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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17 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 Janusz 5 August 2020 at 00:53

      Droga komentująca,
      “Twoje artykuły zawsze były świetne i czytało się je z zainteresowaniem… aż do teraz”, czyli fajnie było, dopóki słodziła, ale się skończyło… Czy naprawdę myślisz, że z tych kliku tysięcy wyświetleń zarabia niebotyczne pieniądze, aby celowo poruszać takie tematy? Autorka porusza tematy praw kobiet i mniejszości a twoim argumentem przeciw są wojny w Iraku, Wietnamie itp.? Argument przedszkolaka, czy chciałabyś jako Polka być rozliczana na arenie międzynarodowej przez pryzmat działań rządów Polski? Co próbujesz przez to powiedzieć? 330 mln amerykanów nie może podróżować po świecie i wypowiadać się na temat danych krajów, bo kiedyś jakiś polityk rozpoczął wojnę?
      “Amerykanin-kanapowiec, kolejne spostrzeżenie niskich lotów powielanych wśród ludzi niskiej pozycji społecznej aby się dowartościować . Czytając twoje komentarze nasuwa się jedna myśl – przeciętny Polak wypowiadając się na tematy światopoglądowe najpierw musi wyciągnąć sporej długości kij z tyłka. Obyś kiedyś pojechała za granicę i musiała się tłumaczyć ze swoich “polskości”, wtedy zauważysz, że nie koniecznie identyfikujesz się ze wszystkimi decyzjami podejmowanymi u nas w kraju.

  • 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!

  • Reply Jake 14 August 2020 at 02:09

    Leah,

    I’ve been wanting to reply to this for a long time now, and I’ve finally got the courage to say what I really feel.

    First, about me: I’m a sociology student (a field that is very far-left), I lost dozens of friends on Facebook for my pro-gay marriage stance back in 2006-2010. I’m also a Pole by birth and partially by upbringing, though I’ve spent most of my life in Canada.

    My favourite thing about Poland – socially speaking – is that I feel *at home*. I don’t have to censor myself, I don’t have to worry about offending some minority, and society isn’t in a constant state of argument about which minority has it worse.

    After much thought, as much as I enjoy living in a pluralistic society… I want Poland to remain Polish. You can become Polish, a Bangladeshi or Nigerian never can. And, as much as it conflicts with my views of how Canada should be, I want Poland to remain the way it is.

    I also remember that, before gay rights got forced as a political issue into Poland from the West, being gay in Poland was seen with some amusement. Somewhat derisive amusement, but not outright hostility. I had a great-uncle in a very Catholic, traditional part of Poland and he was known to be gay, and I had family friends in Wroclaw who were gay. It was, essentially, a non-issue until the past 10-15 years. I feel it became an issue when the West made it an issue, and when westernizing politicians in Poland decided to make it an election issue. Unable to provide Poles (or Canadians, or Americans) with any real, concrete, helpful economic policies that differentiate them from the right-wing, left-wing politicians (since they’ve embraced neoliberalism – Clinton/Obama in the US, Chretien/Martin/Trudeau in Canada, Blair in the UK, Schroeder in Germany) have pushed social issues as an election agenda, because that’s all they have. They can no longer claim to be helping workers, and they need to stir up votes somehow. This, in turn, polarizes society along social lines.

    I’m tired of it. I don’t think it’s right to discriminate against gays and lesbians, I am, admittedly, skeptical of the sudden uptick in “trans” people and I do (secretly) worry that trans activists are projecting their experiences and trauma onto vulnerable children and trying to force transitions at an earlier age – transitions of which there are increasingly many accounts of regrets about.

    I want a harmonious society, and given the increasing instability of western states (whether Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Canada, and above all the US), I am skeptical that a multi-racial one can be peaceful. Especially with critical theory/intersectional politics driving constant wedges between people based on skin colour and gender.

    Ideally, Poles would – over the next few decades – embrace gay rights *on their own*. Instead, it’s being forced on them from the EU, it’s being used as a cynical voting ploy by left-leaning politicians who have nothing else to offer, and I think it’s incredibly unhelpful to SEVERELY piss off 49% of the population the moment 51% of the population is liberal enough to get a pet project passed. The fact of the matter is that social and religious conservatives care EXTREMELY about these issues, while, quite frankly, getting progress on them is only moderately important to the people who purportedly care about that progress.

    I’m sorry if this upsets you. I very much enjoy your blog, and I am embarrassed by some of the ignorant comments here… even as I realize you might consider my comment to be equally ignorant.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 20 August 2020 at 10:47

      Jake,

      Your comment actually does not upset me at all. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have an opinion on the topic, especially one which is clearly well thought out and not overly harsh. You’re skeptical and that’s understandable. It is difficult for people of various races, backgrounds, sexualities to get along, but I do think the only way for them to be exposed to people from those other backgrounds. To spend time with them and see that they’re not really much different than we are and certainly not “worse” or “bad” for just being who they are. I think that’s the most important thing. We’re all just people, are we not? I refuse to believe what other people have said that LGBTQ individuals are forcing an ideology.. they’re just being themselves and I don’t see how that hurts anyone. Just like people are entitled to their opinions on a given topic, I think anyone is entitled to live where they want and love who want they, which is a lot less hurtful than some of the other opinions I’ve seen posted here and elsewhere.

