In general, conducting business in Poland is highly compatible with our expectations of doing business in the U.S. Poles are, in general, hard-working and trustworthy. The following discussion illustrates a few examples of some potential situations you may encounter when in Poland on business.
It is customary to greet by shaking hands in Poland. A businesswoman should not be surprised if a Polish man kisses her hand upon introduction, at subsequent meetings or saying goodbye. American men are not expected to kiss a Polish woman's hand, but may simply shake hands. Business cards are the norm in Poland and are generally given to each person present in a meeting. As Poles tend to bring more than one person to their meetings, U.S. visitors should bring plenty of business cards. It is not necessary to have business cards printed in Polish.
Although your business contacts may speak English, communication in Polish is recommended when dealing with the Polish government on official business. Just remember that even if you speak fluent Polish, you may still find yourself mired in red tape when doing business with the Polish government.
Business attire is generally formal, including a suit and tie for men, and a suit or dress for women. Casual wear, including jeans, is suitable for informal occasions, but more formal dress is usually customary for visiting or entertaining in the evening. Flowers, always an odd number, are the most common gift among friends and acquaintances. Sunday is the traditional day for visiting family and friends in Poland. When planning a business trip to Poland, it is worthwhile to check Polish holidays. Poles are reluctant to schedule appointments on Sundays or Polish holidays.
International direct dialing is available. Cellular phone services are GSM/DCS-based systems, which require phones working at 900/1800 GSM frequency. 3G UMTS services are available in most cities and selected territories. All cellular operators offer BlackBerry service. Visitors can save on expensive international and long-distance phone connections using pre-paid calling cards (for example Tele2, Dzwoneczek, Papuga) or IP-based access numbers.
As a result of unification of the Polish telecom numbering system, dialing the 2-digit city code (Warsaw - 22; Krakow - 12; Wroclaw - 71; Gdansk - 58) is required when making fixed line-to-fixed line or cellular-to-fixed-line phone calls, including local calls. No prefix number is necessary when dialing to cellular phones in Poland. In emergency, there is a unified 112 number, available from cellular and fixed-line phones.
Air transportation to and from Poland is well supported. International carriers fly to Poland many times per day from all over the world, and LOT Polish Airlines has direct flights to Warsaw, Cracow, and Rzeszow from Chicago, New York and Newark. Delta, American, and United have code share relationships with various European carriers that service Poland through their European hubs. No U.S. airline services Poland directly at this time.
In December 2007, Poland joined the Schengen area, enabling the public to travel freely from Estonia to Portugal without border controls (except the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, and Lichtenstein). Polish airports met the Schengen requirements on March 29, 2008.
Transportation within Poland is quite convenient, especially by air and by train. Flights operate between major cities. Railway routes are extensive and reliable, with the "Inter-City" line providing first-class, express service to several cities. Rental cars are abundant, but due to significantly increased traffic over the past few years and a highway system that has not kept up, driving between Polish cities, especially at night, can be quite dangerous. Poland’s underdeveloped highway system is undergoing major improvements to meet EU standards. Express toll highways connect Krakow and Katowice (A4) as well as some parts of A2 and A1.
Taxis are very affordable. It is advisable to call ahead to a reputable taxi company for radio dispatch for personal security as well as to avoid overcharges.
Basic English is widely spoken in most hotels and restaurants. International hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners accept major credit cards, although smaller hotels and restaurants may not. Currency exchange is widely available, as are local currency Polish Zloty (PLN)-dispensing ATM's, that accept most U.S. bankcards. Please note that the Euro has not yet been adopted in the Poland.
First class business hotels are available in most major Polish cities, and many are located in the heart of business districts. Major western hotels offer air-conditioned rooms with access to the Internet and direct dial telephone capability. Many hotels offer business center amenities with computers, fax, business assistance services, and Internet capabilities. All business hotels take major credit cards. Availability and room rates are seasonal and competitive, and business travelers are advised to check and confirm rates at hotels in advance of their travel.
Polish is the official language in Poland. Communication in the Polish language is recommended if the seller would like to receive a speedy reply to correspondence and inquiries. U.S. companies should ensure that translations from English into Polish are performed only by professional translators, who are fluent in modern business Polish and grammar. When conducting business in Poland, a qualified Polish-language interpreter is recommended. CS Warsaw can provide lists of interpreters.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Poland is on Central European Time (CET) and as such, is six hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast (EST).
Regular business hours in most cases are from 8:00-4:00PM in the governmental offices and 9:00-5:00PM in the private sector.
Locally observed holidays in 2010:
January 1 (Fri): New Year's Day
April 5 (Mon): Easter Monday
April 30 (Friday): Labor Day
May 3 (Mon): Constitution Day
June 3 (Thu): Corpus Christi Day
November 1 (Mon): All Saints' Day
November 11 (Thu): National Independence Day
December 24 (Fri): Christmas Day