Warsaw, Poland Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw, Poland 09/28/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First post as an expat for work. Previous experience living abroad had been for studies (all Western Europe).

View All Answers


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?

Canada. There's an 8.5-hour direct flight from Toronto to Warsaw. Other Canadian cities require a connection, usually through Toronto, Brussels, London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

One and a half years.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing was provided by the embassy. Many diplomatic families live in houses in a commuter district of Warsaw. From the city center, it's a 20-40 min drive (depending on traffic), 40-min bus or 30-min bike ride. Younger and/or single diplomats may prefer to live in an apartment closer to the city center.. There are many new/modern condo-style apartments available. Housing is generally larger and newer than what you would expect in most other European capitals (a consequence of Warsaw being completely destroyed in WWII and therefore "recently" rebuilt).

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and household supplies are generally cheaper than in Canada. A sales tax (VAT) of either 8% (for food and food-service) or 23% (for alcohol and most other non-food goods and services) applies; however, diplomats can apply for a quarterly VAT refund.

Product availability differs compared to Canada. For some products, Poland has more variety, e.g. for groats ("kasza"), pierogi, sausage (kielbasa), pickled vegetables. For other products, selection is very limited, especially "international" foods. Vegan, lactose-free and gluten-free products are readily available in Warsaw. Large supermarkets ("hipermarkets") have similar product availability as typical Canadian grocery stores. These are generally found in shopping malls ("galeria" or "centrum handlowe") throughout Warsaw. Specialty international foods and ingredients may be found at Kuchnie ?wiata (international food store). It's also possible to order groceries online and have them delivered directly to your home.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Maple syrup, protein bars, Asian spices and sauces, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants, coffee shops, food festivals and stalls (both one-off and more permanent/established), breakfast markets, and food halls are all widely available in Warsaw. Food delivery apps like UberEats and Pyszne are also very popular and reliable. There is a wide range of restaurants available, including Italian, Japanese, Thai, American, Spanish, but also other types that are not commonly found in Canada like Georgian, Uzbek, and (of course) Polish.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic mail bag arranged by the embassy. The local postal system (Poczta Polska) is cheap and relatively reliable, though there are often long queues at their offices when you need to drop off or pick up registered mail.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is cheaper than in Canada, but not at cheap as in many other parts of the world. Many expatriates employ a weekly house cleaner for about 50 PLN/hour. Cleaners are often Ukrainian, not Polish, and so a language barrier may exist.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are readily available, including at popular chains like McFit and Zdrofit. Other sports facilities include: tennis, badminton, dance, yoga/pilates, basketball (indoor and outdoor), soccer/football (indoor and outdoor), swimming pools, ice hockey, ice skating and curling.

Gym memberships typically range around 100-150 PLN/month. Other facilities rentals vary by sport. However, many companies in Warsaw offer a MultiSport card as a benefit program, which grants free and/or discounted memberships and facilities rentals around all of Poland.

View All Answers


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?

Credit cards are widely accepted, including with "tap" features. ATMs are common and safe to use.

View All Answers


5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It is possible to get by with English only; however, many people (especially those born before 1990) do not speak English at all. Signage and announcements around the city are typically in Polish only. Government services, like the tax office, do not offer services in English. Official government forms for taxes, social assistance, etc. are also exclusively in Polish. It is recommended to learn the Polish alphabet and basic words/phrases help significantly when doing groceries, giving directions, and asking for help.

Local language classes/tutors are readily available. In Warsaw, I would personally recommend: IKO Institute of Polish for Foreigners, Polski Instytut J?zykowy ("Frog"), and European Academy of Diplomacy's "Polish for Diplomats" course.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, local public transit is very safe, reliable (timely) and affordable. ZTM offers single tickets for 3.40 PLN and monthly passes for 110 PLN (and 3-month tickets are even cheaper).
The Warsaw transit system consists of 2 metro lines, trams, buses, and local trains. In the summer, "Veturilo" city bikes are extremely popular and cheap (free for the first 20 mins, 1 PLN for the next 20 mins, 2 PLN for the next 20 mins, and so on). The app "Jakdojade" is very handy for figuring out bus schedules/routes, and in 2018, ZTM GPS data was finally available in GoogleMaps.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High-speed home internet is readily available and does not take long to install at all. No issues.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I brought an unlocked Canadian phone and used a local SIM card from Orange Polska. Local providers are cheaper than in Canada (though to be fair, almost anywhere is cheaper than Canada). For example, Orange offers 55 PLN/month for unlimited data. You also get a certain % of your data available for roaming in other EU countries at no additional cost.

View All Answers


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?

Local salary levels are about 1/3 what they would be in Canada, for the same job/type of work. Many local spouses of Canadian embassy employees did not work. Those that did either teleworked from Canada (if possible), went back to school, or (for those with EU citizenship) worked full-time in the local labour market as language teachers or in the corporate/private sector.

Warsaw is an operations hub for many international/multinational companies and is eager to hire English-speaking workers. Other language skills are also highly-sought (Spanish, German, French, etc.). Polish is often not required. However, a work permit is normally required, and the process to obtain one can be burdensome. Unemployment in Poland, and especially in Warsaw, is extremely low.

Of course, the low salary level (compared to Canada) acts as a disincentive to work for some Canadian spouses. In our case, the spouse was a young professional and eager to work for the experience and career advancing opportunities, more than the salary. The spouse's local salary was sufficient for local expenses like groceries, eating out, recreation/entertainment, and travel, while the Canadian embassy employee's salary covered rent, utilities, credit card bills, and savings.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many international/expat organizations as well as religious (mainly Catholic) organizations, which may offer volunteer opportunities.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

People in Warsaw are fairly well-dressed (European-style). Women often wear high heels. People certainly dress up more than they would in Canada.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The political climate in Poland is increasingly intolerant towards immigrants and racial minorities. Non-white employees at the embassy were advised to avoid parades/protests on national holidays, such as Independence Day (November 11). The Praga district has historically been known to be the "rougher" side of Warsaw; however, it is gentrifying and has becoming noticeable safer in recent years.
Beware of intoxicated soccer/football fans on game names, especially around the Legia stadium.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No major health concerns except air pollution (see next question). Good quality medical care in English is available at some private clinics.

View All Answers


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?

Air pollution is a huge (and surprisingly not internationally-known) problem in Poland, and especially in major cities like Warsaw and Krakow. This is due to burning coal for fuel, as well as the widespread use of diesel cars. The air pollution is especially bad in the winter months (often at similar levels to Beijing). Embassy employees have air purifiers in their homes. It is also becoming increasingly common to wear smog masks in the winter, particularly among cyclists.

View All Answers


4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Ingredients lists on food items are often only available in Polish. Even when the original packaging listed the ingredients in English or another language, it will be covered with a Polish-language sticker.
That said, vegan, lactose-free, and (increasingly) gluten-free food options are becoming increasingly common. However, peanut/nut labelling is rare.

View All Answers


5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

S.A.D. (winter blues) tend to crop up in the winter months, from November to March, as the days are short and the weather is overcast/grey. You rarely see the sun in the wintertime. Polish people recommend taking vacation outside the country in November and February, which are decidely the least festive and most depressing winter months.

View All Answers


6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Moderate to hot in the summer (20-30 degrees Celsius) with mostly sunny days and occasional thunderstorms. Mildy cold in the winter (-10 degrees Celsius) with overcast/cloudy skies and limited sunlight. Snow tends to melt shortly after falling.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

British, French and American schools are available.

View All Answers


2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, check out the website "Kids in the City - Warsaw" for ideas!

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There is a growing expat community in Warsaw, particularly among young professionals from Portugal, Spain, Italy, and other European countries with high unemployment rate. Morale among expats is generally good, especially as there are so many festivals/events/activities happening all the time. Among Canadian diplomats, as Warsaw is not considered a hardship post, diplomats do not stick to themselves that much, and most enjoy branching out and making friends with other expats and locals alike.

View All Answers


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?

Attending festivals, events and activities. Participating in sports. Working with locals. Joining language tandems and pub trivia nights. There are expat groups on Facebook, including the very popular "Warsaw Social". Another great resource is the website "Odd Urban Things Warsaw".

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, it's good for single people (Tinder is popular!), couples and families alike. Lots of events and activities for people of all ages. Relatively safe. Young, vibrant population, especially as young people from smaller Polish cities and from other European countries move here.

View All Answers


4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes, it is easy to make friends with locals, especially young people as they tend to have better English skills.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Poland. The Catholic Church has a lot of political power, including on public opinion toward homosexuality. Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is very present. There have been recent reports of violence against Pride Parade participants in Bialystok (though not in Warsaw). Warsaw is probably the most liberal city in Poland in this regard.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

The Polish population is extremely homogeneous and the current political climate is generally unfriendly to minorities, especially non-white minorities, and ESPECIALLY against Muslims. Individuals who wear non-Christian religious garments, such as turbans, hijabs or burkas, are rarely seen and may draw attention or be subject to outright discrimination by some locals. In terms of women's rights, abortion is illegal.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Exploring the city by the (virtually) free city bikes. Visiting the Mazuria region (cottage/cabin country) in Poland. Discovering fruit and sweet cheese pierogi. Visiting the geological side of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Spending summer nights drinking by the Wisla river.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Attend the events recommended by "Odd Urban Things - Warsaw" (website). The Uzbek restaurant "Manty" is definitely a hidden gem.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Clothes shopping is quite good, particularly at Galeria Mokotow (designer section). Local Polish pottery is also a popular souvenir item, as are flavoured Polish vodkas.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Excellent public transit. Safe city. Tons of festivals/museums/things to do. Vibrant restaurant/bar scene. Mild winters (for a Canadian). Affordable.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known how bad the air pollution is.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but I would have brought proper air masks with me and been better prepared.

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Home country's alcohol, and get to know the world of Polish vodkas.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Maple syrup

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"God's Playground" by Norman Davies, as well as the films "The Pianist" and "Zimna Wojna (Cold War)".

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Nope!

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 05/22/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Numerous posts on three other continents.

View All Answers


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?

USA.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

I left a year ago, after living there for three years.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Best housing in six overseas assignments! Sunny, spacious, well-built townhouse with good storage. Zero complaints! Some neighborhoods (e.g. Wilanow) had older homes with more infrastructure issues, but most housing in Ursynow and Konstancin were newer construction with fewer issues. The commute on public transportation was a stress-free 25-30 minutes door-to-door. Traffic when driving was usually pretty painless, too. Some rush hour congestion, but not too bad.

The garage in our house was a little narrow for our SUV, so I had to "suck it in" when getting in and out of the car when it was in the garage, but is that really a complaint?

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Nearly everything (or equivalent) is available and affordable! :) A FULL cart of groceries never exceeded $150-200 (usually more like $100), including laundry detergent and similarly "expensive" items. Now, I drop $50 just looking at a small, hand-held basket of produce. You can shop at Makro (Costco-like) for bulk deals, too.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, really. Just an occasional homesickness comfort brand, maybe.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many places that deliver, most types of food available. Affordable to order out/eat out. Pizza, Indian, Lebanese, local food... we really miss it!

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not really.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Quite affordable. Roughly 40-50 USD for a full day. Many people had one-day-a-week type help.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Modern gyms, pools, tennis courts (indoor and out). It is a modern city.

View All Answers


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?

Generally worked everywhere.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

A few around without digging too deep.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

In Warsaw, English is generally good enough for survival. Most restaurants have English menus, for example. Outside of Warsaw (and Krakow) can be a little more challenging, but there's often someone around who speaks a little English. But, if you make any effort to learn/speak Polish, the Poles are very appreciative!

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably a little. Typical European limitations (few ramps, narrow elevators, cobble stones, etc.).

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Very affordable and very safe! School-aged kids were generally fine riding buses/trams/metro alone.

View All Answers


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?

Virtually any dealer you can imagine for repair/parts. Different dealers (usually the obvious ones) were more expensive than others, though.
Larger cars could be tight in some parking garages and you will want snow tires.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Install varies from 1 day to a couple of weeks, depending on neighborhood service/infrastructure, personnel availability, etc.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The local plan worked well.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

Definitely. Poles are a pet-loving society with the support structure for it. Even 24-7 vets that are reasonably priced.

View All Answers


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?

Local salary scale is less than U.S., but possible to work on local market (roughly 1/2 a typical US salary for comparable jobs). Fair mission employment opportunities for US Embassy family members.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty to include church, school, Rotary and the typical volunteer organizations.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business professional to business casual, depending on the job.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None really. Obviously don't be stupid and wave money around in public, but generally safer than most large cities in the world.

View All Answers


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 fare, but people were still medevaced for some things. Very good and affordable dental care, for example. No real local health issues.

View All Answers


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?

Generally good. Some coal burning in winter is occasionally noticeable.

View All Answers


4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Learn a few words in Polish about your food allergies, because English won't always work, especially outside of Warsaw.

View All Answers


5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

SAD can be an issue. Winter can be long.

View All Answers


6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Long, cold winters, but not as bitterly cold as I had expected. 1-2 weeks per winter it would stay below freezing 24-7, but rarely colder than the teens for the lowest low temps. Typical winter days would be freezing overnight and maybe 30s-40 during the day.

View All Answers


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 was pretty good, though some teachers were stronger than others. Some families would also use the British School.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

It seemed more common for special needs kids to end up at the British School vs. ASW.

View All Answers


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?

Many families sent small children to local preschools, of which there were at least bilingual options, if not an occasional English-only option. Girafe in Ursynow was popular.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, but it can be difficult (outside of school activities, at least) without speaking Polish.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Quite a few expats from various countries and generally high morale. A handful of people on repeat assignments having served there on a previous tour, for example. I had a friend at the Swedish Embassy who chose to stay in Warsaw during a 6-month parental leave rather than going back home. Many people are very sad to leave!

View All Answers


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?

Eating out, gatherings, school functions, sports (tennis, running groups), opera/symphony are affordable, the Embassy bar after work on Fridays, concerts, etc. There is plenty to do.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

All of the above. All seemed happy.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I think so.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I heard that non-whites occasionally felt uncomfortable, or at least stared at a lot. They are clearly foreign. The local soccer hooligans have been accused of anti-semitism. But I never heard of anything bad actually happening, just rumors.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

So much to see and do and so many nice, accepting people who appreciate it when you appreciate their country. Go to the mountains. Go to the coast. Go to the lakes region. Gdansk, Krakow, Torun, Poznan... Never a bad experience (other than a few too many girls overbearingly drumming up business for the strip clubs in Krakow).

