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What to Expect Living in Poland: Key Tips to Follow

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Poland is a great choice to explore if you’re considering living in Western Europe. Home to a rich cultural history between multiple empires, Poles take pride in their traditions and cuisine, which draws its influence from the surrounding Eastern European countries.

It’s the perfect place to discover an enchanted castle, sprawling meadows, and lakeside walks sprinkled with charming villages.

When it comes to food, prepare your taste buds for hearty meals like pierogi and goulash that have been passed down through generations alongside vegetarian dishes that showcase mounds of fresh vegetables.

Whether you’ve decided to live there or are just visiting, Poland is a beautiful country full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

What to Expect When Living in Poland

Old city center view in Krakow
rh2010 / Adobe Stock

Poland is a unique Western European country, full of centuries of Polish tradition, culture, and cuisine. Like any other country, there are many things to look out for when you move as an expat.

Prepare yourself for the fantastic experiences in Poland by researching traditional Polish customs — it’s an easy way to make meaningful connections with locals. Plus, don’t forget to sample some delicious Polish cuisine, like pierogi dumplings and savory golabki cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat. Yum!

To top it all off, when creating connections in Poland, be sure to give yourself time to find people who will help make your stay even better by helping you explore the area and the lovely culture. With these tips in your back pocket, settling in Poland should be a total breeze – enjoy every second of it.

See Related: Essential Travel Safety Tips for Trips

The Polish Language

Beginner Polish language learner writing Hello formal word Dzien dobry on a notebook
Keitma / Adobe Stock

Polish is the primary native language of Poland, with an estimated 40 million speakers across the globe. English is also commonly spoken in Poland, primarily by the younger generations, but visitors may encounter a language barrier when visiting more rural locations.

You’ll certainly want to learn ‘dzień dobry’ (good day) and ‘dziękuję’ (thank you). These are useful phrases to know, and Poles will be impressed that you took the time to learn a bit about their language.

If you’re in the country for an extended period, studying Polish to communicate properly is a good idea. Online language courses like Babbel can get you up to speed on the basics.

Poland has a few recognized minority languages as well, spoken in parts of the country with minority populations. These include Ukrainian, German, Belarusian, and Lithuanian.

Though Polish is the primary language, it’s important to be aware of these other languages and their presence so you don’t encounter language-barrier obstacles while moving around the country.

See Related: Useful Tips for Learning a New Language

Healthcare in Poland

Doctor reassuring older woman in modern clinic
goodluz / Adobe Stock

When considering a move to Poland, private healthcare should not be underestimated. Private healthcare in Poland is often much more comprehensive than public healthcare outside major cities.

Although public healthcare is funded by the Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia (NFZ), Poland’s National Health Fund, it’s not on par with other Western European countries.

Private healthcare services have taken off, and private healthcare providers are super focused on offering the best treatments with the newest medical technology.

With clinics popping up all around Poland, patients can now access advanced therapies for cancer and other chronic illnesses—plus those unique treatments that might’ve not been available otherwise in the public system.

For those looking for a high level of medical care, it is undoubtedly worth considering private healthcare in Poland. If you’re looking for insurance, Cigna GlobalSafetyWingVisitorsCoverage, and TravelInsurance.com offer comprehensive, flexible, and competitively-priced packages.

See Related: What’s the Average Cost of Travel Insurance? Everything You Need to Know

Public Transportation and Safety in Poland

Transportation in Poland is outstanding! It’s easy to get around with so many trains, trams, and buses. Train travel is not only economical and convenient, but there are three different types: InterCityTwoje Linie Kolejowe (TLK), and Polregio. If you’re planning a trip between cities, then the InterCity trains cannot be beaten – they have excellent service plus helpful staff who speak English.

But expats new to Poland should be wary of pre-organized gangs of pickpockets and thieves who lurk at heavily trafficked tourist areas, train stations, buses, and even trams.

