The Polish man is certainly a unique phenomenon in Europe. Throughout the centuries he was characterized not only by his abnormal appearance, but also by extremely gallant behavior towards women.
He let the lady go first at the door or he kissed her hand… The taste of kissing a woman’s hand, not practiced in Europe outside the official ceremonial, was very unusual. This specifically Polish behavior was born in the gentry’s culture of the 16thto17thcenturies, referred to as Sarmatian (the nobility thought they derived from the mythical Sarmatians). Not only men’s gallantry was unusual. High-shaved heads with tufts of hair, clothing referring to Turkish attire (kontusz, żupan) – certainly the Pole of that time brought some touch of exoticism and masculinity into a lace-clad and frilled Europe.
Picture from the movie “With fire and sword”
Much later, in the 1980s, the mustache of striking shipbuilders was also a bit weird.
Lech Wałęsa with the workers on strike at the Gdańsk Shipyard
photo: National Archive, The Hague
Patterns of gallant behavior were cultivated by pre-war Uhlans, with General Boleslaw Wieniawa-Długoszowski at the forefront. When he once had an indecent dream of some noble lady, the general felt obliged to send her flowers with apologies!
This kind of gentleman’s behavior towards women, in one form or another (kissing a ladу’ s hand, for instance, nowadays practiced mostly by some older guys) has survived up today. A foreign woman should not be surprised if a Pole insists on paying her bill in a café or restaurant. But does it mean that a contemporary Pole is the dream material for a husband or lover? Many young Polish women – dreaming of a foreigner – don’t think so.
VIEWS & BEHAVIOR
According to online survey conducted in 2013 by the Bols Platinum brand, Polish men rate themselves very highly, attributing to themselves the following features:
- bravery – 96%
- courage – 93%
- defence of a partner in case of danger – 96%
- class-related behavior – 90%
- respect and gentleness towards women – 86%
Report data on domestic violence presents male Poles however in a slightly different light. According to the research conducted by Feminoteka Foundation in 2012, approximately 800,000 women per year experience violence and 150 die as a result of domestic quarrels. The research does not include undisclosed cases (bullying of a child is not infrequent either.) Beating wives was a permanent element of peasant customs, which women accepted with humility (“he beats” means “he loves”). When asked if men react in cases of aggression of their colleagues to their wives, the president of Feminoteka Joanna Piotrowska responds: “They are afraid to react. “They do not want to look like mollusks or hear that they are interfering in their affairs. The fear of losing a macho face also plays a major role.
Men have been treating women in this way for centuries. In the past a woman received kisses of her hand, but at the same time she was treated paternalistically and with disregard. A poem by Adam Mickiewicz, an eminent Polish poet of the 19thcentury, begins with the following words: “Woman, a vanity fluff, a variable creature.” The echoes of these behaviors survived in the form of contemptuous remarks about female drivers (a hag behind the wheel); statements about a prostitute which cannot be raped and deeply unfriendly remarks towards feminists. In this respect Polish males are characterized by exceptional conservatism and resistance to changes that aim at equalizing the legal and social positions of men and women and the elimination of genderism, treated by many men as the invention of crazy hags.
Photo: Renata Głuszek
Unfortunately it also concerns young men. Women aged 25-33, interviewed by Katarzyna Wojnicka and Ewelina Ciaputa for their later book “Carousel with men”, very often stated that a Polish man cannot function in the equality relationship in which the roles of both partners are not gender-determined. “They stick to the old patriarchal principles and are an explosive mix of a personality full of complexes and at the same time possessing a high opinion of themselves” (quotes come from: polki.pl).
According to the painter Hanna Bakuła, in Poland like nowhere else men are completely subordinated to women, which with the dream of being a real macho extremely frustrates them and makes them dull. Another thing is that they have no particular ambitions, do not pursue any personal development, and spend their free time mainly in an armchair in front of the TV-set, often drinking beer. A model example of such an individual is Ferdynand Kiepski, the hero of the popular satirical series “The Kiepski Family”.
An average Pole is also careless in terms of appearance. The facts and statistics are merciless for Polish men. Many of them become fat in their thirties, and in the following years they get a so called “beer belly.” In addition, according to the data of the National Institute of Hygiene (quoted from Fakt24.pl, March 25, 2011),
- 25% of Poles bathe once a week
- 40% of Poles do not wash their hands after leaving the toilet
- on cosmetics – mainly deodorants – they spend 22 zlotys a month, as a typical Polish macho considers using them a sign of homosexuality.
