Business etiquette

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Business etiquette in Poland

Business etiquette focuses on the behaviour deemed appropriate in a professional setting and you’ll be more likely to make an excellent impression on people you encounter, if you maintain a professional approach.

Attitudes and values are the foundations that drive behaviour and that gives us clues to people‘s thought patterns and what they consider important.

Basic tips to follow when doing business in Poland:

  • Greetings should include a firm handshake and direct eye contact; if there are a number of people, they should all be greeted individually, rather than a general wave or nod of acknowledgement.
  • Men should wait for a woman to extend her hand and Polish men will sometimes kiss a women on the hand, as a sign of respect.
  • Gifts are usually opened immediately and should not be overly expensive.
  • If you are giving flowers, make sure that they are given in odd numbers and avoid flowers that have cultural significance, especially yellow chrysanthemums, which are used at funerals, and red or white flowers such as carnations and lilies.
  • If you wish to meet with someone, you will have to make an appointment in advance.
  • Letters should be addressed to the company rather than to a specific person. This prevents a letter from being held up if the person it is addressed to is away from the office.
  • Punctuality is expected and taken extremely seriously.
  • Initial meetings are scheduled as introductions to see whether you are trustworthy; and a first meeting may be with a middle manager, rather than the actual decision maker.
  • Poles are known for being straight-talkers, but they still try to be diplomatic about their opinions, so as not to offend their business partners.
  • Expect some small talk and getting-to-know-you conversation before business is discussed.
  • Business is conducted slowly. You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol.
  • Companies tend to have a hierarchical structure, with decision-making power held at the top of the company.
  • Presentations should be clear, accurate and detailed and you should have charts and figures to back up your claims, where necessary.
  • Always maintain direct eye contact while speaking.

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Corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a partnership between companies, stakeholders and the government to integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations on a voluntary basis.

After joining the EU, Poland started implementing new policies promoting environmental protection and energy efficiency. The Polish government had to close down many inefficient, polluting factories because of their effects on the atmosphere. Environmental protection is financed mainly from fees paid by companies that have violated environmental regulations.

Even though there is greater awareness of environmental issues and the need to keep the environment clean, the precarious financial situation that many SMEs find themselves in means that they are unable to invest in new technology and cleaner processes.

The fines for high emissions of contaminated particles into the atmosphere are relatively low in Poland. It is therefore cheaper for smaller companies to pay the fines rather than spend money on machines to reduce their environmental impact.


In general, Poles are considered to be quite punctual. However, people in higher positions might arrive late to a meeting, in order to demonstrate their status and importance within the company hierarchy. It is advisable to arrive on time to a business meeting, although you might be forgiven for being up to 15 minutes late.

In social circumstances, the rules are more relaxed and if you are invited to a party, it is expected that you will arrive about 15 minutes late.

Gift giving

In Poland, it is expected that gifts will be given at the initial business meeting and upon the conclusion of any business arrangement, such as when a contract is signed. Small presents, like a corporate gift (without company logo or branding) or a souvenir representing the country you are visiting from, would be acceptable. Other appropriate gift choices might include high quality chocolates, cigars, flowers, perfume, wine or liquor from your home country that are either not available in Poland or difficult to obtain.

If invited to a business partner’s home, it is normal to bring flowers, sweets or a bottle of wine.

Business dress code

For business meetings, most managers wear formal clothing, meaning that men wear dark coloured suits with a jacket and tie, and women wear suits with either trousers or a skirt. During normal office hours, the dress code might be slightly less formal, but you should still maintain a smart appearance. First impressions are always very important in the business community.

Large organisations set a dress code policy for their employees, in order to show respect for their business partners, customers and the general public. However, some companies have instituted casual Fridays, when employees can chose to wear more comfortable attire.

Small and medium sized companies often do not have a formal policy in place, but will expect you to dress according to your position and the environment in which you are working.

Bribery and corruption

The Corruption Perceptions Index (2012) charts levels of corruption in 176 countries throughout the world and places Poland at 41st on the list with a score of 58.

In Poland, people perceive that big business is often behind the motivations of public officials, including politicians, ministers, regional heads and even judges.

Bribery is commonplace on the smaller scale, where a few thousand zloty will change hands to cut red tape in government offices and smooth over procedures for licensing and contract procurement. It is almost impossible to do business in Poland without being part of the “open more doors” culture. However, with this modus operandi, you could just as easily be accused of committing a crime.

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