Rodolph de Bure is a French restaurateur who has been living in Poland for the past ten years and running a business here for seven. He and his wife decided to move to Poland after a professional opportunity opened up.
Do you like living and working in here?
My perception of Poland has changed a lot since the first time I got here. I was mesmerized at first especially that we came here at Christmas time. Then the daily life began, I started working and getting to know more and I thought – this country is really tricky. I suppose you can say that about every country in the world because everywhere you go you can see the dark and the bright side. But I really like it here and I really appreciate Poland. It is a beautiful and complex country.
How would you describe Poles?
It is important to remember that Poland and its people have only 33 years of independence now. This is the time they had to transform the country and keep up with the West. When I see where Poland is right now and what people here achieved in such a short time I think it’s absolutely amazing. A lot of Polish people forgot about the fact that the new era for their country began just yesterday and I think they should give themselves more credit. Yes, the I and II World War affected all countries including France, but we were never as destroyed as the East of Europe.
What do you think about Polish cuisine? Is there anything you would incorporate into French?
My mother-in-law loves to cook and she prepares absolutely amazing traditional Polish dishes. We often have our funny little arguments because I like to tease her saying that French cuisine is on UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, so there really is no contest. But the truth is that before the dark time of communism Polish cuisine was actually very similar to French. The taste and nicety with which Polish soups or for example zrazy were created is really amazing. What I very much like to do in my restaurant is to prepare a Polish dish and put some French touch on it. And I think that a lot of Polish restaurants here should try to experiment like that a little and create more diverse tastes on the basis of this wonderful original cuisine that you have. Taking closer look at the particular cuisine always gives you an insight into the history of the country. Here you can really see how Poland suffered during communism but what is amazing is how fast it is changing now. For the past few years I observed the market closely and for example now it is very easy to order every day fresh ingredients directly from Polish providers and I’m not talking about vegetables or meat only, but for example fantastic high quality cheese.
How is it for you to run a company here? Do you find a lot of differences between French and Polish business savoir-vivre?
We have a saying in France that the best contract you sign is always on the corner of the restaurant table. When you eat something tasty, you enjoy it and feel good so you open your mind and connect. My restaurant is situated in the middle of an office complex and for the past seven years I have been watching people from numerous corporations coming for business lunches. I have to say that during that time Polish approach to business meetings has completely changed! Before I witnessed 5-minute meetings with barely any food involved and no space for longer connection or conversation. And that is fully understandable – before you weren’t used to it because you just didn’t have the opportunity to conduct business this way. In France restaurant and cafes are literally everywhere. You work in the office on the second floor of the building and all you have to do to eat a proper meal is just go downstairs. Here until recently you just didn’t have so many possibilities like that. Now doing business while having high quality meal became available and also very important.
How do you find the French community in Poland? Do you have any close friends that are Polish?
I have a lot of Polish friends and only a few French. Foreigners here can sometimes can be kind of toxic. Some French who have settled in Poland show too much superiority. I know numerous French people living here who after few years cannot really say ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ in Polish. I don’t understand that. I think it is important to pay more attention to the fact that people and communities change and improve, than to their shortcomings. And change is something that Poles are capable more than others. For example, few years back I could tell you I witnessed some anti-Ukrainian attitudes in Warsaw and look at what is happening today. What Poland is doing for Ukraine is simply unbelievable. When I heard that France is prepared to receive 100 thousand Ukrainians I though – great! But here you’ve already welcomed 1,7 mln of people and you didn’t even have time to prepare for this. That is the example of how fast Polish evolution can go and what kind of changes you can make in a very short time.
Poland has a long-standing historical and cultural connection with France. Can you feel it here?
Yes. You can see this closeness not only throughout history, in culture and business but you can also feel it very strongly on the social level. One of the first things that come to my mind is the fact that so many kids are learning French at school and how they love it! It’s really amazing! When Poland regained its freedom after communism, French companies where one of the first ones to operate here. My great-grand-father Albert de Bure was in the French army and participated in stopping Bolshevik invasion in Płock in August 1920. And today there is a lot of kindness between Polish and French. Those meetings are always very cordial. I think that it is really important that we never forget about our connection and don’t let others to antagonize us. It can be a challenge because we can see that the history is often being manipulated or used for different political reasons.
What would you advice to the newcomers in Poland who want to build a life and business here?
Be tactful. Polish people suffer from a kind of inferiority complex. Because of the difficult history, deep down they often feel left behind in so many ways even though the are going through a lot of fast changes and doing fantastic job every day. So my advice is: don’t make comparisons to other countries and nationalities. And when it comes to business – don’t try to force your ideas or moves that someone or the market is not ready for. Respect the Polish paste and mindset of people here. Don’t try to apply yours. Simply adapt.