About Poland

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | Poland

The Republic of Poland is situated in the heart of Europe, between the Carpathian Mountains and the Baltic Sea. It borders Sweden (sea border) and the Kaliningrad District of the Russian Federation to the north; Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine to the east; Slovakia and the Czech Republic to the south; and Germany to the west. A point near Warsaw is the geometrical centre of Europe. The capital of Poland is Warsaw. The official language is Polish. Poland’s currency is the złoty (PLN).

Poland is a young parliamentary democracy. It rejoined the international community as a full and independent partner following political changes in 1989. It acceded to NATO in 1999 and to the European Union in 2004, and has become a committed member of other international organisations such as UN, OECD or WTO.

In accordance with a three-tier administrative system, the territory of the Republic of Poland is subdivided into 16 voivodships, 314 counties and 2,478 communes.


Poznan University of Physical Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, source: Archives of the AWF

Polish customs and lifestyle have developed as a result of the intermingling of cultures of many nationalities living in the Polish territories for several centuries, and under the influence of the Western and Eastern worlds. This is illustrated, for example, by popular dishes in the Polish cuisine: Ukrainian beetroot soup or borscht, beans à la Bretagne (stewed with meat in tomato sauce), Jewish-style jellied carp or Russian dumplings.

Poles cherish tradition and maintain close relations with their immediate and more distant relatives. Since Poles are also very hospitable and open to new acquaintances, you should not be surprised when your Polish colleagues invite you to their place for a family dinner or supper. Once you have come, you should, however, be prepared to see a table laden with food and drinks in accordance with the traditional Polish motto “Whatever we’ve got, you are welcome to it” (Czym chata bogata, tym rada) or “What’s ours is yours” (Gość w dom, Bóg w dom). At the table, your Polish companions will often make toasts, and the first one will usually be “to the guests” (Za zdrowie gości). During various social events, you may be put to a linguistic test: foreigners are usually asked to articulate a few Polish sentences, in which the sequence of sounds is by no means easy to pronounce even to a Pole.



 AGH University of Science and Technology, author: KSAF AGH

Poles greet each other by saying Dzień dobry (“Good morning” or “Good afternoon”, the same Polish phrase for both) or Dobry wieczór (“Good evening”) in a formal way or by Cześć (Hi, Hello) in an informal way, and shaking hands. Poles usually greet each other by kissing on the cheeks one time, especially friends or families. In more serious situations and always when giving their best wishes, those who are on familiar terms kiss each other on the cheek (usually 3 times).


When on familiar terms, Poles address each other by their first names. Otherwise, they address each other by Pan (Mr) or Pani (Mrs/Ms) followed by the surname or, in a less formal way, by the first name. A woman may be kissed by a man on the hand as part of a greeting ritual, though this tradition is gradually disappearing, in particular among younger people. However, it is still customary for men to step back to let women go through the door first.


Poles are attached to their traditions and celebrate ceremonially various holidays, in particular Christmas, Easter, the Corpus Christi Day and the All Saints’ Day. Christmas is a special occasion for every Pole. Traditionally, Poles spend these days at home with their closest family. A decorated Christmas tree, gifts, 12 fasting dishes (each to be sampled), the table set for all expected guests plus one unknown lost wanderer, and singing carols jointly – are all indispensable elements of a cherished tradition. Among public holidays, the most important ones are the Independence Day and the 3rd of May Constitution Day, when official celebrations and concerts are organised. Poles love celebrating various occasions; thus, you will find dates such as the Mother’s Day (26 May), the Women’s Day (8 March) or the Children’s Day (1 June) marked in the calendar. Moreover, Poles celebrate their name days, and birthdays are usually celebrated as a popular occasion until young people turn 18 and enter adulthood.