As if this wasn’t enough to worry about, these criminals’ likelihood of being targeted drastically increases when getting on and off trains or buses. Whatever route you take, ensuring your money is tucked safely in a pouch close to your body for added defense would be wise.

See Related: Best Travel Products to Combat Flight Anxiety

Top Cities in Poland

Aerial photo of Warsaw city skyline
f11photo / Adobe Stock

The top Polish cities offer a range of activities to explore, from major metropolises like Warsaw and Krakow to beautiful seaside cities like Gdansk and Wroclaw.

  • Warsaw is the capital of Poland, and as such, it has a tremendous amount of history to explore, plus chic modern architecture. Despite being destroyed during World War II, it has been strong-heartedly rebuilt and now bustles with life. It’s like stepping into a different world — there are so many museums, galleries, and theaters to experience. And its nightlife is unbeatable – bars, clubs, and restaurants are everywhere.
  • Krakow is brimming with Polish culture and history. Its beautiful Old Town has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status, so you can marvel at magnificent architecture anytime. Plus, there’s the flourishing artistic scene: galleries and museums bursting with incredible Polish work. And if that wasn’t enough – the street cafes and eateries offer a delicious array of authentic Polish cuisine, making it one of the best places for expats to live in Poland.
  • Wrocław is the best place to live in Poland. With its eye-catching canals and bridges, it’s a city that just won’t let you put your camera down. Get ready for profound history lessons in its captivating museums and galleries. Are you interested in something more modern? Check out Wrocław’s dynamic arts scene – theaters, concerts, paintings – they’ve got everything. And not forgetting their gorgeous market square, filled up with unique shops and eateries galore – beautiful Gothic architecture at its best.

See Related: Most Beautiful Cities in the World

Getting to Know Poland

Experience modern-day Poland

Modern city in Poland at night
Kamil Gliwiński / Unsplash

People often think of Poland as an old, worn-down country still stuck under a communist regime. When it comes to food, people think of potatoes and meat. But pierogis are delicious, and there are plenty of places you can try them all over Poland.

But, you will quickly learn that Poland is a very modern country with many international flavors. In fact, on my first night in Poland, I ate dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant. 

Warsaw, in particular, is filled with many vegetarian restaurants, including vegetarian milk bars, a traditional Polish form of a cafeteria, serving traditional Polish food, but vegetarian style. My top recommendations for milk bars in Warsaw are Prasowy, Bar Bambino, Rusalka, and Mokotowski Bar Mleczny.

The Old Towns are fun but aren’t the place for a night out.

Poland street at night
Janusz Maniak / Unsplash

The Old Towns in Poland are a unique charm of the country that we certainly don’t have in the United States. They bring back memories of the European past and are filled with street music, outdoor restaurant seating, and colorful buildings.

As fun as spending afternoons walking around and observing the culture of the Old Town Market Square, don’t let the atmosphere trick you into thinking it must be an excellent place for a night out.

Locals don’t spend too much time in the Old Town in Warsaw except for Sunday afternoon strolls for ice cream. For that reason, the Old Town becomes much quieter at night when the day’s tourists are gone.

When you live in Poland for a long time, you will want to spend time in more modern parts of the cities to find real nightlife.

Make time to visit the parks and green spaces

Beautiful lake with flowers of Royal Lazienki Park
Roxana Bashyrova / Shutterstock

Living in the heart of a bustling city such as Warsaw, it is easy to get carried away by the sights of tall towers, bright lights, and large shopping malls. Remember to take some time to relax in the vast amount of green spaces in Poland.

In Warsaw, you can visit Royal Lazienki Park, the city’s largest and most beautiful park. The park also maintains multiple historic palaces.

Who doesn’t love seeing a castle in the middle of a serene landscape? Lazienki Park is a great place to unwind from the city’s noise and go for a walk. In the summertime, the park offers free Chopin music concerts.

