Warsaw, Poland Report of what it's like to live there - 02/09/08
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?
It's my first overseas experience.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
From Atlanta about 12 hours. Warsaw is just under two hours from way TOO many great European cities.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I am affiliated with the military.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is big (several stories) for families and small for singles. But both are nice and modern. Many singles live downtown and families farther out, near the school, ASW.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Local shops are everywhere but it is a pain to get a faktura vat. Also the meats and cheeses are behind a counter so you need to ask for what you want in Polish. There are some bigger stores :Real, Carrefore, and Piotre i Pawel (gourmet) for shopping in large quantities with less hassle. Lines are usually long everywhere.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Oven thermometer, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings. Anything that you use on a regular basis that is American will be double the price here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and food courts at the mall. Hard Rock has the only good burger. There are alot of good Italian restaurants. Polish food is good but heavy.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There are a lot of maids that the Embassy approves and they are cheap.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
We only exchange at the Embassy monthly.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is an international church in Old Town with an English service as well as a Catholic Church and Lutheran Church.
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
AFN. The Now and The Warsaw Voice are monthly but in English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
More than anyone told me. It is not like the rest of Europe. Some young people will know and speak English. They are better when you try. If you want to make a Pole laugh, try speaking Polish to them.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The sidewalks are under perpetual construction. A lot of older places don't have elevators. Poland is changing fast but still seems behind by comparison to other European countries.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Right, like the U.S.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Safe. If you get a taxi from Old Town with a solid black sign one that says TAXI or a taxi from a hotel, they will charge you double. The local taxi services that you call are affordable and reliable but speak little English. They can be rude and it is frustrating. Around Christmas you might sometimes wait an hour for one (usually 5-7 minutes). I reccommend writing down addresses because cab drivers, as well as others, aren't flexible when it comes to pronunciation.
3. 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?
The roads are bumpy and the traffic lights are ridiculous. Traffic is a problem here. The local drivers are mostly male and love to lay on the horn and hall it to red lights. If you have any form of road rage, I suggest the tram. Buses and the metro are crowded and too many people don't wear deodorant. Car maintenance through the Embassy is expensive.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, US$50 per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Service is fine and affordable.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
I know my neighbor takes their dogs to a kennnel in Mokotow when they go out of town.
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?
Not really. The locals are often on strike for more money and the cost of living is increasing. I predict a mess when the Euro comes to Poland.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Good, but running in town is very fumey. There are a lot of local parks for that but you'll get some weird looks.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
It feels very safe in Warsaw. I've heard of cell phones and wallets being stolen and the occasional car. You need to have common sense. For the most part people leave you alone and it is a very quiet place. On a typical bus ride, not one talks except children.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
It seems decent but a little behind.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Grey, with short days in the winter. Lovely in the summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I worked at the American School of Warsaw. It has a nice facility on 25 acres. It is how a school should be. There is a lot of opportunity there for the students. They have high standards and the kids take great fieldtrips.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The British School is the only school that accomidates students with special needs that I know of.
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?
Preschools are popping up all over Warsaw. I also worked at The International Preschool of Warsaw. The women who work their are nurturing and active. Any child would benifit greatly from a start there.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Big but manageable.
2. Morale among expats:
Generally good. Best in summer.
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?
Lots of parties and clubs.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is something to do for everyone here. However, it won't knock at your door. Winter is harder but the warm weather months (May through August) are beautiful. For single guys, there are girls galore. I've heard some loneliness from the single American women of all ages. There is something lonely about Warsaw.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There are a ton of clubs but I've never seen anyone kissing on the street. There are a lot of things that aren't done in Poland.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Parks, bicycling, bowling, roller blading, dancing, iceskating, concerts, opera, museums, local bazaars. Visit neighboring towns and countries!!
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Polish pottery, Krosno glass, Jablonski crystal, wooden carvings, clay angels, religious art.
9. Can you save money?
Only if you get it taken out of your paycheck, rarely go to dinner, and don't travel much.
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:
Smiles at strangers and love for red meat.
3. But don't forget your:
Scarf, gloves, boots and big coat.