Table of Contents
Polish culture is a unique mix of the traditional and progressive. While conservative values, religious piety, social customs, and nostalgia for the past are still revered by many Poles, an emerging generation has embraced more liberal ways of life.
For the past thirty years, Poland has served as a living example of post-communist change. After the collapse of its Soviet government, it has seen an influx of new attitudes and prospects that have quickly transformed present-day culture. Although some remain hesitant to embrace these alterations to Polish culture, many are readily adapting and embracing this newfound freedom with national pride.
An interesting combination exists between sentimentality towards times gone by and a realistic outlook with sharp practicality to face modern issues. Most now place weight on the values of Western European civilization, but mixed with their own.
In Poland, social positions have usually been accepted without disagreement throughout Polish history. There has traditionally been a noticeable separation between those residing in rural areas and the intellectual city-dwellers throughout the evolution of polish identity. Nevertheless, due to extensive changes within the countryside over time, the intelligentsia is now transitioning into an established middle class. A trait that most post-communist regime countries still lack.
Family in the Polish Society
Present-day Poland and Poles are united by their shared dedication to family values and equality, which is central to the country’s culture. In fact, Poland holds such a strong commitment to collectivism that it often gets mistakenly labelled as ‘Eastern’ when placed in comparison with other countries from Central Europe.
Despite this misinterpretation of its people, Poles have always seen themselves as the “mildest” among Slavic countries when it comes to their national identity. Especially the younger generation who has a more modern view when it comes to family construction.
The Past Experiences of a Post-Communist Country
The Poles are well aware of the tragedies their nation has endured over the past century, leaving an indelible mark on both present and future generations. All Polish families experienced some form of hardship or trauma due to World War II’s atrocities, making it a crucial part of Poland’s collective memory and identity.
After World War II, Poland was brought under Soviet rule and only regained independence in 1989. This period of communist rule saw major industrialization of the Polish cities, urban development, and improvements to the nation’s standard of living.
However, it also included social turbulence, economic strife, communist government bureaucracy hindering progress, as well as the suppression of several forms of self-expression. The effects of this era are still apparent today with many citizens remaining sceptical towards politics and suspicious of authoritative forces.
The National Anthem and Polish Music
The national anthem of Poland, titled “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła” (Poland Has Not Yet Perished), poignantly reflects the country’s tumultuous history. Many Poles see this tragedy as a cornerstone of their identity and culture. However, it is important to remember that 20th-century events should not be the only lens through which we view Polish customs – otherwise, an incomplete picture will be formed.
The stereotype of Poles as dour individuals may still apply in some cases; however, modern-day attitudes are often more dynamic and vibrant than perceived by outsiders. This is often reflected in their folk culture and music, cultural heritage of enjoying one’s life through togetherness and a strong community.
Poles are often viewed by other Slavic countries as relaxed and informal– however, the nation has advanced significantly in many facets. The culture is rapidly becoming more modernized with a focus on globalization and success, leading to an optimistic shift among citizens. A recent survey revealed that 76% of Poles reported they were moderately or intensely satisfied with their lifestyle standards.
Upholding Integrity and Honor
The ideology of justice and morality occupies a central place in the hearts of Polish citizens. This is most likely due to Poland’s often-turbulent past, as well as the Catholic Church instilling tenets of mercy and forgiveness in its people. Furthermore, members of the royal family have historically used their public statements and acts to encourage goodwill towards all.
In Poland, there is a long-held history of kindness and mercy. People are known for quickly understanding others’ predicaments and being aware of whether their choices appear honorable or not. This trait has placed Poland at the helm of Europe’s alliance in 2011 and on an international platform for peace and togetherness. At home too, Poles demand respect from all social interactions: it is commonly accepted that exchanges should be “po ludzku” (mannerly).
Interacting with one another
Interacting with one another is a key factor in forming meaningful connections, creating strong relationships, and fostering an overall sense of community.
Poland is known for its kind and generous culture, where individuals are very cordial and chivalrous. People in Poland often go out of their way to help those around them, even if it requires a great deal of effort. Additionally, people dress neatly and may display religious symbols clearly visible. To Australians, this formality may seem too traditional or conservative with respect to the politeness shown towards women. However, by nature, Poles tend to be quite open-minded.
Marriage, Family and Kinship
In most cases, marriages are made after one reaches the age of 20. Unmarried polish women over the age of 20 were considered spinsters, while a bachelor a couple of decades later was exposed to public condemnation and ridicule. Monogamy was valued in the community, and marriage was traditionally seen as sacred.
In some cases, unmarried people are seen as if they cannot have a happy life and have difficulty finding a spouse. Historically, the majority of marriages were intended to enhance a family’s fortune. Love wasn’t that important in Polish culture, which, of course, changed with the passing of time, and now people get married for love rather than other reasons.