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There's a little-noticed, underground jazz scene if you like music. Sporting events (but not necessarily stereotypical sports -- Poles are really into volleyball and ski jumping, for example). Great restaurants. Re-enactments at Czersk Castle (20-30 miles south of Warsaw) if you're into Ren Fair-type events. Interesting remnants of the Soviet Days, if you're a Cold War history nerd. Many little gems around. Also, some of the "best" things are important but sad parts of Polish history, too, like the "Rising Museum" and Auschwitz which shouldn't be missed.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Polish pottery from Boleslawiec. Cheap, available, popular... and heavy! :)

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Easy to get around. Safe. Affordable. Friendly. Clean.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

While the Poles are generally friendly people, it can take them a little while to warm up to new people. They will, though, so be patient and it'll be worth it.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely! It's the one posting I've had where I think I could live happily forever!

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Hot weather clothes.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Humility... for attempting to speak Polish! :), but the Poles will appreciate that you tried.

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Pianist and Schindler's List. (Sad movies, but historically relevant.)

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 04/02/18

Background:

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.

View All Answers


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?

United States.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through the embassy.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Pets:

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.

View All Answers


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%.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Numerous, but no personal experience other than general knowledge.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Soccer, basketball, track, gymnastics, and even parkour are all readily available.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly large and good.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Seems to be good for all groups.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No experience.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not sure.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Heavy wool sweaters.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Air purifiers. Bikes.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 12/18/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Germany.

View All Answers


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?

United States-two flights back to the DC area, usually a stop in Frankfurt if flying with Lufthansa.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years (will be 3 years total).

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Many apartments here. Singles live in apartments. Many people like to live near public transportation.



We live in an average single family-size house near the American School of Warsaw so my children walk to school. The drive is about 1/2 hour to the US embassy. You can get a bigger home in Ursynow, but it is duplex-style and the kids have to commute to school.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Fantastic farmers markets, lots of organic produce at a fraction of the US cost. However, clothing will cost a lot more here. If you with the US Embassy, you will get the VAT (tax) back but it takes about 6 months. This helps since the VAT is 23%.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Should have maxed out consumables especially liquid items, and some favorites for foods. However, we order from Vitacost, Walmart and Amazon all the time.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Mr. India, Blue Cactus and a few others, we don't really have a favorite. Pizza is not the best if you like the taste of tomato sauce on your pizza, but Pizza 360 in Nowy Wilanow is really good.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had ants a few times, but so minor that you could have that anywhere.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

US Embassy mail room (DPO).

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

About 20-25 pln/hour for cleaning and childcare, most have a cleaning lady once a week.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The cost is about 100-200 pln a month depending on the style of gym and the location.

View All Answers


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 and safe. Farmers markets and other small markets accept cash only. If using a credit card, make sure to pick Polish zlotys for the currency and not USD, you get a better exchange rate with no added fees of 2-5%.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

International Christian Community, Latter Day Saints, and Catholic Mass at St. Paul's English Speaking Community at noon every Sunday, with PRECANA, RCIA and religious education for children 1-8th grade to include FHC and Confirmation.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Predominately English besides a few Polish courtesy words, language is hard, there are lots of affordable tutors available and ASW and the embassy have free language classes.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, all the above and safe. Warsaw is really spread out. It will take you 5.5 hours to drive from Warsaw to Krakow and only 2.5 hours by train. The highway system is still being built and not the best. However, Warsaw to Berlin is an easy drive.

View All Answers


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?

We have a Ford Explorer, too BIG. Insurance in the DC area was $100 for 2 cars and here we pay over $200 a month just for the Explorer. Gas costs more too (even after the VAT back) and there is no COLA. Not the best roads, can't even compare the roads to Germany or Austria. Many potholes.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but ours doesn't seem so fast and drops often. It can take 1-2 weeks to install, it is best to have your sponsor install it before you come.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Most have PLAY or Orange. It is easy to set up on your own or you can use the ACA service at the embassy to set it up for you.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No quarantine. Fantastic vet care at a fraction of the cost compared to the US.

View All Answers


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 spouses work here at the embassy. Most all work at the embassy full time or part time, with the best pay and salary scale. I am the only one working on the economy and had to go through the work permit process and I pay 40% tax. Our GEA Vici is the best and a great resource, she can help you with your resume and advice on employment.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many- at the American School of Warsaw as a room parent, on the board or on the PTO.


With IWG at the cancer ward in hospitals.


With Warsaw Volunteer Mission or Family for Family...be creative and seek out options and possibilities, they won't come to you.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Women dress nice here all the time. You do see jeans but not with tennis shoes. The Polish women are very serious about their looks. Formal dress for attaches for sure, it is a busy posting. There is the marine ball but attaches attend 2-3 balls.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No, most homes have bars still. Just be safe and aware of your surroundings.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Many still burn coal here (it is worse in Krakow though). Many have seasonal allergies here if they have them in the US. For medical evacuation you go to Germany...there tends to be no surgery or procedures authorized in Poland for the US military. The American Clinic at Medicover in Nowy Wilanow is the best as well as Dr. Dorota (get contact information from US Embassy med clinic).

View All Answers


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?

Moderate in the winter...we run the AC sometimes to filter the air from the coal burning farm houses near us.

View All Answers


4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Ask when ordering your food, have a list of foods translated that you cannot eat and keep it with you.

View All Answers


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, it stays gray and gloomy here from November-April or so, it starts getting dark at about 3:45. Many have a happy lamp and many love using the sauna.

View All Answers


6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

4 seasons, but fall tends to be very short. It will be sunny and then the next day it snows and winter is here. First snow last year was October, this year it was November.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ASW is the best for an American curriculum and all US embassy kids are attending this year; some go to the British School, but only if they have been in their system and plan to stay in it.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Usually if you are military you can't come here with special needs. Elementary school at ASW can meet the needs of minor speech and other minor issues and work on IEPs.

View All Answers


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?

International Preschool of Warsaw is the best and was a part of the US Embassy since 1952 and is now a non profit education foundation, ABS montessori in Konstancin is also very good. Every neighborhood has a preschool, Poles must send 3+ year olds to preschool. The average full time preschool is 2,000 PLN a month.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

At ASW, sports and activities are included with enrollment for each child. Fantastic options!

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Warsaw is cheap to fly in and out of, many travel all the time especially during school breaks. Ursynow has more stay-at-home-moms with children under the age of 5 and there is a play group. I would say morale is OK, not the best, it is a busy embassy with a lot going on.

View All Answers


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?

There is IWG international womens group, the CLO has activities, ladies get together in groups for activities, many like to Polish pottery shop and visit the vast amount of restaurants, there is the American Friends of Warsaw (but they changed their name this year), you can be involved as much as you want to be.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles love the Warsaw life style and everything it has to offer, same with couples and families.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Poland is a Catholic country but with more and more acceptance.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not so many Roma or refugees here.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Cheap trips to all over...traveling throughout Poland. Many go to Dubai here in the winter or to the Canary Islands.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Impresja for Polish Pottery and lunch.


Suparom (two locations) for traditional Thai massage (if you buy their card 6 massages for 1.5 hours is 500 PLN before VAT and 407 after VAT).

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Polish pottery and hand carved items.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Easy travel and getting the school like ASW paid for (embassy and many companies pay).

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Wish I didn't have an SUV (if embassy you can only sell it to another diplomat the first three year it is in country); the lack of good highways throughout Poland especially going to Krakow and the mountains.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

For sure!

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Corelle plates for Polish pottery.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Warm clothes for the winter.

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Read books like Life in a Jar; The Zookeper's Wife and other War War II books, visit Polin Museum and the Jewish Cemetery.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 03/24/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Colchester, England; La Paz, Bolivia; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Lusaka, Zambia; San Salvador, El Salvador; Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria.

View All Answers


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?

Washington, DC. There are no direct flights. Usually layovers are in Frankfurt (when the government is paying) or Amsterdam (when we pay our own way). There are direct flights to Chicago and New York City on LOT, the Polish national airline, and probably a couple of others.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Since summer 2015, the total will be two years at this post.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Foreign Service family member.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Diplomats and other expats are spread out, mostly from the center of the city going southward to the suburbs of Wilanow and Konstancjin. The American school is located in Konstancjin, so many families live there, although that is not the only school that expats use, by any means. The houses are big out in that area.



We live in Srodmiescie, very close to the American embassy. It is a ten-minute walk for us. If you live Konstancjin, I hear the commute by car can be up to 45 minutes each way. It really is a long way outside the city. Public transportation is good, but takes longer than driving because it is primarily buses going out to the suburbs.



Other popular suburbs for families (Mokotow, Wilanow, Sadyba, etc.) are basically located between Konstancjin and the city center. Singles and couples tend to live closer in, as we do, in apartments.



In general, there are a lot of options for housing, even for American embassy families, so you just have to balance factors like commutes, yards, size of the houses, etc. and figure out what works for your family.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is available, just maybe not where you first expect to find it. Also, fruits and vegetables are much more seasonal than in the States, and the quality in winter is not that great. But with the exception of a few imported items, everything is very affordable.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We brought good desk chairs and a computer desk. But if you don't ship those, there is always Ikea here. You can get pretty much anything household-related locally.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Subway, etc. Lots of good Polish and generic "Continental" European restaurants. Really good ethnic restaurants are a little harder to find, but we have had very good Indian and Thai food. Also sushi is a Warsaw thing. Much cheaper than Washington, DC. We eat out a lot :)

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We have not had any problem in town, but I hear that mosquitoes can be a problem out in the suburbs.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We are with the embassy so we can use U.S. mail. But the Polish postal system is very modern, as far as I can tell. We order pet supplies through local mail with no problem.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I don't employ anyone, but practically everyone else I know has a cleaning lady. I don't know the exact cost, but I am sure it is very affordable, and good help seems to be easy to find.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, and they are affordable. We pay $40 per month per person for Calypso Gym, which is a chain. It's not quite up there with Gold's Gym, but the equipment is OK, and the place is clean. Also, the Poles believe in air conditioning their gyms to at least some degree, which you will appreciate if you have ever previously experienced the joy of un-air conditioned European gyms!

View All Answers


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?

Credit cards (especially with chips) are accepted almost everywhere. ATMs are plentiful, though maybe not quite as common as in the States.



I don't actually carry much cash here because I prefer to use credit cards. Polish stores never have any change for some reason. It's really weird. Cashiers are always begging you for change, and they hate it when you hand them large bills. So, credit cards are much easier, even for small purchases.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

We don't attend church, so I can't be specific, but I know that there are some services.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Many people have practically no Polish and seem to get by just fine. I think it is worth the trouble to learn a little though. Courtesy phrases, numbers and dates, and some relevant vocabulary. While many Poles speak at least a little English (or will go find someone who does), you don't see a great deal of written English here. It's good to be able to read signs, menus, etc.



It is a really tough language, so very few people even come close to really speaking it as a second language. But if you want to try, there are several language schools and for Embassy personnel, the post language program is good.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Not handicapped friendly at all, and lots of walking is required. Not all buildings have elevators. Old people seem to get around pretty well with canes and walkers, but I can't remember seeing a single wheelchair on the street, ever. That said, taxis and Uber are cheap and plentiful.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, yes, yes. Very good public transit on the whole. I buy a 90-day pass which I never have to pull out again except to renew it. I just hop on and hop off wherever I want to go. It's a great and convenient system.

View All Answers


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?

Don't bring a huge vehicle because you will have trouble parking it. Parking garages are tight, and street parking is both somewhat chaotic and very tight. You will refine your parallel parking skills here. For driving outside the city, almost any car will work: the roads are not that great, but they are not third world bad. All-weather tires are a good plan.

I also would not bring a very expensive car because it you will very likely see it get dinged up due to the parking situation, or to aggressive Polish drivers.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We have really good internet for about US$80 per month. That's a fair amount, but we watch almost all our TV that way, so it's worth it to us. Quality of internet depends on which company serves your area, so it's worth asking about that before renting a place or accepting a housing assignment. (We use UPC and have been satisfied with it.)

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I actually tried using a local plan but it was such a hassle--too many options and spam messages and all in Polish--that I just reverted to using my US account. I have T-Mobile which gives me free texting and data in Europe and 20 cents a minute for calls. Since I mostly use texting and internet anyway, this works out much better. Local businesses don't seem to have a problem calling my U.S. number.



If you have a home country plan that allows cheap calls and free data in Poland, I'd recommend trying that before fooling with a local plan.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No quarantine. I have been to the vet once, and would describe it as adequate. Very cheap though.

View All Answers


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?

My impression is that there are some opportunities, but the pay is not that great. I do not know any expat spouses that work full-time on the local economy. I know several who are self-employed, teaching classes of one kind or another or telecommuting.



Many US embassy spouses are employed at the mission. MGMT here does a good job with that. However, the jobs are all the usual underpaid EFM positions.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of opportunities with the groups above. I don't know about many charitable opportunities, but I am sure there are some.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At work, just like the States. On the streets, people dress maybe a little more formally than Americans, except for in the (brief) summer, when they dress exactly like Americans. Shorts, sandals, t-shirts, sundresses.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I feel very safe here. There are property crimes, like breaking into cars, and I have heard of some burglaries, but violent crime is very low.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I've been happy with the health and dental care so far, though I fortunately haven't needed much. Dental and orthodontic care is considered to be a major bargain.

View All Answers


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?

It is not bad in the summer, but pretty unhealthy in the winter due to automobiles and coal smoke. AQI can get up to about 200 for pm2 in the winter. It's not up there with places like Beijing or Delhi, by any means, but I am not the only person I know who has developed a persistent cough. Bronchitis is pretty common. I eventually ended up using a daily inhaler due to "reactive airways" which I never had until moving here.



I have heard that they are banning coal fires so eventually it will get better, but it will take a while. They still sell portable home coal heaters at the hardware store as of this writing.

View All Answers


4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I don't know anything about food allergies. Seasonal allergies can be a problem because of all the flowering trees in Europe in the spring. Also, central air conditioning is pretty rare, so you won't get the filtering that you would in the States. We run portable air filters year-round in our apartment for that reason.

View All Answers


5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Short, but hot, summer (at least last summer was like this) and very long winter.



Do not underestimate the winters here. I thought after Prague and Vienna I would be ready, but this is worse. It's about as cold as you might expect--comparable to northern Germany, etc.--but there really is VERY little sunlight here from October-April. The days are short, and there is heavy cloud cover most of the time. Be ready to take vitamin D, use a "happy lamp" and to take a trip somewhere sunnier at least once during the winter for your own sanity.



I knew I was somewhat susceptible to SAD, but I was surprised by how much I was affected. I know many people have had a similar experience. On the positive side--lots of cheap flights to warmer places!

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My kids are grown, but I know that people are generally happy with both the American school and the British school. I really don't know anything about other schools, but I know there are a variety of options available in English and other languages.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge expat community, morale generally good, though not great (especially in winter!) There are several expat organizations which help a lot. I belong to the International Women's Group of Warsaw (which is not limited to women, though it is mostly women) and participate in several activities through that group. There is also an American Friends of Warsaw group that is equally active. I am sure there are other organizations targeting other groups of expats, I just haven't explored it any further.

View All Answers


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?

