Warsaw, Poland Report of what it's like to live there - 03/23/11
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?
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?
Chicago, 15 hours (through Germany)
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost two years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Corporate job transfer for an American company.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
A lot of common-wall housing (like townhouses in the US).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are plentiful and at all price ranges. Household supplies are available and cheap ones are available at IKEA (2 in Warsaw).
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?
Plenty and for a decent price.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Some are available but they are relatively expensive.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some mosquitoes around the edges of the city.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I rarely do and when I do, I send my letters through the secretary at the American School.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheaper than in the US but not dirt cheap. (Around 20zl per hour.)
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are plenty around the city.
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?
They are everywhere.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Expensive. I rely on the internet.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can survive with English but the Poles will appreciate your efforts to learn some Polish.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be a little difficult but manageable (I think).
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All are safe, affordable and easy to use. Public transportation is great.
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?
A smaller car is better than a larger one. Parking spaces are small and Poles are prone to parking too close to other cars.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. It is hit-or-miss as to the quality. If you have TP DSL (the national company), it is spotty and prone to outages. Netia and other cable companies exist but the further away from downtown you are, the less likely you are to be able to use their services. When it comes to internet, you have to steel yourself to be patient and flexible.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Unless you really need a data plan, it is cheaper to buy a phone and pay per minute.
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)?
Great. Kennels are expensive but vet care is much cheaper than in the US.
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
My husband wears a tie a lot. They dress above business casual.
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?
None. Healthcare is great and cheap. Medicover is a new, full-service hospital in the Wilanow neighborhood.
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?
It is cold and dark from November through February, but I have grown to enjoy it. Summer is lovely and relatively cool.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My kids attend the American School of Warsaw. Like any school, there are some problems but I still love it. The school is so welcoming of parents, and I can always find other moms in the cafeteria in the morning having coffee. My kids are generally happy at the school despite its imperfections.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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 are many available in English.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large. The American Friends of Warsaw and the International Women's Group are very active and provide a lot of opportunities for tours and social events.
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?
3. Morale among expats:
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it is a great place for all.
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?
I think it is fine. It is a matriarchal society, so it is customary to greet women first.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Visiting other parts of Europe. Driving to Krakow and Zakopane.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Visit the Old Town, Lazienki park, and hiking/cross country skiing is great in Kabaty woods.
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?
Poland is a great, easy place for expats (at least I think so). If you can let go of the irritations (post-communist quirks usually regarding paperwork and customer service), it is a wonderful and safe place to bring a family. It is easy to travel to most of Europe from Warsaw. Groceries are relatively cheap, as is pet care and health care.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, if you don't eat out at expensive restaurants a lot.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Definitely. I love it here.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Appliances unless you have a transformer.
3. But don't forget your:
Chocolate chips and ziploc bags. Warm winter clothes. Plenty of warm stuff for wrapping up children in the winter or you will get stern looks and a vigorous talking-to by older women on the street.
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?
Warsaw is wonderful if you have the ability to take the small things in stride. Bureaucracy can be a nightmare, but for the most part, things are steadily improving and customer service is getting better by the day.