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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😘