Establishing business relationships in Poland

Poland is more than just Germany’s eastern neighbor; it’s also an important trade partner. But how does Polish business function, and what cultural peculiarities should you be mindful of? In today’s blog post, we’d like to give you a few useful pointers to that end.

Germany and Poland are bound by a long and complicated history. In recent years, though, they’ve developed a lot of mutual interests. On top of that, both countries are striving for an even closer partnership – especially on an economic level. However, despite their geographical proximity, certain aspects of the Polish business world work a little differently.

Here’s an important tip to start things off: The common form of address in Germany – Mr. or Ms. plus last name – is perceived as very impolite in Poland. This harkens back to history and the erstwhile difference between nobility and lower social classes. Instead, use the form Mr. or Ms. [Polish: pan or pani, respectively] plus first name.

No fear of showing emotions

In comparison with Germany, there’s less separation between the person and the matter at hand in Poland. This means that collaborations with Polish people usually only work when those involved appreciate each other and understand each other well. At the same time, it’s important to make a good first impression – only after that can business topics generally be addressed. But how do you achieve this? It’s better not to get straight to the point during your first meeting. Let business issues fade into the background and address private matters such as family.

Another thing that’s very important in Polish culture and that will consequently help you establish a good relationship with your business partner is emotions. If you’re thinking that emotions have no place in serious business undertakings, you’d be way off the mark here. Emotions play an important role in Poland, even in business, so they tend to be taken into consideration more often. Even open displays of anger and frustration are not uncommon.

Poland, business, business partner, emotion, hospitality, gift, relationship, food, drink, humanity

If you want to leave a nice impression, act confident. Leave the “businessman” at home and show your personal side. Express understanding, be appreciative and show your irritation as well. Be happy and laugh with others. Even openly addressing weaknesses isn’t seen as negative – on the contrary, it makes a good impression, because in doing so you present yourself as human.

In short, if you want to do business successfully with Polish people, you should take the emotional level into account. Business comes second.

Guests are divine

Another aspect firmly rooted in Polish culture is hospitality. After all, there’s a famous Polish saying, “Gość w domu, bóg w domu” [“A guest in the house is God in the house”]. Beyond ample amounts of food and drink [which will probably be offered to you over and over], good discussion plays a key role here. In the process, the focus is always on establishing a good personal relationship. So it’s a good sign if you’re ever invited to a Polish colleague’s home. If this happens, keep the following points in mind:

  • Punctuality is not necessarily expected, but it’s considered polite. Avoid being more than 15 minutes late, though.
  • A small gift for the host is always a good idea. Flowers for the lady of the house is a common courtesy, and you can’t go wrong with sweets or a bottle of wine.
  • Be mindful of what you wear. In Poland, smart dress is preferred even for “commonplace” invitations and gatherings.
  • If you’re offered food – for instance, pierogi [dumplings] or barszcz [beet soup] – accept it whenever possible. After all, it probably took a lot of work to make.
  • Return the favor to your hospitable hosts by inviting them to your own home or to a restaurant.

In this blog post, you’ve learned some initial important things about the Polish culture and business world. If you’re in close contact with employees, customers or business partners from Poland, or if you’re in the midst of difficult negotiations, we’d wholeheartedly recommend taking a cross-cultural training.

About Sophie Humpisch

I studied business communication and cross-cultural competence. During my studies I lived abroad for a long time and therefore experienced cross-cultural differences on my own. I have been with Eidam & Partner since 2014, being responsible for the support and recruiting of cross-cultural experts. Eidam & Partner offers worldwide services related to cross-cultural communication, such as cross-cultural training, cross-cultural coaching, eLearning and preparation for international assignments for more than 80 target countries.
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