brought up the Neo-Nazis.. interesting video here about the one’s in Hungary:
As you can see btw.. in the comments some of the Americans are laughing at the fact that some of these guys are “swarthy” and “not white looking” (weird comments to me as they look Hungarian and like other central Eastern/South eastern Euros). In the video you’ll also see that they’re partaking in “Central Asian cultural heritage events” @ 16:46 lol… alongside people who are from central Asia and definitely look “non European”. You see I think this is the difference between Neo-Nazis in the US which are obsessed with “purity of blood” and “whiteness”… these “neo-nazis” in places like Hungary and Poland are not the same variety. This is because again, these places never had the same history of colonialism. There obsession is history and culture.. when they talk about “white people” (which is actually not that common to use those kind of racial signifers).. they’re meaning the Christian European collective, in honesty this could be a lot of people who would never be considered white in the US. So it has little to do with “race” and more to do with preceptions of culture, and this is especially true when you reach Eastern Europe that has historical tensions due to the Ottoman history etc. Not to mention that even though these areas were ethnically diverse, that diversity was a factor for a lot of wars.. and for the last couple decades after the rise of states, they’ve become more homogeneous as borders were drawn.
But I’d like to point out these are small minorities… that is the ones who hold these racist ideologies. In fact even in Brazil there are many (minorities) of neo-Nazis.. especially in the South. I won’t deny that Poles and other East Euros can often be quite ignorant and even anti-Semitic. But racial attacks are not common, its been blown up by the western media. Funny enough… “racial attacks” against Poles and other East Euros have been way more common in England after Brexit.
The thing is these people are hated by other Poles, especially the ones who actually call themselves neo-nazis and appropriate the symbols. Why? Because the Poles (Polish Catholic Slavs + Polish Jews and Polish Roma) were the number one victims of the Nazis… and these young men who “appropriate” Nazi symbols or ideology are seen as the lowest of scum to the good percentage of Poles. The Nazis considered Poles “racially inferior” and if the Holocaust hadn’t of ended, they would’ve also committed genocide against most of the ethnic Polish Slav population (the ones who would remain would be their slaves or be deported to central Asia.. according to Nazi plans).
So its quite and insult to the general Polish population, if you can imagine.
The other issue here is that… the western media is conflating two things… and misinterpreting things they don’t understand. Is nationalism on the rise in Poland (or has it been)? Sure.. but does that = neo-nazism… definitely not. See the problem is that… Poles and other East Euros (and for that matter most of the world outside of the west)… don’t actually have the same negative opinions of ultra-nationalism that Americans and western Europeans might have. So most of these nationalists who were in those crowds were not neo-nazis, and most of these crowds weren’t even ultra nationalists.. but people who were supporting “patriotic causes” and the crowds were viewed homogeneously by the western media, when they’re definitely not. The same goes for a country like Brazil.. we elected an ultra nationalist president, but most of the country actually supports him.. (including non-white, gay, women etc.). Am I saying this is a good thing? No, as it doesn’t fit my own views and I do think a lot of people both in countries like Poland and Brazil are ignorant. But you have to understand that once you leave North America and western Europe.. the world is quite different, the pc culture that is common in the US is definitely not a thing in countries like that. People don’t really have the same sense of what is prejudice and what is not as Americans do. And in countries that are very homogeneous like Poland (despite being one of the most diverse countries in the past)… you can’t really expect them to have the same standards of Americans in terms of multiculturalism.. because its a much different history, culture, and society in general than the US. And again, Poles can be very ignorant due to their isolation for the past couple of decades (the same goes for East Asian countries i.e.) and they’re very influenced by the media, unfortunately Poles can have a cattle-like mentality… I personally believe this is the case with Slavs due to their long history with serfdom unique to Eastern Europe (lasted much different than the west and was more common and much more severe)… so sometimes I can’t blame them for being so influenced by the media when they see alll this sensationalism about Middle Eastern Muslims etc. of course I’m not justifying it.. but you need to understand that just because a country is in “Europe” its not gonna be the same as a country like Sweden or England (and even those countries have shown themselves to not be as tolerant as they seem).
