As a Polish / British company, we at Azimo often talk about the Polish idioms that make our British colleagues laugh.
So we polled the office and picked our favourites, and hopefully you’ll enjoy these bits of cross-cultural miscommunication as much as we do.
1. “When among the crows, caw as the crows do”
Polish: Kiedy wszedłeś między wrony, musisz krakać jak i one
English: When in Rome, do as the Romans do
2. “Don’t teach a father how to make children”
Polish: Nie ucz ojca robić dzieci
English: Don’t teach your Grandmother how to suck eggs
To be fair, “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs” is probably more ridiculous than the Polish version.
Sucking eggs refers to putting two tiny holes in the eggs and sucking out the yolk so that you can decorate them.
3. “The drowning man catches a cut throat razor”
Polish: Tonący brzytwy się chwyta
English: A drowning man clutches at straws
4. “Don’t divide the skin while it’s still on the bear”
Polish: Nie dziel skóry na niedźwiedziu
English: Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched
5. “Did an elephant stomp on your ear”?
Polish: Słoń nastąpił ci na ucho?
English: Having no ear for music
6. “Not my circus, not my monkeys”
Polish: Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
English: Not my problem
Thanks to the Internet this Polish phrase is probably the most famous uniquely famous Polish idiom in the world, leading one member of staff to speculate, “does anyone Polish actually say this? Really?”
7. “They have flies up their nose”
Polish: Mieć muchy w nosie
English: They’re angry
8. “Drill a hole in your belly”
Polish: Wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu
To be fair this is normally understood as someone else drilling the hole into your belly, but we thought it made the illustration funnier to do it this way round.
9. “Throwing peas onto a wall”
Polish: Rzucać grochem o ścianę
English: Fall on deaf ears
10. “Don’t call the wolf from the forest”
Polish: Nie wywołuj wilka z lasu
English: Don’t tempt fate
11. “Stick you in a bottle”
Polish: Nabić kogoś w butelkę
English: Pull your leg
12. “Stuff yourself with hay”
Translation: Wypchać się sianem
English: Get lost! Go away! Shut up!
13. “It’s a roll with butter”
Polish: Bułka z masłem
English: Easy / it’s a piece of cake
14: “I was made into a horse”
Polish: Zrobili mnie w konia
Meaning: I was taken for a ride
And finally – we’ve saved our favourite for last: “Do you have a snake in your pocket?”
Polish: Mieć węża w kieszeni
English: “You’re being tight-fisted”
Be especially careful using this phrase in English: the potential for snakes in pockets being confused with something much ruder is immense.