Expats moving to Poland can look forward to an extremely safe country with picture-pretty cities and quaint villages. Situated in Central Europe with a long stretch of coast on the Baltic Sea, Poland is strategically positioned for trade, and its growing economy is evidence of that.
Poland has never been the most popular expat destination, and when the country officially joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, emigration statistics skyrocketed, leading to a population decrease as thousands of Poles left their homeland for greener pastures. But more expats are starting to realise the merits of living in Poland and that there are many more pros than cons to expat life here.
Living in Poland as an expat
A history of foreign occupation, repeated post-war partition and high unemployment rates left a sizeable grey cloud on Poland's horizon, but the 'Shock Therapy' programme initiated in the early 1990s, as well as a period of reforms, led to a market economy that has only truly become successful in recent years.
There is an increase in work opportunities for enterprising foreigners, and new arrivals usually find work in industries such as IT, finance, human relations, manufacturing and English-language teaching. Despite these opportunities, those looking to relocate will still face a number of challenges. Poland is known for its tedious bureaucracy and, as a result, large infrastructural changes are slow to take effect.
Expats living in Poland need to prepare themselves for a relatively conservative environment, as strong family values and a powerful Catholic undercurrent still dominate the social milieu. Another potential difficulty is that, except for Poland's vibrant youth, very little of the Polish population speaks English. This can complicate just about everything, from assimilation into the working environment to solidifying meaningful social connections.
On the upside, Poland's largest cosmopolitan centres, Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk, Wrocław and Poznań are gradually making their way onto the international stage, with a growing café culture, a thriving nightlife and an increasingly cutting-edge cuisine scene. There's a reason the Poles are known for their ability to have a good party, and a long legacy of vodka is only one part of the whole.
Cost of living in Poland
Salaries in Poland are among the lowest on the continent, but fortunately the cost of living in the country is also exceedingly low. Though offering limited space, accommodation in Poland is fairly affordable and expats are likely to find something suitable for their budget and style. Public transport is also comprehensive and reasonably priced, so most expats will not need to purchase a vehicle. Those who decide to invest in a set of wheels will need to account for the cost of petrol, insurance and winter tyres, which can all add up quickly.
Although public healthcare provision is adequate, the government spends the lowest percentage of its GDP on healthcare, and expats should explore their private health insurance options and include the cost of monthly premiums in their budgets to access private healthcare facilities.
Expat families and children in Poland
With strong family values, a religious societal foundation and an emphasis on quality education, Poland is a wonderful country to raise a family in. Poland’s public education system has undergone many positive changes in recent years, and tuition is free to all resident children, including expats. As Polish is the language of instruction in public schools, the majority of expats opt to send their children to international schools in Poland. Expat parents should, however, be prepared for the exorbitant costs often associated with international schools.
Parents will also have plenty of weekend entertainment for their tots and teens, even during the brutal winter months. Historical sites and museums abound while there are myriad outdoor spaces for hiking, swimming, kayaking and winter surfing.
Climate in Poland
The weather in Poland is a source of frustration for many Poles and expats alike. Winters in the country are cold, and the days become visibly shorter. Snowfall is a common occurrence during the frosty months, while spring and summer are usually around for two to three months of the year, respectively.
Expats moving to Poland with an optimistic attitude can certainly succeed and enjoy a fun life here, and its central location means travel to the rest of Europe is a doddle.
Population: Around 38 million
Capital city: Warsaw
Neighbouring countries: Poland is bordered by seven other countries – Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east and Lithuania and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast to the northeast.
Geography: Situated in Central Europe, Poland is a relatively low-lying country with access to the Baltic Sea along its northern border. It is mostly flat and interspersed with forests, low hills and lakes, with no natural borders, except for mountains on its southern borders.
Political system: Parliamentary republic
Main languages: Polish (official)
Major religions: Catholicism is the dominant religion, with over 80 percent of the population practising the religion.
Money: The Polish Złoty (PLN), divided into 100 groszy (singular: grosz). ATMs are widely available in the country's urban areas, and credit cards are accepted at the majority of establishments.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)
Electricity: 230 V, 50 Hz. 'Type-E' rounded two-pin plugs with a rounded female contact are used.
Internet domain: .pl
International dialling code: +48
Emergency numbers: 112, the general European emergency number, is most commonly used in Poland. Individual emergency services can be contacted on the following numbers: 997 (police), 998 (fire), and 999 (ambulance).
Transport and Driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Poland. Public transport infrastructure is very good, and it is possible to reach most locations by bus or train. Low-cost flights also connect Polish cities to the rest of Europe. A car is only really necessary to reach more remote areas of the countryside.
►Check out Pros and Cons of Moving to Poland to help you plan your move
"Dealing with Polish bureaucracy is my biggest frustration. OK, it may be tied with a lack of customer service for biggest frustration. Poland has come so very far since their communist era, but they haven’t left everything behind." Read about the difficulties of expat life in Poland in Lois's interview"I love the Warsaw public transport, the parks, the bike trails and the river. It's a very liveable city, although long winters can play havoc with morale." Rose talks about expat life in the Polish capital of Warsaw in her interview with Expat Arrivals
Are you an expat living in Poland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Poland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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