Are Polish people honest?

Polish values

Polish people in my experience are honest peaceful humble people. I have personal  stories of honesty to prove it, the last being the most telling about morality in Poland.

Negativity from communism distorts reality – Polish society is good

I remember when I was taking a tour of Poland in 1999 my tour guide warned us sternly, hold on to your wallets at all times, Polish people will steal if they get a chance.

After repeated warnings after the first week of the tour, I clung to my money with dear life, thinking at any corner a rogue bandit or local Oliver Twist was to make off with my cash.

However, during the second week of the tour I noticed our Polish tour lady was basically being negative about everything, the change to capitalism from communism, people and Poland in general. I started to argue with her that I actually felt safer in Poland than NYC or almost anywhere in the USA. She rolled her eyes. However, in my personal observation there seemed to be low crime and people dealt fairly with me in the market, even though I could not really speak Polish.

Straightforwardness in Polish business

Here is a specific example, I one time handed a girl in an open market a hundred zlotys note thinking it was a ten, and she ran after me to give me my change. In fact this type of thing happened more than once, I know I am a little out there. That is someone was given the chance to take advantage of me and they did the opposite, that is, go out of their way to help me in terms of justice and fairness.

Since I have lived in Poland a number of years I have had generally positive experience with Poles.


honest Polish nation
My wallet full of cash that was returned to me.



The day I lost my wallet – in Poland and it was not Stolen

The other day I lost my wallet full of cash on the tram. I had baggy pants and I was trying to avoid someone on the tram I did not want to see. It was actually the lady that was involved in helping me get citizenship who worked for the government of Poland in Krakow. She is very nice but I have always feel self-conscious about my Polish as I have an American accent, so did not want to chat with her as she is a very proper formal lady. I hurried out of a crowed tram to avoid her and my wallet dropped out.

I retraced my steps over and over, and did not find it. I looked everywhere and asked everyone. I had several hundred Polish zlotys in cash and my US and Polish IDs and my bank cards etc.

Why I did not panic?

I was not in panic as I have lived in Poland long enough to know Polish people are honest. Maybe because it is a Catholic nation or because parents teach their children right from wrong. Even though I live in a big anonymous city with many poor people, for me it did not matter, I trusted the values and honestly of the people of Poland.

Sure enough the next day I picked up my wallet at the tram office with all the cash and belongings inside. Some honest Pole returned it all. I really did not doubt it for a moment.







9 responses to “Are Polish people honest?”

  1. Kinga

    Thank you for the kind words about Poland. We’re not all peaceful and humble, but I can fully agree on honest. I do not know one person that would find a wallet and keep it, of course some people would but luckily there’s not very many of them. I know a lot of people who feel guilty even when they find money on an empty street, no matter how broke they are.
    I think those positive experiences you’ve had are an reward for believing in people’s honesty.

    1. Mark Biernat

      I do not idealize any people, however, in my experience living in Poland I have been treated with fairness and honesty generally. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that people are fairly religious here.

      I know that that Polish people like to complain about how Polish people are unified during times of national emergency but when times are good, people are more dog eat dog, yet I do not find this totally true.

      I do think the younger generation that has not experienced communism is also more positive than those who are say 40 to 60 years old that lived under communism and the only way to get ahead was use your intelligence to get around the system.

  2. 6 Years in Poland

    Mark, you must have been protected your entire time in Poland and never REALLY had contact with real Poles. The way you talk about them is as if someone is holding a gun to your head as you write.

    I have met many very good, honest, hard working Poles as well, but I would never go as far as to say that most of them are like this.

    Most of them think of themselves as good, but if you really get in with them and know the language, become on of them, you see that they backstab each other at every corner, in very polite ways. It is quite shocking at how stupid some of these people can be. This, as an event, happens everywhere in the world, but we are trying to describe the general trend of a people, and this is it. Even one of their own very respected movies displays this as the national character, at least during the current period of history.