Dining out, primarily. In the American embassy community there are happy hours, wine nights, trivia nights, CLO coffees, etc. The expat organizations also arrange dinners, wine and cheese events, and tours. I have been pretty busy here.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families seem pretty happy here due in part to the school community. I think it's a pretty good place for everyone--with the caveat that job opportunities are not that great for spouses who wish to work due in part to the high language hurdle.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Poland is a very conservative Catholic country, so I can't imagine it would be the best place to be gay. There was a rainbow sculpture in a plaza near our apartment that was torn down several times because some people thought it was an LGBT thing. However, I know some gay people here who do just fine while keeping a low profile.



I guess I would just recommend that gay people thinking about moving here do some research first: don't assume that it is just like any Western European city in this regard.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Poland is 98 percent white, nearly that percentage "ethnically Polish" and nearly all Catholic. They just aren't that used to anyone who is different. And some, of course, are just plain racist. However, there are a few people of other colors/ethnicities in Warsaw.



I am white, so I have no personal experience with prejudice. However, I am pretty sure that if you look different here, you can at least expect to be stared at sometimes. And there IS a significant right-wing nationalist movement going on here at the moment. So, take all that into account.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Warsaw has a fascinating history, and we have really enjoyed learning about it. There are some good travel opportunities within the country. Very comfortable express trains go to Krakow, Wroclaw, and Gdansk, with more routes on the way. Polish people are very friendly to Americans and generally more open and polite than many other Central or Eastern Europeans.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are more museums that you might think, and they are very well done with lots of English translations. The Warsaw Uprising museum is fabulous, and the new Museum of Polish Jews is excellent as well. Lots of smaller museums with changing exhibitions. We just visited the Ethnographic Museum and had a blast. Warsaw in Your Pocket is probably the best resource for these (magazine and website) - check it out.



Warsaw also has some lovely, well-kept parks if you like to walk and hike. There are hiking/biking opportunities outside of the city, but unfortunately it is very difficult to find any English-language information about them.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Polish pottery, amber jewelry, basketry, local art. It's not the greatest shopping country, as far as unique items go, but there are some nice things.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Poland is very affordable at this time. It is also relatively undiscovered by tourists (except for Krakow, which is totally overrun by package tours). As far as day-to-day living, we eat and entertain ourselves very inexpensively. There are lots of cheap flights to other destinations in Europe from Warsaw.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you blow it all on travel. Ask me how I know this. :)

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How very, very long the winter would be! Otherwise, it has been pretty much as I expected--but I have lived in two other countries in the region before. If I had not, I guess I would have wanted to know that it is not the same as western Europe. There are many things in common, but despite the shiny buildings in central Warsaw, don't expect it to be Germany. It isn't quite there yet, and sometimes that can be frustrating.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I think it is a good post, on the whole. I did not know how hard the winter and the pollution would be for me personally, and if I had, I might not have come. We are leaving after two years, and that will definitely be enough for me. However, I would say that if you are OK with a really LONG DARK winter and do not have a history of respiratory issues, it can be a very good post. I know many people who love it.

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Flip-flops and sunscreen.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Really warm coat and boots!

View All Answers


5. Do you have any other comments?

I have a blog with travel articles and lots of photos of Poland at http://wellthatwasdifferent.com.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 09/21/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Does Canada count as an expat experience?

View All Answers


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?

Home is Washington, DC; about 10-12 hours by plane with one connection in a European city (usually Frankfurt if flying StarAlliance).

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

We have lived here just over a year.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Some downtown apartments (some within walking distance of the embassy), but most are in housing compounds farther from the city center. Houses and apartments are spacious by European standards and accessible by public transportation. House have small yards.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Almost everything is available and cheap, and the embassy has a small but well-stocked commissary to meet your snack food cravings. The only thing we can't find is bubble wrap, so bring a roll for mailing pottery home at Christmas time. Polish brand cleaning supplies are sometimes less effective and some people hate the scents, so if you have a particular loyalty, bring your own.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Bubble wrap.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Several American chains (McDonald's, Starbucks, Domino's, Pizza Hut, a KFC for every corner) with more coming soon (Taco Bell, Dunkin' Donuts, Dairy Queen). Lots of good restaurants, mostly European cuisines but decent Thai and Vietnamese food can be found. Zapiecek for more kinds of pierogi than you know what to do with. Several high-end options (Nolita, Senses, Atelier Amaro and others) offer innovative menus at a fraction of what you would pay in DC or other European cities.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing serious. Mosquitoes can be a summertime annoyance, but they don't carry anything dangerous.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Reasonable for once-a-week cleaning (about $40). Full time housekeeping and childcare are also available.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a small gym. Hotels have modern gyms (not sure about price). Parks have little cardio playgrounds with exercise machines.

View All Answers


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?

Never had any problems, but we mostly use cash anyway because it's faster. Fruit stands, some cabs, and lots of small businesses don't take cards. The embassy has a cashier.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Definitely Catholic. I believe also Jewish. Not sure otherwise.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some, especially if you want to hire help. Restaurant staff and young people speak English, but some Polish helps a LOT when doing everyday life tasks like grocery shopping.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. It's getting better as they try to meet EU standards, but there are a lot of "charmingly" uneven cobblestone sidewalks and 45-degree wheelchair ramps dropped on top of existing staircases.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes and yes. The metro, tram, and bus lines all run on the same system. Download an app called JakDoJade to route map.

View All Answers


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 medium because of parking spot sizes, but roads are decently wide and in good condition. We rely solely on public transportation and weekend rentals.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, for about US$30-40 a month. Good reliability.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone and buy a SIM card from Play or Orange.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

Very good quality vet care for, again, very reasonable prices.

View All Answers


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 unless you speak Polish or want to be an English-language tutor (and even then...).

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The local animal shelter always needs dog walkers!

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Stylish.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No. Warsaw is the safest city I've ever lived in, by far.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Seasonal affective disorder is a thing here. Hospitals are fine.

View All Answers


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?

Usually fine, although reportedly getting worse.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Usually mild and beautiful from mid-April until September, then cold, grey, and damp. Even when it doesn't get too far below freezing, it's windy, rainy, and dark by 3:30 PM. Winters here are just a bummer. Bring happy lamps.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No personal experience. There are two options, the British and the American Schools. Reportedly the American School has a great campus and strong relationship with the embassy, but the British School is more likely to accommodate special needs children. Both are supposed to have excellent academics; Warsaw is very popular with families who have school-age children.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium - a few thousand - but everyone loves it here.

View All Answers


2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for all. I'm married with no kids and we're never bored. There are excellent restaurants, plenty of green space.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not particularly. Poland is VERY Catholic with all the social norms that entails. But despite prevalent anti-LGBT attitudes in society and Polish politics, there's an active and vocal LGBT community in Warsaw. The city is surprisingly cosmopolitan in many ways, but public displays of affection between same-sex couples make people here uncomfortable. On the other hand, they elected a transgender woman to Parliament and seem comfortable with that. Drunk heckling or a lecture from a Polish grandma is probably the most you'd risk as an openly gay person here, but it's hard to say for sure.

View All Answers


4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some. Poland has the world's most homogeneous population, and the recent migrant crisis has exposed some xenophobic ugliness, but people of color generally live without harassment. Still, there have been incidents of defacement at the Jewish cemeteries and at the only mosque in the city.

Polish culture does differentiate strongly between gender roles in family life, but thankfully not in professional life. As a woman, I have had to get used to never touching a door handle but other than that, I have no problems.

View All Answers


5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Going to the Warsaw Beer Festival and national/local soccer matches, eating baskets of croissants at sidewalk cafes and following it up with the world's greatest ice cream ever served out of a window, patronizing local designers, traveling to a dozen other countries for weekend trips, and still putting a third of a paycheck in savings every pay period.

View All Answers


6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

La Playa is a great hangout spot in the summer - a fake beach along the river lined with bars, food trucks, and dance parties. There are nearly a dozen excellent beer bars that have opened in the last few years, including Piw Paw, JaBEERwocky, and Cuda na Kiju. Warsaw has great bike paths and a bike rental system, similar to DC and NYC. Charlotte, a cafe on Plac Zbawiciela, is hardly a secret, but the bread basket there lives up to the crowds outside. There's a handbag designer called Goshico tucked in an alley of an alley that is worth the trek to find. You can rent rowboats at one of the palaces. You can take your dog to Pub Lolek in the lovely Pole Mokotowskie park for grilled meat outside.

View All Answers


7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Boleslawiec pottery, Polish crystal, amber jewelry, carved wooden boxes, antique prints.

View All Answers


8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Living in a safe, developed city with access to good public transportation, culture, history, fabulous travel opportunities in Poland and around Europe, and great shopping, all at extremely reasonable prices. The feel of being somewhere at the beginning of a cultural awakening.

Oh, and really, really good bread.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

And how.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How exciting Warsaw is right now. There are a lot of young people opening new businesses and trying new things. There's almost palpable energy to the city.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 11/25/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Lived in other cities in Europe and Latin America.

View All Answers


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?

Washington, DC. There are no direct flights to Washington. The only direct flights to the U.S. are on LOT Polish Airways to Chicago and New York. Travel typically involves transiting through another European city such as Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, London, etc. I've never flown on the LOT flights to the U.S. but hear they are fine.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Arrived in June 2010.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Embassy and private sector.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Warsaw housing mostly consists of apartments and townhouses, with a sprinkling of single-family homes in the outer suburbs where a lot of expats live. You have the whole spectrum to choose from. Yards/gardens are generally small though since space is at a premium.

There are many great apartments in the central part of the city, though they tend to be on the smaller side and don't offer a lot of closet space. If you want bigger you must be prepared to pay for it.

As mentioned, most expats (typically those with families) choose to live in the outer suburbs such as Wilanow, Ursynow and Konstancin since it's closer to the American School. Traffic can be heavy during peak rush hours in the morning or evenings but otherwise it's not too bad. I've had to live with much worse traffic in the Washington, DC area and New York City!

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The grocery stores here are well-stocked and you can find pretty much whatever you need. They also have a growing number of "international food" aisles so you can get whatever you need if you want to make a variety of ethnic dishes. There are huge foreign chains such as TESCO, LeClerc, Carrefour and Auchan. They rival any Walmart super store in the US (for what that's worth), and they also have a lot of smaller Polish and European chains as well. They offer everything from food to household supplies to electronics and clothing. Used to be that peanut butter was hard to find but they have that as well now. No problem getting fresh fruits and vegetables either.

The cost of groceries is much less overall than in the U.S., which goes along with just about everything else in terms of prices when it comes to food. I'm always amazed at how little my cart full of groceries costs me, and then shocked when I see the total price for that same cart of food back in Maryland.

In terms of household supplies, they have every kind of cleaning supply and toiletry/personal care item you could possibly think of. Razor blades are as expensive here as they are in the U.S., for example, but everything else is pretty much less expensive.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Let's see - as I mentioned, you can get just about anything you want or need here. Some comfort foods from home would be helpful but I really can't think of anything I just HAD to have and couldn't find.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You have the full range of restaurants here and the variety improves weekly. Most expats will tell you that you can get any kind of food you want here, which is true. Polish food is great though you won't lose any weight eating it! Portion sizes are generally huge. I often joke that I can get any kind of food here except good Mexican food. Pol-Mex just doesn't cut it no matter how hard some of the Mexican restaurants try. There is a growing number of great Asian restaurants, especially Thai, and the quality is surprisingly very good. Hamburger bars are all the rage these days, and it seems you can't swing a dead cat and not hit a burger joint of one kind or another.

When it comes to fast food, you have it all here. Poles adore their KFC so you see them everywhere, and McDonald's has around 350 restaurants in Poland with new locations being added every week. I'm not sure if that's a good thing for the Polish diet but I can say that when it comes to McDonald's here they're the cleanest, brightest and liveliest McDonald's you'll ever see. Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino's - they're all here. Not so sure if that's good for the overall state of Polish nutrition but it is what it is.

As mentioned previously, prices are about half of what you'd pay in the US and Western Europe, in general, and it gets cheaper the further you get from the big city.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There can be lots of flying insects in the summer months, particularly after long periods of heavy rain. Mosquitoes can be particularly aggressive. Otherwise there really aren't a lot of problems with insects. You must be particularly attentive to ticks though, especially if you walk in the many parks and green areas of the city. Dogs are obviously also at risk.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

When I was at the Embassy I used the unclassified pouch and DPO. Since I left government service and work in the private sector I now get mail through the company pouch, which limits the size and type of mail I can send/receive. DHL, FEDEX, UPS are all here but you have to consider the customs charges you might have to pay for things.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help if readily available and affordable. It's usually best to talk to people around your office and find somebody they recommend. It's not cheap but then if you want cheap you get what you pay for....

Most "panis" don't speak much English so be prepared to pay more for somebody who does.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are many excellent gyms and workout facilities in Warsaw. There are two main chains - Holmes Place and Jatomi, though there is no shortage of other, smaller facilities anywhere you look. You can get anything you want, as the bigger ones offer everything you'd see in the U.S. or other European cities, while the smaller ones can be sparse and the facilities lacking in terms of equipment and cleanliness. They are particularly crowded at certain parts of the day. I belong to one of the nicer gyms and pay around US$100 per month but am very happy with the facilities. Be prepared for a heavy sell by the staff for personal fitness training. They're required to do so as part of their employment contract.

Wodny Park is not to be missed. It's got an Olympic-sized swimming pool (50 meters) to go along with a smaller pool adjacent to it that parents use with their small children. There's also a water slide and "river flow" area to go along with the pool area. There's an outdoor pool in the summer, as well as a Winter Garden for that summer feel in the middle of the harsh winter weather. Finally, you can go to the sauna/steam room/ice room/banya area and get the full range of "biological renewal" you want. They also have a gym, squash courts, cafeteria, restaurant and sports bar. It's centrally located and easy to get to.

View All Answers


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 and ATMs around here very easily. If you bring a credit card I strongly recommend getting one that has the chip in it, as the ones with magnetic strips are increasingly difficult to use in Europe. They're also much more susceptible to being cloned or skimmed. Major stores accept the magnetic strip ones but they're harder to use in restaurants. Lots of credit card companies are dropping the foreign transaction fees they used to charge but be sure to check just in case.

I hear occasional stories of cards being skimmed or cloned so you should always be careful about which ATM you use to withdraw money. It's not as big a problem here as it is in other Central and Eastern European countries. It never hurts to keep a close eye on your bank account just to be sure.

It's quite easy to open a bank account here as a foreigner and I strongly recommend you do so in order to pay bills for various utilities, etc. Electronic bank transfers are quite common here and it will make your life a lot easier. Of course, you may be subject to paying taxes on interest and you must report it to the IRS come tax time, but it's worth the convenience.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an English-speaking Catholic church that is quite popular. I'm not sure about other religions.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Of course it never hurts to speak as much of the language as possible, and Poles love it when you try to speak their incredibly difficult language. They're quite proud of how hard it can be to speak Polish. It's always helpful to learn as much as you can before you come here, and there is no shortage of companies and institutes offering Polish for Foreigner classes.

