Crossing the border for butter: Poles unhappy about Czechs shopping in Poland

With food and clothing notably cheaper in Poland, more and more Czechs have been visiting their neighboring country.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 18.11.2022 11:39:00 (updated on 18.11.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Amid the spiraling increase in the costs of foods and products in Czechia, some Czechs have been crossing the border into neighboring Poland to get their hands on cheaper products. Some Poles, however, are not happy and are beginning to voice their discontent and worry.

"We want our children to also have access to fresh goods. It is slowly becoming impossible – we come to the shops and find empty shelves more and more often," wrote on Facebook Artur Sienkiewicz, who is a politician from the border town of Bogatynia, in south-west Poland.

So bad has the situation become, that he decided to leave written notes on cars with Czech number plates outside a supermarket to encourage more respect and consideration. For him, the battle is just beginning – “I will take further steps,” he said.

Staple products such as butter, bread, sugar, and meat are among the most common items that Czechs purchase in Polish supermarkets, at considerably lower prices than in Czechia. The weaker złoty and the Polish government’s abolition of value-added tax on some items are some of the reasons for cheaper Polish products. 

Since October 2021 in Czechia...

  • The price of sugar has gone up by 105 percent
  • Semi-skimmed milk is 38 percent more expensive
  • Prices of bread and cereals have increased by 29 percent
  • Meat has gone up by 27 percent
  • Vegetables are 24 percent pricier

    Source: CZSO year-on-year inflation; October 2021 vs. October 2022

Significantly lower prices fuel shopping trips across the border

It is not only Czechs living near the border who head to Polish supermarkets. Travel companies operating between the Czech Republic and Poland have even made their bus services more regular in response to Czechs around the country taking organized day tours to their neighboring country for the sole purpose of shopping, Seznam Zprávy reports.

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Writing on a Facebook group in which Czechs give one another tips on shopping in Poland, people have been marveling at the cheaper cost of products across the border. "Here you can easily pay CZK 10,000 for a decent-fitting suit, there [in Poland], for example, [it costs] CZK 2,000."

Another person commented that one winter jacket in Poland was CZK 600 cheaper than in Czechia. “There is a lot more choice” in Polish shops too, according to another frequent cross-border shopper.

Savings made in Polish supermarkets, as posted on the
Savings made in Polish supermarkets, as posted on the "Poland - shopping, tips, and recommendations" Facebook group.

A Glance into the prices

  • One liter of regular milk – Poland: CZK 16 vs. Czechia: CZK 21
  • Local cheese (1 kg) – Poland: CZK 147 vs. Czechia: CZK 222
  • Apples (1 kg) – Poland: CZK 19 vs. Czechia: CZK 35
  • Round beef (1 kg) – Poland: CZK 201 vs. Czechia: CZK 246
  • Loaf of white bread – Poland: CZK 21 vs. Czechia: CZK 29

    Source: Numbeo.com, prices are averages and valid as of Nov. 18, 2022

Could purchase limits solve this issue?

One Pole said that “before 6 a.m. in the morning,” Czechs would be queuing outside supermarkets. To tackle the growing problem, some suggest a maximum limit on the number of food items one can buy. The issue made it into Polish media, with news site Gazeta Wyborcza reporting that citizens worry about food running out before Christmas.

Polish news site zgorzelec.info puts some of the blame on Polish logistics and product supply, according to ČTK. Some supermarkets and warehouses lack the necessary numbers of staff to put the products on shelves.

As inflation and the cost-of-living increases show no signs of abating in Czechia, Polish-Czech border tensions may well continue to flare until a solution – if any – can be found.

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