    I believe Poles were very different before World War II. There may have been more normalcy in their relationships.

    Also, their descriptions of Jews… don’t get me started. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with both young and old where Jews are so sharply criticized. Yet the very complaints sound like the kind of complaints I hear about Poles living abroad in other countries (namely in London England).

    I don’t hear Poles complaining as much as Americans do, but they do pretend to be worse off than they actually are. If they describe how poor they are, don’t believe them at all. The ones who talk like this are almost always the ones with loads of money, especially investments. This is definitely a common trait.

    They are not really religious. Their religion is a tendon connecting family and nation. So take it with a grain of salt. Most could care less about the actual God, let alone Jesus Christ. It is an important social feature that defines the core of being Polish and the right to membership in most families here.

    They are hospitable, without a doubt, but at the same time VERY easily offended. It is as if they are constantly looking for something to take offense at.

    I could go on and on. There are good things, but right alongside are the very bad things. The latter are usually quite stronger and louder, so people have bad impressions of Poles because of this. They do not remember the good things.
    I hope this contributes to your page. 🙂

    1. Mark Biernat

      Peace and love do not take this personally as we see Poland and Polish culture different. Maybe it is where and how we live. I live in Krakow, have a Masters from Trinity and work with private business owners as well as I have family in Eastern Poland. So my circle of friends are academics and students with university degrees, business people and countryside people.
      I do go to pubs or hang out with hip hop people in the blocks for example. I am also Polish nationality so maybe my view of Poles is partial. I can only base things on my personal experiences in Poland.

      So you have lived in Poland a fraction of the time I have and as I started coming on a regular basis since 1999 and have lived as a citizen many year of my adult life.

      There is a chance you have a negative filter for some reason connected maybe to your own world view? I do not know your world outlook or experiences.
      For example lets look at Poles and religion:
      Poles are deeply religious and open-minded and spiritual both, the ones I know. The idea of Poles go to church for social reasons is something a 20 something hip and cool ‘I think I am so clever’ person who goes to pubs might say.
      I know Poles that take Jesus seriously, how can they not, that is what the Gospel is about.
      I ran into an American in Poland who said ‘Catholics in Poland do not even read the the Bible in church’. I said what? they have a reading from the old testament and two from the new every mass. He refused to believe me, he was a protestant preacher mind you, I guess it was that he wanted to believe they do not.
      But the reality the people I interact with are not hypocrites at all. I do not know what people you interact with.
      But the churches are packed with people and going to confession and pilgrimages. You do not do that for social events and most the people I know keep their good deeds and spiritual practice secret as not to shine light on their pious acts, otherwise what is the point. I think you judge too hard in areas you have no right to judge.
      Poland is one of the few countries that are net exporters (so to speak) of priests for example. I find it hard to believe that people do that to show up and socialize. How can you judge people when you do not know their life?
      Only God sees what people do in secrete and close friends or family perhaps. And if your friends do that to show up and socialize, that is attend mass I would recommend you get a new set of friends.

      About Jews I live in Krakow and the Poles I know are really into Jewish culture, we have a Jewish festival here and active interest. Maybe some stupid person might say negative things just like you have Klan members back in the USA. But none of my family or friends or even acquiesces think negatively about Jews.

      Muslims, I know many Polish girls marrying and dating Arab guys. I do not know if this is that common in the USA. I friend of my married a guy from Tunisia and they have a child and are happy and everything is find.

      Poles today are more concerned with providing their families with a nice future than wasting energy on negative thoughts or dishonest behavior..

      Poles are honest. Maybe not all but the culture is very peaceful and nice. Crime is much lower compared to the UK or the USA. You can look at any statistic. There are no gun shootings like the USA or drug culture. The USA has massive scandals like ‘the big dig’ in Boston, or a number of governors in jail or the Maddock type scams. So many scams in the USA compared to Poland. I think Poland has been a very peaceful refreshing change.
      I have had people in the USA try to scam me left and right. I love America but I am just saying, there are good and bad in all societies.