I'm always amazed at how well younger Poles speak English, even those who've never lived in or travelled to an English-speaking country. I suppose it speaks to the universality of the English language. You can almost always find somebody who speaks English, though don't expect most police to speak it unless they work in specialized units. As a rule, I would say that there's a good chance if somebody is under 40 they will most likely speak some English or at least understand you. People older than that were forced to learn Russian, and though most of them speak it, they'll never admit they do. Let's just say that Russia and Russian is not really popular around here, especially these days. They never bothered to learn another language so it helps a lot to speak as much Polish as possible. Even knowing basic numbers and phrases is greatly appreciated.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Overall I would say they would have a hard time though I've seen improvements over the past five years I've lived here. Don't expect ADA requirements widely enforced. There are lots of handicapped parking spaces and the number is growing. Don't make the mistake of intentionally, or unintentionally, parking in a handicapped space because you'll be quickly towed and made to pay a hefty fine to go along with the towing fees. Sidewalks are uneven and not wheelchair friendly. The Metro system makes a lot of accommodations and it seems Poles in general are helpful to the handicapped. Still, although there are improvements there is still a long way to go.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local transportation is plentiful, excellent, safe and affordable. I allowed my teenage daughter to ride alone at night on public transportation and she never had a problem. They can be crowded at times but not like the Tube in London or the subway in Tokyo. Taxis are particularly affordable and easy to call from home or anywhere in the city.

I've heard of some rip-off incidents but that usually happens late at night when a dishonest taxi driver posts are higher rate than what is normal. Also, taxis outside of major hotels are generally three times as expensive than regular taxis so don't get caught in that trick bag unless you have no other option. Learn which taxi companies are reliable, have them on speed dial, and you should be fine.

View All Answers


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?

Parking spaces are small here and roads can be narrow, so it's best to avoid bringing a large vehicle if you can help it. Fuel is expensive as well, though if you are a diplomat you will end up paying about as much as you would in the U.S. if you're coming from the States because you get the VAT and excise taxes refunded.

A small SUV would work well here as long as you are prepared to deal with the tight parking spaces. American cars are quite common here and there aren't any restrictions when it comes to bringing one from the States. Of course, if you're a diplomat check with your embassy. It's quite easy to buy a new or used car here and departing diplomats and expats are always looking to sell their cars.

Good service is readily available here. If you want to take it to the dealer and have it worked on by a certified Ford/Chevy/Chrysler (whatever) dealer you can have it done here but be prepared to be gouged at the same rate you would in the U.S. There are many highly competent service locations that can do the same work, or better, for much less. Parts are also readily available as well. Your embassy/company should be able to help you out on this.

Carjackings are almost unheard of here. I've been here almost five years but don't recall hearing of a single carjacking incident in Poland during that time. What I have heard of, and had to deal with, is cars being broken into if thieves see something of potential value in plain view inside the car. GPS, bags, backpacks, cell phones, etc. offer a tempting opportunity. It's definitely a hassle to deal with a broken window anywhere in the world, and Poland is no different. Dealing with the police on this kind of a matter will eat up a LOT of your time and will only be helpful in terms of getting the report for the insurance claim. Don't expect them to solve the crime. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - don't leave anything of value visible in the car. Leave it in the trunk/boot of the car when at all possible.

Speaking of cars - I heard a lot of people complain about Polish driving before I got here. Obviously those complainers had never lived or driven in Latin America or many other parts of the world. I find Polish drivers are generally safe and responsible, and drive as well here as they do in North America or other parts of Europe. That being said, I'm constantly amazed at some of the ridiculous and discourteous driving habits I've seen here. Poles are not always the most helpful when it comes to allowing you to change lanes ahead of them, particularly when it requires merging in heavy traffic. On the other hand, I like the way Poles will give a quick blink of the emergency lights to those drivers who allow them to merge in or otherwise make their drive easier. On one hand they can be courteous and at other times they can be madly impatient or impolite, sometimes exceedingly so.

Probably the biggest threat to your safety in Poland comes not from crime but from driving out on the two-lane highways in this country. Be prepared for high-stakes games of "chicken" when driving at higher speeds, as people always seem to be in a rush to get around heavy trucks that tend to stack up along the highway and slow down traffic. I've seen countless numbers of high-speed near misses in my time here - ones that make me shake me head and shiver when I think about how close I came to a head-on collision no matter how safely I was trying to drive. I've also driven past the results of these collisions and it's not pretty. The papers are filled with endless stories of horrible crashes and it's particularly dangerous around major holidays when Poles take to the road en masse to go see their families. I read once that Poland has one of the highest vehicle fatality rates in Europe. Forewarned is forearmed!!!!!

Another odd quirk about driving in Poland is that it's quite common for traffic on the right to have the right of way at intersections. I know this is common in most countries but for some reason Poland extends it to times when you'd think you had the right of way driving along a major road, and somebody coming from a small side-street legally has the right of way and will come darting out right in front of you. I've seen lots of diplomats and expats end up in fender benders that were their fault because of this.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet access is readily available thought it usually requires a long-term contract. All the same providers for cell phones offer internet. UPC, Orange, etc. seem to be the most common. You can get very high speed if you want. My internet costs me about US$30 per month for 10 mb of speed, which is usually all I need.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are also very affordable and plans are inexpensive. You could get a calling plan but, as in most other countries, it usually requires a two-year contract, etc. It's quite easy to buy a phone and a SIM card here and then just "top off" your account as needed. You can purchase minutes at just about any gas station or other store, but can also do so through that local bank account I talked about earlier. So many ways, and so cheap and easy. Lots of providers here eager for your business, such as Orange, Play, T-Mobile, etc. iPhones are popular but then so are Samsung and others. You can get anything you want here.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

Pet care is readily available and there are all kinds of people willing to watch your pets for you and take care of them. Veterinary care is also plentiful, good, and reasonably priced. Again, I wish I could get the same level of high-quality care at these prices here than I get in the States. Poles love animals and take good care of them.

Boarding pets in a kennel is also quite easy to do here and they offer a lot of great care and attention for the animal.

Pets don't need to be quarantined and getting them here is relatively easy as long as you can figure out the airlines' most recent policies.

View All Answers


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?

Unless you have a work permit here it's pretty much impossible for expats to work legally on the local economy. I know people who offer English language lessons but they're not getting rich off of it. It's more a way to pass the time as a spouse or to live hand-to-mouth as a young expat living under the radar in Poland.

There are a lot of professional courses and university classes offered in English so this offers a way for spouses to make good use of their time if they can't work.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are all kinds of volunteer opportunities here, usually offered through some of the expat organizations mentioned above. I recommend contacting them for advice and guidance on where to go and how to help.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Poles are generally quite formal at work so expect to wear a suit, or coat and tie for men, and similar dress for women in the office.

In public, Poles dress well overall so if you dress shabbily you can expect to receive shabby treatment. Eurofashion is quite popular here...

I often feel I am in the U.S. when I see the way young people dress out in public with their friends or in school. I can see that the hip hop culture is quite popular here, as are sports jerseys and baseball caps.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The overall crime rate here is very low and I've felt much safer here than in many other U.S. cities for example. The violent crime rate is particularly low, and most of what you see or hear about usually involves alcohol use in the later hours of the day or night. I often ask women if they feel safe walking alone at night here and the almost always say they do feel safe, both on the street and in public transportation.

Poland is still a very homogeneous country, meaning if you don't look like most Poles then you MAY be subject to lots of long stares and sometimes abusive language (usually if the person in question has been drinking). There is a rapidly growing Asian community here (Vietnamese are said to be the largest minority group in Poland), as well as others from North Africa, the Middle East, and Africa.

I'd be lying if I said that racism does not exist here. Nationalist sentiments and a "Poland is for Poles" movement does exist. It is not widespread though but it's always best to exercise caution. Check the various embassy websites to see what their consular officials say about this issue. It also helps to speak with others who've lived here to get their take on things.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There aren't many serious health concerns, other than seasonal illnesses such as the cold and flu. Medical care is generally pretty good for diplomats and expats, and there are a lot of very skilled and highly-trained medical professionals here. I wish I could get the same high quality dental care and prices in the U.S. that I get here in Poland. I know a lot of people who've chosen to have their children born here in Poland and are quite pleased with the overall level of care and facilities.

There are lots of 24-hour pharmacies here as well, so it's not a problem getting a prescription filled. Expect to have to speak to a pharmacist for just about anything other than band-aids and basic vitamins. They see themselves as quasi-doctors here so you need to explain what the problem is and they'll get it for you from behind their counter.

View All Answers


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?

Air quality in Warsaw is generally very good, though it can sometimes be a bit smoky when people burn their leaves and other brush in the many family-owned small farms/weekend getaway parks within the city. There is not a lot of heavy industry in Warsaw so you don't have to worry about industrial pollution like you might in other large cities of the world.

View All Answers


4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There are a lot of trees and weeds here so be prepared for seasonal allergies such as ragweeed, etc. You can get every over-the-counter medicine for allergies.

View All Answers


5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

This is definitely a four-season climate. Summers are generally warm but not overly humid. It can get hot but the heat waves don't seem to last long. Spring is usually short but beautiful. Autumn is probably the most beautiful season of the year here and seems to last quite long. Winters can be brutal, not so much for the snow and cold but for the long hours of darkness. Even when it's daylight you may not see the sun for weeks, as it is often overcast for long periods.

I've lived in other parts of Europe with similar long and dark days so I'm somewhat used to it. If you're not used to it, be prepared. It definitely affects people's attitudes and outlook on life. You'll notice a definite change, as people seem to just focus on getting through the day and the winter.

Summers are the opposite, which make for great long days and which allow for a lot of after-work activity during the week such as bike rides, walks in the parks, outings with friends, etc. The beer gardens and party atmosphere certainly come out in as soon as the weather allows.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My experience revolves around the American School of Warsaw. It's an excellent school overall and I had a very good experience with my child going to high school there. The facility itself is top-notch. The classrooms are nice, and they have everything else - labs, performing arts area, sports facilities, cafeteria, etc. One look at it and it pretty much sells itself. Security at the school is very good as well.

I've had other friends send their children to the British School and they all seem very happy with it. It's smaller but I've been told the academics are challenging, the teachers are very good, and the administration very supportive. They are located closer into the city, in the facilities that used to house the American School before it relocated to Konstancin. Security at the school is also very good.

There are other American schools but I've heard mixed reviews. I recommend you seek out parents who send their kids there for their opinion. I know there are other schools for different languages, such as the French, German and Russian schools but they are small and generally serve their respective diplomatic communities. I can't comment on their quality.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I believe this varies quite a bit. The American and British Schools reportedly offer different accommodations but I can't comment personally. I've heard they offer certain things such as extra time for test-taking, etc. Best to look for other input from parents with direct experience.

View All Answers


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?

There are lots of preschools and daycare facilities. I generally hear very good things about them but can't comment from first-hand experience.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, though they aren't always given in English. I have lots of friends who enroll their kids in martial arts classes and other such activities to include hockey, basketball, and even baseball out at the American School. Opportunities exist for soccer/football and other popular sports.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community is quite large here - lots of diplomats, Eurocrats and business people. I would say the morale is excellent, as there is a lot to see and do and people are generally very friendly and happy with the way things are. There are lots of organizations for expats here, with the usual assortment of international women's clubs, American Friends of Warsaw, Hash House Harriers, etc.

There is so much to see and do, and Poland is so much more cosmopolitan these days than in the past, that people don't necessarily see or feel a need to seek out and hang out exclusively with other expats.

View All Answers


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?

Again, no shortage of restaurants, clubs, movie theaters,etc. in Warsaw. You are only limited by your imagination and how extroverted you want to be. People often host parties at their homes but it's not like other countries where entertainment options are limited outside the house.

There are several expat bars where English is commonly spoken, and which are popular places to go watch certain sports on a big screen. Several bars show American football on Sunday evenings, and of course there is always no limit to the amount of soccer/football being show on TV at any time.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a great city for everybody. Poles are very family-oriented and it's reflected in the many things to do around the city. You'll see large, extended families out doing things all the time, and family walks on the weekend are a great Polish tradition.

Singles are also very happy here, as there is a lively bar/restaurant/club scene if that's what you like, but also many other things to do if you are looking for something else. There is definitely no shortage of opportunities to meet other singles. Couples also seem happy here for the same reason. There is no lack of things to do and no lack of entertainment and recreation opportunities.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I've been told there is a lively gay scene here but it's definitely underground for the most part. The Polish Catholic Church is vocally opposed to homosexuality and the general public's attitude towards this can is reflected in the many times the rainbow arch at Plac Zbawiciela has been burned down over the past few years.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Generally no, though as I mentioned I'd be lying if I said racism does not exist. See my earlier comments.

The Catholic Church is extremely influential here and it's not at all uncommon to see religious symbols displayed in public buildings. No city hall or police station is complete without a crucifix on the wall - usually more than one. Catholic religious education is also taught in public schools, if that tells you anything. I'm not aware of other religions having that same access in the schools.

Although you do see Muslims in the city they are a small minority and I believe there is only one mosque in all of Warsaw, which pretty much appears to exist to serve the diplomatic community. I know there was another one people were trying to build but there was a lot of opposition to it.

I also think there is only one functioning synagogue in Warsaw. I don't personally hear anti-Semitic comments though it's not uncommon to see negative stereotypes of Jewish money counters on display in Old Town or other areas where artwork and crafts are sold.

As a man, I can say that it seems women generally enjoy a lot of equality overall thought it's definitely still pretty much a male-dominated society in many ways.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I've loved being able to explore the country and get to know the country much better. There is always something to see and do, both during the week and on the weekends. There are great museums that regularly host temporary exhibits.

I've also enjoyed getting to know the Poles are learning more about their culture. Easter is a very special time here, and they greatly value their family life.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

It's hard to know where to start. Warsaw is a very "green" city in terms of parks and other outdoor areas. They truly appreciate a good walk in the woods, in other green areas, and along the river front. I think this is an escape from cramped apartments and the concrete blocks of the old communist housing estates that still dominate a lot of the city.

The Old Town/New Town area is always nice to visit, as is a stroll along Nowy Swiat. Beer gardens in the summer dot the city and that's always a lively scene in warmer weather. The city is doing a great job of developing the river front along both sides of the Vistula and they try to keep it "wild" while still offering improved beaches and recreation areas for the masses.

Visit the many museums in Warsaw, as they place a great premium on them. The Uprising Museum is a must. Also, you can always take advantage of Lazienki Park and the many different areas to stroll around.

Go to a Legia Warszawa soccer/football match but don't make the mistake of showing up wearing the colors of the other team! Be sure to pick up a Legia scarf or t-shirt and you'll suddenly have a hundred new friends to hang out with at the game.

