EuNIC-Europe: European Information Center for Culture

Culture in Poland

Poland is a nation in Central Europe and Polish culture has developed as a result of the impact of its neighbours. Established as a nation in the 10th century, Poland has been occupied on many occasions during its history and the influence of those occupants – Germanic, Latinate and Byzantine – has created a Polish culture that is a diverse mix of east and west.

Poland is a staunchly Roman Catholic country – in 1978, the Pole Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 500 years – but has always been a religiously diverse society, particularly before the Second World War when there was a large Jewish population. The effects of the Nazi Occupation, the Holocaust, then and Poland’s subjugation behind the Iron Curtain have had long-lasting effects on both the national consciousness and Polish culture.

An international outlook

Polish culture is rooted in art, literature, music and science. From the earliest establishment of the Polish nation, the Poles have always looked outward and found inspiration and affirmation in equal measure. In music especially, Poland is blessed with such composers as Chopin and Lutoslawski; with folk music that continues to be the sound of modern Poland; and more recently, by the rise of metal and rock.

In literature, a tradition that dates back to the 12th century and was always international in its outlook has been continued by a generation of émigré writers who fled the communist regime. Marie Curie, the physicist and pioneer of radioactivity, was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

A friendly nation

Polish culture reflects the unique character of a people shaped by occupation and by suffering. And remarkably, considering the dramatic and tumultuous history of Poland, its people are considered among the friendliest people in Europe, its nation a welcoming and tolerant one. Welcoming guests into the home is considered highly important where serving traditional Polish cuisine, such as dough balls, sausages and soups, is a crucial part of the hospitality.

Vodka is the drink most inextricably linked with Poland and its consumption here dates back to the 15th century. Both the national drink and a source of national pride, vodka is perhaps Poland’s most potent export.