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Poland - Climate and Weather
Warsaw is a sprawling city which is now home to more than 1.7 million residents, making it the largest city in Poland. The next biggest of the five major cities is Krakow, in the Małopolska district (lesser Poland), which has 760,000 residents. The Southern Polish district of Silesian Voivodeship, rich in mineral and natural resources, has over 5 million residents; it is therefore the most densely populated district outside a city, although small parts of the district lie within the boundaries of the Czech Republic and Germany.
Just over 60% of Poland’s total population of 38.5 million people live in urban areas (in the UK and US it is more than 80%) but despite the high rural population forests cover more than 30% of Polish terrain.
Poland has a continental climate, meaning the winters are very cold and the summers are warm. At the northern coast, where a lowland plain is bordered by sandy beaches and dunes, the Baltic Sea makes the climate more mild. Temperatures here may be a couple of degrees warmer on average than in the flat fertile farmlands of the central lowlands. Whilst the northern regions are somewhat hilly, the Sudeten and Carpathian mountain ranges (the latter includes the Tatra Mountains) sit on the Polish southern border and are popular with visitors as a winter sports area. These mountain areas have an impact on air mass movement, leading to strong winds and a variation in climate and temperature.
January, closely followed by February, is the coldest month of the year. In Warsaw, the Polish capital city located in the east central part of the country, the January temperatures will often fall to -5°C but will average -2.5 °C. Heavy depths of snow are not expected in winter, but a frequent ground covering of snow is normal from December to March in most areas.
The winter of 2016/17 was unusually cold. At least 65 people died in Poland due to the weather, most from hypothermia, as temperatures plummeted to below -20 °C (-4F).
By the middle of May most areas experience warm days, leading to the summer high temperatures of July and August, when Warsaw can enjoy average temperatures of 23/24 °C.
Summer temperatures will be slightly reigned in by the frequent rainfall, thanks to the effects of the Atlantic weather systems which make this the wettest time of the year. Thunderstorms are likely, especially near the Sudetes and Tatra Mountains in the south. Rain can be expected between 10 and 12 days during the month of July.
September will see the last of the pleasant weather for the year, when the Halny - a foehn wind - will become turbulent in southern Poland around the Tatra Mountains of the Carpathians.
Storms can happen at any time of the year. Sometimes they are powerful enough to uproot trees which causes damage and disruption to property and homes, cut electricity supplies to homes and businesses, and damage property. In June 2016 four people died in various incidents caused by hurricane-force winds. These included a pedestrian bridge collapsing into a river, flying debris hitting pedestrians and a tree falling onto a road.
Poland has experienced more than 4 thousand earthquakes since 1900. In November 2016, an earthquake left eight miners dead in Poland’s largest copper mine, near Polkowice in south-west Poland. This follows the death of three miners during an earthquake in the Rudna area of Poland in December 2010. However, risks to the population above ground are negligible.
Given the continental climate and varied temperatures in Poland you will need an extensive wardrobe. If you are dressed for the hot summer weather outside, then shorts and short skirts are fine, as are T-shirts and strappy tops. However, if you are going into a church then your dress must be respectful; both your legs and your shoulders must be covered. If you do not dress appropriately, you will be asked to leave.
Casual dress for the rest of the year is dominated by jeans and sweaters, which is useful to cope with the cooler and variable temperatures. Visible masculinity is much more important in Poland than in the UK or US, so men are less likely to wear designer clothes. Women usually take pride in their appearance, including heavy use of make up, and trousers are more typically worn for practicality rather than dresses. Women in Poland prize both femininity and feminism, and their appearance will often reflect this.
In winter it is advisable to wear layers. The temperature in Poland can vary, and most inside spaces will be well heated, so you need to be able to adjust your clothing. Outside a warm coat which covers the whole body, complemented by a hat, scarf and gloves, will keep you warm. Good waterproof winter boots will be sufficient in most areas, especially if the soles have a good grip. A T shirt, long sleeved top and a sweater provide plenty of warm layered clothing, are are useful if you suddenly find yourselves in a well heated cafe. Jeans continue to be a popular item of clothing even in winter. But if you are walking in cold rain or through snow, be aware that jeans will get cold and wet, and remain so for the rest of the day.
The extent to which you should dress conservatively or casually for work in Poland will depend on the sector and the individual business. Professional organisations offering expensive specialist services to clients will want their staff to dress very smartly. Good quality suits which are dark in colour and conservative in style would be ideal. Women wearing smart skirts would be required to wear tights at all times. Watches and jewellery should be discreet and good quality.
If you are working in a formal profession your behaviour should mirror the impeccable taste of your clothing. Dzień dobry! (jeyn-DOH-bree) is a formal greeting which shows respect. It will be used for your manager, clients, colleagues who are not close friends, cab drivers and shop assistants. A handshake, not too firm, would also be appropriate if meeting business colleagues for the first time or when greeting a client. Pani (Ms) or Pan (Mr) should always be used before someone’s name, even if you are talking about them when they are not present. If someone greets you with Dzień dobry! It is extremely rude not to return the greeting, regardless of whether this is at work, in a shop or in your neighbourhood. The formality of strangers means your smile may often not be returned. Cześć! (tsche-sh-ch) should only be used for more casual and close relationships.
For businesses with a more relaxed dress code, the aim is to wear clothes that can be described as smart casual. This means that men can wear a more colourful shirt and not wear a tie, but should still look fairly smart. Similarly, women should avoid low cut tops and short skirts. Jeans and trainers should be avoided.
Many companies allow staff to dress more casually on a Friday, unless the member of staff is scheduled to have a meeting with or contact with clients, in which case the normal dress code applies as usual.
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