Poland is Different (Duh)

This weekend I was browsing through the notes I have stored on my phone and found one with the title “Things That Are Different In Poland.” How could I have forgotten the fun list I made while in Poland over Christmas, talking about the unique things about my newly adopted homeland (for if I and my husband are one, his homeland is also my homeland, right?). Some have pictures, some don’t, but these are differences you will also encounter if you are ever lucky enough to visit Poland one day.

1. Potable Water

That Husband’s family drinks bottled water or boiled/filtered water at all times. I guess it isn’t very different from my own family using one of those filtered water dispensers with the interchangeable jugs on top, but they drink that way because they want to. TH’s family drinks that way because they have to.

2. Driving

They drive on the right side of the road. I realize this is the same as the US, but it is different than I expected to I consider it a difference. Don’t you find it hard to remember which countries drive on the left side of the road?

3. Breakfast Sandwhiches

They eat “sandwhiches” for breakfast every day. This was one of the hardest differences for me to adjust to. I didn’t realize how much I love my cereal, eggs, fruit and other t ypical American breakfast items.


4. Doughnuts at McDonalds

I find the international menus of the worlds largest fast food chain to be fascinating. It’s always entertaining to check the menu out when I fly somewhere and see what unique items they have added.

5. Cop Bribery

In Poland, if you are pulled over, you slip the officer some cash and you go free. I kind of wanted it to happen while we were driving because I can’t really imagine how this would work. If I ever get pulled over while driving in Poland I’ll probably get myself thrown in jail while attempting to slip him some money. Or I will just pull the clueless American card.

6. Car Headlights

Most cars drive with their headlights on at all times. I actually think that all cars should be forced to do that in all places.

7. Traffic Signal

In America the traffic signal pattern goes green-yellow-red-green-yellow-red. In Poland the traffic signal pattern goes green-yellow-red-yellow-green-yellow-red-yellow. It’s hard to visualize, but adding in the extra yellow between the green and the red allows drivers in Poland to release the clutch and prepare to take off. I drive a manual here in the States, so I would love to see a feature like this!

8. Slippers

You never walk around barefoot at home in Poland. Whenever you enter a house you take off your shoes and find a pair of slippers next to the door to slide on. I caught TH wearing his mom’s slippers around the house several times which made me laugh.


9. The Signage

Another thing I love to do when I visit other countries is to look at the different ways they portray the signs for the bathrooms. The Polish characters are so gosh darn cute!


10. “American” Products

This one really needs no explanation. The manufacturers of this toothpaste must have figured that portraying it as the “toothpaste of the stars” people would believe it worked better than anything else that can be found in Poland.


11. Keys

All of the doors lock with keys just like this. Doesn’t it make you think of Secret Garden or something?


12. Christmas and Day-After Christmas

The 25th AND the 26th are national holidays in Poland. Everyone has the 26th off, and no one has the 24th off.

13. Picture Pass

When you tour a museum or other local attraction you usually have to pay a “camera fee” to be allowed to take pictures. They give you a little sticker to wear. If you don’t have it on they will stop you and tell you to stop taking pictures. It’s actually a really great way to make some extra money at the attractions.

14. Sauna

This is a difference unique to TH’s family. A sauna in the basement! Staying with them for a few days has convinced me that having a sauna in the same room you shower in is like having a little piece of heaven on earth. The trick is to go down to the basement a few minutes early, flip on the sauna, hop in the shower, and then go straight from the shower to the sauna to finish the drying process.


These German instructions for the sauna are hilarious. Here is my own interpretation of what they say since I don’t speak German.

  1. Take a shower before you get in the sauna
  2. Go inside and stay until you are about to melt into a pool of sweat
  3. Go make a snow angel to cool off. Dive into a barrel of water just for fun.
  4. Get a massage and soak your feet.
  5. Go lay by the pool in the most uncomfortable position possible.
  6. Head back into the sauna to start the whole process over. Make sure you do all of these things naked.


15. Old Things

Antiques and old things are a lot more common over there. Isn’t this Singer sewing machine one of the most amazing antiques you have ever seen? That FIL said I could have it, now I just have to find some way to get it.


The last two things aren’t differences, rather similarities.

1. The radio station plays Billie Jean

2. When Grandma cooks, prepare to eat a whole lot


And because I don’t want to write a post on just these three things, I’m attaching them to the bottom of this post.

Here are some of our favorite things from Poland:

1. The coolest nativity set ever.


Look at the detail in Joseph’s hair.


2. The Dwarf

It’s a long story, but I have an obsession with Polish dwarves. His name is Nrut and he keeps me company when TH is gone all week long.


3. The jewelry.

That Husband’s great uncle was a famous jewelry designer who made pieces for the Queen of England! The white eagle from the Polish Coat of Arms, and the ring his uncle received after fighting in the war. I wanted TH to wear the ring as his wedding band, but I think it’s a little bulky for him.


