Things Poles are good at….

So close!

Zbigniew Pietrzykowski would have secured the 1960 Olympic light heavyweight boxing gold medal for Poland had it not been for the presence of a certain Muhammad Ali.

Poland needs to pick up more gold medals. In the combined summer/winter Olympic gold medal table, Poland is down in 24th place with 63 medals, below much smaller places like Sweden(185), Hungary(159), Finland(142), Switzerland(83) and Cuba(67). Not good enough, really. For reference, Great Britain has 215 and the top three are USA(1008), Soviet Union(473) and Italy(226).

So, when they next review the events included in the Olympics and my advice to Poland is to start lobbying for the following to be included:


Poles are world beaters at being surprised. I give as my first example the case of standing in a queue to pay for your goods. Most people are ready for the moment they get to the front, they know what they are purchasing, how much it costs and whether they intend to pay cash or card, whether they need a bag or not. If paying cash they know how much cash they have on them, including drobny. They will have been checking out the display at the kasa and know if they are interested in the “special offers” or not. They are, in short, prepared for what is to come and ready to deal with it quickly. Not so with Poles who when arriving at the front of the queue start behaving like they they were just beamed down from the starship Enterprise! They only start thinking about all these things when they arrive at the front of the queue. Often they have even lost the item they wanted to buy and most of the time they seem to have lost their wallets, or at least are surprised they should need one.

Second example is traffic lights. Same deal. Most people know that the green light comes quite quickly after red and amber, that amber really means “get ready to go (or stop)” and is the drivers opportunity to get his/her act together. Not so with Poles. Poles sit there until the green light is fully illuminated before wondering what it is they were supposed to do next. The appearance of the green light is a surprise, every time! More dangerous is the fact that the red light is also surprising and rather than having this surprise spoil their afternoon, they decide to slip through on red. After all, nobody will be coming the other way because they are all too busy being surprised by their green light. LOL!


It just struck me the other day that it is very hard to be alone in Warsaw. Whatever you do and wherever you go there seem to be other people who are standing around showing an interest or poking their nose in. I think they do this partly to make sure they are not missing out on something and partly just plain old curiosity. By way of proof, try standing with three friends looking into a shop window and gesturing excitedly. My guess is that after about 30 seconds you will have at least doubled the size of the group. Even if the original three move off, the event will still have momentum and will probably peak at around six bystanders before they finally realise there’s nothing going on. You may find a couple of drunks are popping back to the shop window on and off all day.

Try digging a hole in the road. There will be two workers and at least two official bystanders (working for the same company but doing bugger all) as well as a growing group of casual bystanders. Is a hole in the road that interesting or do Poles have a deep rooted herding instinct?

Try having a car/motorbike accident. Rubbernecking happens the world over and is very evident here in Poland but what is more unusual is the gathering of a crowd of bystanders. People on foot who just wander over to enjoy the spectacle from beginning to end. That’s a Polish speciality!


7 thoughts on “Things Poles are good at….

  1. Bystanding I can agree. This is dreadfull habit here (as if you could call it a habit!).

    But for the surprise I disagree! I worked for a year in pub in London, and believe me -we are more organized then Brits. When they finally reach the counter, and start to be served, they immediately turn their heads around, shouting: Luv, what you having?!?!

  2. Told my mum in law about the surprise thing – and how I totally agree with it (Drives me potty – especially in shopping queues). As she runs a small shop she said people who have to watch the pennies tend to buy bit by bit checking how much they have left and not always knowing all the prices. Hence they’ll um and ah over what to buy, etc. Finding myself rarely in that position I do tend to know what I want and not worry about the cost. Additionally, you’ll note that the rise in car and home ownership has grown greatly and, as mum says, it’s because Poles count every grosz and don’t want to spend a zloty more than they have to. I had to agree with her but still think there’s much to what you say about it LOL!!

  3. we are good in kicking one another! :D

    My specialization is kicking foreigners, but only when they diserve on it! :)

  4. Pingback: Polandian | Polish gold medal hopes

  5. OMG, and here I was always feeling so pressured at the check-out! Flailing about with my drobny and feeling all embarrassed. I should have just said to myself, “Jestem Polką”, and everything would have been so much less stressful!

  6. Pingback: Polandian | A short guide to Polish drainage

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