7+ Things Poland is Famous For (Or Would Like To Be?)

09.10.2018

Every country has to deal with national stereotypes, and Poland is no exception.

Despite the many years that have passed from the fall of the communist regime and Poland’s entry in the European Union, many nations around the world still consider the country a reclusive Eastern European corner where people eat pierogi, fight the Soviet state, and go to church every Sunday. And this is not Poland would like to be famous for.

While some of these stereotypical ideas about Poland still hold true (pierogi are just as delicious as ever), many things have changed and Poles would like others to acknowledge them.


So what is Poland famous for?

Changing a country’s reputation takes a lot of time and effort:

We’re talking years of promoting all things Polish.

As the image of Poland slowly changes, we get to appreciate the discrepancies between what the Polish wish their country was known for and what are the actual common associations that other nations have when they hear about Poland.

Of course, there are many popular typical Polish things and famous Poles known worldwide. All off them are worth remembering. However, you can also dig into those things that are less obvious, but still important about our country.

Here are the things that the Polish would like to be famous for and what they’re actually famous for.


What are Polish people known for?

  • Hospitability

Once you enter a Polish home, expect to be treated like a member of the royalty.  We have a popular saying here, which rougly translates to having a guest in the house is like having a God in the house.

You will surely be well fed and taken care of with devotion and respect!

Poles in folk costumes

  • Beautiful girls

While wandering around the streets of Poland, you will surely notice that there is no shortage of truly gorgeous women.

The unique Slavic beauty combined with warm, charming personalities make Polish women the ultimate dreamgirls for many men from all around the world.

  • Complaining

If you ask a Pole how is he doing, the response will be… honest. You won’t hear the polite fine! no matter the circumstances. If he is having a great day then sure, he will let you know, but otherwise – be prepared to hear him out when he talks about bad weather, horrible traffic, annoying politicians, unsatisfying job.

We like to believe that it’s not that we like to complain – we just like to tell you how it is!


Delicious food

 

poland_famous_dinner

 

It’s hard to compete with other European nations like Italy or France for the title of the best cuisine on the continent. But most of the time, the Polish are convinced that pierogi are just as delicious as tortellini, and deserve to be appreciated by foodies.

Polish food is not only pierogi, but also quite specific things, such as tripe, cucumbers pickled in salty brine, sauerkraut, curd, buttermilk and kefir.

Unfortunately, when asked about the Polish cuisine, most people are likely to recall pierogi, potatoes, or sauerkraut. Not a very attractive set, is it?

But there’s so much more to Polish cuisine than this. In fact, regional delicacies often remain hidden from sight.

poland_famous_food

Even though Poles like their local cuisine, Polish dishes take hours to prepare and only the most patriotic Poles out there show the determination required to organize a real Polish dinner for their friends.

And that’s why Poland remains known as the country of pierogi and potatoes.

Polish Local Food

And nobody even appreciates the creativity that goes behind creating the myriad potato dishes Poland is famous for! Whether they’re baked and topped with a creamy mushroom sauce, or made into side dishes like kopytka, pyzy, and countless other dumplings, potatoes are just the best – and that’s what every Pole knows deep in their heart.

Infographic: Europe's Largest Potato Producers | Statista


Different drinking culture

poland_famous_alcohol

If you meet a Pole abroad and ask them how much vodka they’ve had the last weekend, they will probably try to convince you that the drinking culture has changed in their country and looks nothing like during the Soviet times.

They’ll try to convince you that the Polish now prefer to have a pint of hipster artisan beer or a glass of expensive French wine. After all, we are third European beer producer.

Infographic: Europe's Biggest Beer Producers  | Statista

 

But don’t be fooled.

Poles might not start their day with a shot of vodka for breakfast, but when it comes to drinking, they still pick vodka over other kinds of alcoholic beverages. And no wonder – Polish vodka is very good and very cheap.

Now...

poland_famous_beer

Poles might claim that they drink only when the occasion calls for it. But any occasion is a good occasion for a drink in Poland.

