Many Poles will meticulously prepare a meal for a guest,
while a smaller number may get lost in the time and be well behind schedule. Either
way, you should arrive on time and be dressed quite conservatively. Once inside
be sure to offer your assistance with food preparation; most hosts won't need
this help and will insist you relax, while a minority of hosts may truly need your
help. Either way, the offer will be very much appreciated.
As the food is served, let your host take the lead as dinner may begin simply by
eating, a prayer, or a toast. You should try everything you're served as turning
down food may make your host feel like he or she must make a new dish for you. Poles eat in the continental style (knife in the right hand,
fork in the left), although few locals will demand this from their guests.
Most hosts will push more food on you, so if possible, begin with just a little
food so you have room to eat more later. On some occasions a meal will be interrupted
regularly with toasts and drinking vodka. The host will give the first toast and
if you feel like giving one later in the meal all are welcome to join in.
In business meetings, the inviter is expected to pay for the entire meal, although
it is expected that you offer to assist with the bill.
When eating at a sit down restaurant, tipping about 5-10% of the bill is appropriate
and if rounding up meets this amount you'll fit right in with the locals. In
tourist centers, particularly in Warsaw's Old Town, tipping should increase
to about 10%, however here waiters and waitresses tend to speak great English and
service tends to be impeccable.
Poland has its share of non-alcoholic drinks, but few are
original and none make headlines. All popular international drinks are available
in the country, including tea, coffee, juices, soft drinks, and milk.
However, when it comes to vodkas the country is quite original; in fact the first
historical reference to vodka comes from Poland and many agree that vodka was founded
in Poland by the ancestors of today's Poles. Although vodka distilled from rye
is their national drink, every local shop offers dozens of varieties, including
sweet honey vodkas and hot burning chili vodkas to the most popular and common rye
vodkas, including famous exports like Chopin and Belvedere. While most liquor stores
have a huge selection of local and international vodkas, all popular alcoholic beverages
are available, including beers, wines, and other hard liquors.
There is no consensus on the cleanliness of the tap water in Poland.
After an upgrade to their water treatment facilities recently the tap water is generally
safe to drink, but locals still refuse to drink it. In the cities and mountains
the water is safest, although it is most likely safe everywhere. Of course you may
stay on the side of caution and avoid the tap water entirely. If you do decide to
drink the tap water, remember that many people may have troubles adjusting to the
local water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used