This article was originally published in February 2020. It has been actualized in August 2022.
After reading my article, about 10 things I love about Poland, you may have an impression that we live in a perfect country… but that would be far from the truth.
Having lived in Poland since 2006, I grew very fond of this country and it was a great choice to start my business and family here. Still from today’s perspective I think it was the best country I could have chosen.
But to be fair I will also share with you the things I simply don’t like about our country. In this article you will find out what are Poland’s 10 main shortcomings from my perspective.
- Winter and switching the time twice a year
Don’t get me wrong – there are times with sun and snow during Polish winter when it’s really beautiful outside. But on majority of days between November and March the weather is rainy and the skies are grey. It gets dark very early and it is simply depressing. In my opinion we should stop switching time from winter to summer twice a year and keep the latter during the whole year.
- Polish drivers and their lack of respect
In Poland, and especially in Warsaw, drivers are quite often aggressive and show lack of respect towards other drivers. They are rarely so kind to let you overtake them or let you in when you’re trying to join the traffic.
- Polish architecture (partially)
It is often grey, sad and lacks charm. In particular residential buildings built during communism are generally ugly (except the Palace of Culture: I like the architecture of this building). But also buildings made with cheap materials during the 70s, 80s & 90s, which are often called ‘grey blocks’ for a reason.
I understand that money can be a challenge. Majority of Poles can’t afford exclusive properties built with elegant materials. But beautiful and elegant buildings can be made with affordable materials as well. In my opinion there is not enough focus on architecture – how it looks and how it makes people feel.
However sometimes it is quite the opposite. Some Poles, especially those who became wealthy recently, build houses which cost a fortune, but are in bad taste to show off – flashy, with a lot of marble, silver and gold (Trump style), not elegant and beautiful. But of course they have the right to do it and it is always good to have some diversity (it would be boring if all houses and people looked the same. I love diversity!).
- Lack of automatization and digitalization
Recently the European Union has published a report on the Digital Economy and Society Index. Unfortunately Poland is still significantly below the EU average in all 4 categories: Human Capital, Digital Infrastructure, Integration of digital technology and Digital public services.
There are many examples of what could be improved in the area of digitalization in Poland. One of them is signing the employment contracts, which can’t be signed electronically. This hasn’t changed even despite the pandemic, which was an excellent opportunity to start honouring documents signed using well-recognized and reliable tools, such as Adobe Sign.
Another example is the Polish national postal service – a state-owned enterprise, where the majority of documentation is hand-written, the local branches are often open only within hours, during which majority of people spend at work, while most of the correspondence from public institutions has to be picked up in person instead of being delivered digitally.
Even solutions successfully functioning in other countries for many years, such as decent internet service on trains, often do not work in Poland. We’ve had Pendolino trains since 2014 and there are still many places, in which there’s no or barely any service. Within the topic of transportation are also the tolls on motorways, which should be fully automatized. Meanwhile, the majority of booths are serviced by humans, who collect the tolls in cash and by card.
On a high note, we are digital transformation is progressing each year. Moreover, young Poles are more and more present in tech innovations and many universities provide scholarships and grants for students to develop their ground-breaking ideas.
- The level of Polish football clubs and the behaviour of some football fans
Poland is a rich European country. We should have at least 2 or 3 strong football clubs, which could rival with European leaders from England, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, The Netherlands, Czech Republic or Ukraine. Currently there aren’t Polish clubs who could represent us in the Champion’s League.
I myself have taken on a mission to build such a club. For that reason, I have bought Polonia Warszawa and hope to bring it back to its former glory (you can read more about why I decided to invest in this historic football club and how I plan to develop it in the coming years).
Also I don’t like the behaviour of some Polish football fans: some of them are intolerant and dangerous. I am a football fan myself and I love this game. It is normal to strongly support a team and to cry or get angry when it loses. But at the same time we should respect our opponents, being happy to drink beer with them after the match instead of having fights. We share the same passion with them. This friendly attitude and mutual respect between supporters of different clubs is often missing in Poland.
- Wasting the beautiful Polish nature
Unfortunately, I often see plenty of cigarettes, plastic bottles or even large garbage thrown away in the most beautiful forests, mountains, rivers and lakes, or in the street. Polish people should care more about their natural habitat and ecology.
Dustbins should be available everywhere, especially in parks and forests. We should provide better education about ecology in schools and public media. Children should be obliged to regularly pick up garbage in the streets and forests. With such actions, young people would become more careful and educate their parents to be more aware of ecology.
