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When you travel, don’t you ever wish you could look inside the houses and blocks of flats you pass along your way to see the interior of the natives’ homes and get a glimpse of what their everyday life looks like? Well, let us introduce you to how Polish people typically live.
In cities, the population is dense and the most common type of accommodation are flats. In the outskirts, houses are much more common, although people often choose semi-detached or even terraced houses. In the countryside, detached houses are the norm, although at times you can see a few blocks of flats that seem to be standing in the middle of nowhere. That’s a remnant of old State Agricultural Enterprises (known as PGR).
Typical inhabitants of a Polish city live in flats, either in tenement houses, concrete blocks of flats from the communist times or in modern apartment blocks. Usually they own their flats, either having inherited them or bought them (in which case they’ll be paying their mortgage loan off for the next 20-30 years). Renting apartments is less popular than in other European countries; usually that’s what young adults (mostly university students) do.
How big are the flats? They typically consist of one to three rooms (by three rooms we mean two bedrooms and a living room), and are from 25 to 70 square meters (about 269-753 square feet) big. In older buildings, the kitchen is usually a separate room (and sometimes has no windows at all), while in newer ones a bigger open space that includes a living room, a kitchen and a dining area is more common. It is not a standard for every family member to have their own room, and the living room often converts into a bedroom for the night (sofa beds are popular).
Bigger apartments are slowly becoming more sought-after, so they can be found in most newly-built blocks of flats. Real estate development is flourishing and the Polish cities are changing rapidly. When you visit Poland, you’ll see a lot of cranes in big cities, as new blocks of flats are rising.
Modern Polish houses are typically not too big, from 100 to 150 square meters (about 1076-1614 square feet), often with one floor and a habitable attic. In bigger houses, it is not uncommon to see two or three generations living together. An older, popular kind of house that remembers the communist times and can be found all over Poland is a simple, grey, unsophisticated cube. Some Poles like it when their dwellings imitate old manor houses. In general, the typical Polish houses are sturdy and warm, they’re usually made of brick.
In Poland we believe that a man’s home is his castle, so many people are reluctant to adapt the form of their house to the surroundings. This results in the housing areas being very diverse, with houses of all shapes and colors standing next to each other.
As far as interiors are concerned, in the interwar period the furniture and extras that people chose were supposed to be durable and serve for generations. The Second World War and the unfavorable system that came after it hindered the natural development of style. The furniture and decorations were the same in nearly all homes, with omnipresent wall units, sofa beds and panelled walls. After 1989 Poland was focused on western style of interior design. Foreign style is still influential these days, with Scandinavian attitude to interior design being a big thing.
Air conditioning is still relatively unpopular in private homes, although as the summers seem to be getting hotter every year, more and more people are installing air conditioning units. Washing machines are present in every household and are usually kept in bathrooms. Drying machines are not common in Polish homes, mostly due to lack of space in apartments. Installing a drying rack over the bathtub or using a portable rack is much more common.
What often surprises foreigners is that the most popular place to keep the trash bins is in a cupboard under the sink. Poles are also big fans of hanging net curtains on their windows. The curtains are semi-transparent, so they let sunshine in, but still give the inhabitants a bit of privacy.
We seem to cherish this privacy of ours. Polish houses are usually surrounded by fences or even entire walls, so you need to ring on the gate before you can approach the front door. All blocks of flats have entryphones. What is more, in old, concrete blocks of flats it is not uncommon to encounter iron gates on every floor that separate the corridors with entrances to flats from the staircases. New apartment blocks tend to be surrounded by fences.
When you enter a Polish home, you are expected to take your shoes off and leave them in the hallway (don’t be surprised if you are offered a pair of slippers for guests). Polish houses often have a little room right behind the front door that we enchantingly call wiatrołap, the ‘wind catcher’. That’s where you leave your shoes and jackets. The wind catcher is supposed to stop the cold that falls into the house when you open the door.
Despite all these gates, fences and curtains, we’re actually very hospitable people and we love visitors, so don’t hesitate to visit Poland! Talking about which, have you already checked RealPoland’s small group tours and private tours of Poland?