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Learn more about doing successful business in Poland. This page has information about Poland’s economy, history and even some useful Polish phrases. Expand your international business expertise with Lingo24’s International Business Knowledge Base

Facts and figures

Poland is the largest and the most populous of the states to join the European Union in 2004. With a population of approx. 38,500,000, Poland stretches out over an area of roughly 305,000km. The Republic of Poland or “Rzeczpospolita Polska” in Polish, shares borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia (through the Kaliningrad Oblast). Poland’s rich and varied history transcends over thousand years of conquests, expansions, set backs, partitions, warfare and rebirth. With its unique position between ‘Western Europe’ and ‘Eastern Europe’, Poland truly represents, as the British historian Norman Davies wrote, “The Heart of Europe”.

Environment

Poland’s ecosystem is preserved through numerous forests, national parks, and areas of wilderness. Unfortunately, largely due to the Soviet influence of the communist regime, many national parks, lakes and rivers are still recovering after being recklessly polluted. Early in the 1990’s, when Poland broke away from the Soviet Union as one of the earliest satellite states to do so, it embarked on a campaign gradually to rejuvenate Poland’s natural landscape. Although much improvement has been successful (demonstrated in part by the slowly rebuilt Baltic coastline), and eco-tourism has begun to flourish in Poland, there is still a lot to be done. Currently, the most popular weekend getaways and tourist destinations are the Baltic coast in the north of Poland (the Gdansk, Gdynia & Sopot region) and the Carpathian Mountains in the south of the country (the Zakopane region). Aside from these tourist spots, Poland attracts many visitors to its various historic cities in which a mix of medieval architecture and modern, trendy pop-culture coincide in appealing harmony. Some of the most frequently visited cities are Krakow, Wroclaw, Zamosc, Kazimierz Dolny, Poznan and Szczecin.

Climate

The climate in Poland is moderate continental, comparable to that of the northern Midwest of the U.S.A., with longer winters and rainier springs. The temperatures in the summer hover between +19 and +36C and drop to -9 and -30C in winter. Winter tends to take a hold from early December to late March with a fairly quick transition into the summer in late April.

Major cities

Poland’s major cities include:

  • Warsaw, its current capital;
  • Krakow, Poland’s previous capital as well as one of Poland’s oldest and most beautiful cities;
  • Katowice, Poland’s second biggest city located in the industrial region of Poland;
  • Gdansk, an old port hub and a merchant city that grew into a major metropolis;
  • Wroclaw;
  • Poznan

As with virtually all European countries, the majority of Poland’s population lives in cities. Warsaw and Krakow’s metropolitan areas have populations of about 2.2 million and 1.2 million respectively.

Though Warsaw is the capital, it is Krakow that tends to steal the limelight and attracts much of the tourism and international interest. Krakow is also thought to be one of the jewels of Central Europe. In fact, it is something of a “sister city” to Prague sharing its beauty, rich history and modern day culture. In 1971 the city was placed on UNESCO’s list of the world’s most precious cultural and natural heritage sites. The city’s history spans for over a millennium and is flavoured by legend, war and royal as well as political affairs.

Its origins date back to 966 A.D. when it was an important trade hub. From there, the city quickly grew and become the capital of Poland in 1038. During the following three centuries, Krakow became the biggest and most important city of what was then the far reaching Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Housing one of the oldest universities in Europe, Krakow maintained its status as both the cultural and architectural capital of Poland. In 1609 the capital of Poland was moved to Warsaw by King Sigismunt III Waza who wanted a closer location to his homeland of Sweden. Nonetheless, ever since, Krakow has kept its status as the cultural, artistic, architectural and tourist capital of Poland.

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Language & useful phrases

Polish is the official language. It once was a dominant language used throughout Central and Eastern Europe thanks to the far-reaching territorial advances of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Since then, it has lost in significance though it still remains one of the most used Slavic languages in Central and Eastern Europe. In terms of its origin, Polish belongs to the Slavic group of languages and falls into the subgroup of Lechitic languages.

German, French, Latin and English are the main influences on the language. Most recently, Polish has been influenced (some might argue in excess) by American English. Borrowing phrases from American English became so popular that the government voiced its concerns about the Polish language being excessively bombarded by foreign influences.

Glossary

Hello: Czesc

Good morning/evening/night: Dzien dobry/Dobry wieczor/Dobranoc

Goodbye: Dowidzenia

Pleased to meet you: Milo mi poznac

Please (yes please): Prosze (bardzo prosze)

Thank you (no thank you): Dziekuje (nie dziekuje)

Cheers (when drinking): Na zdrowie!

See you again soon: Do zobaczenia!

Economy

Major industries

Ever since the fall of communism Poland has tried to shed its image as a predominately agricultural society. In recent years, much has been done to promote and improve the service industry and private sectors in Poland.

Throughout the 1990’s, Poland experienced a boost in performance and a bull market that resulted in a huge increase in the number of businesses within the private sector. Currently, Poland’s main exports and its economy are focused on agriculture (about 3.1% of Poland’s GDP), textiles, mining and other larger industries (about 30% of GDP) and the most important element, Poland’s booming service sector (making up 66.5% of Poland’s GDP).

With a strong work ethic, university educated population, and relatively low labour costs, Poland became a lucrative market for international businesses offering them a competitive advantage by providing a new, highly qualified but cost-efficient work force. Many of the largest companies in the world have opened offices in Poland further bolstering the IT, Financial, Automotive and Pharmaceutical industries.

Because of its well-established markets, Poland has a diversified range of industries, making it one of the strongest and most promising economies of the newer EU states.

