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Photo: powazny

The latest in Matador’s series on how to piss off perfectly nice people sets sights on the Slavs of northeast Europe.

Since the population of Poland seems bent on colonising the Western world by taking over its service sector (waitressing, dish washing, babysitting), chances are you’ll find yourself in a position to get on a Pole’s nerves. Here’s how you can go about it.

1. Suggest we’re Russians.

Typical. You see the blond hair, the blue eyes, the big cheeks, you hear the thick accent, and there it goes: “You from Russia?”

Capital offence. Due to certain historical circumstances, we do not like this association at all. Also, because Russia is bigger and everyone’s more interested in what happens there. It’s like Canadians and Americans, or New Zealanders and Australians — only with centuries of conflict and oppression operating as subtext.

Of course, it’s not that we don’t like the actual Russians. We are, after all, nothing if not magnanimous and gregarious, even though they hurt us so much in the past, the evildoers…. But we don’t harbour bad feelings. No, we aren’t prejudiced at all — and if you suggest we are, we’ll take issue with that too!

2. Label our food ‘so-so’.

Poland isn’t known as a gourmet country. We like simple, filling, comforting stuff, like pork chops with potatoes or sauerkratz dumplings, and a lot of thick soups to fend off the winter cold. But anyone visiting Poland should be legally obliged to praise our fare. We are ridiculously proud of the quality of our staples — keep your baguettes and bruschettas, for we and only we are the keepers of the real, natural, nourishing bread in all its shapes and varieties.

Dairy…okay, so we don’t make hundreds of varieties of cheese — we prefer simple white cottage cheese and curdled milk (which is wasted by the rest of the world as milk gone bad) — but we take great pride in complaining about the EU directives which demand that all milk should be pasteurised, when everyone knows only fresh milk straight from the udder can be good. And sausage — we’ll give you pastrami and salami, but in terms of good old sausage with a lot of fatty bits and gristle, we’re the best. Period.

3. Feign (or admit) ignorance of Poland’s location.
    a)“Poland?” “Yeah, y’know, Poland. Erm, Europe?” “Aaah. Didn’t know that Poland was in Europe!”

    b) “You’re from Poland? That’s great! Now, let me show you how to use a fork and a knife!”

    c) “I’ll let you try our national beverage, I’m sure you don’t have it where you come from. It’s called tea.”

    d) “Poland? Wait, that’s where polar bears are from, right?”1

      1All of the above are real-life conversations.
4. Suggest that anyone else has suffered as much as the Poles.

Yeah, so we’ve been through some major crap. The 19th and 20th centuries in particular were not too peachy. Other nations just love to pick on us. Especially the Russians. And the Germans. Unluckily, we’re stuck between the two. We’re always victimised. Poor us. Pat our backs and nod sympathetically. We’ll tell you it’s not that bad, but that’s only because we’re well-mannered and don’t like to belabor the point. But it’s true. And it doesn’t matter that sometimes we can only blame ourselves. It’s still not fair.

5. Imply that other countries are worse off.

On a related point, we do take major pride in being The World’s Number One Victim. In times of peace, when our neighbouring countries are not very obliging in providing a reason, we’ll find our own excuses. “Bad roads in Uganda? Dude, have you seenour roads?” we’ll say with a gleeful smile.

And maybe other governments are corrupt, but no one can be as primitive, classless and ineffective as a Polish politician! This is why we have such strong characters — because we have to put up with all this nonsense! Change it, you say? Naah — we wouldn’t have anything to complain about then, would we?

6. Dare to imply that Polish people are not the best.

Despite all of the above, just try to concur and join the choir of poignant Polish whiners and you’ll be dealt with swiftly and unmercifully. We Poles are the best. We didn’t have a country for a whole century and in the end we got it back. We can drink so much alcohol it should kill a normal person and still drive a car2. We even had bears fighting for us in WWII3! So yes, we may be the worst country in the world. But all the others are much worse than us.

    2 fact
    3also a fact
7. Suggest that other nationalities can drink more.

This is the big one. The Death Star of any Pole-befriending scheme you might be hatching. No one has better vodka than we do. And no one — no one — can drink more of it than us. We’re ready to prove it any time, any place, for as long as necessary, until we’re completely drunk, inebriated, plastered, pissed, sloshed, and out of it. But we’ll be the last ones standing.