With this said.. this ignorance is unfortunate and is also spawned by the fact that Poland is still very religious and tied to Catholicism, so a lot of church officials have been putting out the message that “Muslim invasions” will destroy Catholicism (same as “western homosexuality”) in the country. This is very ignorant because Poland unlike countries like Germany or Sweden has a native Muslim population, and a 600 year history of Muslims and Catholics living together in peace (Polish Tatars)… and these Polish Tatars were never “racialized” (despite the fact that they can often look very Asiatic and dark skinned) the distinguishment was more about religion, but it was tolerated. And most Tatars married into the Polish Catholic community or assimilated. In fact Tatars were more liked than Ukrainians historically. Mind you Poland invited the Tatars to settle from Crimea when they were the only Kingdom in Europe promoting religious tolerance in the middle ages, that’s also how Poland became home to the largest Jewish population in the world at one point. So as you can see… the past few decades of wars, communism, and sudden shift towards the west have made Poland a very complex and confused country. But as a Polish Brazilian with an outside view, and a girlfriend who is very clearly non-Polish and more black looking.. I can tell you most Polish people, especially once they interact with non-Polish people, are not naturally prejudice (you don’t see this kind of racial obsession in Eastern Europe as you do in the west).. and in fact once they get to know you well they can be some of the most hospitable people. The problem is that their history has made them not too recipient of foreigners (given the number of times they’ve been colonized or imperialized). And most people will in no way go out of their way to harass you etc.
I should also add that… a lot of these (minorities) of young men who do try to appropriate “neo-nazi” ideology do it out of insecurity.. because of the history of othering than western europeans have done to easterners… they’re desperate to be liked by “white westerners” so they try to emulate that (do a google search of “ukrainian neo-nazis” and you’ll be shocked of how many i.e. look like they could be mistaken for eurasian people for example) “pan-european” backwards ideology. But again.. these are very small minorities, and in no way how the western media has interpreted it.
That’s all from me, I hope I didn’t offend you before btw. Sorry if my words were to harsh.
Good comment, very much agree.
We lived for a year in Split, Croatia. Croatians also have a “nazi problem”. Ironic, because Croatia was a Nazi-puppet state in WWII. Ironic also because if it had been just about “blood” the Croatians would have had the same fate as the Serbs as well as other Slavs. As you say, they’re not “white” (or white enough). But as you also say, it’s about religion – and after Poland they’re the most religious people I’ve met in Europe. We’ve never had issues with the Croatians, I think they treat foreigners better then they treat each other. Here’s an example though. When we moved into our apartment in Split, the old lady next door came and introduced herself. Sweet, she brought us some cookies. During our 5 minute conversation she finally got to asking Lissette her religion. OH, the relief when Lissette said that she was Latina and a Catholic!! At that point the sweet old lady told us everything she detests about Muslims. But we were her best friends after that was out of the way.
You know what Marek? Despite a few bad incidences (me in Brazil, Lissette in Poland) we’ve never had issues anywhere with race. Lissette will be the first to tell you that the worst racism that she’s ever faced was in her own country – the United States. And I think what we are seeing today with the Trump government and his steadfast support from 40% of the population speaks volumes. What was always there is now in the open. And you’re perfectly right what you’re saying about violent acts in the UK (and the USA).
I also think it’s all about ignorance. And religion. The two feed off each other. I have big issues with religion as I wrote about here. Its in theory about acceptance blah blah but in practice it results in exactly the opposite. It’s just one more dividing factor that we humans use to divide each other.
Anyway, thanks for for the stimulating comments Marek.
