For those of you who don’t know, I am currently spending my #SB2K15 in Poland. For many of you whose last names end in a -ski, I am in your homeland! In the two days I’ve been in Poland, there have been very evident cultural differences in comparison to the United States. I once lived in a world where I abided by European culture when I spent two months of my summer living and studying in Vienna, Austria, but it’s (somewhat) nice to be back to notice these differences. I posted a blog post on my other blog about my first day in Poland; check it out when you have a chance.
WC = water closet = bathroom. When meandering in the city of Gdansk, I spotted a blue, square sign with “WC” on it. It put a smile on my face because of the nostalgia it brought from Europe last summer! Regardless, there may be WC’s, but in Poland, and most of Europe, there is a small fee to use it. I’m sure this baffles many American tourists, but you just have to suck it up, especially when you really have to go.
2. Water is Not Free
You read that right. When you walk into a restaurant in the States, water is a given, and its free, with ice. In Poland and most of Europe, water comes at a charge. In Poland, water with gas is cheaper compared to water without gas or niegazowana. Again, you deal with it, because after walking and being a tourist, water is all you want, so you’ll do anything to get it. Another interesting concept in Europe, alcohol. In many restaurants, it is much cheaper than water.
Polish and Europeans typically keep to themselves in public areas. It is normal to not make eye contact and keep a straight face. I don’t know about you, but this is so hard for me. Being an extrovert and coming from Hope College, all I want to do is give strangers a “Hope Hello.” But in Europe, that might be taken the wrong way. Tourists alike must be conscientious about this cultural difference!
4. Making Change
In Poland and in Europe, they prefer cash over card. That’s hard for me at least because I use my debit card all the time, but cash is king here. On top of using cash, they love it when you use exact change, or change that will give you an even amount back in either bills or coins. This just makes their jobs easier, and you are not stuck with coins that ultimately have no “worth” to them. Another note about money, the smallest denominator in bills is 10 zloty. This frustrates me so much because I actually enjoy, love, and use one dollar bills. But in Poland, they have coins for 1, 2, and 5 zloty. Seeing as I am not used to their currency, this makes making change much more challenging. On the plus side, 1 US Dollar = 3.95 zloty. Food and clothes are much cheaper here, making me a happy tourist!
5. Grocery Stores
As Americans, I think we take grocery bags for granted. They are always supplied to us. In Poland and much of Europe, you bring your own grocery bags to the stores, like recyclable bags. But if you don’t have bags, you have to purchase plastic bags there. Don’t fret, the fee is very small. But I’m sure this still baffles American tourists!
That’s all for now, friends. For now, it’s time to travel and enjoy Poland. Do widzenia!