About The Author

Agnieszka Walulik

A translator, interpreter and tour guide, but most of all an eternal student of languages and culture. Right now residing in Hangzhou, China, where she's studying art history, hiking in the hills, hanging out with crazy Chinese artists and blogging about her shenanigans and interests. Find her online at her blog.

  • Quantum Voyage

    Hilarious, Agnieszka! I reposted it on the Quanutm Voyage FBook page, dedicated to travel.

    • Agu Walulik

      Brilliant, thank you!

  • Nick Rowlands

    I lived in Poland for a few years, loved it. Remember someone there telling me that Poles were the only people who could look up at the sky and be pissed off that it *wasn’t* falling in!

    Nice article!

    • Natalia Klein

      As we all can see: it is so hard to be Pole :)))))))

    • Agu Walulik

      Yes, I can see that happening :-) Thanks for commenting!

    • Agu Walulik

      Natalia Klein Yes, we bury the burdens of the world on our backs and no one appreciates it ;-)

  • Edward Sleczkowski

    I know what REALLY pisses off Poles. Refering to the Nazi death camps in occupied Poland as Polish death camps.

    • Agu Walulik

      So true, but let’s not even start on this one… We want to keep it light, after all, don’t we? :-)

    • Šarūnas

      Well, practically any country would be offended by such remark. The ‘prize’ most likely goes to Poland and Lithuania due to the numbers and percentage (respectively) of ‘effectiveness’ of those camps…

      In agreement to the author, the discussion on this topic better be left alone.

  • Stephen Bugno

    Actually, I love Polish food. And it’s easy to get home-style meals for cheap at the milk bars.

    • Agu Walulik

      See? So it’s true. Our food is great! :-)

  • Carolina Jiménez Pereira

    Absolutely brilliant! I’m currently living in Slovakia and plan to visit Poland soon. Will definitely take this into consideration!

    • Brett Ladd

      Ok….so don’t its not really a fair representation. Having been to both countries , go there with your open mind and explore the heck of it!!!!

  • Ayşe Seda Keşir

    Kamila Smołucha I know how I will piss off you now :D

    • Kamila Smołucha

      I think that after these few months you already sense how to piss me off-even without reading this article ;)!

  • Peter Fabian

    Come on. You KNOW we can at the very least tie with you on the drinking thing.

    • Miguel Marquez

      Damn, you beat me to it! I’d love to see a contest with Russians, Slovaks and Poles drinking. Slovaks are on a whole new league, it seems.

      • christian

        I would like to join that contest you claim the vodka trophy come to Denmark and we drink your vodka and while you puke we still have room for our beers ;)

  • Joanna Banas

    big cheeks? LOL

  • Joanna Banas

    big cheeks? LOL

  • Anna Hivoina

    You can’t drink more than Russians – FACT!

    • JAPONfan

      Yes we can. All alcohol in blood records belong to Poles. Even that one that was done in USA was done by polish girl. Fact. Double checked fact. Fact so checked that Poles was only nation that invaded Russia and seized Moscow and left after we drank all their wodka. Historical fact.

      • Francesco D’Arcangeli

        ONLY nation to invade Russia?
        Ever heard of Napoleon?

        • JAPONfan

          … AND SEIZED MOSCOW.

          • Piotrek

            With all respect, nor excessive drinking neither attacking other countries should be reasons to be proud of

          • mm

            nerd @Piotrek

          • pijus

            ever heard of Grand Duchy of Lithuania? Poland was just a part of what happened in Moscow.

          • Orszag

            Ever heard of István Báthory?

  • OkieSteve

    Mieszkalem w Posce okolo 14 lat i moge pic piwo ale wodka jak Polak!

    • Szczepan

      You lived there 14 years and you still unable to write correctly in Polish?

  • Labais Rūķis

    You forget to say that most common ingredients of Polish beverages are aspartame and acesulfam K :D

  • Lithuanian

    Actually, lithuanian bread is much better than polish. It’s not only my personal opinion, but also of my many polish friends. Well, at least black bread. There is no decent black bread in Poland.

    • Constantin Necrasov

      Lithuanian bread is THE best. Fact.

      • Andrei

        Transilvanian bread is the best!

  • lithuanian2

    i love Poland:)

  • joanna

    Hi, i have never thought I could be pissed off by anything like that, but actually I am. By your description of Polish cuisine. Yeah, it has suffered from years of shortages, but think crayfish, chanterelle, goat and sheep cheese rather than pork chop…

  • Linas Žiūra

    YEah, and you can puke much more then the others !

