Polish Communication Styles

English language levels tend to be very high in Poland – especially amongst the younger, well-educated elite.

In addition, many hundreds of thousands of Poles have worked outside their native country since Poland’s accession to the EU (giving them the opportunity to live and work abroad.) It would be rare for a visiting business person to need the services of a translator these days.

Poles are direct communicators, believing that it is better to express opinions directly, rather than hiding the truth behind diplomacy or coded language. This directness can seem excessive to people who believe that it is better to speak more indirectly in order to avoid hurting people’s feelings. It is important to remember that the more direct somebody is to you in Poland, the more respectful of you they are being.

As has already been stated, there tends to be very little visual or verbal feedback during meetings in Poland. People listen silently and with little obvious body language being displayed. This does not, however, mean that the listener is disinterested or does not understand – it is merely a cultural characteristic which Poles share with, amongst others, the Russians and the Japanese.

Poles will tend to wait and think before responding to a point made to them – do not be impatient. Allow Poles the time and space needed to take part fully in the conversation.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Poland

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

Poland has been the most successful of all the countries in central and eastern Europe and has managed the transition from its former Soviet era system to a liberal, free-market economy remarkably well. Poland even grew during 2008 whilst the rest of the world was in seeming economic meltdown.

How did Poland achieve this success when so many of its neighbours have found the transition much more difficult? Poland got its institutions right from the outset – it focused on the rule of law, on property rights, democratic accountability and on building robust market institutions. Having got those things right, it then worked hard at making EU accession a success. The result? One of the smoothest movements from middle-income to high-income status on record.

Many international companies have found doing business in Poland to be highly profitable and have benefited from a well-educated population who are both internationalist and aspirational. Many Poles have worked abroad, learnt English and then returned home to work for one of the many global companies who have set up operations not only in Warsaw but also many of the second-tier cities.

If you are thinking of doing business in Poland or with Polish colleagues we recommend that you learn about Polish business culture in advance. Poland has manged to work smoothly with its Western European neighbours but that does not mean that it has adopted the same approach to day-to-day business activities as Germany (it’s largest trading partner.) Poland has its own unique business culture which is, like the rest of Poland, going through a period of transition – some say it has more than one business culture split along generational lines. Why not find out before you get there?

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Polish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips