You’ve probably heard stories about how Poles enjoy a good party. They are, in fact, quite good at celebrating, whether it’s for a birthday, wedding, a funeral, a Friday night, a Tuesday night, what have you, any occasion is a good one. If you’re not sure what to do at a Polish party, here’s a run down of what it’ll look like.
If you’ve been invited to a Polish party but you’re not really sure what it’ll look like or what to do, here’s a little cheat sheet that should help you navigate some of the most crucial parts.
Should you bring something?
After receiving the invitation and sometime before the party, you’ll want to ask what you can bring. In America, when people bring food with them to a party, we call it a “potluck”. In Poland, it seems to be pretty standard for parties with friends, so I think it’s the polite thing to do. It’s also a good idea bring some drinks along with you, but the host will surely provide something (e.g. vodka/wine) – not necessarily exactly what you’d like. Very often the host has drinks and shit tons of food leftover after the party.
NOTE: Do not take home what you brought to the party, even if it was not touched during the party. Why? I don’t really get this, but it seems very important to Polish people. So much so that even if I tell someone, “please take this home. We will NOT drink/eat it.” They refuse and even seem a bit offended! Just leave it be and take it to another party to leave there 🙂
When you arrive at the party and shake the hand/kiss the cheek (if you know the person) of literally every single person there. This is not an exaggeration. You must do this. Why? I have no effing clue, but it’s expected and dreadful, and I do it so as not to look like a weirdo.
What’s more, you’ll have to go through this painstaking process when you leave the party as well. You have to say goodbye to literally everyone, even if you didn’t talk to them the entire time (other than when you said hello when you arrived). Apparently, if you do this it’s called an English goodbye, so I guess it comes from England? Are English people considered rude? I’d actually say they’re quite the opposite, overly polite is more like it. To sum up, what is this about and why do I have to partake it in unwillingly? Please make it stop.
Do you have to drink?
Moving on, you’ll notice that women often drink wine (or don’t drink at all because the men will be drinking heavily and someone has to drive) and men drink vodka. Specifically, they take shots. Even if they don’t want to. It seems to be some kind of unwritten rule or perhaps a show of their masculinity. Interestingly, they seem to have rather “strong heads”, as they say here, so there’s not much sloppiness. Once that starts, usually in the wee hours, the party is nearing it’s natural end anyway.
Will people speak English?
So what do you do if you’re the only non-Polish speaker there? Well, certainly, one or two people will take pity on you and chat with you, and the rest will maintain a 3-meter distance for the duration of the party. If people were hesitant to speak English with you at first, after the drinking has been going on for a while, that will melt away and everyone will just start talking to you in English. I’ve had some really hilarious experiences with this.
People often know when you’re going to be at a party when you’re a foreigner because, idk, maybe the host let them know before you got there or whatever. So when we show up to parties, you can feel the tension and people just kind of stare at you wondering what’s going to happen…freaked out about whether they’re going to have to speak English or not. So my husband and I often make it a point to speak Polish to each other so that people chill out a bit. Basically, everyone starts the party speaking Polish to me, and, at a certain moment, it just flips because everyone’s had enough liquid courage. The moral of the story is, if you’re worried about the awkwardness, just wait until the alcohol kicks in and everything will be a-ok.
Other than these small issues, I’d say the rest of the party looks like a party anywhere else in the world. Get past the greetings and you’ll be fine! There might even be some dancing! I was once at a party where the guests danced the Polonez through the house… soo… good luck!