Unfortunately I think this will be the last thing I write about my personal experiences in Poland for a long time. The sad state of the economy means we won’t be going back for far too long. :(

27 thoughts on “Poland is Different (Duh)

  1. Thanks for sharing! I love the pictures. I think the sauna is amazing! And the dwarf- every blog should have a dwarf IMHO.
    Ok. Totally random. speaking of the dwarf and it isn’t related by any means… ahem! When Hugh Hefner started his magazine, he made it a point in his pictures to always hide the playboy bunny icon in the photos. (I am not saying I have the magazines- I merely watched “The girl next door” on MTV… sad… I know… but we aren’t dwelling on that)
    Wouldn’t it be cute if you included the dwarf somehow in little pics here and there throughout your photos of your house/blog? (OK dumb idea… forget I mentioned it…)
    And the key? I grew up reading all the classic books- and the Secret Garden was definitely one of my all time favorites! I think it would be fun to do a post on favorite all time classic novels people have read… I bet that would be interesting to see how many people have similar likes… just another random thought…
    *One more thing- of all the things you saw in Poland, which would you adapt in your own household? For example, I would love to adapt the shoes off-in-the-house-policy I grew up in and so did my fiance- except he is stubborn and I can’t seem to break him of the habit of wearing his shoes in his house. Doh.

    Jenna Reply:

    That is such a great idea and I’m bummed I didn’t think of it for Vegas. I’ve already warned TH that I will be carting that little dwarf around with me whenever I travel from now on. We are headed to San Antonio in April and I’m excited to see what I can come up with for creative shots!

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m a barefoot person naturally, so I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t like when shoes are kept next to the door. And I think sharing slippers is icky. So I’m not sure how to make that work with guests and stuff.

  2. It’s fascinating reading your observations of Poland as some of it is really similar to England, but some things are as different as they are to you.

    We use keys like that here in England (although not always) and our traffic signals go green, amber, red, amber & red together, green. This means if you see an amber light on its own you know that it is followed by red, so you slow down. Otherwise you wouldn’t know whether to slow down or speed up. Amber & red together allows time to get to the biting point so traffic moves off at the green light meaning traffic flow should be better.

    We also have the Beverly Hills toothpaste – I always assumed it was just an american product. Do you not have it in the US? We also don’t have saunas and our loos are marked WC (although less and less).

    Christiana Reply:

    Oh man, there are so many “american” things in England I’ve never seen in America. I keep taking pictures of them – I can’t stop! The traffic lights were confusing at first for me, but I haven’t actually driven here yet. I love that they get both the 25th and 26th off here, the 26th is the English (kind of) equivalent of black friday. I <3 the English signage too – I need to remember to take more!

    ps. I’m in love with that sewing machine…

    Jenna Reply:

    Oh yes, you reminded me that the stoplights work like that. Haha, when I wrote my post I forgot to mention that little detail and you are right, if it was just plain yellow by itself it would be confusing as to what you should be doing.

    I’ve never seen that Beverly Hills toothpaste before, but I’m not sure if you have ever been to the toothpaste aisle at a Target or Wal-Mart. There are so many products available that it is a little overwhelming.

  3. 4 – I never eat in MacDonalds, but I love checking their menus when travelling. In France, you can have a beer with your meal!

    7 – Ours do that in UK too, although we call yellow amber. The amber flashes when it precedes green, but not when it precedes red, so you know whether it means get ready to go, or stop.

    10 – I use that toothpaste! (It is the only mildly-flavoured whitening paste for sensitive teeth I can find.)

    11 – Back door keys or deadlock (second locks on front doors) often look like that here too.

    Great post, Jenna. Now, when are you coming to England?

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m working on it! I’m building up a little list of people I ‘must-visit’ when I come, and you are right there at the top. Let’s all hope for a strong economy in London so TH gets a good job offer someday!

  4. Being an army brat and growing up in Germany – this post brought back some quick jolt of memories. And yes, my dad has adopted the no outside shoes policy back home.

  5. I always drive with my lights on :)

    Loved reading about the neat Poland things. The keys are so neat. And as a dental hygienist – the Sensitive Whitening toothpaste makes me cringe! Whitening makes teeth sensitive!!

  6. Whoa man. This post reminded me of my trip to Germany. Do they drink mineral/fizzy water in Poland, too? I remember once went I was in Crete, we got the waiter to just give us tap water (as all of us didn’t want to break the bank with our meal) and then we found out that especially in that city, they don’t treat the water very well. Luckily, we didn’t get sick.

    My German host family also had sandwiches for breakfast a lot of the time. They bought muesli for me, for I’d eat sandwiches at lunch time. And then go home after school at eat a hot meal. Then eat dinner. (I ate a LOT of food while in Germany. It’s no wonder why I gained so much weight!)

    I think the traffic lights are the same way in Germany – I think it makes a bit more sense as then people have warning that the light is going to change.

    My host family didn’t wear slippers, they wore birkenstocks. I think that’s so awesome!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Jenna Reply:

    Oh sick, I forgot about the fizzy water. When we ate at Grandma’s house that was the only option available and I could only drink a few swallows and so I was really thirsty the whole meal.

