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What Is Expat Life Really Like in Poland?

There is a large expatriate community of Polish citizens in the UK. Many younger Polish people head over to get a better grasp on the English language, benefit from better-paying jobs and become part of the UK’s growing Polish community. However, you very rarely hear of many people moving to Poland.

Despite its beautiful architecture, amazing food, and welcoming locals, many still let visions of Auschwitz, people queuing for bread in the snow, and the Iron Curtain skew their opinion. However, opinions on the country should not be garnered from its past.

The Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, release their Global Prosperity Index annually. The survey ranks the most prosperous countries in the world. Many assume prosperity is used in reference to the financial standing of a country and, while this is included, the Legatum Institute considers more factors in its ranking.

Ranking in 34th place in 2016’s report (out of 149 countries) was Poland. This puts Poland in the top 30% of countries involved in the index. The majority of Poland’s rankings earnt them rankings in the 30s and 40s, with their score for Safety and Security seeing the country sit in 21st place. However, the score for Social Capital – which measures the strength of personal relationships, social norms and civic participation – saw Poland in 85th position.

Frankly speaking, those who have not been to Poland often consider it a cold, unwelcoming and miserable country. Many Polish expatriates currently residing in the UK somewhat share this sentiment about their homeland. However, having performed so well in the Prosperity Index, does Poland deserve the stigma attached to the country?

Poland’s Economy

Poland has the sixth largest economy in the European Union and the largest compared to other former Eastern Bloc members. In 1990, Poland began pursuing economic liberalisation – a lessening of government regulations and restrictions on the economy in exchange for greater participation by private entities. Due to this, Poland was the only country not to fall foul of the 2007/2008 economic downturn.

Currently, Poland is classified as a high-income economy by World Bank and is ranked the 23rd strongest country in the world in terms of GDP. Also, in 2017, they were ranked in 24th position in the Ease of Doing Business Index.

Currency

Unlike the majority of members in the European Union who adopted the Euro, Poland has the Polish zloty. Each zloty is divided into 100 groszy.

Polish Locals

For those who have not visited Poland, many assume the Polish people are miserable, hard-faced and heavily into drinking vodka. Whilst vodka is a popular tipple and there are a few who aren’t thrilled about foreigners visiting their country, the majority are very hospitable and love any excuse to welcome a new person into their home for a dinner to show off their cooking skills.

Polish people, young and old, cherish traditional values when it comes to the family. Therefore, they tend to favour those who are family-orientated. Polish daughters, in particular, are very close to their mothers and grandmothers.

As a whole, the country is very traditional and even the youngest of Polish citizens hold the family, the home, hard-work, respect, and chivalry very highly.

Making Friends in Poland

In Poland, friends are usually split into two categories; znajomy or przyjaciel. Znajomy is loosely similar to an acquaintance; somebody you enjoy spending time with but wouldn’t invite to your wedding. On the other hand is przyjaciel. This person is close to you and could be considered a best friend.

Once you have struck up a friendship with a Polish person, don’t expect it to be fleeting. Friendship is treasured and often last for years as Polish friends are great at keeping in contact and making time for their loved ones. More often than not, you may find that your Polish friends are less open that other friends you have, but this will change over time as you spend more time together.

The easiest way to make friends in Poland is with co-workers (if you happen to be working out there).

Poland’s Healthcare System

Healthcare in Poland is completely free to young children, pregnant women, disabled people, and the elderly. Both citizens and legal residents can receive free or subsidised healthcare. The majority of citizens supplement their public healthcare with a private healthcare scheme if they can afford to do so. Private facilities are not cheap and many only use it during emergencies or pregnancy.

Visitors to Poland on a short-term basis will need to ensure they have private healthcare insurance to cover themselves in case they require treatment whilst abroad.

Jobs in Poland for Expats

As of July 2017, the unemployment rate in Poland was 4.8% – one of the lowest in the EU and very nearly the same as the UK. However, salaries in Poland are some of the lowest on the continent unless you have been relocated by an employer.

Many expats living in Poland tend to work as:

  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Food processing
  • Banking
  • Construction
  • English teacher

However, there has been recent growth in the following sectors:

  • IT
  • Finance
  • Human relations
  • Business services and management

Comparison to UK

The world’s largest database, Numbeo, has a vast selection of user-contributed data in regards to Poland. Compared to the UK, the cost of living is significantly lower in Poland.

The tables below provide an overview of the differences in costs between Poland and the UK. Please note that all Polish prices have been converted into British pounds.

GroceriesUK Price (£)Polish Price (in £)Cheaper Country?
Milk (1l)£0.90£0.50Poland
White bread (500g)£1.00£1.05Poland
Eggs (12)£1.88£2.11Poland
Local Cheese (1kg)£5.39£5.80Poland
Banana (1kg)£1.01£1.07Poland
Water (0.33l)£0.96£0.98UK

 

TransportUK Price (£)Polish Price (in £)Cheaper Country?
Petrol (1l)£1.14£0.97Poland
One-way ticket£2.50£0.72Poland
Monthly pass£130£18.68Poland
Taxi (1km)£3£0.54Poland

 

Utilities (Monthly)UK Price (£)Polish Price (in £)Cheaper Country?
Electricity/Heating/Water for 85m2 apartment£147.29£152.09UK
1 minute of PAYG talk time£0.13£0.05Poland
Internet (10 Mbps, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)£23.98£10.36Poland

 

ClothingUK Price (£)Polish Price (£)Cheaper Country?
Jeans (Levi or similar)£62.48£58.81Poland
Dress (chain store)£31.24£28.23Poland
Nike running shoe£66.04£58.87Poland
Leather business shoes£78.92£64.04Poland

 

Eating OutUK Price (£)Polish Price (£)Cheaper Country?
Fast food meal£5£3.63Poland
Inexpensive restaurant£15£4.57Poland
3 course, mid-range, 2 people£50£20.75Poland
Cappuccino£2.62£1.69Poland
Coke/Pepsi£1.22£0.81Poland
Imported beer£4£1.45Poland

 

PropertyUK Price (£)Polish Price (in £)Cheaper Country?
Price per ²meter to buy (city)£13,141£1790Poland
Price per ²meter to buy (outside city)£6,809£1073Poland
1 bed apartment rent (city)£1,650£383Poland
1 bed apartment rent (outside city)£1,182£274Poland
3 bed apartment rent (city)£3,104£657Poland
3 bed apartment rent (outside city)£1,971£457Poland

 

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