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03 sierpnia 2020

Investing in Poland – some useful tricks not only for renewable energy sector

You´ve decided to launch business in Poland, let’s say in renewable energy sector. You have probably heard something about communism, vodka and maybe the Pope. But it´s not the knowledge you need while investing your money in any country. When you visit Poland for the first time you will hear language that has nothing in common with English and will see names that are impossible to pronounce, and it is only the beginning.

Here are some tips for you to prepare for your adventure.

  1. Language: as in any other country Poles will appreciate it if you try to use some of the most popular words like “Dzien dobry” (means “Good morning”) or “Dziekuje” (means “Thank you”). Don´t worry, you will never pronounce that correctly but it doesn´t matter, they will appreciate the effort. And if you are brave enough you can try with: “energia wiatrowa” (wind energy) or “decyzja środowiskowa” (environmental decision 😉 What for sure will make your life easier is a local partner. Although people in cities usually speak English or even other foreign languages, it´s not the case for the landowners and local society you will have to deal with while explaining for example your wind or solar farm location. It´s not only the knowledge of language but also customs, body language, mentality, expressions. You should never forget that although Polish and Russian are both Slavic languages, most Poles don´t speak Russian.
  2. Advisors: you will probably hire some advisors to help you to maneuver in the labyrinth of Polish law and there are many professionals that can assure high standard of services. As they rarely give straight answer and always leave a back door open so what you will need to learn is to interpret their reports!
  3. Business habits: Poles are quite punctual, so better don´t make them wait as it may be considered unpolite, they as well tend to minimize the small talk and are quite reserve. You don´t need to ask about the whole family and better go straight to the point. You should also be prepared for them to actually read carefully the contract from cover to cover.
  4. Localization: Cracow is most likely the most beautiful polish city but if you want to do business you should better choose Warsaw for your headquarter where you can find the concentration of all kind of specialists, associations and companies. You should also consider opening additional office as your business will probably not be in the capital. For example, on the Polish coast are very good wind conditions and many wind farms are in this area, moreover, you have direct fast train to Gdansk (approx. 3h) and taking normal polish train may be challenging.
  5. Food and beverages in business: After business meeting you may be invited for lunch or dinner. And here are some curiosities: in the restaurant you will be asked for a type of mineral water you want to order, sparkling water is quite popular, or maybe you prefer “kompot”: cold soft drink based on fruits. You should also be careful while trying vodka, it can be tricky as Poles drink it very cold and in shots so you may miss the point of sobriety. In Poland you will be offered both coffee and tea as they are avid tea drinkers.
  6. Transport: as already mentioned, the fast train called “Pendolino” is already functioning in Poland, but it only connects main cities. Highway is not a bad option but it´s also limited so sometimes you will need to drive using local, one-line roads more suited to adventurers than businessmen but it may be the only option to check good location for wind turbines or have a meeting with local governments or society.

Investors too often forget how important it is to keep a good relations with local societies and keep them informed about the progress of the investment. Investing in green energy requires providing very accurate information and talking to the communities or maybe even to a single person. Proper communication may be the key while developing non-conventional sources of energy, but it is as well very important in any other investment. Choosing the right partner or advisor, localization or even knowledge of some basic habits may be very helpful when doing business in Poland.

Never forget that Poland is located in Central Europe although erroneously often considered eastern country because of the location on “the other side” of Berlin Wall. If you need an icebreaker you can always talk about football, ski jumping or volleyball and better avoid talking about religion or politics.

Karina Lembowicz
Tundra Advisory