If you’re considering living in western Europe, Poland is a great choice to explore. 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 which showcase mounds of fresh vegetables. Whether you’ve decided to live there or are just visiting, Poland is a captivating country full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered!
Scanning the candy and baking aisles thoroughly, I looked closely for a bag of chocolate chips. I was grocery shopping during my time living in Poland for the summer.
After a while, I decided to ask a cashier where in the grocery store I could find chocolate chips. You might imagine my surprise when the cashier indicated that they didn’t sell chocolate chips.
Instead, he motioned me to the row of chocolate bars—saying I should chop one of those up. The idea of a city not selling chocolate chips had never even crossed my mind before I moved to Poland. Yet, soon I discovered that people cannot always purchase random food items in Poland that are commonplace in the United States. Turns out Poles prefer pure chocolate bars divided up into small pieces.
Key Tips to Follow When Living in Poland
Poland is an amazing western European country, full of centuries of Polish tradition, culture, and cuisine. Just like in any other country in the world, there are many things to look out for when you make your move as an ex-pat.
The first tip is to do research ahead of time on traditional Polish customs so that you know how to best interact with the locals. Additionally, be sure to sample some delicious Polish cuisine, including pierogi dumplings and golabki – cabbage rolls filled with a mix of rice and meat.
Lastly, when it comes to making friends in Poland, remember that relationships don’t happen overnight – take your time and find people who will help you explore the country and its rich culture. Following these tips will surely make living in Poland an even more enjoyable experience!
Language in Poland
Polish is the main native language of Poland, with an estimated 40 million speakers worldwide. English is also commonly spoken in Poland, primarily by the younger generations, but visitors may encounter a language barrier when visiting more rural locations.
The word ‘dzień dobry’ (good day) and ‘dziękuję’ (thank you) are two useful phrases to know, as most Poles speak and understand some amount of English, and many speak English. Poland has recognized minority languages, including Ukrainian; German; Belarusian; and Lithuanian, among others, which are spoken in parts of the country with minority populations.
Despite its prevalence in Poland, it’s important to be aware of these other languages and their presence, so visitors don’t encounter obstacles due to a language barrier.
Top Cities in Poland
Poland is a great country with major cities and towns spread throughout. From major metropolises like Warsaw and Krakow to beautiful seaside towns like Gdansk and Wroclaw, the top Polish cities offer a variety of activities to explore.
For those looking for history, a visit to Krakow’s incredible old town is not to be missed.
Or, if you’re after something more lively, check out Warsaw on a bus tour or for its vibrant nightlife and diverse array of cultural experiences.
Whether you’re searching for epic architecture or modern-style street cafés, Poland has it all!
See Related: Most Beautiful Cities in the World
Healthcare in Poland
When considering a move to Poland, private healthcare should not be underestimated. Private healthcare in Poland is often much more comprehensive than public healthcare, and outside of major cities, private healthcare services are becoming increasingly popular. Private healthcare providers strive for excellent standards with the latest medical technology.
With private clinics located all over the country, private health care offers patients the most up-to-date treatments available for even long-term illnesses such as cancer and other chronic diseases. Moreover, private health care can provide access to highly specialist treatments, which may not available in the public healthcare system in Poland.
For those looking for a high level of medical care, it is definitely worth considering private healthcare in Poland.
If you’re looking for insurance, SafetyWing and TravelInsurance.com both offer comprehensive, flexible, and competitively-priced packages.
Tips for All Things Food Related
Buy Different Types of Ingredients
You now know that Polish grocery stores do not sell chocolate chips. I further learned that in Poland, cereal comes in bags instead of boxes. 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? It was only later that I learned that Americans wash eggs to strip the outer protective layer. This action prevents contamination outside the shell.
Without that outer layer, eggs have to be refrigerated in order to prevent bacterial infection from inside.
In Poland and other parts of Europe, it is illegal to wash eggs and instead, chickens are vaccinated against salmonella. Because the eggs keep their outer layer, refrigerating the eggs would actually cause mildew growth.