Key players

Poland’s pre-eminent businesses and industry leaders are topped by PKN Orlen, a once state run oil company. PKB Orlen is now semi-privatised, and is the market leader in the Polish petroleum industry. With annual sales of about $10billion and a market value of $7.6billion, it is one of the top players in the Central and Easter European oil industry.

Poland is also known for having big players in other branches of the economy, including: Lotos (in refining and petrochemicals), Comarch (in the IT sector), Can Pack Poland (in packaging), PZU and Warta (in insurance), Kompania Weglowa (Europe’s largest coal mining operation), T.P.S.A. (in telecoms), LOT (in airlines and transport) and PKO (in the financial and banking sectors).

For more in-depth data about Poland’s economy, investment, export and import information, please contact The Polish Chamber of Commerce (http://en.kig.pl/). You may also obtain further economic information by visiting the International Chambers of Commerce websites of virtually all of the EU countries, as well as American and Asian nations’ ICC websites.

Background info

Poland’s rich history spans for over a millennium and is a source of great pride for many Poles. Although the Polish state was born in 966A.D. its started to become a force only in the 12th Century.

In fact, between the late 1500s and 1795, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populous states in Europe. Poles still take pride in the fact that their nation held such vast territories, had great influence over European political affairs, and was the first European state to have a ‘Noble’s Democracy’ as a system of government (a predecessor to modern Democracy or constitutional monarchy).

Poland is also proud of the fact that it has Europe’s 1st and oldest codified national constitution, the memory of which is celebrated annually on the 3rd of May. Unfortunately, toward the latter part of the 18th century Poland’s power diminished as the combined forces of Russia, Prussia and Austria partitioned Poland and annexed its lands, wiping it off European maps for 123 years. Poland regained its independence after WWI, only to lose it again after WWII when it became a Soviet satellite state (as a result of the treaty of Potsdam).

Beginning in the 1980s, Poland’s Solidarity movement was the first in the Soviet block to successfully suppress communist government authority and bring Poland back its independence. After 1989, Poland regained its autonomy as an independent state and began a process of reconstruction following the communist regime, steering its political agenda back toward Western Europe. This process culminated in Poland joining the European Union in 2004 as one of EU’s larger members.

Other useful information

Main religion

Poland is predominantly Catholic. With a vast majority of the public claiming to be practising Catholics, only a few religious subgroups exist including the Orthodox Catholics, Jewish and Protestant groups. In contrast, Poland was a melting pot of cultures between the 13th and 17th centuries attracting people of various faiths and belief systems thanks to a religious tolerance which was uncommon in the rest of Europe.

Population

Poland’s population of over 38 million is divided among the following groups: Polish 96%, German 0.4%, Belarusian 0.1%, Ukrainian 0.1%, and various other minority groups.

Key dates

966 Baptism and Coronation of King Mieszko which marked the foundation of the Polish State.

1364 Founding of The Jagiellonian University (one of the oldest in Europe)

1410 Victory at the Battle of Grunwald (Polish forces defeat and destroy the military strength of the Teutonic Knights Order – partial predecessor of Prussia and present day Germany)

1525 Prussian Homage

1569 The beginning of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

1596 Transfer of the capital from Krakow to Warsaw

1610 Polish army takes control and occupies Russia’s capital: Moscow, for 2 years

1683 Victory at the Battle of Vienna

1772 First partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia and Austria

1791 Adoption of the May 3rd Constitution

1793 Second partition of Poland

1795 Third partition of Poland

1918 Poland regains independence after the end of WWI.

1939 The break out of WW II as Germany invades Poland

1945 End of war, Soviet occupation begins.

1989 Poland regains its independence and the 3rd Republic of Poland is established.

2004 Poland becomes a member of the EU

Things not to do

Polish culture has had to endure many struggles through the centuries. It has been likened to a phoenix rising from the ashes and has been referred to as a martyr state. Poles take pride in their rich history however they tend to have bitter memories of foreign Russian oppression (the partitions of Poland in the 18th century and then the Soviet control in the second half of the 20th century) as well as German oppression (also during the partitions of Poland and later during WW II). As such, it is advisable to avoid getting entangled in debates about the histories of those two neighbour states.

Additionally, there is an ongoing debate in Polish society as to how to geographically define Poland. Poles tend to steer toward the notion and definition that they are a Central or Western European nation (in fact Poland’s city of Sucholowa is considered by Poles to be in the geographical centre of Europe) and tend to oppose the notion of being defined as an Eastern European state.

Things to bear in mind

In business settings Polish business professionals possess similar qualities and customs to their more Western European counterparts. As such, anyone doing business in Poland should feel at ease due to the lack of significant cultural differences. Anyone doing business in any of the major Polish cities is further comforted by the fact that a great majority of business professionals prefer to communicate in English. Poles tend to be reserved, frank and to the point, mimicking American business stereotypes. One point of interest related to Polish negotiation style is that it is almost always assumed that whatever the initial offer, a negotiation process will take place.

In casual settings Poles try to combine contemporary Western European influences with their regional/national customs and traditions. Overall, they try to be open and easily adapt to various situations, making contact with them (especially the young professionals) easy and pleasant.

Poland’s national pastime is football and this topic makes a good icebreaker for virtually any situation. Other popular sports include volleyball as well as ski jumping (in fact Poland’s best ski jumper is a three time Olympic medallist having held European and World records). Poland is also known for its highly vibrant nightlife. In fact, Krakow’s city centre has more than 300 different pubs & clubs (more than any other city square in Europe) as well as numerous international restaurants providing cuisine from all around the globe. All these elements combined give business professionals ample opportunity to hold meetings in virtually any type of setting catering to the preference of their clients or guests.

Prepared in cooperation with Argos Translation Company.

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