Another thing related to ecology, that bothers me, is smog, which often casts over Polish cities due to a lot of pollution and the wide use of coal.
- Polish bureaucracy and civil servants’ attitude
At Sii we frequently experience examples of absurd Polish bureaucracy with accounting and tax rules, VAT, CIT, PFRON, ZUS, etc.
Moreover, in public offices civil servants are sometimes not pleasant and they have little knowledge about proper customer service. It seems like they don’t care about citizens although they are nothing less, than their customers.
Civil servants, like US (Urząd Skarbowy) or ZUS employees, are often arrogant towards companies like Sii. They have poor understanding of the business perspective and often treat companies like their enemies. They are unpleasant both face to face as well as on the phone. Moreover, there is no SLA (Service Level Agreement) and public institutions are not bound by any deadlines. For that reason it takes months or even years to solve simple matters or to conclude a case in court.
While it should be just the opposite – we should be treated as customers, being provided with the best quality of service, support, help and professionalism. The civil servants should be happy and thankful that we pay high taxes and social contribution in Poland. (Civil servants seem not to be aware that they receive their salaries thanks to taxes paid by Poles and by companies present in Poland, like Sii).
Moreover public institutions in Poland are ineffective not only when dealing with large companies, but also small businesses or even regular citizens. Apart from Sii, I also own Tawerna Kaszubska, a small guesthouse in the heart of Kashubia. We have been waiting for 3 years for a construction permit and I have been in a court battle over 2 apartments placed on the land I own for over 5 years.
Polish government should get inspired by countries like Singapore, where public institutions and public services are more efficient. Of course, they must control if we respect and execute the regulations, but at the same time they should also serve with a positive, helpful and respectful attitude.
Another example of a much more efficient and flexible public service is Sweden, where we opened a subsidiary a few years ago. In the Nordics public servants are much more customer-oriented, all procedures, like setting up a company, are much faster and easier to understand. Moreover, public services are also much more digitalized and thanks to that there’s no need to do every single thing in person.
Heavy bureaucracy is also visible when we do business with the public sector (small business for us, less than 4% of our revenue). Instead of agility and flexibility, we face huge bureaucracy but I may write later an entire article dedicated to this subject.
There are positive aspects to 500+. This program helped some Polish families to have a better life. I am also a strong defender of the idea that society must support women with young children. It is a huge challenge to be both a mother and have a successful professional career.
But I am personally against 500+. Giving money for nothing is never a good idea and it is also very expensive. Even public services should not be free for citizens. We should always pay something to use them, even a symbolic amount.
Polish people love 500+ because getting money for nothing is great! This populist law contributed to PiS winning the last election. But this rule is bad for several reasons in my opinion shared by many economy experts.
First of all it motivates people to become or remain unemployed (hundreds of thousands of women stopped working because of 500+). 500 PLN should be given for a specific purpose, for example for the education of children from poor families on condition that they go to school and get good grades. If a kid does not go to school, does not do any effort, their parents shouldn’t receive 500+.
Too many social benefits may kill a country’s competitiveness, like in Greece or Italy. Poland should be very careful not to become a socialist country, like France. The many social benefits are extremely expensive for the society, especially the middle class, in terms of taxes. The problem is that it is easy to give social benefits to the citizens. But it is almost impossible to take them away (the political party, which will stop 500+, will lose the election following such decision).
500+ costs us – taxpayers – PLN 25 billion a year. It’s a huge amount of money and there are better ways in which the government could spend it by helping families with children through:
- education – increasing the salaries of teachers for example, building more schools and nurseries, hiring more and teachers with better qualifications, lowering the number of kids per class, implementing more efficient education system in general, with less bureaucracy.
- investing in our health system for kids, especially hospitals or special schools for mentally or physically impaired children.
- supporting certain activities for kids, like sports or cultural associations or investing in sporting equipment for schools.
- Lack of tolerance (towards LGBT, different race, etc.), an unhealthy atmosphere of hatred and oversensitivity
A minority of Polish people have too extreme views, such as fundamentalists, nationalists, racists, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslims, anti-Jews, anti-EU, etc. They are not open-minded and not tolerant towards other values, cultures, sexual orientations, nationalities and religions. In my view it is scandalous not to consider all people equal. Those extremist and fundamentalist ideas are always dangerous to the human kind. They cause terrorism and were the reason why the II World War started.
An unhealthy atmosphere of hatred is visibly present in Poland. There is for example a lot of viciousness between PiS and PO, PSL or SDL defenders. Those feelings are encouraged by public media, like TVP, and by fake news published by thousands of nationalists and populists on social media every day. It results in bad atmosphere present in the entire country.
