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

Advertisements

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

New friends and exploring Warsaw

Last night, we met up with a few students from the University of Warsaw. We met them in our hotel lobby, and all of us were definitely a little nervous meeting students we had never talked to before. According the them, we had a “5 minute” walk to the restaurant we would be dining at, which ended up being closer to 15 minutes. Before even arriving at the restaurant, our long walk gave us a chance to become acquainted with our new friends.

The Polish students decided we would eat at Pod Wawelem, a classic Polish beer hall.

Sitting with our new friends at dinner

Sitting with our new friends at dinner

Sitting and talking to them was a great experience, especially to hear a student perspective. None of these students had lived through the Nazi occupation, but they had heard stories from their grandparents and other family members.

The girl I was sitting next to, Agnus, was 20 and studying management at the University of Warsaw. She was born and raised in Warsaw. Out of all the things we talked about, one that really stuck with me was how bitter she was about the tainted history of Warsaw. She was a very bubbly and kind person, but the destruction that occurred there was something that really bothered even a warm soul like hers. She said she had traveled to other cities like Paris, Rome and even Krakow, and felt it was so unfair that these countries had historical monuments and buildings that had been there for so long. Most of Warsaw was completely destroyed during the war.

However, she mentioned one advantage of the country’s reconstruction: it made way for a many new things. In Warsaw, they are able to construct buildings with many floors and of larger sizes. She said in Krakow they are limited in space because majority of buildings must be preserved as-is. That is why many pubs and restaurants are in the basement of the buildings, and don’t go up extremely high.

Escalators in the mall today

Escalators in the mall today

Overall, we learned a lot from meeting with students from Warsaw University. They had just as much interesting information about their hometown as we were able to share with them. It was a great way to really immerse ourselves into a whole different culture, speaking to actual people who live here.

Today, we visited a mall called Zlote Tarasy. It was similar to the previous two malls we have visited in that it was very new and modern. However, this mall was a lot busier, with more people. People moved quickly and swiftly throughout the mall and never slowed down. Many traveled with backpacks and larger bags. This could of been related to the fact that the train station was only meters away and they were doing their shopping during lunch or after work. This mall had everything you could possibly imagine; the variety of stores was wider than the previous malls. Many of the stores were international brands, which makes sense as Warsaw is frequented by international travelers and businessmen. The people in Zlote Tarasy were definitely on a mission and wanted to get their shopping done quickly.

Image

Outside of Zlote Tarasy mall

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.

Image

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

Image

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.

Image

 

Sarah Laughlin

Day Four: Auschwitz-Birkenau

Today’s excursion was undoubtedly the most emotional experience of our travels thus far. A two-hour trip of mental preparation through Krakow’s countryside led us to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest German concentration camp of World War II. It’s next to impossible to express the eeriness lingering throughout the camp, the final destination of over a million Jews, Poles, gypsies, POWs, and other targeted groups. It was amazing in the most haunting of ways.

"Work will set you free"

“Work will set you free”

A young Polish woman led our tour. It began as we walked through the camp’s notorious entrance gate, which read “Arbeit Macht Frei,” (translating into the horrifyingly ironic phrase “Work will set you free.”) Auschwitz, the first of three camps built in the Auschwitz-Birkenau network, has created a museum of sorts within the block barracks. Each block contains an exhibit with artifacts from a different aspect of its history: everyday life, living and sanitary conditions, plundered goods and more. Within these we saw shocking amounts of remains from the camp’s prisoners, including over 80,000 shoes, artificial legs, eyeglasses, suitcases, and—most disturbingly—the shaved hair of an estimated 140,000 individuals. Though many of us expected the museum would make us cry, we found ourselves sick to our stomachs first.

Our group was then led through gas chambers and crematoriums, torture chambers and cells for medial experiments. We saw gallows where peoplewere hung in public, and the execution wall where individuals were shot. Scratches of the prisoners covered the walls of the buildings where they were strategically killed using Zyklon-B. Though everyone in our group had studied these placed before, we found that the horror really hit home while standing in the exact places that hundreds of thousands of people were brutally murdered only 67 years ago.

The firing wall in the Auschwitz death block

The firing wall in the Auschwitz death block

After our tour of Auschwitz ,we continued on to the Birkenau camp. This size of the camp was astounding; though most of the wooden barracks have collapsed over time, over 300 brick furnaces stood in their skeletons. The wooden barracks were built in the later years of the camp’s existence, when the S.S. realized that it was more efficient and inexpensive for the prisoners to build them using wood instead of brick. You read that right–they were forced to build the stable-like huts they would then suffer in. We were able to tour an unaltered brick barrack, as well as a recreated wooden one. Seven hundred people were crammed in each—five per small bunk. We shivered in the cold while donning warm jackets, scarves and boots, and imagined how exponentially more miserable it would have been if all we were allowed to wear was as thick as pajamas. We saw a rail car that held hundreds of prisoners, and stood in the spot where doctors impassively sent the arrivers to the left or the right—to immediate death, or to death by excessive labor. Though the majority of the gas chambers and crematoriums had been in this camp, the Nazis destroyed them after the liberation to remove the evidence of their cruelty.

Train tracks running through the largest camp, Birkenau. People traveled for hours or days crammed in small rail cars without food , water or fresh air.

Train tracks running through the largest camp, Birkenau. People traveled for hours or days crammed in small rail cars without food , water or fresh air.

At the end of the railroad running through the middle of the camp, a memorial to the prisoners has been constructed. Plaques in all 22 languages of the individuals held and tortured read, “Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews, from various countries of Europe.”

The entire experience wasone I won’t ever forget. It’s entirely impossible to imagine how these mass murders went without discovery for so long, or the absolute despair experienced by the prisoners in the camps. However, as our guide explained, the most important thing is not to imagine what it would be like—it’s to remember the tragedy so it will never happen again.

Maria Opatz

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.

Image

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.

Image

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