Saturday, March 25, 2017
   
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Dating in Poland

When I was in a "dating age" in Poland in 80s in Poland, dating was called: "walking with somebody". Dating was also limited to young people, between 15-25 years old. "Walking with somebody" meant enjoying spending time together with your girlfriend or boyfriend walking on the streets or in the parks and holding hands. These were the only private moments since young people were not watched, being among strangers on the streets in public areas. Besides walking, couples spend their free time watching movies in cinema theatre or hiking in the countryside during weekends. The rule was that any financial charges for movie or eventual ice-cream were covered by a boyfriend. Young couples were not able nor allowed to have privacy in their homes for many reasons. In cities people usually lived in small and crowded apartments with their parents and siblings. Bringing somebody home signified that the couple is becoming serious about each other.

Flowers are probably the most important symbol of love in Poland. Flowers and elaborate flower bouquets are present in relationships, during wedding, funerals, birthdays and main holidays. In relationship flowers express that you really care for another person. Boyfriends, fiancés and husbands give flowers for birthdays, Women Day (March 8th) or a Valentine Day which was introduced in Poland in the middle of 90s. Even if you are invited for a dinner, you should bring a flower bouquet, besides a bottle of vine.

Until the late 80s eating out in the restaurants or cafeterias was not really popular. Couples could not afford inviting a date to the restaurant. Fancy restaurants were really expensive and available mainly for special occasions. Much less fancy restaurants or rather bars, located near the railway stations, or somewhere at the cross roads served people who were away from home and needed to eat food rather than having a good time. So, if people wanted to celebrate birthdays or have a good time together they organized a party in private apartments. The variety of alcohols was limited to vodka or beer for instant buzz. Since the end of communism the quality of life improved, people go to the restaurants which serve sophisticated drinks not just for buzz but for a good time. Now, boyfriend can afford to take his date to a fancy restaurant, at least occasionally, without breaking the bank [1].

How did Polish people meet before they started dating? Usually at schools and universities, neighborhoods where they live, via scout or church group, often they are introduced by common friends during a party or any social events. Recently mass media (facebook, dating portals) play also significant role. The marriages are not arranged in Poland since the social hierarchy is pretty flat. The marriage can be sometimes "helped" by family members, but never in any official way.

According to recently done studies (2010) among people in Poland [2] "Walking with somebody" does not imply any sexual connotation for about 97% of population. When the couple is becoming more intimate they are not just "walking with each other" but rather "are being with each other" or, if they were lucky enough to have their private apartment they can "live with each other". About 20-30 years ago, a young couple that was starting a sexual relationship was expected to get married. These views are slowly evolving. People are allowed to try intimately more partners to check whether they match each other [1]. Still, hopping from relationship to relationship is not really openly acceptable, especially for women. Many of my friends got married after they found out that they were pregnant. The wedding dresses were done in such a way that the pregnancy was not visible. The official stages before marriage include the engagement with engagement ring when the families of the fiancées are present.

In the past there was a double-standard with respect to the women versus men sexual conduct. According to the study [2] in 1960: 60% of Poles expected woman to start sex life only after the marriage, while only 34% of Poles expected men to do the same. In 1998 the views became more relaxed: only about 26% of Poles wants a girl to remain a virgin, while 22% want boys to wait until marriage. Still, a concept of virginity, especially for a girl is considered a virtue that should be kept for somebody special.

The marrying age, especially among educated people is climbing up for the last 50 years. In 80s there was a pressure, especially a girl to get married by 25 years old, now the couples are permitted to be in informal relationships longer without social pressure. The traditional women and men roles are sometimes completely flipped, with majority of women working outside of the homes since after WW II. Progress in technology and medicine does not limit the age of having children as strictly as in the past. In 80s one could see only young people having fun in the city downtowns in the evenings, their parents and grandparents were usually staying home. Now, people of all ages are enjoying their lives; term "dating" is used more frequently towards middle-aged people, single or divorced.

If you heard and saw that Polish women are beautiful, you are right. Polish girls and women make an effort to look attractive, even in the times when it was hard to buy anything fancy in the stores since only drab cloths were available. Polish women are on average also better educated than the men, although their access to the leadership positions is still limited. When I was young, very few boys really paid attention to their looks. This is slowly changing, especially since business culture where appearances are important became so ingrained in Poland. Young people are more educated, they know the world and it is harder for them to say "yes" in the relationship. They want to keep their autonomy instead of choosing the commitment for their whole life.

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