Visit the many forests and parks on the outskirts of Warsaw - Kabaty Forest is great all year around, and Kampinos National Park offers a lot of variety when it comes to hiking, biking, etc. There are also excellent bike paths, paved as well as dirt roads, along the Vistula on both sides and you can ride all you want all around the city.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Polish crafts, pottery, and artwork are excellent and highly sought after. You can also spend your saved money on ski trips to the Tatras or summer weekends in Gdansk and the Tri-Cities.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Poland is a beautiful country with a wide variety of geographic diversity - it's not always as flat and open as popular culture in the U.S. suggests. The Tatra Mountains in the southern part of the country are beautiful and offer many different activities and cultural adventures. The lake district in Mazuria is also beautiful and can be reached by car from Warsaw in just a few hours. The Baltic coast in the north offers many different seaside resorts and beachgoing opportunities. Gdansk is a great city to visit.

Poland is loaded with castles, estate homes and many other historical wonders. You could spend your whole time here visiting castles, monasteries, etc.

Sadly, it also has a lot of Holocaust sites which are truly worth visiting in order to fully appreciate what happened here. The new Museum of Polish Jewish History (POLIN) is proving to be very popular and is receiving rave reviews.

Warsaw is central to so many other parts of Europe so if you want to see the rest of the continent it's readily available at relatively low cost if you fly. The drive to Berlin now takes about 4-5 hours, though you'll get tired of having to stop all the time for the toll booths. The train takes about the same amount of time.

The cost of living here is still very low, especially when compared to other European cities. It gets even cheaper when you travel outside of the bigger cities.

The weather is generally great three seasons of the year. I've seen long, cold winters, and relatively mild winters here. Every one seems different. You must get used to the short hours of daylight in winter, as it can be pitch black by 4pm at the height of the winter season. Of course, the summers are opposite so it evens out.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Generally yes, assuming you don't blow it all on beer gardens, weekend trips around Poland and the rest of Europe, and eating out every night. Prices are generally much lower and life is very affordable here. You may not get a huge differential for here if you're from an embassy but you definitely save money by not having to pay the 23% VAT!

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I thought I had a good understanding of Polish history but when I got here I quickly realized how much I didn't know. I strongly encourage people to learn as much as they can about Poland before coming, and not just Polish history from 1918 onward. The past resonates strongly here and the Poles are rightly proud of their past and their culture. They've needed it to survive as well as they have under very difficult conditions.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Impression that Poland is a flat, communist country where people stand in line all day for basic goods. Life is not lived in a black and white picture here, as many friends and families seemed to think (jokingly) when I told them where I was going. "You're going to Poland? Be careful there." Or, "Warsaw? I hear Krakow is nice." It's a beautiful country with great people, and you live a very good life here and do many interesting things.

There are still some vestiges of the communist past here, and not just in the concrete jungles of the housing estates. The bureaucracy can be mind-numbing at times, and sometimes the level of customer service in certain places leaves a lot to be desired. For some reason, cashiers seem to think they're doing you a HUGE favor by taking your money and they get downright nasty sometimes if you don't have the exact amount of zlotys and groszy the want/need. Somehow making change is a problem for them. I used to see this in Moscow but I never thought it would extend to Warsaw. The police, although generally very professional and proud of their work, can be less than helpful at times and I've heard countless stories of times when people were victimized twice - one by the criminal and the next by the police who came to interview and investigate. Older people, who lived most of their lives under communism and the social safety net it offered, are quick to offer a lot of unsolicited advice and are also quick to provide a stern lecture on something you're doing that they don't like. Some things take a few generations to change...

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Optimism and patience. Be ready for the dark and gloomy days of winter, and be patient when it comes to driving and getting around town.

Poles will be the first to tell you they are the world's biggest and best complainers. It won't take long for this to manifest itself once you're here. Perhaps it's what made them ultimately successful in their fight against communism. So, be patient when it comes to learning how to deal with this and why they are this way.

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Man of Marble and

Man of Iron are good movies, as are

Katyn and

Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films (A Generation / Kanal / Ashes & Diamonds) (The Criterion Collection)- all of them by Andrzej Wajda.

A really popular and excellent mini-series to watch, if you can get your hands on it, is "Czas Honoru." It tells the story of the Polish underground in Warsaw during the German occupation.

In Darkness is a recent award-winning film by Agnieszka Holland.

There are so many others, but that's a good start.

View All Answers


6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Poland: A Novel is a popular book that covers a lot of Polish history in the way only Michener can, although it's a bit outdated now. It could use an updated chapter or two on life in the post-communist age.

A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country is excellent.

Jack Strong (DVD) is also good to watch if you can get your hands on it.

Spies of Warsaw and

Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw are also good books, as is A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II.

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

This is an exciting time to be coming to Poland - the economy is doing fairly well and Poland increasingly plays a very important role in the EU and in NATO. Poles will tell you that life is better now than it has been in a long time, but then they'll also be quick to tell you how it could be better...

Just about all expats I know who lived here and then left for the next assignment were very sad when leaving and missed Poland greatly once they were gone. Almost all of them have found a way to come back for a visit, and many of them come back routinely even if they live far away. That should tell you something.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 02/05/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

View All Answers


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?

US East Coast, with very few direct flights. 12 - 14 hours with varying locations for stopover. Frankfurt, Munich, London, Paris, etc.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Affiliated with US Embassy.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The Embassy provides nice housing. They have a mix multi-level townhouses, single family homes, large apartments. They can be choppy layouts with little closet space, but they are comfortable. If your housing is not provided by your employer be aware Warsaw is one of the most expensive cities in Europe for real estate. Apartments are small and expensive.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are much less than the US and you can get many of the same KINDS of things. Not same brands. New products are always appearing. Oreos & Peanut Butter has even appeared on the shelves since we've arrived. We like to use the local farmers market style sellers for produce. It's fresher and even cheaper.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing you can find whatever you need here.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There's a lot here if you need it. Cost is the same maybe slightly less than the US. No Taco Bell or Wendy's but KFC, McD's, BK.

View All Answers


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 is some in the local hypermarkets. Learn the words you need in Polish as very little is translated.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes in the summer when there is a lot of rain are huge and may carry away small children and animals. We are given encephalitis shots when we get here, but the tick problem is really more in the countryside.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use embassy mailroom services.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Housekeepers are inexpensive. About $7 or $8 per hour. Mine comes once a week stays all day and does the laundry and ironing too, which is great because dry cleaning is very expensive. You can find full-time help if you need it. Good people get snatched up quickly.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. There are many through out the city. They are expensive, about $100 a month, but most are nice.

View All Answers


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 them all here pretty safely, but as always keep an eye on your accounts. This is a quickly growing economy and the society is quickly shedding its former communist ways. So opportunity brings opportunists.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are some.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Local satellite network has some English language programming with CNN international, BBC, Euronews and France all in English but other programming can be limited. We use VPN with Netflix. There are a couple online English language local newspapers. I've heard of some people using a satellite service from the UK but I'm not so sure it's on the level.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some is helpful. The more you know the better. You can get by without it, but there are many people who don't speak English. I've found that the more I learn, the better my time is and when I use it, bad grammar and all, I get much more help when I need it.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Some. Things are continuing to develop, but are nowhere near what you'd be used to in the US.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transit is safe, reliable, efficient, and usually clean. But be prepared for your personal space to be invaded on a regular basis and sometimes body smells can be overpowering. It is expected that you give your seat to elderly.

View All Answers


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 and fuel efficient is good, but people have everything here. I've even seen the really big American SUVs around. But fuel is expensive about $7 or $8 per gallon. Parking spaces and garages are small. Keep it in mind when planning. We brought our own car which is a midsize SUV and even sometimes that feels too big. Don't bring anything you don't want to get dinged because everything will. Drivers are very selfish and discourteous. The lack of respect for personal space translates to driving as well. My best advice would be to be mildly aggressive, highly defensive, and expect everyone around you to do something unexpected so you are always on guard and ready to react.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We've had little problems getting it and it's pretty fast. Early evenings and sometimes on weekends it can get finicky or slow. We pay about $50 per month.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are several large companies that provide contracts with phones or you can bring an unlocked phone and put in a pay-as-you-go SIM card. I've found pay-as-you-go to be very cheap and reliable.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No. Microchipped and vet certificate for EU

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets are good and inexpensive. However, like the people hospitals, facilities are not as nice and US.

View All Answers


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. Wages are lower than the US and language is often a barrier.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Normal western business attire is expected.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Normal city living awareness, but this is very safe city. I've even allowed my teenage daughter to take public transit with her friends with very little worry.

View All Answers


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 said to be good. Facilities can be a little daunting to look at and sometimes language can make communication difficult. Embassy medevacs to London for surgeries. I know several women who've opted to have their babies here and had good experiences. Care is less expensive than the US. Dentist care is pretty good for basic things and orthodontia.

View All Answers


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?

Good. Some smokey air in the fall when people burn off the debris from their "ogrod" (gardens), but it only lasts a couple weeks.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Unpredictable! Our first summer was hot and humid, this one was rainy and chilly. Our first winter was snowy, gray, and cold this one has been very mild and the sun has been out more often. That being said it still gets dark very early in winter and sun is abnormal. Bring your vitamin D supplements. If you are prone to SADD, prepare your defenses.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My kids go to the American School of Warsaw and we love it! The faculty is caring and facilities are excellent. There is a new admissions director, which has made the transition for embassy families into the school much more pleasant. She is also working with CLO to ensure special-needs can be accommodated if at all possible. One of the biggest issues I've seen is actually with the students themselves, not the school. The local students are extremely wealthy and can be snobbish.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


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?

There are many preschools available throughout the city in many prices ranges. Many have bi-lingual staff. I know many parents with preschoolers in different schools and have heard good things. Some with younger children hire in-home nannies called a Pani.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Some through the schools for organized team sports. Most local sports program are all in Polish.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium I suppose, but it's easy to move around the city and not see them. It's a big city.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

It seems pretty good. Living is good and safe. I've only met several people who truly didn't like it, and that was really just bad attitude on their part.

View All Answers


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?

There are several expat groups that organize social events. Much socializing contact made through work or the school. Entertaining at homes or restaurants is common.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is an excellent place for families, couples, and single men who want to date locals. Single women will find their options a little more limited, but still a good spot.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Poles are still a little surprised by open homosexuality, but I don't think there is hostility.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Poland is mostly Polish these days, but with a significant Asian, particularly Vietnamese, population. No outward racial problems but there still seems to be some naive anti-antisemitism. It's not uncommon to see an "ethnic" painting of "Jew with Grosy" (counting money). Most Poles don't see this as offensive. But again nothing hostile.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Holocaust sites (interesting maybe not a highlight). Visiting Zakopane in the southern mountains and Gdansk on the Baltic coast.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Lots. In Warsaw there are many museums, green parks, water parks, a great zoo. In summer there are free Chopin piano concerts every Sunday in Lazienki Park. Travel outside the city to the many little towns and villages. There are castles all over the countryside many you can stay in. Travel to the Baltic, the mountains. And then of course the proximity to the rest of Europe.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Polish Pottery, folk crafts, glassware

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

History! If you like history there is tons of it her,e as Poland was a pivotal country during WWII. But the country has a history that trails back 1000 years. The Poles are proud and and fiercely protective of their history and love to showcase it.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel all over Europe too much.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, for sure.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectation that things will work the same way in the US or the same speed. Most things take longer here so plan accordingly.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story, Poland
by James Michener, The Spies of Warsaw: A Novel, anything on WWII or the Holocaust, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
by Timothy Snyder,

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Poland is a dynamic place. The change from Communism to a free-market society has been embraced and things change quickly here. It the short time I've been here I've seen many changes and progress. However, there are still heavy communist style layers of procedure to everything you do. But all in all once you break through the stern facade of Poles you will find a warm people who are very proud of their country and culture.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 11/06/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

View All Answers


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?

Washington, 11-13 hours away, usually through Germany.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Position at the US Embassy.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Lots of apartment complexes, befitting an eastern European city. Some duplexes or single families in a few upscale areas around town (Mokotow, Wilanow, Konstancin). Commutes are usually pretty reasonable (within 45 min) for most areas of town via bus, metro, or car.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Comparable to price and selection in the US. Vegetable selection gets a bit thinner in the winter and you'll have to pay a bit of a premium for fresh fruit and veggies. E.Leclerc, Tesco, Carrefour, Auchan are all available.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Really haven't missed anything here, except Polish mayonnaise is horrible. It's really sweet compared to what you get in the States and there are no alternatives.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots of pretty cheap food around, including a lot of international fast foods if that's what you want. Lunches: 20-35 zloty near the center for a sit down meal. 10-15 for a sandwich. Dinners: wide range of options.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Good selection of soy products in most stores. Gluten free is available in specialized stores (Smak Natury in Ursynow, Kuchnia Swiata in Mokotow Galeria, also a place in Sadyba mall). This is a heavily meat, dairy, and starch culture, but options are there.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not much. Mosquitoes can act up in summer if there is a lot of rain. Ticks can be a problem in fields and forests.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Mostly diplomatic mail, but a bit through the local service. Seems reliable. But post offices can sometimes be downright Soviet, so be warned.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We hire a very competent house cleaner for 25 zloty per hour, but you can find cheaper, particularly if you are willing to hire Ukrainians.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

View All Answers


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?

ATMs are widespread. Credit cards are accepted at major facilities. Cash for the rest.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Very limited on local cable. VPN back to the home country has worked well for us with Netflix, etc.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by in Warsaw (maybe more difficult beyond), but having some Polish definitely helps and enriches the overall experience.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's probably a mixed bag depending on whether the sidewalks have been updated. The buses mostly do "kneel" for wheelchair bound passengers, but a lot of entrances don't seem to accommodate physical disabilities.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, fantastic system within Warsaw of buses. You can find your way anywhere at any time using www.jakdojade.pl. Taxis are generally cheap, reliable, and prompt. Trains are a bit more dated and sometimes slow relative to those in Western Europe.

View All Answers


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?

Anything is good. Poles import a lot of American cars, which is surprising because gas is fairly expensive (around 5 zloty per liter) but some are driving American cars which get horrible gas mileage.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but service can sometimes be spotty and is highly variable depending on where you live.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

GSM phones work just fine. There are several carriers or kiosks where you can get local sim cards.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No, only need to meet EU rules (rabies and electronic tagging).

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Decent. 24 hour emergency services are available. Vets are shockingly cheap compared to the US.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Less formal than I would have thought.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not especially. Would almost be a bit more comforting to see a few more police on the streets.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Several modern private hospitals with high technology services. One family member was hospitalized in a local public hospital which was spartan, but very competent. Costs are very reasonable.

View All Answers


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?