“in the comments some of the Americans are laughing at the fact that some of these guys are “swarthy” and “not white looking” (weird comments to me as they look Hungarian and like other central Eastern/South eastern Euros). In the video you’ll also see that they’re partaking in “Central Asian cultural heritage events” @ 16:46 lol… alongside people who are from central Asia and definitely look “non European”. You see I think this is the difference between Neo-Nazis in the US which are obsessed with “purity of blood” and “whiteness”… these “neo-nazis” in places like Hungary and Poland are not the same variety.”
They ARE the same variety of morons. This is the paradox of the “nationalist international” (aka neo-nazis – no matter how much lipstick you put on that pig…. or simply nazis – nothing “neo” about them, as one wise guy said) – English Nazis will say Polish immigrants are scum, how are Polish Nazis to react to this? Defend their compatriots or be loyal to their brothers in ideology? And in particular, I’ve never understood how there can be skinhead movements (back in 90s) and other Nazi trash, with their admiration of Hitler, in the Slavic nations that in the 3rd Reich were next on the list of under-races just after Jews. If their idol had it his way, they’d find themselves in gas chambers before they finish saying Heil H. What a bunch of morons.
And if you think Polish (in particular) nationalism doesn’t have any connection to nazism, than you don’t know much about Polish history.
As to the attitudes of Polish people to dark-skinned individuals, let me tell you a story. A friend of mine from Bulgaria was in Warsaw University on Erasmus. He has this specific Caucasus-physiognomy and a bit darker complexion (rather hair and eyes, otherwise he’s quite pale, a bit like Polish Tatars, afaik). Not that exotic at all, I wouldn’t think he’ll somehow stick out…. I’m not even sure I can write here what he was called in a student bar…. A MUSLIM W*H*O*R*E. Not by some retarded village simpletons but by university students in the Polish capital! I’m of Polish descent but have lived in Poland only for 5 years, more that 10 years ago, so I was truly shocked when I heard that.
I doubt most of these morons are even aware that the country is not 100% Catholic (which is the official propaganda line) and if you brought it to them that there’ve for centuries been Tatars in Poland, who are Muslim, I doubt they’d embrace them as fellow Poles.
That being said, I know plenty of wonderful funny Polish people here abroad. Relatively high percentage among them (compared to general population) are gays (btw. same with Hungarians). Now, ask yourself why is this…. (and yes – hate of gays and hate of dark-skinned people are part of the same package)
This is one of the most shallow blogs I read about Poland.
I equally met decent amount of people who cane from Mexico, U.S, Italy who loved being in Poland exactly because they felt the opposite.- they enjoyed the easy going, warm, open minded culture.
I’m sry, but you guys had a bad experience and extrapolate your feelings for your final judgment about a country as a whole. I was born and grew up in Germany but my family comes from Poland ( I do speak polish) and I don’t experience poland the way you did. Other foreigners living in Kraków don’t experience this the way you did. Poland is a great country, with a heroic history, good food, beautiful cities and beautiful women.
Unfortunately I cannot say this for Germany, which is a shit hole in all aspects that I don’t feel like discussing right now
I just want to say, that claiming poland being an antisemitic country is a disrespectful remark towards all the rightous people who saved them from German occupation. See yourself, the largest amount of people who saved jews came from Poland ( recognized by yad vashem). And 2nd of all, if Poland was such antisemitic, why did we harbor the largest Jewish population in Europe? Yes, cause they were persecuted in Germany, France ect whole they could practice their religion freely in Poland!
I’m sry, you should give it a chance again. Come again in summer – to Gdansk, Wroclaw or Kraków and enjoy the amazing summer nights having great drinks.
Instead of bashing the whole country because of your unfortunate experiences.
And about your girlfriend / wife being latin. No one cares in Poland for her color. That you found a granny starring at her, is not because of racism, it is because of curiosity as we don’t have that many colored foreigners. Guys, it’s all in your head and a bit of pathetic to judge that way you do
All the best
Sorry, you lost me at Germany being a “shithole” and Poland being “open minded”.
Everyone’s entitled to an opinion but obviously we don’t have to agree.