See Related: Best Skyscanner Alternatives to Book Travel

Helpful Tips for Living in Poland

Buy Different Types of Ingredients

Different vegetable ingredients
Syd Wachs / Unsplash

I learned that cereal comes in bags instead of boxes in Poland. Tofu does not come in a container but is in a bag sort of wrapping. eggs are stored on shelves, not in a refrigerator.

I was confused when I first saw eggs stored on a shelf. Should I buy them? Was that safe? I learned that Americans only washed eggs to strip the outer protective layer.

This action prevents contamination outside the shell. Without that outer layer, eggs have to be refrigerated to prevent bacterial infection from inside.

In Poland and other parts of Europe, washing eggs is illegal; instead, chickens are vaccinated against salmonella. Because the eggs keep their outer layer, refrigerating them would cause mildew growth.

The Takeaway: trust that a grocery store is not trying to hurt you. If something is packaged differently than in the United States, there is likely a reason for it. If you live in Poland, buying eggs that are not stored in a refrigerator is safe.

Let Google Translate Become Your Best Friend

Google app for translate
Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Living in Poland is easy to get by as an American who doesn’t speak Polish. But, there is one significant place where your lack of Polish language knowledge will become apparent: while grocery shopping.

Most Poles speak some English, but all food items in grocery stores are written in Polish. Sure, it is easy for people to pick out products without reading labels. But, it can be hard to know what a package is for more complex items when you don’t understand Polish.

If you need to know the ingredients in food items, bring your phone to the grocery store and use Google Translate. When you stop to type Polish words into your phone, shopping will take longer than usual—so plan accordingly.

If dietary restrictions aren’t an issue and you feel adventurous, forgo the phone and trust your gut – you may end up tasting a new ingredient you love!

See Related: How to Book a Flight Without a Credit Card

Try the Fruit at Local Fruit Stands and the Rolls at Tiny Bakeries

Fruit stand filled with colorful fruits
Jakub Kapusnak / Unsplash

Right down the street from my apartment in Warsaw, there was a tiny little bakery I passed each morning. People did not sit at the bakery because there was only one small table with two chairs.

Many neighborhoods in Poland have fruit stalls and small sidelined bakeries that pop up multiple days a week. Don’t pass them by.

Not only are fruit stalls and bakeries fun to stop in on your way to and from work, but their products will be some of the best fruit and pastries you will ever taste.

Plus, most good-sized pastries at bakeries cost less than an American dollar. Everything is affordable for an American living in Poland.

See Related: Warsaw vs. Krakow

Make Sure Wherever You Live Has a Drying Rack

Clips on a drying rack string
Mohamad Zaheri mozaheri / Unsplash

As I searched for an Airbnb to rent, I noticed that no place seemed to have a drying machine. Under the appliances section on the Airbnb website, I checked the boxes that said “Washer” and “Dryer.” Soon, it became apparent that dryers were not a thing in Warsaw.

While you will find a place to live with a washing machine, you probably won’t be as lucky with dryers. When I moved into the apartment in Poland, I knew the place would have a drying rack to hang clothes on when they came out of the wash. I was surprised, however, to find the drying rack in the bathroom, high above my head.

The drying rack was made of multiple bars close to the ceiling with a string pulley to bring the bars down to a level I could reach. After putting wet clothes on the bars, I pulled the string to bring the racks back up to the ceiling.

There, they didn’t dangle in my face, and the rack didn’t get in my way. This type of drying rack uses space wisely and efficiently. Not all drying racks in Poland will be this efficient, but many places will be equipped with this drying rack style.

If not, there are plenty of portable drying racks—the crucial thing is to ensure wherever you stay either already has one or you know where to buy one during the first week you live in Poland.

Hold on Tight to Public Transportation Tickets

Woman having her ticket checked by the conductor
lightpoet / Adobe Stock

The tram stations in Warsaw do not have gates for entering or leaving. People can come and go as they please without swiping a ticket because they purchase tram tickets on an honors system.

