If your Polish plumber curtly tells you to pass the spanner, don't worry, he isn't being rude.
And if the Polish assistant in the coffee shop seems unnecessarily brusque when she tells you where the milk is, she's not trying to be offensive either.
In reality they are trying to be polite, but their intentions get lost in translation, according to a state-funded study.
Piping up: Has your Polish plumber been rude? Maybe his words were lost in translation, a study suggests
It found that Poles often assume when they speak to someone that the other person is willing to help them. Their direct manner of speech is meant to convey they idea that they share a positive relationship.
But English people usually expect to be asked nicely before they do something for someone else, and to have the chance to show they are prepared to co-operate, the study found.
Psychologist Dr Joerg Zinken spent two years examining the way Polish and English families, and some mixed families, speak to each other.
He found there is room for misunderstanding because a Polish speaker will demand abruptly 'pass the milk', while someone brought up to speak English is more likely to ask: 'Can you pass the milk?' Dr Zinken said: 'Even if it is obvious that they will comply, by asking someone to do something rather than telling them, the English form gives the other person a choice.'
However, a Pole is more likely to respond well to what sounds to English ears like a direct command.
'When a Polish person wants a family member to pass the milk, there is a presumption that the other person will be available at that moment and will help,' Dr Zinken said.WHAT THEY MIGHT SAY:
Polish: Pass the milk.
English: Can you pass the milk?
Polish: The bin needs taking out.
English: Would you put the bin out please?
Polish: The bread must be cut.
English: Please can you cut the bread?
Polish: It is necessary for us to buy a new washing machine.
English: Do you think we can afford a new washing machine?
Polish: Pass the spanner.
English: Could you just throw me that spanner, love?
'The fact that you can make this presumption is seen as a good thing, it says something positive about the relationship between the speaker and the other person.'
A Pole sitting around the family table will often respond to the command by giving a one-word reply meaning 'I'll do it in a second', the report said.
Dr Zinken, who is based at Portsmouth University, carried out his research with the help of a £70,000 research grant from the Government's Economic and Social Research Council.
It involved hours of recordings of the behaviour and conversation of Polish families in Lublin, which were compared with similar recordings of England and mixed English-Polish families in Portsmouth.
He found that the natural constructions of speech used by Poles do not work so well for those brought up speaking English.
Polish speech, he said, assumes that someone else will volunteer to do something. So a Pole might say 'the bin needs taking out', and someone else in the family will feel it is their job to do it. But in English the demand has a nagging quality it does not convey in Polish.
Dr Zinken said: 'One of the reasons behind the difference in phrasing questions about chores in each language might be because there is a strong sense of communal responsibility and solidarity in Polish culture, whereas in English culture the maintenance of every individual's privacy borders is important.
'While in Polish the other person's availability for a chore is assumed, in English families the other person's availability always depends on their agreement.'
He added: 'Every culture has its own rules and values, but we often don't notice them because they are ingrained in the way we use language, not just in the words we use but in grammar and sentence structure.
'If we understand these differences better, we can understand where other people are coming from, while also reflecting on what our own language says about us and how we relate to others.'