Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Poland discriminates against foreign children

Phew that's an eye-catching headline. At least that's the idea. I was thinking either that or 'Tourist kids exploited by Polish rail' or 'Full fare for foreigners!'

I was sitting on the Balice Express, waiting for the ticket inspector to come around and trying to block out the sound of two Sun-In blonde, skinny-jean-clad English teenagers singing a brassy mixture of Lily Allen and Marsz Dąbrowski.

- Two adults and two children please.
said an English voice somewhere in front of me. The ticket inspector looked a bit puzzled.
- It's the same, said a Polish man, also in English
This seemed a bit strange, particularly as she'd just sold a reduced-fare ticket to a Polish mother and child up ahead.
A Polish woman sitting across the aisle from me explained to the ticket inspector that the Englishwoman was asking for half fare for her children.
The ticket inspector shook her head, and replied, in Polish, to the Polish woman.
- No, no. It's only for our children. They have to have a school ID.
The Polish woman interpreted for the English family:
- No, there's no discount.

To my shame, I didn't interrupt and explain the actual situation.

When the ticket inspector came around I said very pointedly that in England both foreign and English children rode half-fare on trains.

- Not in our country; said the woman, curtly.

Now come on, Poland: here I am, explaining to all my friends back home how great you are, what a fantastic country this is and how nice the people are - not to mention pouring scorn on any suggestion that this might not be a normal 'civilised' (disclaimer: the author of this blog uses the lexeme 'civilised' with very particular associative connotations which she hopes make it evident that it is in fact a citation and not attributable to her own personal use of the connotation-less word in its full Empire-era ... uh ... glory) country where you can't buy Weetabix or Marmite in the corner shop - and you go and spoil it all with this child fare discrimination business! How am I supposed to fight off the Daily Mail crowd now?!

Why on earth does a child need a school ID to prove that they are child enough to pay the reduced fare? Surely the size of the child is evidence enough! In the UK, kids under 15 pay half fare and it's that simple. It doesn't matter where you come from: in fact I'm pretty certain it would be considered racial discrination to differentiate between English and foreign under 15s (n.b. a quick look at the Transport for London website indicates that 11-15 year olds do indeed need to carry an identifying photocard).

Come on, Kraków! Think of all the revenue generated by foreign tourism every year! As a gesture of goodwill, surely it makes sense to treat foreign children on an equal footing with Polish children? Now that we're a grown-up member of the EU and foreigners actually do come to visit and all...


Anonymous said...

You just need an international ID. No matter if you are in Krakow or in Rome (where i had a similar problem in a museum). I do not think that the ticket inspector hates british kids or foreigners,...she just wants to keep her job ;)


Anonymous said...

And that is just one example of the small-mindedness of Poles and Poland. Poland will never advance as long as that mindset prevails, nor does it deserve to. I cannot wait to leave.

Anonymous said...


The small minded Poland advances quite OK and Polish trains are -even without discount- still much cheaper for british kids than western "civilised trains" with "civilised inspectors"...but of course you can live in Dubai if you hate Poland so much. British expats love it there...lots of great discounts and impressive advance.

just read it


pinolona said...

Anon 01 - I agree, she probably does just want to keep her job: but she did repeat several times that it was 'Nasze dzieci' and not anyone else's, so I don't think an international ID would do. That and the fact that this was tactfully not explained to the foreign parents.

anon 02: That's far, far, far away from what I was trying to say: generally I quite like it here. There are places in England that are also pretty small-minded.

Anon 3 (popular name around here):
gah I'm definitely putting a ban on the word 'civilised' from now on, with or without irony! It's getting me into too much trouble.
Incidentally I met some very pleasant local people from Dubai last summer, so I'm sure it can't be that bad a place. But since I've never met any Dubai ex-pats I can't really comment on that one.

Anonymous said...

Anon No.1

You are right Pinolona


§ 14.

Discounts are only for school children with a Polish ID.

So "only for nasze dzieci" was of course wrong. She should/could say "only for children with our ID" ...no matter if they are Polish, British or African ;)

Sylwia said...

Interesting! I think the difference comes from the fact that those aren't children who have discounts only school pupils, students and teachers. A 25 year old student will get a discount too, as well as a 40 year old teacher, but a 15 year old kid that doesn't have a school ID won't, no matter Polish or not. It's just a part of subsidizing of the education in Poland, not someone's care for kids as such.

I'm not saying it should be like that, though, just that the discounted tickets aren’t called ‘children ones’ only ‘student ones’.

