Warsaw, Poland Report of what it's like to live there - 04/02/18
Personal Experiences from Warsaw, Poland
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, but first with family.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
A townhouse. Solid construction. Gated compound with a small yard, but plenty of room in the residence. Mix of expats and Polish families.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available locally with small exceptions. Great mix of local shops and large stores. Ultimately much cheaper and fresher.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Many expats use Room Service which is a restaurant delivery service aggregator. Pizza, burgers, Indian, Mexican, and of course, Polish cuisine is all readily available.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I am aware that some families have household help, but no personal experience.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Numerous gyms and tracks. Soccer, basketball, and gymnastics. Gymnastics is a bit different than the US there, as it is acrobatic/sports and rhythmic.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Widely used and have not had an issue anywhere. Wireless devices where cards are run tableside.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
International and English language churches are in Warsaw. Some Polish churches sometimes offer an English service from time to time.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It helps, but you can get by. Older Poles speak less English while most under 40 do have some English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, due to the uneven sidewalks in certain places. Somethings are very accessible while others are not, as it is an older city.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Best local transport I have ever seen in terms of safety, cost and efficiency. Uber is also available.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Small to mid size is best either AWD or 4x4. We have a minivan and that is big for this country.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Available and relatively cheap. Current service to home is 300 mbps.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cheap and plentiful with Orange and Play being the largest providers. Can get service for 3-4 phones for the cost of one in the US.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
The Poles love their pets to numerous vets, kennels and shelters. We brought over a dog who did not need to be quarantined, but we did all the proper paperwork stateside. He did need an EU chip.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
The embassy and the American School are the two best options. Poland has a high tax rate, almost 31%.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Numerous, but no personal experience other than general knowledge.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Suits and ties for men. Appropriate business apparel for women.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None really. Low terrorism threat compared to other countries in Europe. Soccer hooliganism maybe but the police do a good job. Pickpockets around crowded public areas.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No, good expat medical and dental care. Some choose to leave for childbirth while others stay.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
In the winter, the air quality is bad. Invest in room air cleaners.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Asthma and seasonal allergies are an issue here but generally anti-allergy meds and inhalers can address this.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
SAD for sure. Bring some lights.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Moderate climate. Can get humid in summer and cold in the winter but nothing too extreme.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Excellent school choices. Brits, German, American, French, etc., all have schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
One-on-one assistants, but generally the expat schools are behind the curve on this aspect.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Plentiful, but no personal experience.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Soccer, basketball, track, gymnastics, and even parkour are all readily available.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Fairly large and good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Neighborhoods, embassy events, through the schools.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Seems to be good for all groups.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Definitely a homogeneous society as in white, Catholic and heterosexual. No actionable racism or prejudices observed but it is under the surface in some places.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
People, food, beer, ease of travel, Gdansk, Krakow, Wroclaw, Warsaw.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Numerous things to do if you like history, museums, but also outdoor trips like the lake region, the mountains in the south of Poland and the medieval forest area in Eastern Poland.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Ease of public transport. Once you figure it out, it's not too bad to navigate. Cheap flights to nearly everywhere in Europe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Heavy wool sweaters.
4. But don't forget your:
Air purifiers. Bikes.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Pianist, Zoo Keeper's Wife, and Schindler's List. Books include Warsaw 1944, Bloodlands, Poland by James Michener, Night, Poland: A History by Zamoyski.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Great place for families, ability to give teens a bit more space and liberty in terms of safety.