Good in summer, moderate in winter. Some coal is still burned, but generally it's better in Warsaw than the countryside.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Highly unpredictable. Weather reports are almost totally unreliable, especially in spring. Expect a coffin lid of gray clouds from late fall through late winter for weeks on end. Autumn and spring can be nice, with some sunny stretches for weeks. Summers can be both hot and quite steamy to cool and rainy. Hard to say.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Speaking for young children, the British School has a solid program where kids are expected to have some exposure to letters, reading, and math even as they enter kindergarten and they start them off quickly and push them at a good pace.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The American School of Warsaw is not only NOT willing to accommodate children with special needs, they are openly hostile about it and do not deserve the name of an "American" school that supposedly reflects the values of the American educational system. If your child has anything but the most minimal of needs, don't even bother applying. Hopefully, at a minimum, the new admissions director will at least be pleasant about it when she tells you to bugger off. The British School on the other hand has an open admissions policy and makes a decent effort to accommodate special needs children. I've seen children with both physical and mental disabilities welcomed into the school.

View All Answers


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?

Lots of private Polish preschools available, ostensibly with exposure to English language. In fact, they are probably just Polish daycare with a class or two of English, not really bilingual.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly sizable in Warsaw. Lots of dips and business folks, but this doesn't mean you'll be running into them frequently in a city of 2 million, particularly outside the city center.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

View All Answers


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?

Restaurants, movies (with original language as an option), clubs in downtown, cafes, indoor and outdoor playgrounds for children, parks, great zoo, botanical gardens, castles, art, history museums, lots of concerts (including free outdoor in summer).

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for families. Poles are pretty accepting of children everywhere around town.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No idea really, though some Poles can be fairly conservative. I have rarely seen anyone around town who appears openly homosexual.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

At their core, Poles have some lingering racial and ethnic anxieties against non-whites and Jews. It's a very white and Catholic country. You also won't be very welcomed if you are Russian.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Parks, castles, shopping, history, music, cafes. Pretty typical European city with a decent cafe life in the warm months.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Central to rest of Europe via plane is convenient and pretty cheap. Respect for family life and children (people actually stand up on buses and metro for children to sit down). Lots of history, but most of it is pretty tragic.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Rent or housing can be pricey, but if that's not an issue, then saving money should be easy.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Travel anytime, anywhere by car requires a great deal of caution, attention, and fortitude. Poles are the rudest, most careless, aggressive, and selfish drivers I have seen (and I have driven in places like Africa, Italy, Romania), with each individual driver thinking he is the most important and sole driver on the road. The stunts they will pull while driving that will put you and your family at risk are stunning, jaw dropping even. Unfortunately, you have to become the same in order to have any hope of getting anywhere by car. There is no respect for the rules of the road and there is almost no police presence, except for the rare speed trap.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 08/23/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

NO.

View All Answers


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 year tour. Home base US.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

1 Year.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government assignment.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Townhouse. 20-30 minutes commute.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

About the same as US.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Most are available.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Most a little expensive.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Lot of mosquitoes in Warsaw.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

This is expensive here.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

View All Answers


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?

No issues.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Available.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Some channels, but very limited.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Polish would be very helpful. If you don't speak it you are very isolated.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Sidewalks.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes about 100.00 for a 3 month pass.

View All Answers


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 car.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Expensive and hard to upgrade. You must do with out for a month if you wish to upgrade to a faster connection.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Pay as you go cards work well.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I am told it is good.

View All Answers


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?

No, unless you speak polish. Pay is poor.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual to business.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None. Some minor crime.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

View All Answers


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?

Good.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Lot of rain in the summer. Winter days are very short.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large but most folks do their own thing.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Poor to good depending.

View All Answers


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?

A lot of night life, if you like that sort of thing.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None noted.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The Warsaw Ghetto tour.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Visit historical sites.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Cristal Ceramics.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Krakow was very nice.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

NO.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. This was not one of our first choices and wish we had not accepted the offer.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

High expectations.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Sence of humor.

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Employment for non-Polish speakers is very limited even at the Embassy. The Embassy has several openings, but a the size of the community creates an over-abundance of applicants.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 08/05/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No; United Kingdom (5-1/2 years)

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

9 months.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government work.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I love the city centre where I have a rather nice large apartment. The commute to work is about 20 minutes or so, which is perfect. I can walk to work as well, which is also nice.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Depends on what you are buying. The major grocery stores (Carrefour, etc.) tend to have most items, but you will note that selections can be stale or rotten, especially in the produce sections. There are a lot of folks that utilize the local markets, and you may even find that some of the produce is cheaper and fresher than in the big stores. Beware of buying produce from shapkas (they are like tiny 7-11 stores) - they usually carry a stand with some potatoes, onions, etc. Usually you buy them in bags, and you can get nice surprise when you get home and open the bag to find half your potatoes are rotten). They will keep selling these without ever actually checking them.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Special items....certain medications; anything that is primarily available in the US. Some things are just annoying to have to ship overseas.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Pretty much the same as in the US: KFC, McD, TGIF, etc. They tend to have kebab shops all over, as well. Cost is about the same, roughly. Warsaw is an expensive city. The Polish Zloty is roughly 2.5-3 to 1 to the dollar but you will not know it with some prices on products. But sometimes you will find awesome deals on stuff which should be priced much higher.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Poland is NOT the place to go if you really prefer to have foods that are low-fat/skim and similar...most Polish food is heavy and high on caloric intake unless you are eating rabbit food, which, if taken with their normal dressings, etc., will pump the caloric intake up quite a bit, as all of the ingredients will be fairly heavy. It will take a good investigation of all products out there to find the right product for you...and you may end up ordering some from elsewhere.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mainly mosquitoes during the spring/summer, especially after rainstorms. Other than that, just your normal spiders and flies.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I utilize APO/FPO mail systems, but not everyone will have access to this. I have not dealt with regular postal mail other than bills...one of the things I love about Poland is that you can pay your various bills at the Post Office.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Dotted all over the place. Call them for rates and restrictions. Same with swimming pools/lap pool areas.

View All Answers


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?

I primarily used them at the hotels. They are safe and easy to use, but you also pay extra fees, depending on your cards. Be aware that NOT all stores/restaurants take credit cards. Check before you get into any odd situation. They don't always have the little logos on the restaurant windows.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It really helps to know the basics. The more you know, the easier it is to relay your thoughts. You may think everyone knows English, but not all do, and not all care to speak it. You are the guest in their country, so attempt to speak it---and for the most part they will think better of you.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Some locations are tough to get to; disabled-friendly places are not a norm.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transportation is busy and cheap. But get used to a few things: 1) Drivers are idiots - busses, especially, have poor drivers who think they are Michael Schumacher in Formula-1 race cars. They will speed like crazy to get from stop to stop and then slam on the brakes as they get to the stop. They tend to be impatient drivers, so they will take the busses on the tram tracks to move the bus into a turning lane if the straight lane blocks the turning lane. The drivers will also not utilize the proper turning lane if it is full. They will just go straight through a round-a-bout and make an illegal left hand turn into it. It is dangerous, but the Poles are as meek as sheep and never say anything...even when they are flung across the bus with the driver's antics. 2.) Get used to smelling other people's body odors (I wont say most...but there are some Poles who have not a clue what a soap bar is...they get on the bus and just stink to high heaven). 3.) Get used to smelling alcohol anytime you use the bus, be it morning, noon or night. There are a lot of Poles who believe it is their manifest destiny to be the Best Alcoholics in the World...they start young, they drink often and drink plenty... they get on the bus and you can usually smell them from 15 feet away - usually with the smell of cigarettes as well. 4) Cigarette smoking is encouraged in Poland...this is the country Marlboro/Camel should direct their ads to. They would have great success, as so many Poles smoke like it's going out of style. You have to get used to the overpowering stench when you are packed like sardines in the bus. Get used to NO PERSONAL space and people bumping into you constantly (beware of pickpockets). Also: When its very hot out and you are feeling the sweat bead off your head or neck, you get on the bus which tends to be crowded, and you notice that the locals will still be wearing heavy coats, long sleeves, etc., and they will refuse to open windows on the bus...so you get to enjoy the sauna atmosphere while you also get to enjoy the lovely body odors emanating from some, as well as the over-perfuming of others. Oh, just so you know, the stinkers are not just old people or just men, it can be anyone. Yesterday I was behind a very pretty 20-ish lady who stank like crazy. Just get used to it. Prices: The 1-3 month bus cards are the best way to travel around the city, and they also work for Tram and Metro. They are getting progressively more expensive, but on a whole its much cheaper than anything you would get in the USA. Taxis: Beware of taxis that do not display the taxi service signs on them with the numbers...if the taxi looks like a personal car (it may even be a very nice Mercedes, BMW, etc.), do not get in --- as you are taking a private hire and this will cost you anywhere from 5x to 20x the price you would pay for a regular taxi. Mostly these are at the Chopin International Airport. Regular taxis run anywhere from 1.60 to 3.0 PLN/km. A standard drive in the city is usually 20-30PLN, and later in the night the charges go up by 5-10PLN.

View All Answers


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?

Anything will work. Your primary concern is that the road system is worse than any US road system. High situational awareness is required when driving anywhere in Poland, as you can get into an accident by the craziness of the drivers around you. They do not typically drive in a safe manner. Especially in round-abouts or other intersection areas, the chance of accidents goes up significantly when folks are not aware of what is around them. Local police rarely enforce traffic violations, so the local drivers do not fear to do things that most normal drivers would consider ludicrous, including creating 3-car lanes in a single lane road, turning at intersections without ever stopping for the right-of-way traffic, running through crosswalks as people are crossing through them, etc. Drive something accordingly safe, and avoid driving little tiny tin boxes which, upon being hit by anything else at 10+ MPH, crumbles into dust. Get used to dents, scratches, etc., as those are just par for the game here.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Cable Internet with Aster: It's okay service with decent speed. Cost is pretty cheap compared to US-based IP services. I pay roughly 110PLN ($40/mo) for fairly fast cable internet and phone service (more if I call to the US).

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get something local if you end up staying...Most folks just buy the chip insert with a set amount of cash to use while in country...its cheaper than using Roaming International Charge (which can go upwards from $5/min).

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Most Poles dress more business-like: standard European styles. There are always exceptions, but most tend to look a lot more professional.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

So far, my stay has been without any noticable events. I haven't seen any issues in the city so far.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

View All Answers


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?

If you are a smoker, you will love Poland; if you are not, then you have to get used to 2nd and 3rd-hand smoke, as Poles are smokers. Air polution in the big cities is a bit higher than normal, as there are so many vehicles running about.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Personally, I prefer cooler climates. Warsaw is quite hot in the spring/summer and has had a ton of rain as well; winters are beautiful, as it actually gets nice and cold with real snow on the ground that lasts for a few days/weeks.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

View All Answers


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?

There is lots to see and do. Enjoy yourself but don't get too stupid. Remember safety, dont drink and drive, and if you walk, be careful when crossing streets -- drivers don't care one bit about you, as it's all about them and their goal to reach the grave in the fastest, most expedient way.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's a great singles city...especially if you are a drinker or a smoker. They have started getting some bans on smoking, but it's tough to walk from point A to B without running through 20-30 smokers puffing away in bliss -- morning, noon and night.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I have not seen any untoward reactions personally from the local population.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Various cities; lots of history to see

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you are a history buff, you will love the area. There is skiing/mountain climbing in the south, boating/swimming in the northeast. There is hiking all over the place. You name it...you can pretty much do it in this country.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Poland is known for Amber. Also, in the southern area of Zacopane, you can get really good leather items.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Central location in Europe; able to travel east/west easily for sightseeing, lots of history

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Even though its quite expensive in Warsaw, you can save money.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure; I can deal with the problems easily. If you are doing it for the first time, just dont take things personally. And be very alert in whatever you are doing in public.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Enjoy yourself...travel...dont stay in your house or apartment...get out and explore. You will find a lot of neat things. Just be mindful of where you are and the people around you.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 03/23/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

yes

View All Answers


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)

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Almost two years.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Corporate job transfer for an American company.

View All Answers


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).

View All Answers


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).

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Plenty and for a decent price.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Some mosquitoes around the edges of the city.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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.

View All Answers


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.)

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are plenty around the city.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Expensive. I rely on the internet.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It would be a little difficult but manageable (I think).

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All are safe, affordable and easy to use. Public transportation is great.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Great. Kennels are expensive but vet care is much cheaper than in the US.

View All Answers


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 many.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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?

Good.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not much.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. There are many available in English.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Great.

View All Answers


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?

Great.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Boleslawiec pottery.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't eat out at expensive restaurants a lot.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely. I love it here.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Appliances unless you have a transformer.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 01/17/11

Background:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Trash bags.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Same fast food restaurants we have in the USA.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes in the summer.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I have DPO at the embassy.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

All over the place.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Don't know.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Online only.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

None.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

The vets are cheap here, and the quality is excellent.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Just like any other European city.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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?

Good

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Yes, is but you must notify them in advance.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, there is but they must speak Polish.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It is big.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

OK, I guess.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is good more for single guys.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

None

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you do not go out.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

120-volt items, unless you bring a transformer.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 12/22/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

View All Answers


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?

Home is Canberra, about 33 hours (3 connections) away. LOT flies direct to more and more places, but many destinations still need a stop in Europe.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years, currently.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic posting.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Accommodations range from smaller, new apartments in the centre of town, to larger, older-style houses farther out. Communte time really depends on whether you want to be closer to town or farther away, but it's not a big city, and for most it would be less than 20 minutes. Generally the standard of accommodation for internationals is excellent.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Pretty much eveything is available through international chains like Carrefour and Tesco. Costs are slightly more than I'm used to at home in Australia.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Cling wrap (it's really strange here!), rice crackers and water crackers (not available), tinned soup. There's not much you can't get, either in the normal shops or the US commissary (if you have access - all diplomats can.)

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All kinds of food are available here - this was one of my biggest surprises. McDonald's and similar are plentiful. Everything else is here - excellent fusion/international/Polish cuisine, Asian (Indian, Thai, etc.) is available, although some leave more to be desired. Costs are quite reasonable - about 200zl for a nice meal for two with a glass of wine in a nice restaurant.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Being vegetarian and gluten-free here is not a particular challenge. Gluten-free products are readily available in shops, although restaurants are less used to catering for these kinds of diets and can't always tell you what's in the dishes.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None I'm aware of.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Polish post is a bit disorganised but it seems to get there.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Good without being great - about 20zl per hour for basic cleaning.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

View All Answers


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?

ATMs are everywhere. It's not a problem.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is one English-language christian service, as I understand it.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Not as much English-language news as I expected. There are monthly 'what's on' mags and a weekly business journal. Most expats have satellite TV for English news.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's not necessary, but the more you know, the better you'll get on. Still, it is a challenge.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think they'd find it quite difficult to get around. Footpaths are dreadful, and many trams/buses still have large gaps to get on.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Excellent, cheap, safe. Night buses go on a reduced schedule all night. If only we had such great public transport at home!

View All Answers


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?

I would recommend small and with high clearance - the roads are terrible, and parking is always hard. European cars are more popular than Asian, therefore easier and cheaper to have repaired, and more desirable for resale.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Everywhere! Free in almost every cafe in town. A huge improvement over home!

