Shopping in Poland
Whether it's food to live, clothes to keep warm, a souvenir, or a gift, there's good reason why being able to buy things in any language is one of the most sought after skills amongst learners. Asking for something particular, how much things cost, whether something is available, or where you can get things if it isn’t, are useful for obvious reasons, so here we will take a look at the vocabulary and various ways to express these in Polish.
Like in every country there are nuances in the shopping vocabulary of Polish. I remember being slightly surprised in Poland to find cashiers ushering me forward using the word I had understood was please (prosze), whilst always hearing shortened versions of words the guidebook hadn't prepared me for (dzięki) instead of the phrasebook's elongated and more formal sounding dziękuję). I'd always manage to raise a laugh amongst my Polish friends when, with a spurt of over politeness, I waved off leaflet givers in the street with the intensely grateful dziękuję bardzo (thank you very much). It's knowing these kind of ins and outs, because it’s these that will stop you from sounding robotic and phrasebook-esque, and more like a native Pole.
Asking for Something
As in English there are a variety of ways to ask for something in a shop - from the mildly curious, to the particular, from the super polite, to the curt and brusque. It's worth getting to grips with different ways to say them as each has its own level of appropriateness to different shopping situations.
The most common way of asking for something in a shop is simply by using poproszę (There's no direct translation for this in English, but think of it as roughly meaning 'I'd like', with its fair share of politeness), followed by the item you would like: Poproszę mleko (I'd like some milk please).
The second option you have here is chciałbym or chciałabym for a female speaker (Literally meaning 'I would like'), it's quite similar to using poproszę in shops, but a little less common: chciałbym mleko (I would like milk).
Another option is just using the Polish word for please (proszę). This is essentially identical to using poproszę, but can go before or after the item as you please: Mleko proszę or proszę mleko (Milk please).
You can also use the verb mieć (to have) to ask if a shop stocks a particular item, but if you don't know the shop keeper personally, and especially if they're older then you, then you should use the formal rendition, with pan or pani, depending on the gender of the subject: Ma pan/pani może mleko? (Do you have milk?).
There's also the option of asking if you can get something: Czy dostanę mleko (can I get milk), or simply, dostanę może mleko (these two mean basically the same thing).
Asking How Much Something Costs
To ask how much something costs you can say Za ile jest... (how much is...) followed by the item you are enquiring after. Alternatively you can use a complete sentence with ile kosztuje... (how much does... cost) with the item at the end.
Saying Thank you
Saying thank you is really easy when shopping Poland, there is simply, dziękuję (thank you), and his big brother dziękuję bardzo (thank you very much).
But, remember to say goodbye, with do widzenia.
Like most countries in Europe, Poland is slowly making the jump to self-service checkout machines in the major supermarkets, and be warned, they can be somewhat on the annoying side, repeating Skanuj produkt (scan product) and Proszę, włóż produkt do pojemnika (Please put the item on the side), over and over to overly confused non-native shoppers.