A Polish man’s clothing also leaves much to be desired, which seems more important for foreign ladies than the Polish ones. It is difficult to understand a high tolerance for the following clothing sets: slippers/flip-flops or sandals worn with dark socks, half-calf trousers, any T-shirt or even an undershirt. When the author of this text mocked at such a model on her Facebook page, many women reacted with indignation, defending clothing freedom!
Photo: Renata Głuszek
According to Tanya Stancheva from Bulgaria, Polish guys do not make a great impression: They are simply not attractive enough for me, there is no spell or mystery in them, they look too ordinary, not very colorful and, as they say in Bulgaria, they just do not catch your eye.
Although in terms of style, you can basically distinguish 3 most striking Polish types:
- pants and slippers – described above
- disco polo (the name refers to a popular kind of music, see Polish songbook) – a suit, hairstyle: “short sides, long back”, dark glasses, white socks, a taste for unsophisticated songs. The mentality of this type is best parodied by the song by T-Love Polish boyfriend, whose hero sings to his girlfriend:
You always put on strings on Sundays
You always look so pretty at church
I hope that luck comes around
And your photo is on the Playboy spread
I don’t want a daughter, I have to have a son
That’s how a proper family thinks
Like a super Pole with super Pole blonde.
3. macho – well-muscled, stocky figure, head trimmed with a hedgehog style, hands protruding from the torso, going shuffling from foot to foot. The type is a bit dangerous because it does not tolerate men who dress unconventionally.
The above types are most characteristic for provinces, villages and small towns. In large cities and political, business or cultural circles there are, of course, elegant, well-dressed men. Awareness of the need for a good appearance among the male population of Poland is reportedly growing…
Maybe things are a bit better in ars amandi case? Unfortunately in this matter the Polish man is also rated, by both Polish and foreign women, rather law. Letting a lady go first at the door, kissing her hand, giving a coat – it all makes a good impression at first, especially in Europe, but then things become worse. Conversation on the first date often lacks finesse, sparkle and humor. A good illustration of it is TV programm “First date”, in which the “national male average” is reported. There are, of course, flowers (sometimes) and a welcome compliment, but then men sitting by the tables seem to be very boring and even show a lack of good social behavior.
Claudia Agostinho from Portugal notes that “Polish guys are too serious; they are rarely able to be relaxed. And they have no sense of humor. Only when they have a drink, they become more relaxed and natural. But there is also the other side of the coin – after alcohol they can be aggressive, intrusive”.
The next step in the relationship can bring a disappointment. “Where is the fire and passion? Where are the surprises, the sticky notes for good morning on the refrigerator, where are the flowers and walks by the sea?” – asks Olga Audzeichyk from Belarus. Polish women also complain of the lack of romanticism in Polish guys.
(Quotes are from the publication Kobiety_z_zagranicy_recenzuja_polskich_mezczyzn)
WHERE ARE THE MEN
Ladies going to marry a Pole should be aware of his usually strong relationship with his mother (and Polish mother-in-law mostly does not like her daughter-in-law). As for the verbal communication, the Polish man, regardless of the environment he represents, is characterized by one common thing: the tendency to abuse vulgarisms while long, long time ago a man saying it by accident in the presence of a woman deeply apologized to her.
Of course there are many interesting, intelligent, well-dressed and well-bred men in Poland. The thing is, you do not know where they are. The problem is not new, because already in 1975 a singer Danuta Rinn sang in her great hit Where these men are:
Where are the men, the real ones,
eagles, falcons, herosy!?
Where these men worthy of the age,
where these lads are!?
THE CHOSEN POLISH TYPES
A man of dream – 17th century knight Jan Skrzetuski, “With fire and sword”
A pensioner / photo: Renata Głuszek
Robert Lewandowski – a worldly man / photo: Uwe Bassenhoff
Published: January 4th, 2018
Fakt24.pl, polki.pl; trojmiasto.wyborcza.pl/trojmiasto/1,35612,7247089,Kobiety_z_zagranicy_recenzuja_polskich_mezczyzn.html;