Farewell, Polska!

Sarah

Sarah

Immersing ourselves in the Polish culture through visits to malls, city centers, historical and cultural locations has taught us a lot about the Polish consumer. Using ethnographic methods, we observed and interacted with shoppers, ultimately leading us to a better, richer understanding of their consumption habits and values. One thing that we noticed throughout the trip was Poles consideration of price. During our lecture at the Krakow University of Economics, we learned that cost is usually the most important factor while making purchases. People here are less likely to let a brand determine whether they will buy it; they often rely solely on what will be the cheapest option. This mentality was reinforced at each of the shopping centers we visited, as nearly all stores featured prominent advertisements of sales and discounts. Though this is partially due to the post-Christmas markdowns we also see in the States, we noticed that the prices were almost more important than the products themselves.

Maria

Maria

We have also experienced that the Polish population in general is much less open and friendly than people of other countries are (specifically, the United States). Most of the people we have talked to agree with this observations; they have noticed that we, as Americans, laugh and smile openly much more often that the local people.

Agencies in Poland use these two notions (Poles “closed” demeanor and sensitivity to price) in their advertisements. They know to use functional (as opposed to emotional) appeals in their ads. During our visit to the agency, one of our hosts said that they adapt their advertisements to emphasize functionally instead of feelings.

Nick

Nick

We also have observed that Poles appreciate convenience. Each of the shopping centers we visited included a large store that sold groceries, clothing, workout equipment, electronics, home products and more. These retailers were only accessible from inside the mall, so many consumers were able to visit the mall for everything on their shopping list. Instead of traveling to many different locations to pick up all the goods they need, consumers here find malls to be a one-stop shop. Because the Polish utilize mass transit more than Americans in many cities do, this convenience allows shopping to be a quick and easy experience. In studying our product category, we found that even health club facilities are usually located near or within malls–after work, consumers are able to stop by the mall for a workout, a new outfit and food for dinner without even leaving the same building!

Jenny

Jenny

In addition to our research about consumerism, advertising and promotion, we have also gotten the chance to learn so much about Polish history while visiting this beautiful country. We’ve learned about the hardships the population has faced, making us appreciate it’s current state even more. In Krakow, we immersed ourselves in the rich history of Old Town, Wawel Castle, Auschwitz and other monumental locations. In Warsaw, we’ve seen evidence of the country’s more recent work rebuilding the capitol after complete destruction in WWII. It has truly opened our eyes to a part of the world much different than our home, and has been an experience that has added so much to our Drake education. Thanks for following our blog throughout our trip!

Na zdrowie!

Maria, Sarah, Nick and Jenny

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Highlights of Poland

Throughout the two weeks we’ve spent in Poland, we have had the chance to experience many new things. We’ve tasted unfamiliar foods, seen beautiful, historic buildings and heard the accounts of many Polish locals. Below, we have detailed a few of our most memorable trip moments.

Rynek Market Square

Christmas Market in Rynek Square

Christmas Market in Rynek Square

Old Town Krakow is centered around Rynek Główny (Rynek Square for us English-speakers). During our first week in Poland, much of our down time was spent exploring all this beautiful plaza has to offer: shops, restaurants, pubs, historic monuments and more. We attended mass at the square’s church, St. Mary’s Basillica, and shopped for souvenirs at the Cloth Hall market. We tried out underground restaurants featuring traditional Polish food, and learned about the square’s giant head monument while on our city tour.

Festival of the Epiphany crowd

Crowd surrounding the Nativity reenactment during the Festival of the Epiphany

My favorite visit to Rynek Square was during the Festival of the Epiphany. Before we even reached the plaza, we could tell we were in for an exciting day. A Christmas market was set up outside of the Cloth Hall, where small small stands sold trinkets made in Poland and every variety of Polish food you can imagine. The smell of sizzling meats, fresh pastries and hot drinks was enough to distract you from the Parade of the Three Kings taking place nearby, where they handed out tasty gingerbread cookies. A large crowd had gathered to watch a live Nativity display, and a few of us spent a while among the crowd listening as they sang familiar Christmas carols in Polish. It was amazing to see a city come together to celebrate religious holiday so dear to their hearts, unlike anything I’ve had the chance to experience in the States.

Maria Opatz

Churches of Poland

St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow

St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow

With roughly 90 to 95% of Poland’s population being Catholic, it would be a major challenge to walk the streets of Krakow or Warsaw and not run into a church or chapel. The religious monuments of Poland have stood their ground for centuries yet remain extravagant, reverent, and a true sign of the country’s dedication to God and in some cases, a memorial to their past.

When we had the opportunity to go to mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow, we entered to the sight of many dedicated locals worshiping on the feast of the Epiphany. Our eyes were immediately redirected to the towering ceilings covered in gold, colors of blue, and paintings of religious figures. The entrancing smell of incense filled the air and the deep sounds of an all-male choir echoed through its walls.

A wall of a church showing bullet holes from a former Nazi execution.

A wall of a church showing bullet holes from a former Nazi execution.

Jumping forward a week to our arrival in Warsaw, we saw a memorial located right outside Old Town that honors the courage of the individuals who fought during the Warsaw Uprising. Adjacent to the memorial is a church that was rebuilt post WWII; however, its foundation remains. The front wall of the church has kept its original form and serves as a symbol of remembrance. Four hundred and thirty innocent Poles were shot and killed against its steps. Bullet holes still parade its side. Sadly a total of 200,000 lives were taken during this rebellion lasting from 1940-1943. With a church in its place, it ensures that although these lives were taken, they will never be forgotten.