Before stepping on a tram, you purchase a ticket through an automatic kiosk on the platform. No one operates the system–you walk up to the kiosk, enter your credit card or coins, and indicate what type of ticket you want. When you get on the tram, you insert your ticket in an automatic machine that stamps a date on your ticket.

But I don’t think this means you can get by without purchasing a ticket. Always know where your ticket is and when your ticket expires. Police randomly come on and check that you have a ticket for the public transportation system.

At unpredictable times, at any station, police will enter the tram, walk up and down the aisles with a handheld scanning machine, and motion for your ticket.

If you don’t have a ticket, the police will make you get off at the next stop and pay a hefty fine. My heart always jumped a beat whenever I saw police with a handheld scanner enter a tram—I panicked that I wouldn’t remember where my ticket was.

The bottom line is to keep your ticket somewhere secure yet handy if needed after purchasing it.

Becoming an Expat in Poland

Sunset view in Warsaw royal castle and old town
Mike Mareen / Adobe Stock

Living in Poland as an American is an enjoyable experience. Be careful and mindful wherever you go, especially when using public transportation, as highlighted above. But no need to worry since Poland is currently one of the safer countries in Europe.

Becoming an expat in Poland is a fun and easy process – take the first step and obtain a visa! Depending on where you are from, you may need a different type of visa. US, UK, and Canadian citizens have many options with temporary residence permits, work permits, or student visas.

Once you have obtained your visa, it’s time to consider places to live! Compared to several other European countries, the cost of living in Poland is quite reasonable. Plus – no matter where you settle or what type of accommodation you opt for – housing costs will be favorable.

If you’re moving to Poland for work, your employer may be able to provide a helping hand in finding accommodation or even offer it as part of your employment package.

But if they don’t, plenty of excellent online resources are available to secure an apartment, hotel, or house that fits all your needs. For temporary lodgings, until you get on your feet, we recommend Booking.com and VRBO.

Main Market Square architecture and tourists
Severinus Dewantara / Unsplash

If you’re keen on discovering firsthand what it means to live in another country, Poland will surely provide you with a great experience. Don’t worry so much if you can’t do things as you did in the United States or elsewhere. 

Part of living abroad is living in a different country—not being a tourist. The best way to live in Poland is to try to live, learn, and explore like a local.

If that means trying new ingredients or adapting to a new form of transportation, then go for it! Soon, you will discover that by following a few crucial tips, you might blend in with the local Polish crowds faster than you thought possible.

FAQs

Is Poland a good place to live?

Poland is one of Western Europe’s most established and fascinating economies and a go-to place for expats dreaming of making their home in Europe. It features excellent pay, lower rent prices than other countries close by, plus more affordable taxes – making it even more attractive! Moreover, with its first-class GDP per capita and being part of a brilliant European Union membership, you can anticipate economic stability and plenty of chances to advance your future.

What is the cost of living in Poland?

Poland is a great place to relocate to and live life worry-free. Depending on where you want to settle down, the cost of living is very affordable compared to other European countries. Rent for a one-bedroom city center apartment?

With a $250 average monthly rent – it’s not bad at all. Plus, there’s no need to stress about food or daily supplies – they are also quite wallet-friendly. And if that wasn’t enough, utilities like electricity, internet, and water could range from an estimated $50-$100–depending on usage.

Poland has no sales tax, making it an excellent place to buy clothes and other things. And since the cost of living is so low in Poland, you get to save a lot of money while still exploring this amazing country.

What type of food can I find in Poland?

Poland is known for its hearty, traditional dishes. Popular dishes include pierogi, bigos (hunter’s stew), gołąbki (cabbage rolls), and kotlet schabowy (pork schnitzel). Other favorites include black ziemniaczane (potato pancakes) and flaki (tripe soup).

You can also find a range of international foods in larger cities like Warsaw. When dining out, you’ll find that most restaurants offer traditional Polish dishes and international fare.

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