For Foreigners

7 ways to prepare yourself for moving to Poland

Making plans to move to Poland? Are you in the “oh fuck, now what?” stage? Or perhaps you’ve already hopped down the rabbit hole and you’re struggling a bit with how to get around or where to find certain things. Knowing a few basic bits of info like what I’ve listed here can make transitioning to Poland much more comfortable. You’ll feel like an honorary Pole in no time.

Finding a flat. Finding a flat is really easy nowadays with sites like otodom.pl or dom.gratka.pl. All you need to do is know a little bit of Polish and you can filter your options in terms of size, cost of rent, number of rooms, etc. You can always use a real estate agent if you prefer but then you have to worry about finding one, perhaps who speaks English, and they’ll probably just show you the same places on these websites. It’s easier just to find something you like from the comfort of home instead of looking at a bunch of scary places with horrendous bathrooms and wasting your time.

Buying a car. This can is complicated in Poland. I mean I think it’s easy to find a car to buy but it’s tricky because it’s common for people to roll back mileage or to sell a car which has problems and you could end up with a car that costs a lot more to repair than it’s worth. That’s why it’s complicated. Frankly, if I didn’t have a business I’d never buy a new car, but it is the safer bet here. However, cars are really expensive in Poland. I think they’re even more expensive in Poland than in America because of the 23% VAT. So that’s also something to consider. If you can find a car from a trusted source, that will be your best option but if you prefer browsing online otomoto.pl is a good option.

Figuring out public transport. I basically avoided public transport for years because it’s scary and complicated and the only way to figure out how to get somewhere was to ask people which bus to take. Fuck that. In Śląsk we have KZK GOP and it’s website with the bus schedule is not the most readable. Nowadays though, just use Google Maps. It’s absolutely incredible for when you’re traveling by public transport. It tells you which buses to take but also tells you how to walk to the bus stops you need with the amount of time and a map. It’s pure genius and you’ll never need to ask someone which bus to take ever again.

Buying stuff online. This was also tricky for me when I moved to Poland because there’s no Amazon here. Amazon is pretty much the go-to for online shopping in a lot of countries. Basically the most popular sites for buying things online are Allegro (so the Polish eBay), OLX.pl (so basically the Polish Craigslist but not as a creepy), and ceneo.pl is also popular for comparing prices from various websites, which can be really useful.

Transferring money from your home country. At least in the very beginning (until your $ runs out!) you’re gonna need to quickly and easily transfer money from home to your new home. Nowadays there are lots of sites that allow you to transfer from one currency to another without using the bank, which usually charges high fees. I would highly recommend using a website to compare the rates for transferring money to and from Poland. The one linked gives you a few different websites where you can get quotes, like e.g. Transferwise, which is my favorite for transferring money abroad since it’s so fast and easy. It’s literally like 3 clicks.

Understanding the Polish immigration process. For basically everything you need, plus a bunch of crap you don’t, check migrant.info.pl. It’ll give you the information in English, which you won’t find on the website for any Urząd Wojewódzki (don’t fucking ask me why), which is the institution which provides you with the permission to live here.

Buying health insurance. This is always a difficult question to answer. People ask me whether they should buy travel insurance in their home countries and just use that. In my opinion, it’s a good idea for the very beginning – maybe the first couple of months – but after that it would probably be cheaper just to buy private health care here in Poland. You have a few options. There are two popular private companies, Medicover and LuxMed, both with websites in English so it’s really easy to figure out. You can also buy insurance from PZU, Aviva or any other insurance company, I’m guessing. Of course you can always pay ZUS (Polish social security) and get everyone’s favorite public health insurance and wait in line with the rest of us.

To the Poles – would you recommend anything else, perhaps similar to what I’ve suggested here or maybe even totally different things that I didn’t even touch on? If so, please let us know in the comments so we can all benefit. Thanks!

