Farewell, Polska!



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.



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.



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!



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


Exercise in Poland

Looking into our product category has been a little more difficult thus far in Poland. Walking around and looking in magazines, newspapers, etc we were really not finding any advertisements. This seemed strange considering all the advertisements focused on fitness that we are used to seeing in the United States.

The first time we actually interacted with our product was in the first mall we went to. The exercise equipment was quite smaller and less bulky than we are used to. It wasn’t the focus in the store either, it was more of a small collection because it related to the other products in InterSports store. The equipment we found was also a lot cheaper than we are used to seeing. Only 100-400 zloty which is equivalent to about 30-130 dollars.


The problem with our category is that this is not something that would be commonly found in malls. We need to go out and search for specific clubs in the area. Tomorrow we will be heading out on the tram and taxi scoping out specific clubs. From our research currently it seems that different exercises are broken up into different locations. For example, yoga, power lifting, and more running/cardio seem to be separate.

Yesterday we received a handout at the mall about a fitness club. We thought this was an interesting place to be giving out collateral. Tomorrow we are going to seek out this club and see what it is all abou


After going to the economics lecture today at the Economic University of Krakow we found out some extremely useful information that can be used in our studies. Only 2/3 of Polish people participate in physical activity. This is not something they see as important and don’t believe in using it as prevention for things such as disease, etc. While going to the clubs tomorrow we are going to see how they seek out members and advertise to them if this is something not considered important in Poland’s culture.



Sarah Laughlin

Historical and religious impact

Today we attended St. Mary’s Basilica for a morning church service. The services ran on the hour from 6am through 11am.


Walking into the church it was really breathtaking to see each little fine detail of decoration the church had. Gold plated pillars, extravagant depictions of the Crucifixion of Jesus and separate alters within the church to worship at.  It was obvious how much this church meant  to the people of Krakow. Even though we were not all Catholic, we immersed ourselves within their culture to fully understand who they are. There were a few differences we noticed when comparing the Catholic church in America to now being in Poland.  Instead of taking communion in your hands, they give the bread to you in your mouth. They also didn’t use hymnal books, but knew most of the songs by memory, which shows how important the faith is. This is not something that is easily forgotten because it is rooted so deep in their tradition and culture. It was also interesting how people came in during the middle of the service, walking right up to the front. In the US, that would be considered disrespectful. We also took an interest in how well behaved the children were. It seems from a young age, they have a high respect for the service and know not to misbehave whereas in a Catholic church back home, it’s extremely common to see children acting out or crying or complaining or not even paying attention.

After the conclusion of mass we waited for the the festival of Epiphany parade to start. This parade was to conclude in Rynek Glowny central square located in the Old Town historical district.  Swieto Trzech Kroli is the name of this public holiday in Poland. Each one of the three kings start at a different location in Krakow, making their way to the town square. On their way to the square Christmas carols are sung by the king and the people of Poland that are following him.  When all three kings come together they take the stage where they then form the  Christmas nativity scene. This public holiday recognizes the official end of the Christmas.


Looking back to what we have learned in the past couple of days, it makes sense how dedicated the Polish are to their faith. According to our tour guide, their religion was one of the only things that got Polish people through the communist regime. When there was so much turmoil and pain throughout Poland, nothing else could save them.

The city of Krakow itself has so much pride in its town and its people. Their faith is the main factor that unities this town, which at one time was so divided by those trying to conquer it.

Sarah Laughlin

Day Two

Greetings from Krakow!

Our first full day in Poland was full of excitement, sightseeing, and a desperate need of an afternoon nap.

Early this morning when the jet lag kicked we were off and ready to explore the streets and sights of the city.

The majority of our time was spent in and around Wawel Hill. We were fortunate enough to tour both its interior and exterior, which made for a mind-opening afternoon. With artwork, artifacts, and architecture dating back to the 16th century, it became almost overwhelming to see the amount of history that was right before our eyes.

