For Foreigners

Is Poland a good place to be an expat?

So I’ve been an expat for a while now, about 1/3 of my life. There are things you can accept or get used to and there are just some things you can’t. If you’re thinking about moving to Poland, there are some issues I’ll discuss below that you may want to consider. So, is Poland a good place to be an expat?

Well, that depends. You have to consider that Poland is a very vanilla place. What do I mean by that? Poland, in modern times, is not particularly multicultural, with perhaps the exception of big cities. There’s not a lot of acceptance in the way of individuality. Chalk it up to communism or nationalism, whatever you want, but it’s true. And it only it’s getting worse in terms of politics. Let me break down the aspects that I believe warrant the most significant consideration.

Here are the issues to consider:

Privilege

I’m what you could consider a privileged expat. I’m white. I’m American. I’m straight. I’m married with kids. These are all acceptable things here in Poland and even celebrated. Therefore, I can be myself without fear. I don’t experience racism. I don’t have to be worried about my safety or that of my family’s. I don’t worry about things that, quite honestly, I warn about people when they message me asking questions about Poland. I love living in this country, and I’ve had a great experience overall, but would I choose to live here if I wasn’t privileged? I really don’t know. So, potential expat, that’s why you have to consider this issue on the basis of your unique situation.

Race

I live in a fairly large city, Gliwice, of about 200,000 people, and you don’t often see people of different races. When you do, you notice. Everyone seems to notice. Do you want that kind of attention? I wouldn’t. I think it could make many elements of life much harder – getting work, finding a community. That’s not to say it’s impossible or that just because you’re of a different race people will discriminate against you. I’m just saying that the chances are higher, and you need to be aware of that fact.

LGBTQ

This is a serious issue in Poland that has recently been under scrutiny by the European community. Apparently 1/3 of Poland has been declared an “LGBT-free zone” – around 100 municipalities around the country. This is scary stuff. My heart goes out to Polish LGBTQ community members, and I worry for their safety. In my experience, homophobia is fairly widespread, regardless of where you live in Poland. Add in the fact that the current president ran on an anti-LGBT platform and won, it’s quite clear where the majority stands.

Women’s rights

This, like LGBTQ, just continues to get worse and worse. During the COVID crisis, the current government saw an opportunity to throw in some anti-abortion legislation, making it possible to punish anyone assisting or receiving an abortion with time in prison. Again, scary shit. This makes it nearly impossible to get a safe and legal abortion to Poland, threatening the lives of women across the country.

Resources for expats

Facebook Expat groups

Aside from the above issues, nowadays, it’s getting easier to be an expat and to find others like you. Facebook Expat pages like Expats in Warsaw, Wrocław Expats and Krakow Expats are extremely prolific and offer expats a source of advice from those in similar circumstances. It offers a sense of community which I didn’t feel I had when I first moved here.

Expat blogs

Chido-Fajny. A blog written by David, a Mexican in Poland, with an emphasis on funny cultural aspects.

Expats Poland. My friend and ex-employee Phil from Australia writes about Polish history, culture and expat life from Warsaw.

Patrick Ney. – British YouTuber, and probably the most famous expat in Poland, who’s big into Polish history/culture.

Poland Unraveled. This site has tons of great info including cultural, legal, lifestyle and travel. Highly recommended.

Culture.pl. I love this site for all it’s inspiring information on Poland – food, history, film, music, art, what have you.

Should you choose a large city?

A large city is advantageous for expats for a number of reasons, so it’s no wonder that foreigners flock to cities like Warsaw, Wrocław and Kraków. What are the advantages of living in a big city in Poland?

  • They’re more cosmopolitan 🌎 , so you’ll feel more comfortable. You won’t “stick out” as much, so to speak.
  • People are more liberal 🌈, and thus you can assume there’s less homophobia/racism/etc.
  • There are more job opportunities 👩‍💻 as there are headquarters of large, multinational organizations, who may be in urgent need of native speakers of various languages. Check out my post on How to find a job in Poland as a foreigner for more info.
  • You have a better chance of finding expat friends 🙋🏻 That’s just probability as there’s a bigger pool of expats to choose from.

Overall, in my experience, Poland has been a fantastic place to live. I have opportunities to work in such a way that wouldn’t be possible where I’m from, travel around a gorgeous continent cheaply and easily, where basic rights such as access to healthcare 🚑 and maternity/paternity leave are actually a thing. I go into these issues in more detail in other posts, so I wouldn’t talk too much about it here, but those are just a few of the reasons I love living in Poland.

Got questions? Ask in the comments below! Buziaki 😘 

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10 Comments

  • Reply Andrzej 24 July 2020 at 15:32

    Hello Leah
    I have been reading your blog since couple of weeks and appreciate your comments and observations about our community. I think you have a good eye and nice catches when it comes to our tradition and behaviour.
    However, in this post I just paid special attention onto Women Rights issue that you consider to continues to get worse and worse. Actually you have mentioned only access to legal abortion. May I ask why do you consider this right to be so important ? Do you see any other fields where Women Rights get worse in last decades in our country ?
    Regards,
    Andrzej

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 27 July 2020 at 15:46

      Access to abortion/contraception is one of the most important women’s rights issues. It is vital for their safety, as women many will get abortions anyway, but underground where they may be unsafe. The current government would also like to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, meant to combat violence against women, which further proves movement in the wrong direction for women’s rights.

