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Each country has its own customs and habits that have been established over the generations. Sometimes these can seem unusual and peculiar to visitors. Poland, too has a few quirky traditions worth mentioning.

Slippers for guests

This eyebrow-raising custom can often create some confusion. When paying a visit to a Polish household, it is customary to take off one's shoes. It is an expression of respect, like the one observed in Japan, for example. The guest may be offered a pair of slippers or house shoes as not to walk around barefooted in exchange. When visiting friends in Poland and the host offers you slippers – keep up with the tradition and graciously accept.

Pizza with ketchup and garlic sauce

This Italian specialty found its way to the Polish tables some time ago and became a welcomed addition to the Polish menus. However, in Poland, it is usual to serve and eat the slice with the addition of ketchup or garlic sauce. Do not be surprised when ordering a pizza; you may be asked which sauce you would like with your order.

Laundry drying rack

The sight of linen drying on cords stretched between closely adjacent buildings is still common in many places worldwide. In Poland, especially in high-rise apartments, a laundry drying rack is a popular household item. It serves its purpose in efficient and eco-friendly means of drying one's laundry and, most importantly, doesn't damage the clothing.

Polish beaches- windscreens all around

The Baltic coastline stretching up the northern part of Poland is home to miles of sandy beaches and some of the best European seaside resort towns. In the summer, vacationers flock to the beaches for some fun in the sun. However, the strong northern gusts can blow loose sand all around and damper an otherwise pleasant day of sunbathing. For that reason, Polish beaches tend to teem with a colorful spread of windscreens and shelters.

Kanapka- Open-faced Polish sandwich

The open-faced sandwiches familiar in Poland differ from the typical sandwich as they are served on one slice of bread rather than two. The kanapka consists of a piece of bread topped with a variety of items. These can be cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, fish spreads, etc.   The trick is to be selective with the amount of toppings as there is no second portion of bread to "sandwich" all of the ingredients together. These sandwiches can be served as finger food or as a complete meal depending on their size.

Sto Lat- One hundred years for every occasion

Sto lat (One Hundred Years) is a traditional Polish song meant to express best wishes, good health, and long life. It is sung to congratulate a person on a significant event, such as promotion, wedding, childbirth, etc. It is also a common way of wishing someone a happy birthday. Think of it as if "Happy Birthday to You" and "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" were one song for every occasion.

Imieniny- Celebrating name day

At one point in Poland's history, naming children after Saints was commonplace, and the name day festivities enjoyed much greater importance than that of birthday celebrations. Today, it still retains its importance. The name day presents a splendid opportunity for a hearty rendition of Sto lat and calls for a small gift for the named person. On a side note, Polish calendars, other than the date, contain the names celebrated on a given day.  If a name is commemorated on more than one day, it is customary to choose the first day after the celebrant's birthday.  

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Polish National Tourist Office
980 N. Michigan Ave, Ste. 1550
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 1 (551) 344-3057
e-mail: info.na@poland.travel