Anonymous said...

Even polish children when they don't have got legitymacja szkolna or they have got it, but without valuable pieczątka/seal, they can't have got discount.

1 or max. 2 adults with min. 1 child under 14 can have got some reduce, it's so called family ticket/bilet rodzinny. Naturally child have to look under 14 years old or the best has got an ID/legitymacja szkolna or other document like karta rowerowa or passport with the date of birth.

Children under 4, travel for free.

Fish & Chips said...

I think you are all missing the greater policy picture here. Because on average, British children weigh twice as much as a Polish child, it should only be fair that they are charged the adult rate.

pinolona said...

An interesting take on the situation, fish & chips. Since I weigh rather less than your average big Polish bloke, does that mean I should be able to ride half-fare too?

Fish i Czips said...

The context is children not adults with the mental age of a child!

pinolona said...

ouch! a little harsh I feel. On what do you base your assessment of my mental age, Dr Czipsy?

Fish, Czips i Jung said...

From what I've read here, seems like growing up in Sevenoaks was a bit stunting.

But that's life and way off topic.

Anonymous said...

Pinolona if you really think that demanding a "Polish school ID" is a sign of "Polish xenophobia", then do not be surprised if you get harsh ractions...

If you want to see xenophobia then make a trip to Auschwitz. Maybe then you will choose such words more

Fish i Czips said...

I don't dare to ask what happens when you can't produce a Polish school ID at Auschwitz!

pinolona said...

anon (are we on 04 now? come on guys, at least give yourselves a name!):
I think you should be careful bringing Auschwitz into the equation.
My blog is largely humorous, and is rather too light-hearted a context in which to discuss genocide. One might be perceived as being facetious. In any case I think xenophobia is too small a word to even begin to explain what happened there.

I used the tag 'Polish xenophobia', hoping for a reaction (and consequently higher reader stats). Looking at your comment, it seems to have worked!

And - had you been on the train - you would have noted the way in which all the Poles in the carriage, discussing the matter with the ticket inspector, agreed that it was only 'nasze dzieci' and 'u nas' and how they tacitly agreed not to mention any of this to any of the visiting families. It was similar to the way my Mum - for example - talks about 'our jobs' or 'our benefits system'. It felt distinctly like xenophobia to me.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we have just a different mentality, but for me an english benefit system IS 'your benefit sysem' and 'polish school ID' blongs usually to 'our children'.

And in both cases i do not see anything xenophobic.

Polish/British parents pay taxes, the government pays money for british/polish school children and it is IMO not xenophobic, if only children with a british or polish school ID benefit from their own tax money and pay less for a ticket...

For example in germany i get a student discount, but i have to pay money for this discount at the beginning of a semester. And it would be pretty unfair if a Polish or British student would get the same discount like me.

And as i said before, of course Poland could rise the prices and give fake discounts like in Dubai or in the french TGV...And then everyone would say how great and not xenophobic the country is.

pinolona said...

Not entirely true: student discounts are universal, so long as you have a student ID which is valid somewhere. Your Polish student ID card should get you a discount in the UK, just as my old Italian student ID used to get me discounts in Poland (guilty).

Now that people work and live in various countries throughout their lives, the concept of one country refusing to offer discounted public transport to children visiting from another country is starting to sound faintly ludicrous. Half fares for kids is actually nothing whatsoever to do with the taxes you pay in the country in which you pay them!

And yes, I maintain that this is a) xenophobic; b) discrimination, and that the attitude of the Poles on the train was also xenophobic.

Bennox said...

I agree with you, Pinolona, and think you deserve more support than you're getting here! Several dumb analogies flying around here. The system in Germany alluded to above is that students pay a contribution which then entitles them to a transport season ticket - which is hardly the same thing.

Island1 said...

Polish hypersensitivity alert!

There is no reason you shouldn't be able to point out what you see as an injustice without some idiot playing the Auschwitz card.

Anonymous said...

The idiot is German and has a Polish wife....

Anonymous said...

ps: And "hypersensitive" is...you guess who. ;)

Anonymous said...


British tourists (i hope only that from stag parties) thought that Auschwitz is a... kind of beer!!!

Anonymous said...

German Anonymous,

ich wuensche mir alles Deutsche werden zu denken als du!

Kreuzritter's Grostochter

pinolona said...

Yes! I'm controversial! Bennox and island, thanks for the support!