    2. John

      Polish people are not much different than all others, with one exception: they are more honest than all others.

  3. Maciej

    Hello everyone. First I want to say that it’s very nice to read about Poland from the other point of view:)
    Mr 6 Years in Poland, I don’t know who is the real Pole and who is fake but I must tell you one thing: people are people. Anywhere and any time we are all the same. I’ve been to many countries in Europe. For example Ukraine, Serbia, Belgium, France, Germany or Slovenia. Everywhere You can find fake people, or people who just want to earn on You. The more poor is country the more people are money directed.
    About the church in Poland… I’m not a catholic but i must say that we are very religious nation. Especially the older generation of Poles is very conservative. Younger people most often try to find their own way, mostly based on knowledge and empiric experiences.
    About the Jews. Every nation has someone who can be said as a boy to beat. Belgians have French, Americans-Mexicans and Russians have their Chechens. Yes it’s hard to not hear something about the Jews listening to a Polish conversation. Why? Because not many countries had such a long relationship with Jews as Poland, and now, after II WW, after 6 million deaths, being second nation to exterminate, we still hear the propaganda about Polish death camps, Polish antisemitism. I think its something like society self defense system.
    Ok last but not the least:)
    Mr Mark, We are honest because communism in Poland had one achievement: we became a society. They put very strong pressure to create social attitudes in Poles (movies, propaganda comic books, almost every one was the scout etc.). And that was the only one good thing:) But still that was not the religion:)
    I hope my post was useful and sorry for my poor English, don’t have many opportunities to use it:)

  4. roxy

    I moved in with a young Polish couple three weeks ago and a few of my possessions have gone missing. My large baking sheet, a bowl and some cooking utensils.

    I live in Canada and the last time someone stole from me was fifteen years ago when I was a teenager. I suspected that my roommate was stealing from my change jar because the pile suddenly stopped growing. I placed a note in the jar that said “Just what do you think you are doing?” That way if he wasn’t stealing from me, he would never know that I wrote that note and if he was stealing, he would stop. My change started to grow in my jar once more but it was VERY uncomfortable in that apartment from then on. Since then, I have not experienced thievery again- until now.

    I know that something is odd when an item as large as a 19″ baking sheet and my favorite bowl that I have owned for a long time suddenly cannot be found. When I asked if she knew where my stuff was she said she didn’t know. I suspect the wife because the husband works constantly and never cooks. I cannot find my stuff anywhere. I asked my previous roommate if I had left my stuff at his place even though I knew I hadn’t, just to be sure.

    The reason I googled ‘is it common for Polish people to steal’ is because my current roommates have both told me that Polish people can’t be trusted. I refuse to enter into a argument with anyone. I am not a racist. I know that one cannot generalize an entire race based on one or few negative experiences. I just want my stuff back.

    If anyone can tell me the politest way to address this issue successfully, I’m all ears. Thanks.

    1. Mark Biernat

      Well I was in Poland, and did not get anything stolen, you must of had bad luck. You could set a trap, something imaginative, something really clever. You might want to just let it go and move on. I did not have such situations in Poland, per say. I think Canada is a rich country, exceptionally so, it has all this oil so things like this do not happen as much. I like Canada. But in Poland you might have some petty people like this, for economic reasons, try to avoid them

      1. roxanne

        Thank you. Since submitting my comment I have decided to let it go. It’s petty to steal kitchenware and petty to dwell on it as well. My roommate received a call from a prospective landlord who was trying to contact me. I think now they know that I’m willing to leave without notice so she probably won’t touch my stuff again. I was under the impression that this may have been common practice to take items from each other. If someone takes something of yours it’s “okay” because you can just take something of theirs next time. Thank you for letting me know that this was an isolated incident. It’s silly to think about it now.

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