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

It's fairly straightforward to get a contract with a local provider.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Poles LOVE animals. They will be very well cared for.

View All Answers


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?

In limited areas - teaching, proofreading. Jobs on the local market aren't well paid. It's possible to find other things, but it's about networking and contacts.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Standard business/business casual.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

While you can get unlucky anywhere, in terms of crime, it's probably one of the safest cities on earth. On the roads, however, drivers are crazy, and speed limits are taken as minimums rather than maximums. Be careful!

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Emergency care is pretty good, as I understand it. Amulances arrive quickly and will save your life. If you have something less serious, it will be OK, although you will probably hope someone will bring you some decent food (from what I understand). Some go to UK/Germany for a second opinion or for chronic issues.

View All Answers


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?

Excellent.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Six distinct seasons - from metres of snow and tops of minus 10 in winter, a slushy early spring, full spring, short-ish but precious (and can be warm) summer, autumn and breathtaking golden autumn. Bring all your clothes!

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

A lot of our friends seem to be unhappy with the international schools, both American and British here. As a result, I would say the only type of people I wouldn't immediately recommend Warsaw to would be families with high-school aged children.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


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?

Not sure. It's definitely available, but I suspect variable quality and expensive.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

As far as I know, through schools, although non-Polish speakers are limited to international activities.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium. Lots of expats are married to locals who keep more to themselves (generally). Others are usually pretty keen to meet others and make friends.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Mostly good. Some people hate it here - if you focus on the weather and the roads you will, too. If you make the most of the great things about it, you'll have a ball.

View All Answers


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?

There's always something going on. Clubs, restaurants, some new bar, a film festival, philosophy discussions, christmas markets, music festivals. If, somehow, you get bored with that, you can travel the region on budget airlines for virtually nothing - or hop on a train for a weekend in Berlin, Prague or Budapest, for example.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all, although single women will probably mainly date within the international community. I don't know any men who've started out single and ended up that way. It's a great place for families - although you'll probably need a break from those long, cold winters.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

As I understand, being gay here isn't a particular issue. There are some gay clubs and a healthy social scene.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

People who are non-white will get some stares, just because almost everyone here is white.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling the country (Gdansk, Krakow, Torun, Poznan) and the region (Albania, Croatia, Belorussia, Ukraine); coming to understand much more about WWII and European history.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

So many places, so little time! Prague, Berlin, Budapest... Budget airline connections are great. Warsaw is a fascinating place, Old Town, Lazienki Park, Plac Konstitucji, Palace of Culture.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Boleslawiec pottery, travel, independent cinema tickets, winter clothes.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Being smack bang in the heart of Europe, with amazing travel opportunities, in a city where there's always something going on.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Yes, although it's not a major attraction.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

in a heartbeat. Only sorry we will one day leave.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Preconceptions. More than any place I've ever been, Warsaw is what you make it.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure.

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Mis (with subtitles), Polish TV series Czas Honoru (Time of Honour)

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Polish House, R. Sikorski. Anything by Izaac Singer.

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Warsaw is a fascinating city, and most people really love it. The ones that don't are usually the ones that let the winters beat them. It's worth trying to break up the winter with a trip somewhere warmer (and lighter) in the middle. There's a lot to be said for living in a place where it's not obvious you're a foreigner, but that is so different and where you can learn so much.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 02/21/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I've lived in London, Tokyo, Geneva and various cities in Germany.

View All Answers


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?

My home base is DC. Flights connect in either Frankfurt or Munich and take about 14 hours.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

one year.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work at the US Embassy.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy housing varies. Many couples and singles have great apartments in or near the center but others get stuck out in the suburbs. Most families are either in a compound in Ursynow or near the American School in Konstancin.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get most anything on the local market. If you're attached to certain US brands, you can probably find them at the Embassy commissary.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None - you can get everything here.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's and KFC are hugely popular with Poles. If you're craving American or Mexican food, there's Hard Rock Cafe downtown. Otherwise, there are lots of good restaurants - Polish, Asian, Italian.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but they're usually very small. The two largest are the Gold's Gym and Pure Fitness.

View All Answers


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 accepted.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

You can get Polish digital cable, which includes some English language programming.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Most young people speak some English, but it really helps a lot to speak Polish. It just makes everything go much more smoothly. In Warsaw and Krakow, you can usually get by with English, but outside of the big cities, it's another story. Also, Poles love when Americans speak Polish because they appreciate the effort and also, I suspect, because we sound like idiots.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It might be a bit difficult - the sidewalks aren't always in great shape, but things are getting better.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains and buses are very cheap, clean, safe and fast. Taxis are affordable, but you usually have to call ahead. People don't really hail them on the street.

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, although the speed seems to vary somewhat. It costs about $50 a month.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are a pain unless you're assigned one by the Embassy. The pay as you go phones require that you put a certain amount of money on the phone per month, whether or not you actually use the credit, so most people have more credit on their phones than they'll ever be able to use.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business dress.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I've felt very safe in Warsaw, although I know that there are occasional muggings.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I haven't been impressed with the experiences others have had with broken bones here.

View All Answers


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?

I've heard others complain about the air quality in the winter due to the use of coal, but I haven't noticed any problems.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

This has been an unusually cold winter with lots of snow and high temperatures in the teens. There's very little sun in the winter and the days are very short - in Dec and Jan, the sun sets at 3:30.Spring starts in April and is beautiful, summers are mild and somewhat rainy. In Sept, what the Poles call "golden fall" begins and lasts till mid-Oct, early Nov.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have kids, so I can't really comment.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

It really varies. I love it here, but some others take issue with the winters, the customer service, the ugly Stalinist architecture, etc. You definitely have to make an effort here to go out and find things and figure them out, but it's an effort worth making.

View All Answers


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?

It can be hard to make close Polish friends. Most people here have had the same social circle since childhood and it can be tough to break the ice. Amongst Americans, there's a lot of eating out, dinner parties, etc.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Warsaw is most definitely a family post. Right now, there very few singles. Warsaw is a big city so there are lots of things to do, which is great for singles - cultural activities, lots of gyms, classes, bike trails, etc. As far as dating goes, it seems to be a great place for single men but I only know one single woman who dated a Polish man. Most Poles are married by the age of 25, so the older you are, the fewer dating prospects you'll have here.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There are a few gay bars/clubs here, but being gay is largely kept quiet here. I've met very few gay Poles who were actually out.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

People get stared at big time, but I haven't heard of any attacks or anything like that. Poland is 98% ethnic Pole, so there are very, very few Poles who are anything but white.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Beautiful, beautiful parks all over the city, the Uprising Museum, great restaurants, cheap tickets to the theatre (there are a million here), opera, ballet, etc.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Boloslawiec pottery, beautiful linens.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Poland has an incredibly interesting history and that history is still completely alive here, particularly in Warsaw. I've never lived anywhere where history is so present. It's been an interesting experience.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Depends on the exchange rate, but lately, I would say yes. Groceries are definitely cheaper here than in the US.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely!

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Take the time to learn about Poland's history before you come. Poles really appreciate it and it'll make your experience here much more meaningful.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 08/27/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Several other previous postings.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

Several months.

View All Answers


3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

View All Answers


4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

LOT airlines offers direct service to Warsaw from New York, Newark and Chicago. All other major US cities are served by all the major airline alliances. From DC, it takes about 11-13 hours including layover.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing ranges from modern apartments in the center of town to multi-level townhouses (for those with kids) on the outskirts of town near the school. Singles and couples without kids tend to have apartments. Of all the places we have served, we have found our housing here to be the best we ever had.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Whatever you want, you can find it here. While we normally go to the several hypermarts (Carrefor, Alma, Real, etc.) we also tend to go to the small skleps near our house where the quality of meats and cheeses is way better and the prices are much less. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are sold all over town and are very affordable as well. Prices are about the same as in the states. We do have a commissary which stocks imported American food ranging from steaks to Wonder Bread to Big Red. But honestly, why do all of your shopping there when you can find the exact same stuff in Warsaw?

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Clothing and shoes since they are more expensive here. In terms of food/toiletries, etc. nothing, since you can find everything you need here.,

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All your major chains (Burger King, McDonald's, KFC, Sbarros, Subway) are available here. Poland has excellent ethnic food (the Chinese and Vietnamese are the unfortunate exceptions). However, Polish food remains king and rightly so. Depending on what you are in the mood for, you can eat anywhere from a couple of bucks to a couple of hundred. A normal lunch will run you between 5-20 dollars. There are several pizza places that deliver, and there is also a room-service delivery service that will deliver food from your favorite restaurants.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Since most of the homes and apartments do not have window screens, various flying insects tend to invade people's houses if the windows are left open.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We send them through the pouch.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available. And chances are someone's domestic helper is looking for additonal work, so ask around. Cost depends on what you want them to do, and it ranges from 7-10 hours an hour. If you want a live-in domestic helper, that can run around 200 dollars a month.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are several gyms that embassy staff regularly use. Gold's Gym just opened up this year in Warsaw. Warsaw also has many bike trails, and those who just want to walk or jog are able to do so as well.

View All Answers


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?

Safe and reliable. ATMs can be found all around town.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Given the large number of English speaking expats here, I would think so.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. USA Today, IHT, Financial Times, and several Warsaw-based publications are all available. Various cable companies offer English-langauge channels from all over the world.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

While students and those involved with foreign companies will most likely be able to speak English with you, you will have much more fun, make more friends, and do your part in destroying the ugly American myth by learning Polish. A couple of phrases will go a long way.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Alhough most apartments and main shopping centers have elevators and disabled-friendly facilities, and the city has many wide sidewalks, Warsaw still has some work to do in order to be completely disabled friendly.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, yes, and yes. Local trains are great since they go all over the place. However, they tend to be crowded and are VERY slow with the exception of the 2 1/2 hour train to Krakow. Poland is supposedly upgrading its rail service, but who knows if they will follow through.

View All Answers


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?

Something sturdy, given the HORRIBLE conditions of roads here (outside of Warsaw). Folks at the embassy have cars ranging from regular sedans to SUVs and trucks. Gas is about 2 or 3 times the price in the US, and while available, car parts and servicing are very expensive.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, and it costs around 20-30 bucks a month. Do yourself a favor and buy a router, since the one the the embassy provides is horrible.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We have found that buying a pay-as-you-go card from any of the many cellphone companies (Heya, Orange, T Mobile, etc.) works best. Plans are also available.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Available and good quality. Warsaw is very pet friendly.

View All Answers


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?

They do exist if you speak Polish and want to take a massive pay cut. Post tries to find jobs for local spouses, and there are teaching jobs possibly available at the various schools.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

The usual American/European professional at work. Outside, whatever you want.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Pretty healthy, I would say, but allergy sufferes will get hit depending on how close they live to parks.

View All Answers


2. What immunizations are required each year?

Check with the Med unit, but whatever is standard for Eastern European postings.

View All Answers


3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Warsaw is like any other Eastern European city with the usual security concerns. Just use common sense and you will be fine. For us the biggest security concern has been driving on the roads.

View All Answers


4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I would say driving is the number one health risk, since Polish driving habits, coupled with horrible Polish roads, make for a very hazardous situation. Medical care is available for routine procedures, but if you need something major, go to London. I have recently heard that some people have had some bad experiences with dental care as well.

View All Answers


5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Recently Warsaw has had some crazy weather compared to previous years. This summer it has been mostly rainy and mild, while the winter is your typical Eastern European cold, albeit much milder than before.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We don't have kids, but the American School of Warsaw is by far the most popular among expats and well-to-do Poles. It has a VERY impressive campus and facilities. Other schools exist as well (British, French, Russian, etc.).

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Very limited from what I hear.

View All Answers


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?

There is the IPW (International Preschool of Warsaw) and also many maids will gladly watch kids...for a fee of course.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

HUGE! Many people have come to Poland as students, expat workers, etc. and have created a very international atmosphere. I have met some people from as far away as Trinidad, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan and Iraq here -- and all love it here!

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Overall, I would say that it is pretty good. Post did go through a recent period where morale dropped (in my section it really dropped) which I attribute to a couple of bad apples in the bunch. While some of these people still exist at post, thankfully with the influx of new people, the toxic influence of these people has been severely limited. So if you like to work hard and enjoy being social, and do not like to start drama or complain all the time, Warsaw is the place for you. Those that get out of the AFN-Commisary-Hard Rock Cafe tend to have the most fun in Warsaw. Warsaw -- in fact all of Poland -- has so much to offer. Take advantage of it!

View All Answers


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?

Concerts, parties, clubs, festivals, movie theaters, etc. Again, you name it, they have it.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Absolutely. It is very hard NOT to find something fun to do here. Single men (and women) have been very successful in finding partners and have left either engaged or married.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

While Poland still has a way to go in battling homophobia, none of the same-sex couples that serve in Warsaw have ever complained about outright harassment. Warsaw does have a gay scene with several clubs.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Overall I would say no. Warsaw is a very cosmopolitan city with thousands of Africans, Asians, South Asians, etc. Skinheads do exist, and their presence can be seen if you go to the outskirts of town or to soccer games (in fact the Legia Warszawa team was banned from several championship matches due to skinhead violence). As was recently posted, those with spouses from the former Soviet Union should be prepared for some cold receptions when meeting Poles.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

What isn't there to do? History lovers (especially those who like medieval times or WWII) will be in heaven here with everything there is to see. Those who love the outdoors can jog, bike, walk, etc. Shoppers will go nuts over the several malls and craft shops. Warsaw regularly hosts big-time acts (Madonna was most recently here), and has a wonderful cultural scene as well. Warsaw is the ideal jumping off place for domestic and regional travel and is blessed by connections by rail, road and plane. Places like Berlin, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, the Balkans, and of course Western Europe are very accesable. Warsaw also has similar connections with the East (although not as developed) and people have gone to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kyiv, and even Minsk. However, with all the great things to see inside Poland, why even leave?

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Polish handicrafts, Boleslawiec pottery, WWII militaria, amber, glassware, antiques. Pretty much anything come to think of it

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

It depends on the exchange rate. The exchange rate has been very loopy here, going from as high as 3.6 down to 2.0 to the dollar. We are managing to do very well and have saved a bit of money, even with crazy shopping and travel. It all depends on your spending habits

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. People come back here again and again.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

consumables since you won't need them here. Also any negative waves, since there is a good vibe here in Warsaw and absolutely nothing to complain about.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

...not sure, I guess your passport?

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

Warsaw has everything you have ever wanted to eat, see, buy, and visit.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 06/23/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

One year.

View All Answers


3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.

