Warsaw, Poland Report of what it's like to live there - 01/17/11
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. Panama, Guatemala, Armenia, Saudi Arabia.
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?
Florida. 14 hours.
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?
Houses are townhouse styles. The U.S. Embassy community has different styles from apartments to full houses.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The groceries tend to be cheaper than in the USA or any other European country.
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?
Same fast food restaurants we have in the USA.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
There are some.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes in the summer.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I have DPO at the embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very expensive. This is not Latin America or Eastern Europe, so don't even think about it.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
All over the place.
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?
You can use credit cards all over the city.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
YOU MUST know Polish to come here. When you ask them if they speak English, they tend to say "No", but they do and they are just being arrogant, especially the older people who grew up during the communist time. These people will never change. You can still look for the young people, but there are no guarantees. Everyone speaks English in Krakow, though, because it is a city of tourists. But as I said before, don't expect locals to speak English in Warsaw.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The metro, train, and bus systems in this country are excellent and very affordable.
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?
4X4 is fine, but you can do well with a small car.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, there is, and it is very reliable.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You can buy phone cards anywhere.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
The vets are cheap here, and the quality is excellent.
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?
You need a working permit.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Just like any other European city.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is fine.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Extremely cold in the winter and warm but not like Florida in the summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The American School of Warsaw is the worst! They tend to spend a lot of money on infrastructure and forget about the quality of the teachers. There are a lot of substitute teachers at this school because somehow the regular teachers are always on vacation or in meeting. If you worry about your kid's education, then do not come to this country.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Yes, is but you must notify them in advance.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, there is but they must speak Polish.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It is big.
2. Morale among expats:
OK, I guess.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
The best is in Krakow.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is good more for single guys.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
If you are Hispanic or Black, you will get the looks. But I haven't heard of any racial issues.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We have been able to visit the Death Concentration Camps Museum and other important WWII sites.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The best place to hang around is Warsaw's Old Town. Krakow city is also a good places to go, and they speak more English there than they do in Warsaw.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather is bad in winter. It gets dark at 3:00 PM -- like it would be 9:00 PM. No money saving in this country.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, if you do not go out.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
120-volt items, unless you bring a transformer.
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
Poles DO NOT laugh out loud in public. When you are at a restaurant and crack a joke with your friends and start laughing out loud they will look at you like "what planet are these guys coming from?" Basically, they are a very sad people, and I guess it is due to the former communist system.