Warsaw, Poland Report of what it's like to live there - 10/26/21
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?
This was my first expatriate experience. My wife previously lived in South America for a couple years.
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?
DC. Warsaw was approximately a 14 hour trip. It was very easy to get to.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
We had an apartment south of downtown Warsaw. My commute was about 30 minutes by bus, and I thought it was very convenient and easy to navigate. We had a European-style apartment which generally was roomy with decent storage. However, we had two new children during our stay and the apartment was very cramped by the time we left.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are much cheaper than the US. Anything you wanted was available, though if you desire US products you can expect to pay the same as you would in the US. Buying local products was much, much cheaper than the US. They were all very good quality.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing much except specific comfort foods. We had no complaints about availability.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
UberEats and Wolt were easily available. Be warned that most UberEats delivery folks don't speak English.
Try Georgian food. You can find it all over and it's very good.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Winters kill any pests we might have had. Mosquitos can be bad in the spring and fall outside.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We used DPO, but local post worked just fine and was trustworthy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We paid approximately US $325/week for a housekeeper that also helped with our children. Others paid similar rates. She was a lifesaver and we miss her very much.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I had a personal trainer with a personal gym, and he charged about what I'd get charged for a personal trainer in the U.S. at a commercial gym. English-speaking personal trainers can be found throughout the city. Gyms are all over and seem well equipped.
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?
Yes, used everywhere. We never really needed that much cash. Google and Apple pay are widely accepted.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, I'm aware of Catholic, Protestant, and LDS services. Unsure about others. Conservative English-speaking protestant services were not available.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Basic pleasantries help a lot, and tutors are available. However, in most places English works just fine.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Some difficulty in older areas, but it most of the city was easily accessible. Mass transit is also generally accessible.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, all safe and 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?
No theft/carjacking risk, though I'd recommend something smaller inside the city itself. That said, folks brought American SUVs and were still able to navigate just fine.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it depends on when the contract for the previous tenant runs out. But easily accessible and affordable.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Not really, as we kept our home-country plan, but local plans are affordable and easy to use.
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?
Many work at the embassy in various roles or at the international schools.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal dress may be required depending on what's going on that day. However, slacks and a tie were generally fine for many functions.
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 good, as is dental care. Complicated pregnancies generally require medical evacuation, but that's mostly due to language barrier issues, not because the healthcare system cannot handle issues that may arise.
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?
The air quality is very bad in the winter due to the country's heavy reliance on coal fired power plants. Plan accordingly.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Poland is generally aware of allergies and will work with you, though without much knowledge of the local language this may be difficult. However, they'll understand Google translate.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Poland has very long winter nights, so SAD lights are very helpful even for people that generally don't suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I would recommend planning ahead for that.
COVID has made life more restrictive (though not as restrictive as other countries), so I suspect that more folks are suffering from depression than normal in Poland too.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate is temperate. Generally the summers aren't exceedingly hot (though a bit humid because of the river), and the winters are dry and cold. However, Warsaw decorates heavily for Christmas so it's very bright and cheerful for awhile during the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Personally unsure, though I have heard generally folks have a good experience with the international school in the city.
2. 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?
They are available, and not extremely expensive. English language ones are available too. However, we preferred other options so did not investigate these options very closely.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, though I don't know details.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It's decently-sized. Morale was fine. Expats not attached to the embassy tended to generally be pretty happy and enjoy their time in Warsaw, too. You may have to hunt a bit, but if you're working at the embassy and looking for expat friends outside of that community, they're around.
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?
With COVID, parks and other outdoor venues are the places people socialize. Summers have lots of outdoor seating, so people will socialize outside at various cafes and restaurants throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Unsure, but it was nice for us as a family. Parks are everywhere and many have playgrounds that are suitable for toddlers.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It generally is easy, yes. Poles are generally friendly once they get to know you a little bit, and are happy to make friends.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are ongoing protests and discussions about LGBT rights and women's rights within Poland. Poland is a highly homogenous country, which also impacts how they interact with people that are not European.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Krakow, Gdansk, and Malbork! Take the train and visit these great places.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Go visit the cities and the seaside, it's great. People also love visiting the mountains in the south of Poland. And once COVID restrictions lift, neighboring countries are great destinations also.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Polish pottery is great, and sturdy enough to be used everyday.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Everything is cheaper than the United States, English is widely understood, and the country is generally very open to expats coming to live there.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The coal pollution is very oppressive and bad.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, though I'm not sure I would want to stay forever.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Weight loss plans. The pierogi, paczki, and Georgian food is just too good.
4. But don't forget your:
Winter gear and air purifier.