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Culture & Identity of Poland

Introduction

Polish Culture - People gathering in Krakow
People gathering in Krakow

Life in Poland is heavily based on family and their religion, Catholicism. However, today many young people are heading to the cities for a university education and jobs, slightly changing the dynamic, but the active social lives found in cities have always had a significant role in Polish culture, especially considering the country was the likely birthplace of vodka.

Today about 60% of the people in Poland live in cities, but this number is slowly growing. However, the rural lifestyle of the people is an important part of the culture and as young people move to the cities, they seem to share their local customs and traditions. From a job perspective, the people are somewhat divided as nearly 15% of the people work in agriculture, another 30% in industry, and the rest work in the services sector, which takes on many forms.

For the farmers the daily way of life revolves around the rising and falling of the sun as well as seasonal variations. The industry and service workers tend to have more static hours, but even these can change as some industry positions have evening and night shifts and many service industries, particularly those in the entertainment and food industries, have evening and weekend hours. For those with more set hours, the regular work day runs from about 7:00 or 8:00 am to about 6:00 pm.

Education is important to most Poles and nearly every child attends school. School always begins at the beginning of September and ends in about May. The school day generally begins at about the same time the work day begins and it ends in the early afternoon, generally at about 1:00 pm. After this many children partake in after school activities or do their school work, which is rarely overbearing.

As a very family-oriented culture, evenings and weekends in Poland are heavily focused on family and religion. Most families eat together in the home and Sundays are the day to attend church, which an overwhelming number of Poles do on a weekly basis (especially compared to neighboring countries). Alcohol is also a part of the culture, especially for celebrations and holidays. However, with a thriving university scene, some large cities have become nightlife hot spots. Bars, restaurants, and dance clubs are all common in the cities and the youth of the nation tend to flock to these spots Friday and Saturday nights.

Identity

Poles identify as Polish and that has a very specific meaning in Poland today. To be Polish one must be a native Polish speaker and must be Catholic. There is a minority of ethnic Poles in the country's northeast that is Orthodox, but most people see this group as odd and "not quite Polish," whereas any Catholic American or Canadian who was born in Poland and speaks the language fluently will often be accepted as a Pole. In this way, citizenship and nationality have little to do with being identified as a Pole; this separation of the government from the identity also has historic roots when the political entity failed to exist, and later under communist rule when most Poles disagreed with the government.

This page was last updated: May, 2014