Smiling doesn’t hurt: eating with a Polish family


Everyone smiles in the same language.  ~Author Unknown

Smiling doesn’t hurt.  Except when you do it for hours because you’re being hosted for a meal by people who you can’t speak to because of a language barrier.

“Zapraszamy do nas na obiad” (We’re inviting you to our place for dinner)

You’ve been invited to a  meal with a Polish family?  You don’t speak Polish and your hosts dont speak much/any English? Welcome to the club. If you have time to learn a reasonable amount of Polish before the dinner, do, and then teach us in the comments section.  For everyone else, these phrases might help rescue you from a rather silent meal and a sore jaw from all that awkwardness-deflecting smiling.

Proszę o sól. Please pass the salt.

Proszę o pieprz. Please pass the pepper.

Proszę o…Got the idea? Well done!

If something is being passed around the table, say dzięnkuję when it is passsed to you, and proszę when you pass it on to the next person.

Wszystko znakomicie smakuje. Everything tastes wonderful.

Lubię pieorgi i polską kuchnię. I like pierogi and Polish cuisine. (Feel comfortable saying this even if you have never tried peirogi before.  There is no way you could not like pierogi. You should probably know what they are though.)

Dzięnkuję, bardzo smaczne! Thank you, very good meal. (My first dinner in Poland consisted of mainly this, and a permanent forced smile. Hint 1: wait till the meal is finished before saying this, it’s only cute the first few times.  Hint 2: until you recognise dessert, there is probably another lot of food coming. You’re not finished yet, despite what your stomach might think)

You will probably be offered tea (the wonderfully recognisable “herbata“).   In Poland tea is normally drunk black.  If you’re used to milk, and really can’t stomach it without, then smiling hopefully and saying “Czy jest mleko?” might do it.  This may surprise your host though.

Of course it’s not all about you.  Listening is also good.  You may hear:
Obiad gotowy. Dinner is ready.
Proszę do stołu. Come to the table.
Smacznego! Bon appetit (You can say this too.  Go on. It’s actually easy to pronounce)

A Polished Polish photo, taken in Piotrków Trybunalski

A Polished Polish photo, taken in Piotrków Trybunalski

Toasts may also be given, generally with hard liquor and most often vodka.  Get used to saying Na zdrowie! (to your health) as you continue to ingest a substance that is probably doing more damage to your health than good.

While this post isn’t going to get in to a sociocultural exposition of food and eating customs in Poland, a few tips won’t hurt.  Remember that what will  actually happen varies across regions and, of course, depends on your hosts, so take these tips with a grain of salt.  Presumably someone speaks enough English to have invited you, so don’t be afraid to ask them about what to expect.

  1. You should probably take a gift. Vodka is generally acceptable.  Flowers are also fine, but avoid yellow, and only give an odd number of flowers (for the math-challenged – if you’re used to buying a dozen, don’t).
  2. You may need to take off your shoes and wear slippers. For everything you could want to know relating to feet, slippers and shoes in Poland, read this rather hilarious post from Polandian on “The Polish Foot Fetish”.
  3. This should probably be common sense, but if you’re allergic to something, tell your hosts.  Do not rely on your ability to recognise the offending ingredient in the food that is offered to you.

Of course with all of this under your belt, you will survive quite fine.  In which case, it is time to say “Ja pozmywam, dobrze?” (I’ll help wash up, ok?)

As always, check out this post for pronunication help.


2 Responses to “Smiling doesn’t hurt: eating with a Polish family”

  1. 1 Joe Jeffries

    Excellent blog! My girlfriend is Polish and the first time I met her family was at Christmas. I can safely say I’ve never felt so stuffed in my entire life (and my mother knows a thing or two about cooking!) Just when you think the meal’s over, another dish comes out… it’s never ending! A fantastic, traditional occasion though and I loved every second of it.

    Keep up with the blog, na razie!


    • 2 polishedpolish

      Thanks for the feedback Joe, much appreciated. I haven’t spent a Christmas in Poland yet, but was there for Easter. If nothing else that taught me I need to not eat anything for a few days before any future celebrations! 😉
      Will keep up with the blog, please keep on reading.

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