The Polish don’t want to be famous for their drinking habits, but they actually are. And once you get into their inner circle, you’ll see that their fame is well-deserved. Keeping up with the Polish when they party is challenging, especially since Poles like to brag about how much alcohol they can hold and how little it affects them.

If you want to make some real friends in Poland, you simply need to go out drinking together. That’s how Poles get to really know each other – your best friends are usually the people who have seen you wasted.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Polish Vodka Museum (@polishvodkamuseum) on

 


Poland = a modern democracy

Poles would like to be known as a progressive nation that managed to come out of the 2008 economic crisis relatively unscathed and can now be proud of its steady economic growth.

Moreover, the Polish want others to know that their communist past is behind them and today Poland stands strong as a modern democratic country.

poland_famous_huta

Unfortunately, many people believe that Poland still somehow remains under the Russian influence and the remnants of the communist regime are very much present in the Polish culture.

There’s no denying that the communist architecture style dominates over many Polish cityscapes, but just in case you missed out on that moment – it’s been more than 25 years since Poland became an independent democratic country.

Speaking of communist architecture, it is impossible to overlook a very characteristic building, which is not only the tallest building in Poland, but one of the Polish landmarks. It is the Palace of Culture and Science located in the center of Warsaw, which was entered in the register of monuments in 2007. The building was erected in the years 1952–1955 according to the design of the Soviet architect Lev Rudnev and is inspired by Moscow skyscrapers.

Many Poles suffered the consequences of the Soviet rule and remember the communist regime very well, but if you ask anyone in their early 30s and younger, you’ll only get blank stares.

Warsaw communist tour

This generation grew up surrounded by Western influences that exploded in the country during the 1990s and has no memories at all of communist Poland. To young Poles, PRL times feel like ancient history.


Talented athletes

Poland can boast of international successes in many fields of sport because Polish people love to compete. You will certainly hear them tell stories of our bloved athletes more than once. We cannot only boast of success in team sports – volleyball and handball, but we also have many individual multi-medalists. 

Also when people ask, what is Poland known for, we think of low temperatures, long winters and a large amount of snow. That is why – although our mountains are not impressive in terms of altitude – it is not surprising that we achieve many significant successes in winter sports. 

Let's start with ski jumping, a discipline that Polish people love and what is Poland famous for. You will certainly hear about Adam Małysz and Kamil Stoch – as they are considered almost national heroes! What's more, if you come to Poland during the ski jumping competition season, Polish people will encourage you to see the Polish ski jumper’s efforts with your own eyes. The competitions organized in Zakopane are truly festive event.

ski jumping zakopane

Speaking of winter sports, Justyna Kowalczyk, a Polish cross-country skier, and among others an Olympic champion and multi-medalist winner, for many seasons provided Poles with deep emotion when competing with her rivals from Norway or Sweden.

Another sport discipline in which we have achieved numerous successes is tennis. Agnieszka Radwańska's matches were followed by many Poles, and now tennis enthusiasts rave about her young successor, Iga Świątek.

Polish people also love fast cars... Therefore, it is no surprise that as soon as Robert Kubica started competing in Formula 1 racing, all his fellow country-men watched his tests and his races in the Grand Prix as he made his first win. Many people consider Kubica as one of the most popular Poles in the world.


Amazing football team

poland_famous_football

Poles simply love football. They’re easily the most passionate football enthusiasts out there. And they really, really want you to know that Poland has an amazing football team that just somehow never got around to winning a championship.

Well, that one is quite obvious...

While Polish players provide their talents to many different teams all over over the world, the Polish national football team hasn’t realized that common dream many Poles share yet.

Instead of being known for a great team of football players, the Polish have to accept the fact that their country will never be famous for figures like Robert Lewandowski, but always associated with Lech Walesa (the founder of the Solidarity movement that contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain) and Pope John Paul II.

 

The association is so widespread that it sometimes makes most Poles cringe with irritation. Sure, both these figures played an important role in local and global history, but to have their names shouted at you every time you mention that you come from Poland gets old after a while.