For example I don’t understand why PiS hates Donald Tusk? I am not a Tusk fan either. But despite different opinions, PiS should be proud that a Pole was the president of the EU. The fact that we differ greatly in many ways does not mean that we should hate each other. Despite those different opinions, we should respect each other, even like each other, avoiding this unhealthy feeling of hatred. A PiS fan can be friends with a PO fan. A Catholic can love an Atheist, a Protestant, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Jew.
Moreover, many Poles are too proud, oversensitive, and as a result they don’t accept any critics. They don’t want to hear anything negative about their country or their behaviour. It is great that Poles are proud of their great and wonderful country, culture and of Poland’s long history, but they must accept some critics and also be able to laugh at themselves.
Some Poles are also quite cold and unwelcoming to strangers. They rarely say ‘hello’, even when met in the street or a corridor. They use curtains everywhere so that nobody can see them, even during the day. French people are warmer, especially when met for the first time.
It is great to defend our opinions and values, being engaged and passionate, but at the same time we must listen to other points of view, tolerate people, who think differently and always be respectful to everybody.
- What I hate the most about Poland – Polish public media, especially TVP
Private media have the right to defend their ideas. For exampIe I don’t share the opinions of Radio Maryja, but they can spread them however they please. The same rules apply to Gazeta Wyborcza, TVN or any other private media (newspapers, radio, TV stations, websites and blogs, like this one).
But no government should ever use public media, like TVP, as a tool for political propaganda. Public media is financed with our taxes and therefore should be politically neutral. Moreover the management should be chosen autonomously (like in France, where independent CSA authorities – not the French government – appoint French Television’s CEO). Currently TVP is a tool in the hands of PiS, feeding the nation with political propaganda. Similar power is owned by Putin in Russia or any other dictator party.
I always feel bad after watching news on TVP presenting all those fake news, trying to bias Polish citizens against EU for example. Poland shouldn’t accept the fact that the public television is serving naive people propaganda and manipulating them, all of it being paid for with our taxes. Especially since it puts in danger our liberty and freedom, which guarantee independent press and media, who can and should criticize the government.
I also feel bad when I visit PKN Orlen, the state-owned oil company’s petrol stations. Why only the pro-PiS newspapers are displayed? It’s simply disgusting. PKN Orlen is an oil company and should not be used as a means of propaganda by the ruling party.
Another important point is that we should never avoid critics. Constructive criticism and feedback are necessary to improve and grow. Media liberty and impartiality is strategic to proper development of all countries worldwide, i.e. having TV stations, newspapers, radios and websites, which defend different opposite opinions, and media, which regularly criticize public authorities. Without it, most countries would become dictatorships, like in Russia, China, North Korea, Belarus, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia or many African countries… Democracy is not possible in those countries, because the opposition can’t defend their opinions and criticize the ruling party, which has the ability to manipulate the citizens according to their needs. Polish people should never accept that. They should always defend press liberty and separation of public authorities from justice. Otherwise Poland will become a dictatorship.
@Mr Kaczyński, Morawiecki, Duda, Ziobro, Kurski and other PiS politicians:
I understand your ambitions to win the elections and keep the power over Poland. Congratulations on having won them in 2019. I respect you and I admire your engagement, but I really hope you will lose the next ones.
But no matter what the voters decide, please respect the fact that we may have different opinions and values, than yours. Always fight for liberty and freedom in Poland. Accept critics. Never come back to the dark times of communism. Never make people scared to criticize ruling party in Poland again.
Be happy and proud that some media criticize your government and ideas, even encourage such critics. Accept and respect them. Free media prove that Poland is a healthy, democratic and free country, with fundamental rights, such as liberty.
Also always keep the legislature, executive and judiciary powers separate. Never let Poland become a dictatorship, like Russia, where all media supports Putin and there is no counter power. It is absolutely necessary to the well-being of Poland and Polish people that the opposition has the possibility to criticize you.
Last but not least, please keep in mind that we have different opinions, but in fact we share exactly the same objective: we want Poland and Polish people to win, being the best country in the world and despite our differences, we all love our great country and want to make it even better!
I didn’t find this topic pleasant, but a necessary one. It was really important to me to share my thoughts on that with you. Do you agree with me? Or do you think differently? Either way, let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Also do not hesitate to suggest any other topics you would like me to write about in the future.
- <Your idea>
Do you agree with me? What is missing in your opinion? I am waiting for your opinions in the comments!