View All Answers


4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

There are several direct flights from the States, usually LOT direct from Chicago. It takes nine hours. You can also connect in Frankfurt or just about any other European city.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is very generous, in my opinion. It is a mix of townhouses and large apartments. All are solidly made and in great condition. They have very small yards for the most part. Housing is located in Ursynow and Wilanow for families with kids and in Centrum for singles and couples. Commute times vary and lots of embassy folks ride their bikes when the weather is fine.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Household supplies like cleaner and detergent are a lot more expensive so you have to remember to wait in line and get your VAT back. Groceries are comparable to the U.S., especially if you shop at markets for fresh produce or at Tesco.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Chocolate chips, all purpose flour, Claritin, assorted American baking items. Poles don't cook the same kind of desserts that we do so a lot of the ingredients we need are not available.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonalds is the main fast food restaurant, followed by KFC. There is one BK in Warsaw and another on the outskirts of the city.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I would use DHL or UPS, both of whom service Warsaw. I only ordered something once through Polish mail because it was to big for the pouch and I never received it.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It is very available and very good. But it is not cheap, you definitely get what you pay for. We don't employ help, but I think it costs about 15 to 20 zloty an hour.

View All Answers


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?

I use it all, and have never had any trouble with fraud so far. There are ATM machines everywhere, although they can charge high fees.

View All Answers


4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an English mass and a Christian church that is very well-attended. I believe there is also a small Mormon congregation.

View All Answers


5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN is available, as well as CYFRA. You can also get Sky satellite out of Britain but it is very expensive. English language newspapers and magazines are available at Empik and the American bookstore, but you will pay double the price in the US.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

As a spouse, I have found that I get along quite nicely with courteous phrases, numbers and the names of food items in Polish. I can order in a restaurant and do my shopping. Younger Poles all speak English and they love to try it out for you. Older people, like ladies at the market, may not speak any but you can usually work it out with a smile.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

They would have some difficulties. There are not a lot of elevators and sometimes the sidewalks can be quite uneven.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

View All Answers


2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

You should use the taxis listed on the card the embassy gives you. Buses, trains, trams and the metro are all safe.

View All Answers


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?

Even in Warsaw the roads could use a little work. There are potholes and very narrow roads. Your side mirrors are going to get beat up. We have a station wagon and I often wish it were smaller so I could park and get down roads with more ease.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is available and it costs about 120 zloty a month.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy employees are given phones and spouses can get them through ACA for a pretty good rate. Other than that, you can get cell phones on any corner in Poland, they are very popular here.

View All Answers


3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

We use Vonage.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Excellent pet care is available in Poland, especially for dogs. Poles love dogs! We take our dog to a kennel in Konstancin and they take care of him as if he were there own.

View All Answers


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?

There don't seem to be a lot of opportunities unless you speak Polish.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At the embassy it is suits and ties. Polish women tend to dress very nicely and follow trends. In business situations, Poles dress to impress, especially young men who favor expensive suits with a European cut.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The air seems very clean, except the few times of the year when Poles burn leaves and clear fields. Then it can get a little smoky.

View All Answers


2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There are no concerns unique to the area, just the same as any big city. I jog at night in the area I live and take taxis and I feel very safe.

View All Answers


3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I would not recommend Polish hospitals, which can seem grim. Private doctors are excellent and there are dentists everywhere that are highly recommended. I take my son to a doctor in Wilanow and he is excellent and usually makes appointments for the same day. There are also several doctors who make house calls.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is beautiful starting in May. It runs the gamut from chilly to bone-chilling from October to April. Starting in November it gets quite cold and dark, starting at about 3 p.m. We didn't see much snow this past winter.

View All Answers


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 very highly regarded. The British school also has some embassy families and everyone seems very happy with the school situation.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I have no direct knowledge of this, but both the American School of Warsaw has an excellent web site which may have more information.

View All Answers


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?

Many preschools are available but all are expensive. Our son goes to the International Preschool of Warsaw and we are thrilled with it. He loves it and he is learning so much. There are also Montessori options available.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly large with lots of different countries represented in government and in private industry. There is a lot of building in Warsaw and it brings development companies from all over.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Morale is very high except for the first few weeks of darkness in winter when everyone is a little down. Or maybe that's just me.

View All Answers


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?

There is quite a bit entertaining, between dinner parties, Marine House parties and happy hours. There is also a group called American Friends in Warsaw and they have many activities.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is good for everyone. Families and couples will find many things to do just in Warsaw. When you factor in the proximity to the rest of Europe, there are almost too many things to do during your time here. Single women may find it challenging to date in Poland but from what I observe the single men are pretty happy.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

That I can't say. There are gay clubs here but I would be discreet as Poles tend to be conservative.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is not a lot of diversity in Poland. It is predominantly Polish, Catholic people. Minority friends of mine have been stared at to some degree but I think it's just curiosity.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

So many things, especially in the summer and spring. There are parks, beer gardens, soccer matches, Old Town, the zoo, shopping at outdoor markets, and traveling down to Krakow or up to Gdansk. It gets a little more challenging in winter.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are so many beautiful things to buy in Poland. Polish pottery, wood carvings, icons, amber, art, and on and on.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

Ummm, not really. The weak dollar is killing us against the zloty. Clothing and other luxury items are very expensive here, as is domestic help and preschool. Gas is also a killer on the budget. If you try to travel as well you will not save anything.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

We would go there, but we would take a long break from the winter. Just when you think it might be spring, the temperature drops again.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Suntan lotion, expectation that Warsaw is like Paris or Berlin--it is not.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Bike or motorcycle, winter coat. Poland is probably the last place in the world where you can flaunt your fur coat with pride!!

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Zookeeper's Wife, The Spies of Warsaw, The History of Love.

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Sophie's Choice, The Pianist.

View All Answers


6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Zookeeper's Wife, The Spies of Warsaw, The History of Love.

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

Warsaw is becoming more and more of a family post and activities at the Embassy reflect that. Poles are very dignified people and not prone to warm fuzzies. You won't have people smiling at you and they don't have customer service as we know it at all. This is a good post but it is not all perfect.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 04/05/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is my fourth expat experience.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

Several months.

View All Answers


3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Employee of the U.S. Embassy.

View All Answers


4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From Washington DC to Warsaw, about around 12-13 hours including layovers. There are also daily direct flights from JFK, Newark, and Chicago on Lot. This is a very Star Alliance friendly city, but all your major European airlines fly here too.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Singles and couples without kids normally get apartments within a 10-minute bus ride from the Embassy. Families with children tend to get housing further away near the International School.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything you would want (with the exception of Ginger Ale and root beer which is in the commisary) can be found here in any of the major or minor supermarkets in Warsaw/Poland. Poland has great produce, meats, cheeses, and so forth, perhaps some of the best in Europe. Embassy staff has access to the commisary but I cannot understand how people would want to shop there when the same things are available on the local market (and of better quality). Things have gotten more expensive however given the falling dollar.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Car parts and liquids since these things here are VERY expensive. Shoes and clothing should also be brought.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You want it, you got it! Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut (and the better Polish version, Dominium), TGI Fridays, Hard Rock etc. Every kind of ethnic cuisine is available here and most of it is very good (surprisingly the Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine, despite the large number of Vietnamese and Chinese, isn't that good). Mexican food can be hit or miss at times (Unfortunately Taco Bell closed here several years ago). By far the best food in town is Polish food. I came here thinking I was going to lose weight...WRONG!!! Great coffee shops can be found on every corner. Starbucks is supposed to open up here this year, but quite honestly, WHY?

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO, DPO and pouch are all available. In addition, Polish mail is pretty reliable.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We don't have anyone yet, but folks here employ local panies for around 15 zl an hour and up.

View All Answers


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?

Can be used everywhere.

View All Answers


4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All kinds I believe for all of your religious groups.

View All Answers


5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

On cable TV you can find BBC, CNN, MTV, Turner Classic Movies and other channels (I have heard they have Comedy Central here, but only in Polish...DOOH!!!). USA Today, Newsweek, Time, International Herald Tribune and other major English media is widely available.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

While many young people speak English, you will win many more friends and have better conversations by learning Polish.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Uneven roads and pavement, however I have seen people in wheelchairs and crutches navigate themselves around.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right side, but when driving outside of Warsaw/major cities, it is anything goes when passing cars. Cars are allowed to drive in the oncoming traffic lane when passing cars and oncoming traffic has to yield to the cars that are passing. Sometimes you will have a car passing another car being passed by yet another car-all while another car is coming towards you going 100km an hour. Do not blink during these moments.

View All Answers


2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes but be very careful when taking buses since bus drivers will slam on the brakes and gas/cut shartp turns for no known reason whatsoever. I was thrown from my seat one time when the bus went around a traffic circle-much to the delight of the on-looking Polish passengers.

View All Answers


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?

I would say buy something here since American imported cars cannot be resold on the local market due to EU regulations. I would go for a Honda Civic/Ford Focus type of car since the roads in Warsaw are not meant for big cars. German cars are the best bet. Despite its strategic location in Europe, Poland has the worse roads I have seen this side of the Urals. Major highways are two-lane roads that are shared with cars, bikes, trucks, and every other mode of transportation. There are plans to do a major overahul of the roads in preparation for the European Cup that Poland and Ukraine will be hosting, but it will be a while before the roads will be up to standard

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High speed is available and costs starting from US$35 a month). Plans are available.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get one but get one yourself and not through ACA. Rather than get locked in a very expensive plan (which ACA will gladly do for you), just buy minutes on your card and go from there. I found this to be pretty easy and much cheaper.

View All Answers


3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

People here use Skype and Vonage or the tieline at work. I go for the Telegroszik cards you can pick up at the store which gives you around an hour of phone calls to the US for 20 zloty (more time is possible for more money).

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I have been pretty impressed with the level of pet care here. This is a very pet friendly country. All kinds of pet food and supplies can be found on the local market, ableit a bit more expensive than in the States. I'm not sure about kennels though.

View All Answers


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?

Careful with this one. Despite what is written in the post report, it is difficult to get a job at the embassy since many of the jobs require Polish and budget cuts have meant that many positions have been cut. Working on the local market is possible but you will most likely need Polish and the pay is much less than in the U.S. The school may have several positions available.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal at work, on the street, euro-chic.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

View All Answers


2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The usual concerns in any major Eastern European city-petty theft, I guess, is the most concerning.

View All Answers


3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is available but not necessarily to the level of American health care (which may in fact not be a bad thing come to think of it). Basic things can be done here (eyecare, dental, etc.). Fortunately for us we have a medical facility at the Embassy with good medical staff.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Normally winter is pretty cold but this year, like last year, it was VERY mild (too mild if you ask me). Summer time is your typical Eastern European summer weather. However, given the warm winter we had this year, I would not be surprised if it snowed in August.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most embassy families and the beautiful people of Warsaw send their kids to the American School of Warsaw which from what I haven seen is HUGE!!! Be careful and register for classes ASAP as it tends to fill up really quickly and be advised that your spot at ASW is not guaranteed.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None that I know of.

View All Answers


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?

Normally people here have panis (nannies) from here and elsewhere.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. Warsaw is a major commerical/diplomatic hub so you have a lot of folks from everywhere. There are at least several thousand Americans in Warsaw, and even more outside.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Warsaw is a medium sized embassy which is good and bad. Good in the fact that you are not forced to associate with everyone at the embassy if you don't want to, but bad in the fact that there really isn't a strong family community as you would get at smaller posts. By and large people tend to do their own things here. There is an interesting mix of people here from those who have served around the world and are totally comfortable with expat living, to the first time off the boat people who only buy their food at the commisary and watch AFN without getting out and seeing all that Warsaw and Poland have to offer. It depends on which section you work in-the morale in the section I work in, while not superb, is much better than what I have heard morale is like in other sections. Overall,I would say that while not perfect, morale here is medium, but leaps and bounds better than where I was before.

View All Answers


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?

As previously written, Warsaw is chock-full of things to do. Depending on what you want to do you can do it. Poles tend to be a bit reserved and it is difficult to break into their circles, but once you are in them, they can be the best of friends.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, Yes, and Yes. Warsaw is a happening place and there are many a nightclub to get your drink/dance on. The single guys at the embassy have no problem dating here. I'm not sure how it is for single women though.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Anti-gay sentiment is still alive and well here, however I have heard that there is an active scene in Warsaw as well as elsewhere in Poland.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Anti-Semitism does exist here but largely among certain segments of society (the ubiquitious skinhead/far right clique and Radio Mariya listeners). However, by and large most Poles condemn such views and many here believe that the government has taken great strides to make up for the past and has a very strong relationship with the Jewish community. The government is quick to condemn any and all manifestations of anti-Semitic violence and places big importance on preserving Holocaust/Jewish sites. However, it does get a bit tiring to see artistic renditions of old Jews counting money at the local art markets.

There are large groups of African and Indian students, as well as a pretty large Vietnamese contingent here and they seem to get by pretty well. Those with former Soviet spouses should keep in mind that old memories are alive and well here and should expect some coldness/rudeness from Poles. One such spouse who came her not speaking Polish had problems before she learned Polish.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

What isn't there to do?! By far everyone loves the sightseeing both inside and outside of Warsaw. There are many museums and historical sites around town that are a must see (including the Uprising Museum). History buffs will fall in love here (I definitely have!) Shopping opportunities abound, as well as going to concerts, clubs, theaters, and movies (recent run English language movies are shown here daily, except kids movies which are dubbed in Polish). It is very easy to travel outside of Poland as well given the excellent train and plane routes from here.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Boleslawic pottery (it is cheaper to buy it in Boleslawic than Warsaw), crystal, glassware, amber lamps, Soviet and German militaria (but this is fact drying up and there are more knockoffs than origianls these days).

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

Yes, but this is becoming more and more difficult. Our COLA went up to 50 percent but we lost our differential (Krakow is still at 10 percent by the way) but even still...fortunately for us we can get our VAT back which over time takes away some of the sting. However, this will continue to get worse so long as the dollar continues to plummet.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Provided I don't have to go through FSI language training again, I would say yes. While I haven't been here long, this has been the smoothest past couple of months I have had at a post.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Groceries...you'll find them here. Car parts and tires.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Winter clothing, car parts, sense of humor, sense of adventure, camera, spouse and kids (they may not appreciate it).

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Any of the Andrzej Wajda/WWII films, but most importantly is Katyn which is a very powerful portrayal of Katyn and the aftermath. Another must see is the three part series-How I Started WWII which is downright hysterical!

View All Answers


6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

Poland has changed dramatically since the first time I was here. Forget the stories about Warsaw/Poland from the days of old. The people here are genreally pro-American/Western and you will have a blast here.

View All Answers


Warsaw, Poland 02/09/08

Background:

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.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

View All Answers


3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am affiliated with the military.

View All Answers


4. 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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN. The Now and The Warsaw Voice are monthly but in English.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, like the U.S.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage.

View All Answers


Pets:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big but manageable.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Generally good. Best in summer.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

View All Answers


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!!

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

Only if you get it taken out of your paycheck, rarely go to dinner, and don't travel much.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Smiles at strangers and love for red meat.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Scarf, gloves, boots and big coat.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More