  7. I love how many things are the same in Germany! I kinda thought the traffic signals were a really good idea, however my brother and dad (they were driving) and they weren’t fond of the idea. Mostly because there were signals every other (if not every) stop. Oh and the keys! How cool are they?

  8. In Austria, the light goes red/yellow to tell you to take your foot off the gas. That way, when it turns green, you can shoot off into traffic. Then the green light starts flashing, warning you to prepare to stop. When it turns yellow you MUST STOP unless you’re in the intersection or something. Sometimes drivers don’t stop. It’s like the super-advance-warning system. So, yeah, it’s just like Poland, I guess. I rather liked it. I miss it now.

    I wish I knew enough German to translate your sign, but your interpretation cracks me up.

  9. european breakfast is not my favorite. it’s like lunch. and then lunch is like dinner. and then dinner is like another dinner. when i went to germany and austria, the whole trip i kept thinking to myself, “you’d think with such AMAZING baked goods here, breakfast would be a lot better…but it’s not.”

    but one of my students is on exchange from germany…and she thinks american breakfast and lunch are really weird. so i guess we’re even. :)

  10. Countries who drive on the left? Chances are they will be countries that were colonized by the UK nations. For me it makes it easy to remember. Oh and the reason why you don’t drive on the left as well in the US and Canada is because France owned a huge piece of land there before the British so it seems that “our” rule stayed.

    I’m always amused coming here and being told that in my country we drive on the other side. And then I look at people and tell them they must confuse my country with England. The majority of Europe drives on the right side of the road. Can you imagine if at the frontiers you had to change sides? What a mess it would be!

    You would love my grandparent’s key. They own a country home (not quite a castle but almost), the key to the “Main door” (the one that accesses the front yard behind the tall walls is at least 5 inches long. So fun. In France we have a mix of those older rounder keys and the flat ones it seems.

    I love wearing sleepers in the house (my home in the US). We have carpet in ours so I usally don’t need them, but there is an unwritten rule of leaving shoes at the entrance though. I always had sleepers as a child groing up in France though.

    Pretty cool post, it’s fun to see the differences, and the things you expected but ended up being the same.

  11. Oh and I forgot to say, but you probably know that with Danish ancesters. Saunas are huge in all Scandinavia and they have that tradition that the little German manual states: Go in the Sauna and then go dip yourself in frigid water. Brave people!

  12. In Canada you have to have “daytime running lights” on your car. When we moved up from the states we had to have them installed. and the 26th of December is a holiday in Canada, think the day after thanksgiving shopping only not quite as cool because we don’t get as good of deals. (Why you would want to go shopping after Christmas is beyond me I am a much bigger fan of Thanksgiving shopping in the States:) Also you should see the menu differences and portion size differences between the USA and Canada, I always had fun finding differences between the two countries even though we are neighbors.

  13. You can bribe the traffic cops here too; they’re so dodgy and corrupt that you can just slip them some money and carry on. luckily I’ve never had to do this; it feels so wrong and icky.

    Oh and we also drive on the left! Because of being a UK colony, I suppose. But our traffic lights work like yours, not with the extra yellow in like Poland and the UK.

    One of my favourite things to do in other countries is just walk around their supermarkets and see what’s different. What things are completely normal there that we would never have, and vice versa. Fun!

  14. very unique to read your comments on Poland, being a Pole who’s lived abroad in so many places and has had similar observations about ‘strange’ differences in other places:) not all keys are old though, just those that are used for old locks;)
    not all bathroom signs are as cute, in fact I haven’t seen any of those you have on the pic, must be just a 1 place creativity.
    slippers at home, yes…some love it, some hate it, some can’t live without it.
    My nonPolish husband’s favourite peculiar Polish thing is the fact that wherever we get invited to no matter what time it is, they serve us food;) he loves it!

  15. I just love this list. One of the most interesting parts about other countries to me is the cultural differences. I’d love to see that stoplight thing in action :)

  16. Jenna
    you are as cute as a button.

    Jenna Reply:

    You are my favorite Pyle.

  17. As mentioned above, in Canada we drive with daytime running lights- there was a media campaign when they instigated the law called “lights on for life” (at least in Saskatchewan!)

    The day after Christmas is a statutory holiday, Boxing Day. I hate going shopping on Boxing Day and find that all the best deals carry on through “Boxing Week” anyway!

    And we’ve always been strictly shoes-off in the house. Any home I’ve ever been to in Canada is like that. I find it odd that the characters in my favourite TV shows are always wearing their shoes in the house… :)

  18. Neat! I enjoyed that list. Every part of it!

    We have a law in my province of Canada to have running lights on cars. That means that cars sold in this province must have running lights – your fog lights, but sometimes your night headlights – and these running lights must automatically come on when you drive. And if you drive in this province with a car that does not have running lights, the law says you must have your headlights turned on during the day (either fog lights or night headlights) on.

    I think most provinces have this running light requirement. It’s there because safety data has shown running lights significantly reduce accidents in the daytime!

  19. (Oh, and my province is Ontario … I saw a post from Saskwatchewan and another from Canada, too. I guess I should have clarified!)

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