Refer to the picture above (myself in front of the gold dome). Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures inside but I can assure you it was without a doubt a sight to see. Pope John Paul II was extremely dedicated to this particular cathedral. On many occasions he would come to say mass and pray. He was no stranger to its walls even after being elected pope.

Our final leg of the sightseeing was spent in Rynek Square. A small group of us stopped for lunch at a small, underground restaurant. While there, I was able to experience my first plate of authentic Polish pierogies. A long standing tradition in my family is the eating on these dumplings every Christmas Eve. Coming from Polish descent, I naturally feel obligated to say that my mother’s are better; however, these served as a close second.

While immersed, differences between Poland natives and Americans came to the surface. The most obvious difference between people of Poland and people of the United States is the ability to speak an additional language from their own. In Poland it is simply the norm whereas in America it is seen as a special skill.

Second, numerous people from our travel group have noticed that the locals have “kept to themselves” in many ways. Even in a place of strong sales pitches (such as the vendors in Rynek Square), salespeople will not persuade a customer on any product, yet patiently let them glance upon their goods. In addition, chances are you’ll receive a skeptical look if you give a stranger a smile as you pass on the street. Small things such as this that we become accustomed to in America are not reciprocated in Poland.

Finally: a word of advice. Unlike the strict rule of pedestrians having the right away in America, the natives of Krakow prefer to come to a screeching halt at the last second, causing the heart’s of us innocent Americans to skip a beat. Keep an eye out.

Nick Gral

We’re Not in Iowa Anymore

We’re finally here!

After short layovers in Chicago and Munich we are finally here! While we are all tired after our long flights and seven-hour time change, we are so excited to begin our adventure tomorrow in Krakow.

A first things we noticed that reminded us we were not in Iowa anymore was the obvious language barrier. While the barrier is low due to the many people who speak English, we will definitely need to brush up on our Polish vocabulary.

Although it was dark when we arrived in Krakow, we could still see the massive amounts of detail on the architecture, and the graffiti that added an extra flavor to the buildings. It also shocked us how many of the buildings were deteriorating externally, but were still inhabitable. It was really nice to see a large plaza area for foot traffic only with small shops, which is rather uncommon in the US as most outdoor shopping areas have streets, or are considered a mall and are indoors.

The biggest change we noticed was the food. While all international flights over three hours serve a meal, the meal usually is not gourmet by any means. Thus we were eager to see what the first dinner would be. We dined at a Restaurante C.K. Dezerter, where we were quickly lead to the back room decorated with copper pots on the walls and balloons everywhere to celebrate our arrival.


Our first course was a chicken broth with noodles, followed by the main course of battered and fried pork with cheese and a pickle inside! That was probably the biggest shock was finding a pickle in the middle of meat. Dessert was a type of apple-flavored compote with crisp edges. It was a very delicious meal, but very different from the Hubble meals we have become so accustom to at Drake, or even the cuisine in America is quite different.

Keep checking back daily for updates on our travels in Poland!

Na zdrowie! (Cheers!)

Jennifer Bailey

One Week Away!

In less than one week, our class will be boarding a plane in Des Moines, making shorts stops in Chicago and Munich, and landing in our first Polish destination. After settling into our first hotel, eating our first Polish dinner, and adjusting to a seven-hour time change, we will begin our exploration of the amazing city of Krakow!

Like most international travelers, we are anticipating a bit of culture shock during this adjustment. No one in our group has visited Poland before, so it will likely take a while for us to soak in all the “newness” of our surroundings. We will be immersing ourselves in this “newness,” in the culture (both past and current) of the country, to ultimately perform an ethnographic study of the advertising and communications practices in Poland.

As we start to pack, we’ll be watching this live video feed of Krakow to check the weather near our hotel and take a peek into the country we’ll be visiting very soon. Check it out!

Until then, na zdrowie! (Cheers!)

Maria Opatz