  • Reply Robert 25 July 2020 at 17:30

    Hey
    I known some strange for me
    A Poland’s visa is a document that allows its holder to enter Poland and reside for some time in the country.
    Thanks

  • Reply Aneta 26 July 2020 at 14:36

    Twoje artykuły zawsze były świetne i czytało się je z zainteresowaniem… aż do teraz.
    Czytając to wszystko miałam raczej wrażenie, że poruszasz ten temat dla kliknięć, a nie dlatego że faktycznie czujesz że trzeba to zmienić.
    Poza tym, powinnaś raczej skupić się na obecnej sytuacji kraju, z którego pochodzisz, bo Twoje przemyślenia są raczej adekwatne do poziomu przeciętnego Amerykanina-kanapowca, który kwestie równości lubi rozważać z bezpiecznego dystansu swojego zacisznego pokoju. Zabierasz głos, ale zamiast przekuć to w coś wartościowego, tylko mącisz wodę.
    Mam wrażenie, że wypowiadając się krytycznie o kraju w którym obecnie żyjesz, nie “rozliczyłaś” się tak naprawdę ze swoim krajem rodzinnym, ale…kogo z nas ma to obchodzić? To twój własny problem, i dorośnij wreszcie żeby się z tym skonfrontować, zamiast powielać szkodliwe stereotypy.
    Polityka USA uwielbia narzucać swoje wartości innym krajom, ale to co czujecie że jest ważne i dobre dla Waszego kraju, niekoniecznie musi się dobrze sprawdzić w tej samej formie po drugiej stronie globu (patrz wojny w Wietnamie, Iraku, Syrii).
    Mam gorącą nadzieję, że takie rzeczy jak prawa kobiet i kwestie płci za kilka -kilkanaście lat będą dawały nad Wisłą każdemu upragnioną wolność wyboru, ale musisz mieć świadomość że historia i sytuacja geopolityczna Polski jest dużo trudniejsza i dłuższa niż historia USA. Więc jeśli naprawdę zależy Ci na dokonaniu zmiany, nie szerz populizmu.

  • Reply anonymous 26 July 2020 at 18:01

    As a Polish LGBTQ+ member who lives in one of these LGBT free zones (Subcarpathia province) I can say one thing: if you don’t fall within the ambit of norms that were mentioned in this note, never choose Poland, especially the countryside. I’ve just read a story of a young gay man living in my region. When the local community found out about his sexuality, his life became a nightmare. He can’t even do shopping or go out calmly!
    But if you want to know more liberal face of Poland, choose big cities like Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław, Gdańsk etc. But Poznań is probably the most liberal city in this country.
    All things considered, think your decision about moving to Poland again.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 27 July 2020 at 15:40

      That’s so terrible for him! Ugh, I hate to hear things like that, but I really appreciate you sharing your experience with us because that’s exactly what I wanted people to be aware of. I hope it’ll be better one day <3

  • Reply JasonP 27 July 2020 at 14:34

    To be fair, Poland is 38 million people and maybe 10% of the world’s population is “White.”

    If Poland continues to let in 6 billion people from India, Asia, Africa, etc. Poland wouldn’t exist.

    Not sure it’s a privilege thing. I imagine people “of color” in Poland are treated MUCH BETTER than a white woman would be in say, India, Pakistan, etc.

    Plenty of places for people to go, I hope Poland stays mono-cultural, it’s better than what’s happened to France, Sweden, etc.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 27 July 2020 at 15:42

      Sure, there are plenty of places to go – but those other places have nothing to do with this article. It’s information for people about what these issues look like in Poland, in case they are planning on moving here and would like to know.

  • Reply JoannaM 27 July 2020 at 18:35

    Well, in my opinion abortion is more life-threathening than non-abortion. Just saying.

  • Reply Piotr 29 July 2020 at 03:30

    I think the answer for your question is pretty complicated. Being dark-skinned, Muslim, homosexual or transgender may make your life in Poland less comfortable for sure. Our Far-Right gonverment is definitely manipulating us and trying to convince people that being different is something dangerous. It`s bunch of rubbish to be honest. If someone doing bad things it itsn`t related to her or him colour of skin, race nor religion. In my honest opinion if some foreigner make some crime, a common responsibility doesn`t seem to be a good way to sort out troubles, is it? Same with LGBT community-nobody should be discriminated only for loving the other person regardles their sex. If somebody doesn`t break any rules, we would better not care about their private life. And every woman should be able to terminate her pregnancy if she doesn`t want to give a birth, right? An abortion is a better solution than bringing unwanted, unloved child to the world. However, this act (if valid) wouldn`t be so effective without reliable and objective sex edcation what is really problematic in Poland. It`s hard to believe but a lot teeangers claim that getting pregnant during “first time” isn`t possible at all or stopping having sex in the right monent is a proper protection. The youth must to find out how to make love safely. And they could know that is worth to be assertive-you don`t have to agree for everything if you wouldn`t like to. And sorry to hear that some non-natives or Poles have lots problems beacuse of being untypical. I have been brought in a tolerat home and my parents have taught me that we are equal and differences don`t make us better or worse. We are simply humans-that`s all!

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