Poland was invaded and fought for freedom 43 times from 1600 till 1945, but the Polish don’t want to be constantly reminded of their tragic history. Instead, they want to look toward the future and have their country associated with someone modern and exciting.

Famous Polish football players

We have already mentioned Robert Lewandowski, who is currently the brightest star of Polish football, but there are (and were) more incredibly talented footbalers in our country.

Remember Zbigniew Boniek? He is currently the president of Polish Football Association, but in his years as an active player he was scoring goals for (amongst others) the giants such as Juventus and Roma.

Kazimierz Deyna was one of the absolute best in his generation. The incredibly talented attacking midfielder died tragically in 1989 at just 41, having managed to build a very impressive career before that.

Today we have Kuba BłaszczykowskiGrzegorz KrychowiakŁukasz PiszczekWojciech Szczęsny and many other gifted and accomplished footballers who are making it big in the best clubs all around the globe. And we keep our fingers crossed for their success – as we already mentioned, Poles take their football very seriously!

Quality music

poland_famous_music

The Polish share one dream. They just want others to finally realize that Frederic Chopin was Polish. That’s right, Polish. Not French.

Even if he spent a lot of time in France, Chopin was a Pole. He was born and grew up in Poland, and left the country only because of the tumultuous political situation and the uprising that shook the partitioned territory of Poland in 1830.

Many Poles would like to be associated with the sophisticated piano nocturnes of Chopin, but the reality is quite different.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear someone mention ‘Polish music’?

poland_famous_disco

9 times out of 10, you’ll think about disco polo. Disco polo stars attract huge crowds both in Poland and abroad, especially in places where you find large gatherings of Polish expatriates. Even if they secretly like it, most Poles don’t want other nations to instantly associate them with this less-than-sophisticated type of music.

That’s what other nations consider as Polish music and there’s no way Chopin could beat that.


Famous Polish artists

No matter what kind of music you fancy, there is probably an incredibly gifted Polish musician known to the fans of the genre: legendary Artur Rubinstein, contemporary jazz pianist Leszek MożdżerCzesław Niemen and Marek Grechuta who were stars of the Polish popular music just a few decades ago, Adam Darski – frontman of popular death metal group Behemoth, extraordinary composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek or popular singer Edyta Górniak – they are just a small representation of an amazing crowd of Polish musicians that we can be proud of. And we are!

Famous Polish songs

If you want to get familiar with our culture a bit better and impress a local with your knowledge of popular Polish music, here are some songs that are classics – timeless hits that absolutely everyone knows.


Famous Polish artists

We’ve touched on musicians, but what about other talented artists? Here you can brush up your knowledge about well-known Poles from other fields of art.

Wsypianski exhibition MNK Fot. Miroslaw Zak

Famous Polish film directors

The landscape of Polish cinematography would look drastically different if not for these remarkable individuals. Famous all around the world, award-winning Polish directors who have taken our films next level are (among others, of course):

  • Andrzej Wajda
  • Roman Polański
  • Krzysztof Kieślowski
  • Agnieszka Holland
  • Krzysztof Zanussi

Famous Polish actors

What would a film be without it’s stars? Here, once again, the Polish have an array of legendary artists who proved the amazingly high level of their skills time and time again. Some of the most respected names include Janusz GajosAndrzej Seweryn and Daniel Olbrychski.

It is also important to acknowledge that nowadays a new wave of talents is making their way to the top. Amongst the ones who are mentioned as possible future legends are Dawid OgrodnikJakub Gierszał and Tomasz Schuchardt. Look out for these names, they will make it big!

 

It is also worth mentioning Rafał Zawierucha, who plays the role of young Roman Polanski in Quentin Tarantino’s film about the American film industry, which is entitled "Once Upon a Time In Hollywood". This is definitely one of the greatest international successes of a Polish actor over the last few years.

