When preparing for a trip to Poland it is always useful to learn some basic phrases in Polish as my countrymen are always fond of foreigners who make even the slightest effort to speak our difficult and hissing language. Apart from that some basic expressions might help you get by in some situations because beware! Poland is not Scandinavia and you shouldn’t expect everyone to speak perfect English, unfortunately.
However, whenever a nice non-Polish person asks me to teach them some Polish they tend to give up all hope after the first word they usually ask for: Hello! It’s ‘Cześć!’ in Polish (used also as a ‘Bye!’), pronounced somehow like cheshch. Don’t worry, though. We use words like ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ a lot as well, you can always stick to them, and say goodbye using ‘Pa pa!’. Much easier, right? 🙂
Second important thing is to forget all the bad stereotypes you have ever heard about Poland and the Polish. It’s high time they were revisited and a new wave of opinions about modern Polish society would start circulating among other world citizens. We are very happy, though, when you know something about our country and its most famous people, even again if these are just basics like the Pope John Paul II, Lech Wałęsa, Krzysztof Kieślowski or Adam Małysz (a famous ski jumper, not doing that well this winter season so be prepared to hear some complaints that he’s not what he used to be any more…).
Funnily enough it seems that we have this strange addiction to cakes. When in Wadowice where the Pope was born you have to try the famous ‘kremówka’ he used to eat here during his high school leaving examination session. In the hometown of Małysz (Wisła) you can eat a cake with a tiny chocolate figure of the jumper himself on top of it. Generally you are warmly advised to try Polish food. It is of course quite rich and calorific (we are not a tropical island in the end) but when well prepared it’s really delicious. Some of our national dishes have strange names though. My favourite delicious dumplings with a yummy potato, onion and cottage cheese filling are called Russian dumplings. We also serve the Brittany-style beans, Jewish-style fish and many more, although all these dishes are probably not known in their ‘countries of origin’. So please avoid fast food restaurants and go explore the Polish food.
All in all, Poland is a country definitely worth visiting (Cracow and Warsaw being on many international lists of cities worth visiting, I would also recommend Wrocław and Gdańsk) and the Polish are a nation of warm-hearted, kind, if sometimes ironical and grumpy people. I wish you all the best for your trip!