As Poland is a significant trading partner for Germany and other European countries, there are numerous contact points for business every day. Despite geographic proximity, there are a few specifics that you should know about prior to meeting. We’ve summarized several useful tips for successful communication.
Don’t address Polish people by their last name
Already in the greeting, you can make a blunder. If you address a person of the same professional standing as you with their last name, it is perceived as derogatory because it implies a social distance. When addressing your counterpart directly, you should place the word Pan (for a man)/Pani (for a woman) in front of their first name (for instance, Pani Julia = Ms. Julia). In addition, it is also recommended that you add a title if possible (Panie Doktorze = Mr. Doctor; Panie dyrektorze = Mr. Director; Panie prezesie = Mr. Chairman).
Be on time
You should come on time to arranged appointments. If you are delayed, give a reason for it immediately upon your arrival, or even better, beforehand.
Pay attention to small details when greeting others
During the greeting, you should say hello to the boss first. It is very important to observe these hierarchies in Poland. You should kiss a woman’s hand, and for men, a handshake is customary.
Don’t forget small talk as a way to start the conversation
At the beginning of a business meeting, don’t start off directly with the negotiation but rather make some small talk first. Keep in mind that jokes or criticism regarding the Catholic church, the Pope or religion in general are taboo here. The same holds true for clichés and stereotypes, such as jokes about car thieves or “stupid Polaks”. Do not refer to Poland as Eastern Europe under any circumstance. Instead of discussing history-related topics, impress your discussion partner with your knowledge of Polish architecture. To maintain long-lasting business relations, ask about family, hobbies or name days, which are more important than birthdays in Poland.
Don’t turn down hospitality
Poland places great value in hospitality. That’s why you should accept an invitation to someone’s home. It is customary to bring along a bouquet of flowers or a small give for the hostess. It is also common to take off your shoes when visiting someone’s home; you’ll be offered slippers to wear instead. Be prepared for a copious lunch or dinner, during which vodka will be offered and shouldn’t be turned down.
Don’t ask for the toilet or restroom
In Poland, it is common to ask where you can wash your hands instead of asking where the toilet/restroom is.
Find an appropriate location for your business meeting
Polish business partners prefer the quiet part of a restaurant with a view of what’s happening. It would be a faux pas for your guest to have to sit facing a wall. At this point, it is worth mentioning that vodka, as with all alcoholic drinks, is no longer an obligation.
Be spontaneous and flexible
Improvisation is part of daily business in Poland and should be accepted. Therefore, be open to unplanned solutions and suggestions. In Polish business, written contracts are indeed relevant, but relationships to business partners on a foundation of trust have a more central importance. So don’t be confused if problems are resolved with simple and informal solutions. However, your paperwork should not contain any mistakes when being submitted to the authorities. That can stop the progress of your project.