Key advice: trust that a grocery store is not trying to hurt you. If something is packaged differently than in the United States, likely there is a reason for it. If you end up living in Poland, it is safe to buy eggs that are not stored in a refrigerator.
Let Google Translate Become Your Best Friend
When living in Poland it is pretty easy to get by as an American who doesn’t speak Polish. However, there is one important place where your lack of Polish language knowledge will become apparent: while grocery shopping.
Most Poles speak some level of English but at grocery stores, all food items are only in Polish. Sure, it is easy for people to pick out products without reading labels.
For more difficult items, however, it can be hard to know what a package is when you don’t understand Polish.
If you need to know the exact ingredients in food items, make sure to 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 just trust your gut: you may end up tasting a new ingredient that you love!
Be Wary of Paying for Water
Everything in Poland, including the cost of living, is super cheap. If you are looking for a cheap way to live in a beautiful European city, Poland is the perfect place, it is truly a hidden gem of a European city.
Yet, as cheap as everything is, there is one major difference between restaurants in Poland and the United States: water is not free.
If you want a glass of water you will have to pay what seems like an absorbent amount compared to everything else in Poland. This can become exhausting if you spend long days outside and just want to down many cups of water without thinking twice about it.
There are two main ways to avoid purchasing water: one, bring your own water bottle. I never experienced a restaurant that stopped me from drinking out of a water bottle I brought with me. Two, if you forget a water bottle, ask a waiter if the restaurant has tap water.
Sometimes the waiters will tell you they don’t serve tap water. Often though, they will bring you tap water and you won’t be charged.
In Poland, tap water is safe to drink but restaurants treat it as if no one would want it. When they ask if you want water, water means bringing out nontap water in a wine-shaped bottle.
See Related: How to Book a Flight Without a Credit Card
Try the Fruit at Local Fruit Stands and the Rolls at Tiny Bakeries
Right down the street from my apartment in Warsaw there was a tiny little bakery that I passed each morning. People did not really sit at the bakery because there was only one small table with two chairs.
Many neighborhoods in Poland have fruit stalls that pop up multiple days a week and small sidelined bakeries. Don’t pass them by.
Not only are fruit stalls and bakeries fun to stop in to 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
Tips for Daily Living in Poland
Make Sure Wherever You Live Has a Drying Rack
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 “washing machine” and “drying machine” and soon, it became apparent that drying machines simply are not really a thing in Warsaw.
While you will find a place to live with a washing machine, you probably won’t be as lucky with drying machines.
I knew when I moved into the apartment in Poland that the place would come equipped with 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 where I could reach them. 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 used space wisely and efficiently. Not all drying racks in Poland will be this efficient, but many places will come equipped with this style of the drying rack.
If not, there are plenty of portable drying racks—the important thing is to make sure wherever you stay either already has one, or, that you know where to buy one during the first week you live in Poland.
Hold on Tight to Public Transportation Tickets
The tram stations in Warsaw do not have any gates for entering or leaving. People can come and go as they please without having to swipe a ticket because people purchase tram tickets on an honors system.
Prior to stepping on a tram, you purchase a ticket through an automatic kiosk on the platform. No one mans 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 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 and 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 large 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.
Prevent that feeling by having one consistent place where you keep your ticket.
Tips for Getting to Know Poland
The Old Towns Are Fun, But They Aren’t the Place For a Night Out
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 it is to spend afternoons walking around and observing the culture of the Old Towns, don’t let the atmosphere trick you into thinking it must be a great 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. Therefore, the Old Town becomes much quieter at night time when the day’s tourists are gone.
When you live long term in Poland, to find real nightlife you will want to spend time in more modern parts of the cities.
Experience Modern Day Poland
When people think of Poland they often think of an old, worn-down country still stuck under a communist regime. When it comes to food, people think of potatoes and meat. Pierogis are delicious and there are plenty of places you can try them all over Poland.
But, you will quickly learn that Poland is actually a very modern country with lots of international flavors. In fact, on my first night in Poland I ate dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant. Warsaw is filled with tons of vegetarian restaurants, including a vegetarian milk bar, a traditional Polish form of a cafeteria, serving traditional Polish food, but vegetarian style.
