Welcome to Poland – Welcome to Polish

The hardest part about moving to Poland was the fact that I at times felt like an undecided child. It didn’t even occur to me that I should first just try to speak in English in a shop. Instead I opened my mouth and tried to ask for things in Polish. My first frightening experience was when I went to a coffee bar and asked for ‘kawa’. I should’ve just said ‘coffee’ – everyone knows what coffee is. Here’s how that went:

“Poproszę kawa,” I kindly asked.

“Sypana czy rozpuszczalna?” I had no idea what either of those two words meant.

“Erm… normalna.” What else should I have said? I only wanted coffee.

“Przyszyrzaprzo?” Or something like that. I didn’t have a clue what he had just said.

He sighed and said, “pięć złotych,” That I understood. I took out a shiny 5zł coin and handed it over to the man behind the counter. He made the coffee and gave it to me. Mission completed.

There were other such encounters. Every time I seemed to want to buy something, I was given a life or death like dilemma. When I wanted to buy bread, “cały czy krojony?” two words I just did not comprehend. When buying petrol, “faktura czy paragon?” The list of such experiences I’ve had to deal with are exhaustive. Why couldn’t I just go into a shop and buy something without question, or interrogation? I remember how terrified I was when I was sent to the shop to buy flour. I asked the lady for ‘mąka’ in which she replied, “przenna, ziemniaczana czy tortowa?” Oh no, three options! Not even a coin toss would settle that one.  I can’t even remember how that one turned out.

I also had a problem with prefixes in Polish. I once asked my girlfriend to go upstairs and ‘ugotować się’ while I would stay downstairs and ‘rozbierać’ the potatoes. I’m sure the taxi service was excited when I phoned up and said, “zapraszam taksówkę.”

Let me give you an illustration for why climbing to the top of Mount Everest is a piece of cake in comparison to learning the Polish language:

English – two

Polish – dwa, dwie, dwoje, dwóch, dwaj, dwiema, dwom, dwoma, dwojga, dwojgu dwojgiem, dwójka, dwójki, dwójkę, dwójką, dwójce… (please tell me if there are any more – in fact, no, don’t!)

I’m finally getting used to the Polish language, yet there is one thing I’ll never be able to accept: my name is Robert Wolff. Call me Rob for short. But I can’t stomach seeing my name changed in the way it is here. Here I’m Robert Wolff, Roberta Wolffa, Robertem Wolffem, Robertowi Wolffowi, Robercie Wolffie.

My name is Wolff, Robert Wolff.

But call me Rob.


at times – czasami

undecided – niezdecydowany

occur to me – przyjść na myśl

instead – zamiast

frightening experience – przerażające doświadczenie

asked for – pytałem / prosiłem o

I had no idea what either of those two words meant – Nie miałem pojęcia, co te słowa oznaczały

What else should I have said? – Co innego miałem powiedzieć?

something like that – coś w tym stylu

I didn’t have a clue – Nie miałem pojęcia

He sighed – Westchnął

hand it over – dać

comprehend – zrozumieć

deal with – radzić sobie z

exhaustive – wyczerpujący

interrogation – przesłuchanie

terrified – przerażony

coin toss – rzut monetą

settle – sfinalizować

turned out – okazało się

a piece of cake (idiom) – bułka z masłem

illustration – ilustracja

I’m finally getting used to – w końcu przyzwyczajam się do

stomach – ścierpieć / trawić


Rob Wolff


10 thoughts on “Welcome to Poland – Welcome to Polish

  1. Rob, in Polish, after the letter “p” one should write “rz”… with some exceptions. “PSZENNY” is one of those
    😉 Good Luck 🙂


  2. Just think that we’re having this dilemma since we had had born. Good luck and hold on this is only a top of mountain. 😀


  3. You are not alone. I still remember my first shopping experience here in Poland. I prepared for an hour before memorizing one sentence- ”Chcę kupić szampon.” and the salesgirl asked me ”Jaki?”. I understood, but I didn’t know what to say so I pointed to a bottle on the shelf and said, ”Zielony”. 🙂


    1. Hi Meg. I hope you have good pointing skills because if there had been two different green bottles, you’d have been in trouble 😀 But yeah, once I needed to buy chicken but didn’t know how to say kurczak – can you imagine how I had to show it?


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