Formal or Casual Polish Etiquette
On an international scale, the Polish etiquette would be considered formal. Mr and Mrs plus the family name is an absolute requirement when introductions are made.
Always be on time, it is considered extreme bad manners and poor etiquette to keep people waiting.
When departing, men shake hands with everyone individually.
It is very important to show special consideration and care for the senior citizens of Poland. Children are taught good manners and etiquette from an early age, to give up their seats for the elderly is just an accepted way of life.
In Polish etiquette (and most other countries) littering is considered bad mannered and unacceptable.
Polish etiquette - Social and Family
In Polish etiquette the family always comes first, then close friends, then business associates and other people. If you are a Westerner you will be received warmly, but will have to prove yourself if you wish to remain part of the Polish circle.
The Poles are extremely good hosts and hostesses and will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. One cannot fault Polish social etiquette.
If you are invited to a private home for dinner, be prepared to remove your shoes before entering (no holes in socks please!) it is usual to arrive around 8 pm and to stay until past midnight. It is considered to be polite to arrive about 15 minutes late to give the hostess time to prepare, but later than 15 minutes is considered bad manners and not good etiquette.
When invited to a Polish family home it is considered good manners and accepted social etiquette to take a small gift such as a bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers for the hostess. It is also good etiquette to send a hand written card to your host and hostess thanking them for their invitation, hospitality and time.
If you drink tea and/or vodka you will feel quite at home in Poland. Tea is normally consumed black with a slice of lemon. Polish vodka is world-renowned and will usually be served with all meals, between meals and at social events.
The most common toast is "na zdrowie," to your health. "Stolat," is sometimes said instead, this implies you should live to be 100 years old. As I said before, the Poles are very conscious of practising good etiquette and are extremely goods hosts, the more you drink, the more they will offer, so if you cannot hold your liquor, know when to say no.
In Polish etiquette, direct eye contact should be maintained, especially when toasting. Flicking a few fingers against the neck is not a rude gesture; it is simply an invitation from one male to another to join the person for a drink of vodka.
Tipping in restaurants is expected and is usually approximately 10% of the bill.
Polish etiquette - Dining
Be sure to bring a small gift such as a bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers for the hostess if you are dining in their home. It is also good etiquette to send a hand written card to your host and hostess thanking them for their invitation and time.
Wait to be seated by your host or hostess at the dinner table. A toast is usually performed before or after eating. If you propose a toast, it is important to maintain eye contact. Do not begin drinking until your host has proposed a toast to everyone at the table. If your host stands when proposing a toast, so should you.
Wait for your host to start eating before you start. Keep your knife in your right hand and your fork in the left at all times. While eating you should keep your wrists on the table. When you have finished eating, place the knife and fork parallel to each other at an angle across the right side of the plate. Crossing the knife and fork on your plate is a sign you have not yet finished your meal.
Polish etiquette - Business
As in social etiquette, being punctual is crucial. The Polish workday usually starts around 8 am and ends no later than 4 pm. The working week includes a Saturday morning. Sunday is a day of rest, a time to be with family and go to church - Poland is 90% Catholic.
As in most countries, the use of business cards is common. If you will be doing business there on a regular basis, it would be considered good business etiquette if you were to have your business card translated into Polish on the reverse side. Be sure to include any advanced educational degrees and your full title on your card.
Hands in pockets is considered disrespectful and rude. It is also bad etiquette to sit with one ankle resting on the other knee.
The accepted greeting is a firm handshake, the same applies to farewells. Kissing and hugging is generally only acceptable if you are family or a very good friend.
When you meet a group of people, wait to be introduced by a third party.
Business presentations need to be clear, concise and easily understood. Bells and whistles are a waste of time. Back up documentation is important and should be in both English and Polish. Business is taken seriously and the Poles don't appreciate the Western-style sales pitch. Just say it as it is and keep it strictly business.
Polish Dress Etiquette
Generally the business culture in Poland dislikes ostentatious displays of wealth. Mostly the dress is smart casual conservative. In the larger companies and banks conservative suits and ties in subdued colors are usually worn. Bright colors are considered inappropriate.
Women's dress etiquette is to wear conservative suits or dresses, again bright colors should be avoided. The usual classical colors are worn, for example black, navy blue, grey, brown or beige.
T-shits, sweatpants, shorts and runner shoes are not acceptable in the business or social world.
Perfumes and aftershave should be used sparingly.
Jewellery should never be ostentatious, elegant and modest is the key.
To sum it up, Polish dress etiquette is conservative, respectable, elegant and modest.
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