Make Time to Visit the Green Spaces
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. Poland has some of everything, modern cities, old towns, heritage travel, and nature.
In Warsaw, you can visit Royal Lazienki Park, the largest and most beautiful park in the city. The park also maintains a number of 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 noise of the city and go for a walk. In the summertime, the park offers free, Chopin music concerts.
See Related: Best Skyscanner Alternatives to Book Travel
You are Ready to Become an Expat in Poland
Living in Poland as an American is a really fun experience. It is important wherever you go to be careful, but Poland is currently one of the safer countries in Europe.
If you want to discover firsthand what it means to live in another country, Poland is sure to provide you with a great experience.
Don’t worry so much if you can’t do things the same way you did in the United States. Part of living abroad is to actually live in a different country—not to be a tourist. The best way to live in Poland is to try to live like a local, learn like a local, 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 key tips you might blend in with the local Polish crowds faster than you thought possible.
Is Poland a good place to live?
Poland has long been considered one of the most advanced economies in Eastern Europe and is a popular destination for expatriates looking to settle in Europe. With higher wages, more affordable housing costs, and tax rates that are lower than those in other EU countries, Poland is a great place to set up residence. Visitors can take advantage of all that Poland has to offer without the expense or inconvenience of having to move again later on.
Furthermore, with its high GDP per capita and strong membership in the European Union, it offers economic stability and well-rounded opportunities for growth. For those looking for an exciting adventure abroad that won’t break their budget or require them to keep relocating every few years, Poland is a great choice.
Is Poland a safe place to live?
Yes, Poland is generally considered to be a very safe country. The level of crime is low, and safety measures are in place in many public areas. Many cities also have a strong police presence, so you can feel secure when out and about.
Additionally, the government has taken steps to improve security and public safety in the country. However, it is important to remain vigilant and always be aware of your surroundings when traveling or living in any foreign country. Overall, Poland is a very safe and friendly place to live.
What is the cost of living in Poland?
The cost of living in Poland varies depending on where you are located and what kind of lifestyle you want to live. In general, it is fairly inexpensive compared to other European countries.
The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around 1,000 PLN (about $250 USD). Groceries and other daily necessities are also relatively affordable. Utilities such as internet, electricity, and water can range from 200–400 PLN (around $50-$100 USD), depending on usage.
Additionally, there is no sales tax in Poland, so it is a great place to shop for clothing and other items. With its low cost of living, Poland is a great place to live if you want to save money while exploring the 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 placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes) and flaki (tripe soup).
You can also find a variety of international foods in larger cities like Warsaw. When dining out, you’ll find that most restaurants offer both traditional Polish dishes and international fare. So whatever you’re craving, chances are you can find it in Poland! Enjoy your stay!
Lock In Your Travel Now
Find Cheap Flights
Use Skyscanner to find flight deals. As my personal favorite flight search engine, Skyscanner scours websites and airlines across the globe, leaving no stone unturned to help you find the best deal possible. And if you really want to take your savings to new heights, pair Skyscanner with Going (Formerly Scott's Cheap Flights). With access to exclusive mistake fares delivered straight to your inbox, you'll be packing your bags and jetting off on your next adventure before you know it.
Travel insurance is a low cost way to ensure your travel plans go smooth no matter what's thrown at it. Cover yourself against illness, injury and theft, and protect the arrangements you've made with our flexible travel cancellation insurance. My favorite options for travel insurance are:
Book Your Accommodation
In order to capture the widest selection of properties and the best price, use Booking.com as they have the cheapest rates for guesthouses, hotels, luxury condos, B&Bs and so much more.
Want More Destination Ideas Direct to Your Inbox?
Be sure to join the ViaTravelers Newsletter for expert tips, tricks and inspiration for your next travel journey!
Discover the Best Travel Tools
Be sure to visit our page on our favorite travel resources to learn how you too can visit over 10 countries in year.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that we get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. Learn more.