Cultural Musings

Can we składać się?

10 zł. 50 zł. Zbieramy! Na co? Wszystko. 

I noticed recently that Poles love to składać się. Złożyć się. Zrzucić się. Whatever you want to call it. If you don’t know what it means, it’s chipping in to buy one, usually bigger, gift for someone for a certain occasion. What kind of occasion? Pretty much all of them. Why and how does it work? Read on to find out. 

This is another great Polish tradition, which I’m almost fully behind, with some exceptions. There are millions of occasions in Poland to buy someone a gift and it can get tiring. So, typically, when someone says “let’s all chip in and buy one nice thing for someone” – I’m in ? This is often for birthday parties – weirdly not family birthday parties it seems, at least not in my family. But for parties with friends for sure. 

The reason for it is certainly financial. In this way, everyone pays less and the person gets one cool gift they really want instead of a bunch of small ones. Cool idea, in general. But sometimes it goes too far, in my opinion. I’ll explain why below. 

What other occasions might you składać się? 

Gift for your university advisor or homeroom teacher at the end of the semester ?‍? – Kind of a weird tradition that seems to be more for boosting grades than really truly being grateful. We never did this kind of thing in the States.

Baby showers ?- This makes sense because soon-to-be parents need big, expensive things like strollers or cribs and everyone can go in together to buy something they really need. 

Bachelor/bachelorette parties ? Very often the attendees of these delightful events are expected to cover the costs of whatever it is the bride/groom to be thinks up – in addition to a gift. So you’ll probably be chipping in more than for other occasions like birthdays.

Teachers’ day ? – Ok, here’s where I start to draw the line. I get it if it’s for someone you know well. The spouse of your friend can organize the gift for their partner or a best friend for a baby shower. But now the parents at my kid’s preschool want to chip in for mugs and flowers for the teachers. There are 4 teachers, ok, but just why? I firstly don’t really want to give them a mug. Maybe they get them every year and mają po prostu dość tymi kubkami. Also, we don’t all know each other really well, so we have to awkwardly ask about bank accounts, and not everyone is in the WhatsApp group, etc. One poor sap has to take care of it – for sure some mom who has better things to do, frankly. Millions of propositions and text messages later, we have one idea which not everyone is happy with. It’s just too complicated.

Granted, you can refuse to składać się, but then everyone will probably despise you ? I’m already different, so I’m not gonna go and make it worse. I’m just saying, do we really have to chip in for absolutely everything? I know it saves money and time, but, occasionally, I wanna buy my own damn gift!

So, next time you go to some kind of birthday party, you might be asked to składać się. On the whole, I think around 50 zł is an appropriate amount to contribute, but it really depends on how many people there are and what kind of gift you’re buying.

Are you a fan of this custom? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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  • Reply AsiaEm 25 September 2020 at 18:52

    I think often people prefer to chip in because then they only have to spend a small amount of money and do not have to worry about buying the gift (unless they are this poor person who has to collect the money and do the shopping). As far as I know, giving gifts to teachers used to be more common (verging on obligatory) in Poland, but even now it is quite a popular tradition. Chipping in for such gift may be seen as a courtesy towards parents who cannot afford individual gifts. Similarly, refusing to chip in may be seen as either showing off (if you buy a gift on your own) or displaying your contempt towards the teacher (if you don’t give anything).
    Having said that, I usually prefer to choose and buy a gift on my own, but I don’t mind chipping in, especially for more expensive gifts.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 27 September 2020 at 08:31

      I agree! I think it’s great, especially for people who might not have enough money to buy their own separate gifts.

  • Reply Goha SamoH 26 September 2020 at 23:13

    People also chip in for a present for yet-to-be-excoworker (Im sure there’s a better word for that).

    For teachers at school or thesis promoters at university people really chip in for gifts to appreciate help. That’s why those are given at the end of the year or after their thesis defence, not before.

    Also, chiping in is a way to buy one grander and better gift than 30cheap mugs or pens, so… gathering money to buy yet-another-mug by parents is really really really cheap. In the past (in my childhood, like 25-20yrs ago) those mostly were flowers bought separately. It changed around year 2000, not sure why. I’m up with you, a good cake or something for classroom would be a better way to appreciate teacher’s work.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 27 September 2020 at 08:34

      I agree – I feel like 25 people chipping in for 4 mugs and flowers is pretty lame… but ok. I guess we just have to deal with it! Maybe I’ll buy another extra gift or something to make up for it 🙂

  • Reply stephen earl 25 October 2020 at 18:07

    We used to do this here in England quite a lot but now nobody much does it anymore! My wife and i generally give the teachers something as other parents do but not all ! Money is tight these days!

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