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14 Comments

  • Reply Paulina 4 April 2017 at 14:50

    Hi! About public transport, a very good idea is www. Jak.dojade.pl, also available application on mobile phones (windows, android) is a great idea to check how to get from a particular stop or street to any place in the city. At the beginning of the application, we can choose the city which we’re interested in. The app searches for multiple connections, with and without interruption to all types of public transport. 🙂

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 April 2017 at 13:15

      Paulina – I checked it out and I have to say it’s pretty awesome, so thanks!

  • Reply Hermilion 4 April 2017 at 17:40

    Just wonder – would you please create an entry on differences of US and PL schools?

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 4 April 2017 at 20:27

      I could try! That’s not a bad idea 🙂

  • Reply Maja 4 April 2017 at 18:24

    I would say, if you are coming from the States, get ready to relearn how to drive – different rules, local driving licence requirements, narrow streets and of course driving stick!
    Also convert your life into metric system, everything from distance to speed to your own height and shoe size…

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 4 April 2017 at 20:27

      haha Maja very good point. I had a lot of issues with all those things. Still don’t really know the metric system!

      • Reply Maja 4 April 2017 at 23:34

        Works both ways! You know how hard were my first months as a grapic designer with the weird American paper size standards…

  • Reply Piotr 4 April 2017 at 19:32

    If I were a foreigner coming to Poland, I would buy a good dictionary with International Phonetic Alphabet and small talks in Polish. According to many polls, 54 percent of Poles don`t know any foreign language. It depends on city though-most of young people living there are able to speak some western languages, mainly English or German. However, if you are going to do shopping in a local store, you may not communicate with a saleswoman. The same thing with having your car repaired by mechanic. Why? Because these people who work at those places are generally middle-aged and had been learning Russian in the past probably. And natives usually appreciate the effort of speaking their mother-tongue speech. Even if you talk a bit messy and lamely. And if I were in your shoes, I would spend a lot of money for a top teacher who is specialized in teaching Polish for the foreigners. It will pay off-sooner or later. You always can count on our help but being depended on someone must be frustrating sometimes. So, learning a new language, being capable of talking to your surrounding, sorting out your troubles without any help, watching films (even with suitable subtitles) in an original sound and reading magazines written in Polish is really worth your time and work. Understanding something in a foreign language is a great satisfaction-I know this feeling really well!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 April 2017 at 13:16

      Hey Piotr – yeah that’s spot-on advice. This is probably the most important thing anyone moving to another country can do. I avoided it for too long and I deeply regret it!

  • Reply Karolina 4 April 2017 at 20:49

    Hi Leah, I’d like to let you know that always when I watch “Kocham Cię Polsko” I think about you. I’m imagining you watching it as a way to get to know polish culture, history and etc. And I was curious if you actually watch it in real life or at least have watched one episode. Anyway, it reminds me about you 🙂

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 April 2017 at 13:17

      Hey Karolina! Actually, no, I’ve never seen this show. Is it on television or can I watch it online?

  • Reply aleks 4 April 2017 at 21:03

    Yeah. I’d rather prefer jakdojade.pl, when I’m in city this app includes. For sure you have to be prepared that people mostly don’t speak English here, ain’t matter on what level. Most of them are just scared of speaking, but some don’t know even basic phrases. I’d recommend to learn some basics. Just to not be left alone.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 April 2017 at 13:18

      Hey Aleks – Yeah frankly I’d say if you really plan on living here longer than a few months then you need more than the basics, unless you live in a little bubble that includes only people from your country, which actually I think some people do. It’s really easy to feel left out if you have no clue what’s going on in a conversation…

  • Reply Witek 11 April 2017 at 03:12

    For those of you coming from the US, I recommend going to Costco and buying a mattress, a good pillow, a case of napa wine, some beef jerkey, and putting it in the best car you can afford and shipping it over. If you’re shipping over a container, then it might be worth getting a nice leather couch if you find a good deal (like at restoration hardware outlet). And if you don’t mind using a converter then a kitchen aid mixer and omega juicer are also good things to consider. Just my 2 cents.

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