We also cannot forget Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot, the actors of the main roles in the film "Cold War". The film directed by Paweł Pawlikowski has won many awards. Among others, he was recognized by the European Film Academy and the jury of the Cannes festival. What's more, Joanna Kulig was chosen as best actress by the European Film Academy. Undoubtedly, when people worldwide ask, what is Poland famous for, Pawlikowski's work is a film people remember.

 

Famous Polish poets

The written word is not dead! Our language – as difficult as it is – has proven to be a great tool to create true masterpieces. The most popular Polish poets are Czesław MiłoszWisława Szymborska (both awarded Nobel prizes) and Julian Tuwim.

Oh, and let’s not forget the classics, of course – Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, whose romantic literary works are known to every single Pole!

Of course, the Polish Nobel Prize winners are the most recognized in the world, but it should be emphasized that our literature is quite well known worldwide and every year there are more and more translations made in other languages, so you may have the opportunity to read many Polish books in your own native language.

Janusz Korczak, Bruno Schulz, Olga Tokarczuk (her books have been translated into over 30 languages) and Andrzej Stasiuk have had a very large number of translations made. The series of books about The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski is also very popular abroad – it has been translated into almost 20 languages and has also been published in Taiwan and Brazil.
 

What's more, when people worldwide ask, what is Poland known for, it is worth emphasizing that the Witcher is something that often springs to mind. This is all thanks to the fact that the works of Andrzej Sapkowski have become an inspiration not only for the creators of the film and television series, but also for games – they have certainly contributed to the popularization of his work abroad and have their place not only in the minds of Polish readers.

Famous Polish artists

Interestingly, not all artists who have achieved success abroad and are popular outside of Poland are equally popular in our country! Regardless, Polish art is really appreciated and noticed, and its lovers pay huge sums for the works of Polish artists. The works of Poles can be seen not only in Poland, but also in the world's largest galleries, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Tate Modern.
Three artists in particular stand out. The first is the sculptor Igor Mitoraj – his works can be admired not only in museums, but also in public spaces of the most important cities in the world – among others in Krakow.

Another Polish artist that is worth remembering is Magdalena Abakanowicz. Her huge abstract weaving structures, which are called Abakans (taken from her name), are what brought her greatest fame. However, the artist also created works from other materials (e.g. metal or wood), and many of her projects fill public spaces – the largest structure she created is located in the Cytadela park in Poznań.

The painter Wilhelm Sasnal should be remembered as well. Again, when asking, what is Poland famous for, he stands out as one of Poland’s most important artists. His works reach extremely high prices at auctions – his work Planes was auctioned for over 1 million PLN. Sasnal’s works tackle topics important to society.
 


Cosmopolitanism

poland_famous_views

The Polish will tell you that you may expect people to speak English if you travel to Poland. After all, almost 100% of primary and secondary students in Poland learn foreign languages!:

Infographic: The Transatlantic Divide In Language Learning | Statista

It’s common to learn one or two foreign languages in Polish schools, and when you consider that 90% of the Polish population completed at least secondary education, it makes sense that communicative English is commonplace. Many people also speak Russian very well, for previously it was taught in Polish schools instead of English and German.

Polish people are usually extremely helpful and even if their knowledge of English (or another foreign language) is not completely fluent, they will try their best to help you anyway. 

Therefore, if you want to learn something or ask for advice or directions – just go ahead ask and do not be discouraged by some people’s serious faces! We can say that the lack of a smile is one of the typical Polish things, but nevertheless, at the same time, remember that Polish people love to laugh!

Warsaw

But travel to the Polish countryside and you’ll find out that one might get along better with some Russian instead. And don’t forget about a shot of vodka to accompany your conversation!


Are the Polish frustrated with Poland’s image?

Many of them would definitely like to change a lot in Poland’s reputation.

The Polish don’t want their country to be known as a place where people still suffer in the throes of tragic history, eat kotlet schabowy every weekend at their grandma’s, and politely head over to their local church each Sunday. And keep the picture of Pope John Paul II on their bedside table.

Needless to say, it will take several more generations of Poles to convince other nations that there’s more to Poland than pierogi and uprisings.

 

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