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Polish Culture and Lifestyle

Updated on November 26, 2013

Distinctly Polish


The Culture, Characteristics, and Favorite Products

In America more than three percent of the population is Polish ancestry. Where did their ancestors come from? Poland of course; but from the time our country started in the late 1700's up until the era of the First World War, there was no country named Poland. Many people still came to America from that region, however, except that it was then only a part of Germany, Austria, or Russia, constantly changing hands over time.

Like many immigrants then and now, the Poles intended always to go back to their home country and looked upon their residence in America as only a temporary thing, an adventure, and most importantly an opportunity to make some money so that when they returned back home, the folks there would consider them a success. Funny how life hasn't changed much in that respect.

Polish immigrant workers historically took the same kinds of tough jobs all newcomers had to take in order to establish themselves and their families in this new land with its strange culture that seemed so foreign to them. They gained a reputation for being physically strong and hard workers.

The city in America most famous for a large Polish population is Chicago. Polka music and polish cooking are popular around the Great Lakes and in the urbanized Northeast. New York State and Illinois each have about one million Polish residents.

The vast majority of Poles are Christian in their religious background, particularly Catholic. The current Pope is Polish. In earlier generations, Poles suffered discrimination primarily due to distrust of Catholics, a form of bigotry which now has diminished considerably.

Polish weddings are well-known for their gaiety and endurance. Many wedding celebrations last all day and night. Some of the most popular foods, enjoyed by all Americans, are the Polish sausage known as "kielbasa," the rich potato-tasting cake called "babka," kaszanka (a blood sausage), and pierogi (dumplings baked or fried with butter and onions).

It's often helpful in personal and business life to know the culture of consumer groups in society, which consists of so many Polish immigrants. The following are examples of products well known to residents in Poland and the various Polish communities abroad.

With the great demand for Polish food, and the growing population of Poles in countries all around the world, the Winiary brand is popping up more and more in grocery stores. A great favorite of everyone is a soup packet providing a wonderful flavor of borsch, which imparts a rich, comforting taste to a meal, similar to the subtle flavoring that smoked foods will have.

Another popular food made by Winiary is a special jelly the Poles call kisiel, which is very soft and has the taste of strawberries. Also very popular are the Winiary bullion cubes that have a uniquely genuine flavor of just picked mushrooms.

The name Winiary is recognized immediately by Poles because so many locations in Poland bear the same name, including a county, a village, a well-known suburb, and a distinguished neighborhood within one Polish city.

Every nationality seems to have its favorite shampoo. For the Poles, it's Sunsilk. The Sunsilk brand includes many types of shampoos and conditioners, primarily for women.

It's no wonder Sunsilk is popular with Polish ladies. Their advertising features photos of such blond beauties as Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. Sunsilk products are fully available to Poles no matter where they are, because the shampoos and conditioners are found all over the world (although sometimes they will go under the name Seda).

Vistula is one of the more elegant brands for clothes when apparel shopping is on the minds of Poles. Named after the most important river in Poland, the company offers stylish clothing of high quality.

Vistula also puts out a great line of casual wear such as T-shirts and hoodies, some with Polish logos or the word "Warsaw" across the front.

Poles are distinguished amongst the many nationalities abroad for their strict tastes in clothing. The thought of the Vistula River evokes wonderful images for the Poles due to so many beautiful paintings and photographs of the natural wonders of this river in their homeland.

Poles are extremely proud of their world renown vodkas, perhaps the top brand being Chopin vodka (named after none other than the famous Polish pianist and composer himself).

The trademark of this premium drink, recognized instantly by Poles, is the profile of Frederic Chopin. The company is family owned and produces its vodka in a town just outside Warsaw.

The famous vodka distillers claim to rely on century-old secrets to produce their world renown drink. Although Chopin, during his lifetime, came to fame primarily in Paris, the vodka company by this name makes a special point in its advertising to distinguish its product very fiercely from any of the French vodkas on the market.

In the world of mobile phones, the Orange brand is the favorite of Poles. Orange is the primary operator of Poland's mobile network.

The Orange telecommunications group operates all over the world. Poles instantly recognize the name and associate it with their home country. This is why it's so popular with them for cell phones and mobile entertainment products.

To understand the culture of groups within our society and overseas may be an endless lifelong journey unless we are a part of those groups directly, but one way of getting a handle on the mindset of a nationality is to learn about their values, characteristics, and even the brand names that are household words and often topics of conversation.


An Ancient Kingdom

Poland has existed for more than one thousand years. But there were settlements of people in that territory for more than 2700 years. Many cultures, particularly Germanic, came to settle the area now called Poland.

When the Roman Empire came to dominate what is now Europe, Poland was part of the land controlled by them. At that time, the Roman culture was blended into the Germanic culture of the people living in the land that today is Poland.

Around the time when Jesus lived, the Romans were busy trying to conquer the people who lived in the area of Poland. A few stones still stand in place to mark buildings that might have been constructed during the Roman period. The denarii, sometimes mentioned in the Gospels, was a Roman coin of the First Century. Some have been found in Poland.

Poland officially became a Christian nation in the year 966. There were various kings and several rebellions over the course of the centuries. Universities were founded as early as the 1300's. Wars with other neighboring countries took place. In modern times, Poland unfortunately was invaded by Hitler's German army in 1939, beginning the Second World War. After the war, Stalin in Russia took over Poland. In the 1980's Solidarity helped to transition Poland from communism to capitalism. Poland then adopted democracy and became an independent nation. Now Poland is part of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union.


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