Nick Gral

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Our class spent a whole day at Auschwitz and Birkenau. This day will be imprinted into our minds forever.

Entrance to Auschwitz

Entrance to Auschwitz

As soon as our class stepped past the gate into Auschwitz, there was an instant silence that came over all of us. While walking down the roads connecting each barrack, we could only hear the soft, somber voice of the tour guide along with snow crunching underneath our feet. Each step we took got us closer to the next building holding what seemed to be a worse fate than the last. We walked down the stairs of the death block, warped and so warn down from the hundreds of thousands of people that had taken these deathly steps before us into the gas chamber. Unlike them we were able to go down into these chambers and live to talk about the experience.

Vent where Zyklon-B would dispense in gas chamber

Vent where Zyklon-B would dispense in gas chamber

These chambers were bone-chillingly cold and empty. All that could be seen were the holes in the ceiling that would release Zyklon-B, killing some instantly and others in less than 20 minutes.

Even though Auschwitz is now empty I could still imagine the screams of the prisoners taking their last breath, one no easier to hear than another.

Walking into Birkenau brought a similar, sick-to-your-stomach feeling. Once in Birkenau, it was obvious that there was no escaping this place. The amount of space that Birkenau took up was unimaginable—Auschwitz was large but nothing compared to Birkenau. You could easily stand in the middle of the camp and barely be able to see the barbed wire fence holding you in.  Here, you could only walk through a few of the barracks because the majority of them were destroyed by the Nazis (along with the gas chambers and crematories) at the end of the war. We were able to see the chimneys and displaced bricks

Panoramic of Birkenau

Panoramic of Birkenau

throughout the hundreds of yards the camp occupied. Walking past the trenches, another barrier for the prisoners, it was easy to imagine the smell and stench this camp exuded.

About 67 years ago these camps were filled with hundreds of thousands of prisoners awaiting their fate. Instead, these camps are now filled with tour groups and only the rubble of and stories of what was.

Sarah Laughlin

Warsaw 

IMG_1765Warsaw was completely different from Krakow in that it is a much larger city with a faster pace. We were moving quickly to validate our tickets and to jump on and off the confusing public transportation system in order to not end up trapped inside. The transportation helped with the freezing cold temperatures which allowed us to see our breath, much like that of the many smokers we encountered as we inhaled their secondhand smoke.

We celebrated our arrival with a dinner with students from the University of Warsaw where we enjoyed a variety of Polish delicacies from pirogues to kebabs to chicken cooked in

DSC02538every way imaginable. The clinks from our glasses as we saluted our new friends will be a life-long memory.

While these celebratory times were not few and far between as the images of Old Town after the Second World War silenced us as the entire area was in cleared from German bombs. The tour of the Warsaw Ghetto really humbled us as our tour guide told us of the tragic death of thousands of Jews.

Jennifer C. Bailey

Draft FCB + University of Warsaw

After a few days of sightseeing and exploring Warsaw, we were finally able to visit our first Polish advertising agency during today’s excursion. We traveled by metro and bus to the Warsaw chapter of Draft FCB, one of the world’s largest communications IMG_2096agency networks. It was an awesome opportunity for the advertising students in our group to get a glimpse into international advertising and compare the Polish agency to those we have seen back in the States. Though our 26-person class outnumbered their small, 16-person office, we were happy to find seats in meeting spaces and creative rooms to hear from a few of their staff.

Draft FCB creatives

Draft FCB creatives

Myself and eight others met with Monika, an account executive at Draft FCB. In typical account exec fashion, she was eager and excited to answer our questions (and ask a few in return). We chatted about the advertising industry in Poland, the agency’s major clients and campaigns, the public perception of marketers, the Polish culture and more. She explained to us that though many of their work comes from the international Draft FCB hub in Germany, the Warsaw chapter’s role is to adapt the ads to fit the Polish consumer. This includes using lots of numbers and statistics, as Poles are very impressed and persuaded by facts and explanations of the functional uses of products.

After our meeting and a tour of the office, our class ventured on to the University of Warsaw’s Faculty of Management (much like Drake University’s College of Business and Public Administration). Here, during the second university visit of our trip, we were dispersed among Polish students as we listened to a presentation given jointly by a Polish professor of Consumer Behavior and the two professors accompanying us. Our lecture focused on the uses of social media in both countries; I was surprised to see that the platforms Poles use to chat and share were very different than those we use in the USA. Though Facebook topped both lists and Google+ and Twitter are recognized in both countries, the other major networks varied. The stats were as follows:

Top Social Networking Sites

USA: 1. Facebook  2. Blogger  3. Twitter  4. WordPress  5. LinkedIn  6. Pinterest  7. Google+

Poland: 1. Facebook  2. NK  3. Gazeta.pl  4. Google+  5. Gadu Gadu  6. Goldenline  7. Twitter

University of Warsaw's Faculty of Economics building

University of Warsaw’s Faculty of Economics building

This lecture, unlike our experience at Krakow’s University of Economics, allowed us to chat with students and hear their perspective. The young women I spoke with were very confused by the concept of Twitter; they felt as though there was no reason for any additional social sites if they were similar to Facebook, which has clearly monopolized their time spent online. They were also fascinated by the professional aspect of LinkedIn, and were surprised to learn that Poland already has a similar site.

Because social media has become such an integral part of American culture and media, it was hard for me to think about the Polish sites that America has not even explored using; from our conversations, it seemed as though the Polish students felt the same way. Today’s class and agency visit were both very helpful in showing us more of the “big picture” of the country’s communications industry that we are here to explore.

Maria Opatz