Life & work
For a long time birthdays have not been the main object of celebration neither at work, nor in personal life. The mass inflow of Western culture after the fall of communism has however emphasised this type of social gatherings and made them the most popular ones in every workplace. If you work for a big international company, do not be surprised that even on your very first day there may be a short break for tasting some homemade cake or other sweets brought by one of the colleagues. In turn, when your birthday arrives, similar actions will be expected of you – do share with your colleagues some treats that you prepare yourself or bring from your homeland. They will love it.
Before birthdays became so widespread in terms of celebrating, it was your name day that you spent in a fun way with family and friends. They have origins in Christian traditions and are usually tied to saints bearing certain names, but with time this religious meaning was overshadowed by pure entertainment. Most names have a few days to celebrate, depending on their popularity. If you buy a standard tear-off daily calendar, name days will be put there along with sunsets, sunrises and moon phases! This way you will not miss any name days of your colleagues but… do they still celebrate it? Nowadays, name days are becoming a bit old-school and not everyone bothers with throwing a special party, usually favouring birthdays, but on the other hand – every reason to party is a good reason! If your name is foreign-sounding, you will probably be spared from preparing extra treats for your colleagues at work, but… you never know with the Polish.
As you probably realise, Poland is predominantly Catholic in its traditions and rituals. Therefore, in the majority of workplaces, people get together around Christmas time and Easter. Many big companies organise a special afterhours event to share opłatek (a thin wafer) and good wishes, while eating some traditional dishes. The same goes for spring holidays. If you are not comfortable with celebrating a religious-based occasion, it will be fine with your co-workers, but at the same time such gatherings are not that religious as you might expect – you can simply join in and be merry with the rest of the people!
March 8th marks a special day when ladies can expect their male colleagues to be extra nice to them. It is the international Women’s Day and many employers go as far as to buy their female colleagues flowers or some sweet treats. If you work in a small company and women consitute the majority of staff – try to remember this date.
Not all foreigners celebrate it at their workplaces – even not all Poles do! However, it is possible that a fresh dad or mum who sits next to you will announce this wonderful news to the rest of the team and brings some treats to share. The usual response from you as their colleagues is to chip in and buy something for the baby – a big teddy, cosy blanket or some other practical gifts will do perfectly.
The last case when you get a short break at work may be a sad occasion. In Poland it is very common for an employee to bring some treats for the rest of the team and have a little chat before going away for good. It is seen as sign that working with this team has been a good stage in the person’s life and that the separation is being conducted on friendly terms. What else says that better than cake?
If you like what you have just read, remember – you have to fit in with the traditions that are prevalent at your workplace. If all such gatherings take place after hours – your birthday should as well. If it is done over lunch break – go ahead and do it in the same way. The general rule is to have fun but obey the rules at the same time, since probably none of us wants to get in trouble with our boss while having a good time.