Actually we have the same young persons' railcards in England - you pay a bit and then get discounts for a year. It's not the same as kids travelling half fare. Anyway. Time for a post about the Bad Obwarzanki Lady or something.

Anonymous said...

"kids travelling half fare" just does not exist in Poland, no matter if you are Polish or British.

Only "school children with a Polsih ID" discount exist. And most of the time these children are "nasze dzieci", because "nasze dzieci" usually go to a polish school and get a Polish ID.

Pawel said...

I think that's fair. Half fare idea in Poland is that kids get half-off on their way to school. It's extended to all travel, to keep it simple.
Foreign children, whatever their race be, who attend Polish schools have the discount.

Pawel said...

There's the issue of "our country" underlying the story.
This is just a structure people use automatically. Whether it's wrong or right, I, we might wonder. Should say, like in England "this country"?
There is no sensitivity in Poland that this could seem to exclude anyone who is not "us".

"Nasze dzieci" to skrót myślowy.

pinolona said...

ah I see. In the UK, it's not relating to travelling to and from school, the fact is simply that children pay less for their tickets because they're children and they don't work or whatever. It has nothing to do with whether or not their parents pay taxes. It's just that children pay less on public transport, no strings attached. I know she didn't mean her children specifically, but still... them and us... etc.

It's interesting to see however that most Polish commentators don't envisage a system where kids travel cheaply just because there are kids: all of you have mentioned some form of condition, e.g. they must go to school, their parents must pay taxes here, they must buy a special ID. Interesting to see the differing mentality: history or social structure-related maybe.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Pinolona it is a different mentality. Poland is just a MUCH poorer country than the UK and we have to think more pragmatically and define what we can afford.

Of course it would be better if all kids could get a ticket discount and other things like that. But if we do not want to ruin our finances and our country (like Hungary for example)then we have to set priorities. And this means (right now) "only children with a Polish ID" and only a "horse plough" in Tyniec ;)...

You may call it xenophobic and not civilized...

Anonymous said...

...I call it a pragmatic recipe for 2% GDP growth in 2009, with no violence and strikes like in other countries which live above their means (Hungary, Lithania, Estonia and co.)

Halfling PL said...

I wonder how many of you ever *talked* to PKP guys at decision-making level. People who get majority of their budget from the State/EU as they can't do business and who are as far detached from any business/PR thinking as that of an Orkish dimwit, whether from Lugburz or Orthanc.

I did. Alas! I won't accuse them of xenophobia. Much too sophisticated a concept for them. (Sorry to contradict whoever used the term: they are incapable of such higher emotions the same way a one-cell organism cannot develop malignant tissue.) Their idea of making business is some early capitalism mingled with inferiority complex they are unaware of, and takes the form of a simple algorithm:

a + b => c, where:

a) "they" have (more) money (Aaaaargh!),
b) we still have the rozbiory/communism/trade unions/urząd marszałkowski interfering
c) we charge them $$$ to make up for this injustice. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Back after a loooong time no see,
Halfling PL (back to PL)

and now the many haphazard PSs:

1. I don't think there were any reduced rate fares on the privately owned train from Fiumicino to Stazione Termini. Of course, I could choose any other: slower & more expensive tourist shuttle/mover.

2. When buses (and water trams) in Venice went on strike (so far happened twice to us), all enterprises providing water transport between Venice and the airport suspended all reduced rates.

3. AFAIK the operator of the Balice shuttle is a private company, and the rates are much higher than in a similar shuttle to Słomniki.

3. I not only had to pay up to the full ticket but was also charged with a fine for my daughter not having "legitymacja szkolna" when she was 8 or 9 on the train to Gdańsk.

Rantings are over,
Halfling PL

Anonymous said...

"nasze dzieci" meant that "nie nasze dzieci = obce dzieci = cudze dzieci" should have got the same, but also should fulfil the same conditions!


the old polish silesian joke to you:

Wdowiec mający 3 dzieci ożenił się z wdową mającą 2 dzieci i urodziło im się kolejne kilkoro dzieci. Pewnego dnia wdowa biegnie do swego nowego męża i krzyczy: "Stary chodź szybko, bo twoje dzieci i moje dzieci biją nasze dzieci"! :D

Translations for all these lazy foreigners who don't want to break their tongues:

Widower having 3 kids married widow having 2 kids. Soon they have got their own new 2 or 3 kids. One day widow is running to her new husband and is shouting: "Go! Quickly! Because YOUR children and MY children are hitting OUR CHILDREN! :D

pinolona said...

