How to Survive a Polish Date
Dating, as most of our readers will have already found out, can be tricky, and even more so if your date is of a different nationality. We gathered 12 useful tips in case you have your heart set on a Polish boyfriend or girlfriend.
Poles are prized items on the meet market. Their old-fashioned charm and Northern European looks make them easily noticeable at any international gathering. On the other hand they are difficult to approach ‒ possibly as a result of being in such high demand, or simply because Poles tend to be distant with strangers. If you do succeed at setting up a date, these recommendations should at least avoid you the humiliation of being jilted mid-way through the evening.
- Give a reasonable hour. In Poland, many people rely on public transport, which is much less frequent after midnight. If you decide to meet at 9PM, you might end up having a shorter date than you’d like.
- Make sure you’re on time. Unlike more relaxed Southern Europeans, Poles are not fond of vague perceptions of time. If you show up more than 15 minutes late, you risk seeing the back of your date, in the worst possible meaning. This is linked to an old academic custom: Polish universities allow students to leave a lecture if the lecturer is more than fifteen minutes late. If you really can’t make it on time, write or call.
- Be careful how you formulate an invitation to the cinema. Going to the movies is a classic date option in Poland. However, keep in mind that an open invitation to go to the cinema will be considered more romantic/forward than an invitation to go see a particular film ‒ which implies that you’re genuinely interested in watching a movie rather than holding hands over your popcorn bucket. Choose at your own risk.
- If you choose a Polish restaurant, order with care. Showing your Polish date that you’re willing to try culinary specialities from their homeland can be a good way of establishing a connection, and most large cities in Europe and North America hold at least one Polish restaurant. Polish cuisine’s extended range of flavours can be surprising. If you have a weak stomach, do not order blood sausage or tripe soup. Poles are proud of their cuisine and might be put off if you spit it right back in the plate. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with pierogi (dumplings) – they’re usually very tasty.
- Don’t be too original. Some Poles like to be surprised, but it’s safer not to overdo it. For instance emulating the behaviour of the main character of Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown, who goes for dates to garbage dumps might not be the best of ideas. If you’d like to come up with an activity suggestion, something nice and classy will do, like a culinary workshop or a wine tasting.
- Receive or offer flowers knowingly. If a Polish suitor brings you a bouquet, thank him even if you don’t like flowers. To joke or complain about the gesture would be a fatal mistake. If you’re choosing flowers for a Polish woman, avoid the colour yellow. Flowers of this shade are often associated with envy and insincerity. Roses of other colours should be ok (except maybe black ones, but this is probably a universal rule).
- Don’t make ignorant remarks about Poland. If you remember only one thing from this list, let this be it. There is not a Pole alive who will be amused, let alone seduced, upon hearing that their country is a developing former Soviet Republic in Central Asia. To find out how you stand on the ignorance scale, take this quiz. When in doubt, ask questions, but don’t make questionable jokes. Even if your date criticises Poland, it’s safer not to join in.
- Mirror your date. In Poland it is considered rude when one person orders food or alcohol while the other doesn’t. On the other hand, Poles (of both genders) can outdrink most other nations, hence if you don’t feel like having that eighth shot of vodka, it might be wiser to admit defeat than to humiliate yourself even more spectacularly later.
- Handle paying tactfully. Attitudes towards traditional gender roles vary enormously in Poland. Some Polish women expect men to pay, some don’t. Some Polish men will offer to pay, some won’t. If you’d rather not pay, offer once. If you’re determined to pay, offer a second time. It is basic Polish politeness to refuse the first offer but to accept the second or third offer.
- Part at the tram/bus stop. In the old days the man would be expected to walk his date back home toward the end of the rendezvous. Today escorting someone to a public transport stop is considered an acceptable conclusion to a romantic evening. So don’t be surprised if your potential sweetheart suggests that, it’s a commonplace practice in contemporary Polish dating.
- Give your date a ride if you arrived by car. In Poland if you come by car to a romantic meeting you’ll be expected to drop off your date at a place of their choice before the two of you go separate ways. A driver should therefore have enough time to give his date a lift in the closing stages of the meeting, otherwise he or she may appear unfriendly.
- Stay classy. Usually Polish dates end with a kiss on the cheek. Unless your date was extreme in one way or another, it’s best to stick to this tradition. Running off with an awkward wave will be interpreted as a rejection, and aggressive displays of affection will… well, we all know what that looks like. Oh, and remember not to give your date two or three kisses on the cheek, that’s for aunts and grandmas.
Author: Marek Kępa, Autumn 2015