Gender roles and statuses
The work was divided by gender. This is due to the fact that traditionally, women were housewives and men worked in office jobs or were farmers depending on the area. In 1978, women made up 44 percent of the workforce and 45 percent of men. In an earlier analysis, some studies found that women who worked outside the home spent an average of 6.7 hours on the job, compared with the female workforce that spent 8.1 hours on housework.
Also In the 1970s, socialists gave the female workforce the opportunity to pursue further education. In 1990, the number of girls enrolled at university was 89 out of every 100 males. On average, both male and female students completed 11 years of education. Women nowadays have a higher income compared to their male counterparts, which has changed their roles in the household.
Relationships in Polish culture
In Poland, casual relationships have a tendency to be more intimate due to the Poles’ openness and frankness when it comes to emotions. The term “Polski temperament” is often used colloquially in relation to their willingness to express themselves honestly and openly. Even if opinions differ, a disagreement does not necessarily damage personal rapport, as Poles are accustomed to sharing thoughts freely with each other.
Through this, the dialogue can be enriched as people analyze and examine concepts without judging personalities. However, if individuals debate in a hostile manner or are unable to move on from one subject matter quickly enough, it will become increasingly less tolerated by the community surrounding it.
Poles will often adamantly defend themselves if they believe their honour has been compromised. Nonetheless, people are usually willing to call others out when something is not right and take corrective action swiftly for the betterment of all involved. It’s a simple philosophy: the sooner an issue is resolved, the faster it can be put in the past.
Religion in Poland
In Poland, religious liberty is constitutionally safeguarded and all faiths are allowed to practice freely so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. A survey taken in 2017 indicated that over 85% of the population identifies as Catholic Christians – making it an overwhelmingly Catholic country.
An additional 1.3% and 0.4% of the population identify as Orthodox Christians and Protestants, respectively. Estimates suggest that only a small portion (0.4%) practice minority religions, such as Judaism. 12.1%, on the other hand, did not select any religion when asked about their faith affiliation during surveys or polls conducted in this region.
A significant percentage of Poles, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof, are strongly against the interference and influence of religious institutions in politics. This is a common trait in the polish culture since the communist times.
The Polish language is a member of the West Slavic language family and is one of the official languages of the European Union. It is spoken by an estimated 40 million people, primarily in Poland. The Polish language has a very interesting alphabet. The Polish alphabet utilizes a total of 32 letters, which includes nine extra characters (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź and ż) than the 26-letter Latin Alphabet. While three additional letters (x ,q and v) are sometimes included in an extended 35-character variety of this alphabet – they don’t feature in traditional words or phrases.
Poland is an incredibly linguistically unified nation, with 97% of its citizens stating Polish as their native language. Moreover, Poles also create large minorities elsewhere in Europe – particularly Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine – which witnessed Poland’s rule or occupation at some point in history.
According to the 2001 census results, Polish is the most widely-spoken minority language in Lithuania’s Vilnius County, spoken by 26% of its population. This comes as no surprise given that Vilnius was part of Poland from 1922 to 1939. Additionally, it can be found elsewhere in southeastern Lithuania too.
The use of the Polish language is particularly common in western parts of Ukraine, such as Lviv and Volyn Oblasts. Furthermore, it has been adopted by a vast majority of the Polish minority living in West Belarus- especially in Brest and Grodno regions near Lithuanian border. This trend also continues among many other countries given their high population density with regard to Polish emigrants and descendants who are fluent speakers of this language.
Poles are known for their adeptness at adapting to situations, both planned and unexpected. While rules and schedules can be important, it is essential to acknowledge that these might not always remain relevant or applicable in unforeseen situations.
Therefore, while specific systems may exist on paper, they should never be viewed as completely rigid. The Polish people have a remarkable ability to embrace the unexpected and think outside of the box. Polish culture in general rewards these kinds of individuals.
This cultural tolerance for imprecision can sometimes lead to spontaneity, as evidenced by things like getting out of a car stopped at a traffic light, something that would be seen as disorderly or even careless in other cultures. To non-Polish individuals, this freedom from the structure may seem disorganized or frivolous. However, it is an integral part of how Polish culture lives their daily life authentically.
The adaptability of Polish Culture
This adaptability and “figure it out” mentality was highly beneficial during the communist era, allowing one to make their way around situations. Although improvisation is less popular nowadays in both business and personal contexts, there remains a prevailing outlook that if you don’t strive for self-improvement, no one will be able to help you – not even God Himself!
Stoicism is often a common trait associated with Polish people; they are known to maintain their composure in the face of adversity while taking it all on without much complaint. But there is also an inclination to deal with problems as they come instead of taking preventative action, which leads them to be overly optimistic and consequently underestimates or trivialize certain issues.
It’s not unusual for somebody from Poland to describe such situations by saying “Jakoś będzie” (things will somehow turn out okay) or simply make light of whatever problem arises and say “Dobra dobra” (easy – everything will work out).