You're missing my point!!! It has nothing to do with (purchased) discount cards for students or taxes paid by parents. The fact is that in other European countries there are two fares: one for adults, which is more expensive, and one for children, which is cheaper. And children under five travel free. This has nothing to do with what taxes the parents pay or how poor or rich the country in question is, and whether or not this makes them 'deserving', 'civilised' or any number of other emotive words. It's because they are children, and children pay less on trains, in theatres, etc., simply as a gesture of goodwill because they are children.

My suggestion is that this should be equal across Europe, because to differentiate between foreign and native children is unwelcoming and doesn't match Poland's increasingly strong position in a united Europe.

I raised the question of this blog post and the unreasonably hostile comments I have received from Polish readers in a Polish conversation class and our teacher (who is ... I hesitate to assume but I would guess well over pensionable age and therefore quite entitled to hold old-fashioned views herself) sighed, rolled her eyes and said that of course there are still people in Poland with closed minds and that it takes a long time for people's mentality to change.

Anonymous said...


stop fiting for the carrot! :D

P.S. You are like me 10 years ago. You will be older and you stop, because your problems will be real then!

Czech said...

Anonymous of 16 April 2009 22:10:

if not for the ;) I'd think in Orwell's 1984 you'd be in the nameless, obedient crowd.

Yet even with such a humorous caveat in your emoticon, don't push it too far... Good ol'Pinolonka is richt: this is a place for tongue in cheek! Don't peddle your unsupported views flagging them with the meaningless "of course"...

1) I know the populists say so but why would it better if kids took the train at half price? Do you find is some king of Messianistic/utopist justice? If so why all the slim girls and little old ladies (and halflings, whether PL or not!) pay full fare? And local kids can take the 208 bus.

2) How come our economy benefits? Economy is maths:

just consider:
- one non-premium class tourist arrival from the old EU lost is an approximate loss of €75 for the Treasury (Polska Izba Turystyki 2008)
- the difference in ticket price is below € .75

ergo: if more than one in hundred (1%) of those mothers who paid full fares for their kids discourages just a single Briton from coming by telling such a tale, your theory crumbles cookie-wise.

And for a family of 3 being discouraged, the rate is 0.3%...

I'll tell you more: one in four arrivals in Krakow is a "returning visitor" and the number of those who follow word-of-mouth choosing the destination country is nearly as high*). Being familiar with the place, "returning visitors" bring even more revenue, as they are prepared to spend more (trust!). And they bring over friends and relations. (To Halfling: did the Elf and the Dwarf not take each other to revisit their favourite haunts after the War of the One Ring was over?) How do you know that - by selling one ticket at PLN 8 you don't sever a chain reaction?

Like tourism, state economy is big picture and macro and global. Fail to see the big picture, and you save pennies/eurocents to lose the pounds of euros.

An American chap in Poland's only Hilton (responsible as far as I remember for recruitment and training) said before the grand opening that one receptionist's bad breath is known to cost more than a 5-star hotel lost to fire with no loss of life.

*) I dare to disagree. IMHO, it is higher.

Czech said...

PS: I think that I know who Halfling PL is... he told me that this blog exists and I may want to see it ;)

Michael Dembinski said...

I've ceased to get worked up about this.

In Poland, your child falls off bike, splits skull, blood gushing everywhere, you take it to hospital, first thing that's required is a pile of papers to prove that you pay health insurance, ZUS, tax, are employed (or if not are registered as such). ONLY THEN will your little darling be seen to.

In the UK, a family of Somalians who've never stepped foot in Britain let alone paid a penny in taxes get off the plane at Heathrow, take train to Paddington, stroll into St Mary's Hospital and demand treatment for whatever ails them. They will not be refused ("Is it 'cause we black?").

So who's the sucker nation?

uzar said...

Very, VERY interesting post here. Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Michał Dembiński,

it's not because of nation or skin colour, but because of the bureaucracy. I'm goind 1 year to some hospital, and every month they demand me (though they recognize me now) to show them valid (with seal) ID. 2 years ago it was valid 3 months, now only 1 month.

Pawel said...

Going back to the point of half-fare rides. I remember there were few articles in my local paper featuring foreign visitors complaining that they have to pay full ticket. The article was sympatetic, and conclusion was something like - should we let this policy to continue if we want to strenghten the city's tourism industry.