  • Miguel Lanzinha

    I lived in Poland and I agree mostly with this article!! Hehe nice job agnieszka! :)
    wish there was an article like this about Portugal

    • Juan J

      There is.

  • Constantin Necrasov

    What an inspiring list, Agnieszka! It’s funny that it’s not offensive to not know who Janusz Korczak is or to not have heard of Mickiewicz or Przybyszewski, but God forbid one claims they can drink more… Or mention USSR… Sad…

  • Francesco D’Arcangeli

    I prefer Russian vodka, honestly. But at least it’s better than that Swedish crap…

  • Seriously?

    Wow.. Poles are just as whiny and boneheaded as any other eastern European country. Your food sucks, I feel bad for your women and oh yeah.. alcoholism isn’t a skill. Your a sub-par modern country, congratulations! Get over not being on top of the evolutionary chain. Now go drink your waterka and cry to someone who wants to fight a retard.

    • Martina

      Through I selv come from Poland (but i moved to Denmark long time ago) and your comment and especially your tone, really pisses me off, I agree with.you at some points.
      Many Poles (old/older Poles are) are very boneheaded, that’s why I moved away, but I tell you, the ‘educated, rich, smart Danes are offen even more boneheaded!!

      Don’t ever compare Poland with ‘the rest of eastern Europe’! The differences are HUGE, remember that Poland (western part) is also central Europe. It’s like comparing USA and mexico..

      Food is great, much better than britsh, american or danish! Only it
      alian, spanish and Indian beats it.

      Modern country? No, not now, but in 20 years? The prognoses say so!

      Be very carefull with insulting other countries without knowing it’s people and potential very well..

    • camilla

      Whose the retard? go get your shit straight. Where are you from to be coming at poland. You mad cause we have been through so much shit and were still here and strong and we always will be. Go say someshit like that to a poles face you’ll get knocked out real quick.

  • christian

    haha im Dane and all poles i ever meet when down before me while drinking vodka. but i must agree your vodka is amazing.

  • eMka

    1. Polish food is really good, and it´s not only an opinion of Poles. I´ve got many friends from countries with great cooking traditions and they think the same.

    2. Most of Poles know that Russians and Finns drink MUCH more… in fact most of Poles are not proud of drinking. Vodka is a relic of the past, nowadays instead of drinking vodka people prefer a glass of good Polish beer. Maybe there should be something about Czech beer being better than Polish instead – saying that can piss Poles too :-)))

    • thilda

      Everybody in Poland knows that Czech beer is superior. Vodka is a relic of the past? No, at least last Friday night it wasn’t!

  • Llewellyn Francis

    I was married to a Polish girl for 9 years. The food is decent, good beers and sausages. They hate Russians and Germans.
    But Polish girls are sexy and great in bed!!

    • Juan J

      Amen! But they are moody as hell. If htey dont get what they want or expect, you’re dead!!! But they’re hot. And good in bed. At least at the begining.

      • Ayac

        I completely agree with you guys! :D

  • David

    Stick with studying art history cause you know nothing about Polish history. I am Polish myself and after reading this, I feel that you are either an assimilated Pole that has lived in the West and only knows Polish history through the eyes through biased western history books or just not knowledgeable. “Poland isn’t known as a gourmet country. ” and “We’re always victimized” are statements that make me go to this conclusion. It’s as if you only know Poland’s 19th, 20th centuries and recent history…its a shame. I was expecting you to write that it annoys and pisses off Poles that foreigners tend to only know Poland through its communist past and World War II, instead of its scientific achievements and military successes prior to the Partitions, or that Americans tend to only see Poland as a “loser” of World War II, where in fact Poland played a large role in aiding the Allies to DEFEAT the Germans and resisted German and Russian occupation like no other occupied country..but you don’t. Please stick with hiking and stay in China

  • BREKK

    Polak, Węgier — dwa bratanki – Greetings from Hungary ;)

  • NotApole

    While I don’t find anything wrong in being proud of your roots, I find this article quite silly in various aspects. It could have been written by Lithuanians or Slovakians since there is a striking similarities in the food and historic events. The food is quite bland compared to other countries boasting fares of peasant origins such as Spain or Italy (if we stay in Europe). Being the best drinkers of vodka shouldn’t really be a reason to show pride, it’s quite disturbing actually.
    No one will tell that you are not the best, so don’t look for reasons to be because, in facts, no one is. Every nation is special, but by reading this article I learned that Poles are like everyone else somewhere in Eastern Europe.

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