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Poland - Business Culture

Poland's business culture is quite formal and hierarchical; relationships are based on trust and familiarity, and reflect class divisions in Polish society. It can initially be difficult to establish business contacts there, but once you have learnt the basic protocol and met several times with your Polish contacts, they will often relax and treat you more informally.

Appointments should be made in advance, and confirmed shortly before the meeting date. Normal office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Most younger Poles speak English, but you may need to have correspondence translated, or arrange for an interpreter for the meeting.

Polish people dress smartly for business and are usually well-groomed, with conservative suits and ties for men, and suits or dresses for women.

The usual form of greeting is a firm handshake with direct eye contact. Men should wait for a woman to extend her hand. Polish men sometimes kiss a businesswoman on the hand as a sign of respect. Business cards are usually exchanged.

First names are rarely used in business: you should address people by their professional title or by Pan (Mr.) or Pani (Mrs) with their family name, unless invited to use their first name.

There is commonly some small talk at the outset of meetings, but Poles like to get down to business quite quickly. Presentations should be logical and clear, but need not be elaborate. Meetings often extend beyond the scheduled time, and lengthy silences for contemplation are not uncommon.

Poles often display their emotions, and respect this in others as a sign of openness and honesty. They also enjoy lively debate and are not afraid of expressing their opinions, while remaining polite and courteous. They often introduce humour into discussions, which tends to be based on irony and sarcasm.

Decisions are made at a senior level, normally guided by rules and regulations. Bargaining is not commonly used as a negotiation strategy.

Business lunches or dinners are commonly held in Poland, but primarily for getting to know business contacts rather than negotiations.

It is normal practice to present business contacts with a small gift at the outset of a business relationship, or when a project or other milestone has been completed. Gifts should be of good quality but not too expensive, for example a craft from your home country.

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