Maybe it should be half-fare for all children? After all my student ID does get me 10% off at UK's Topman:> No, but honestly it can't cost that much for Urząd Gminy or whoever covers the rest of the fare. And it's a friendlier policy.

Instead - let's charge the lorries travelling through Poland with transit.

Pawel said...

And what I meant to say with the "nasze dzieci" issue, is that it may sound nationalistic or something

- while people just say it without thinking about it

Anna said...

Jesusfuckingchristonapopsiclestick Pinochan!!!
What the hell is going on here?

For what it's worth, in my old town in Sweden, it worked like that: There was a reduced fare for children and students. But everyone who looked even vaguely above the age of 12 was required to produce a school id if they wanted the cheap ticket. No school id, no discount. And oh yeah - foreign school ids were not accepted.

PolishMeKnob said...

Yeah, I have to deal with this crap too. They only accept the Polish student identification cards. Some places, like museums, will accept ISICs, but they will almost never accept a student ID doled out by an accredited institution.

pinolona said...

hi PMK -
that's odd, I've never had any trouble getting a student discount here (even when I wasn't a student).

But my post wasn't really about student discounts: students are by and large big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves. What I meant is that children under sixteen, regardless of whether or not they are in full-time education or whatever their background, should not have to pay full fares on public transport. Why should this be subject to conditions?! We're talking about children for heaven's sake! :)

PolishMeKnob said...

Hey! I agree with you totally-100%!

(To be honest, I was trying to eke out some empathy by playing the poor student card, but it seems you are too clever by half.)

No, yeah. Kids ought to be half-price. I don't think it's really that controversial of a subject, and I'm quite surprised at some of the responses.

feronique said...

I thinka this is just the LAW and nothing to get so excited about. When I was at school (and later at the university) I had to have a VALID (stamped at the beginning of new semester) student's ID. If for any reason I did not have this one with me I was paying full price for my ticket - no discussion. Because half full price has nothing to do with being a child - the condition is being in full time education. Ticket controller is probably hardly ever psychic enough to be able to tell whether or not a given child is 10, 12 or 15, and as full time education in poland is compulsory until the age of 18 it does not make the whole matter any easier or less complicated. I myself can hardly ever guess whether someone is 12 or 16 years old. We like it like this and are used to it and as itr is not the child but the parent who is paying the fare - saying that kids should paid less because they don't work or anything does not really make a good argument, because they are not paying anyway. I would not call it discrimination - while I was a student I don't think anyone abroad took seriously my booklet Polish student's ID and I never got any discount (because it only is for "our students") and did not feel discriminated.
There are certain rules and rights in the UK I do not fully approve of or like.
Speaking of xenophobic rules... last year I wanted to open a bank account in the UK with one of the most popular banks. Surprise - as a Polish citizen they only can offer me a bank account for which I will have to pay £6 a month for the first year (explanation: I'm not from "here"). To make the matters even worse - they did not inform me about that when I was opening the bank account, it wasn't mentioned in the contract and getting rid of the account took me really a lot of time and energy. Because - as a Polish citizen - I cannot be trusted they cannot even issue a card for me to my fiances account, inspite of the fact that he is British and has had an account with them for 15 year - they would have to charge him then £6 a month (apparently he cannot be trusted either, if he decides to hang around with a Polish girl).
Now it is xenophoby!
Still I love your blog - and the description of your visit to Katowice was brilliant - I could picture you going along the Plac Miarki and taking the side entrance to the railway station which even I wouldn't ever dare to take, although I was brought up there and lived there for 26 years. And the fact you speak Polish that well makes me hope that maybe one day my fiance will be able to say something more than "Poprosze herbate z mlekiem" :)

Foo Cheong WONG said...

I am Asian (read: East Asian, not the Indian Asian as is the typical concept of Asian for Poles).

I had an ISIC card and I got discounts everytime I rode on a train or went to the museum in Poland.

On some occasions, the ladies behind the counter would say "No English" in a seemingly angry way, but I really don't think they were angry because I was Asian or because I spoke English.

The key is when you're visiting a foreign country, you really have to put in more respect and understanding for their way of life there (which might be different from our own).

I tried to start off with a greeting "dzien dobre" and replying in Polish as much as I could - Tak/Nie/Dobsze/Dobra.

As for the school ID, I agree with what some of the commenters wrote here. It's really the bureaucratic-obsession brought over from the communist time, and since the communists did live very differently from the democratic nations, let's say there will bound to be some peculiarities in some aspects of the Polish public life.