      • Reply Jake 30 August 2020 at 23:10

        Leah,

        Thanks for your reasonable reply.

        I’d like to emphasize that my concern isn’t about LGBTQ people pushing an agenda, rather about cynical left-wing neoliberal (i.e., socially left, economically right) politicians using them as a wedge issue. Until Donald Trump, there was virtually no difference in the economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans. A similar situation existed in Canada with the Liberals and Conservatives, or in the UK (until Corbyn) with Labour and the Tories. Unable to provide working and lower middle class (i.e. office workers, rather than upper middle class – like doctors and lawyers) – anyway, these parties were unable to provide anything of substance, so they used highly contentious wedge issues. It’s not that I disagree with LGBTQ rights (well, I have concerns about transitions being pushed on children, tweens, and young teens), but they are used to get votes while offering no economic benefits to working and middle class people.

        Regarding race… here’s the thing. You’re right, people become MORE comfortable, but they never become entirely comfortable. Wherever there are racial (or ethnic – same race, different nationality/culture) minorities, once those minorities become large enough, inevitably politics becomes identity politics, and again, working and middle class people suffer.

        The difference between ethnic/religious and racial minorities is that I can stop being Jewish or Christian. I can change my name and assimilate into French culture, and my kids will be French. I cannot stop being black, or Indian, or Asian. Those differences stay for generations, and they will become a point of contention – for real, exaggerated, or imagined discrimination – for those generations.

        Having lived in Canada for so long, and despite Canada’s excellent record of integration, I have seen Canadian politics increasingly become fractured into identity politics, as the number of visible minorities has come here.

        I just want to emphasize: this is not about them being inferior or lesser in any way. It is simply human nature of tribalism, and again – after over 30 years in Canada – I am utterly convinced that national stability and the well-being of the middle and working classes is significantly better in an ethnic monostate.

        As always, love your content 🙂

  • Reply Leon 15 August 2020 at 01:05

    Here in Poland we have very long history of facing national disaters like wars , conquest by enemy superpowers, Holocaust, sending people away to Sybir to slave labor camps and death by hunger , murdering by political police etc. Severall times we were facing anihilation as a nation and yet we prevailed and remained ouerselves. in most cases thanks to Catholic faith. I like this blog but U don`t understend yet our point of view. Our ruling party is so popular because they defend our tradiotions and our way of life. if somneone tries to manipulate us, subjugate us, colonize us or tries to force us to accept foregin , often toxic ideology – we will always fight back. Polish people are usually very tolerant and it also includes tolerance of homosexual people. They are OK for most of us if they don`t want to force us to change our culture or social rules . In very short words : homosexual people are OK, different races are OK as long as they respect our tradition , our religion.
    Polish people are very knowledgeble about politics . You shold know it by now. It comes from our bitter history.
    We do see a clear difference between normal (following latin civilization standards), homosexual man or women and LBGTQ ideologists who try to force us to accept their communist-like and marksist way of life. We fought almost a century against totalitarisms and for our sole survival and no other nation or ideology has moral qualifications to teach us what is good and what is evil. We are not some backwater rednecks – we watch YT and independent non-mainflow media and we can see that the West Civilization is fallig in Western Countries. We do not want that. We will defend our way of life even against all odds. It comes from our history and culture and our love of God. If anyone wants our tolerance they will get it. But it works in the other way . Attacking polsih churches and desacrating holy places with LBTGq flags is very offensive . We do remebmer that te same way Soviets and Nazis tried to colonize us an subjugate us. We will fight back and do it hard. LGBT people are now attacking our “holy grounds” . Even commusnists from Soviet Union choose to respect that. So that is why the LGBT ideology is enemy to us. Gay people are OK i do not have antyhing against them. But enemy ideology will be contested and fought.

  • Reply V 20 August 2020 at 11:59

    Those LGBT-free zones is a term coined by Polish left in order to perform smear-campaign in foreign media. There is no such thing – those powiats only declared that they don’t want lgbt ideology (third wave feminism, critical sociology and gender studies related things) being taught in schools and pre-schools. Then this activist Bart Stachowiak created a sign “LGBT-free zone” and started putting it up on plaques with the name of the city, pretending that the city council ordered to put up the sign. It’s fake news, and I’m disappointed that you pass it on.
    Abortion in Poland is illegal since 1992, but legal in three cases – rape, damaged or very sick fetus or when there is a threat to the womans health. Nothing changed about that and it won’t change.

  • Reply Noah 16 September 2020 at 00:40

    It is late so I’ll be quick. Please do NOT say “us” so often. It’s only your point of view. I coudn’t even agree that even half of Polish people has “a love of God” (and which one we should ask;)). I respect believers but sometimes they tend to think they have a monopol on truth so everyone should live LIKE a believer (because it’s the Truth) – and they force their religious laws upon the whole nation. And it is NOT ok. A lot has been also said that polish faith is very superficial.

    Fun fact – a rainbow flag doesn’t offend anyone.

    Although I will agree there is a high level of fear of the influence from the outside in polish society. And it is because of the history. Someone has said that already but scaring people with some devilish ideolodies (that do not even exist) was the only way to distinguish one party from another before the elections BUT it has had another important role. Basically to shift the focus (of media and the society) from “pedophilia scandal in the catholic church” to something else. Then there was the second document online about that and people started to demand investigations and punishing those who were guilty (also who knew about the crimes and could stop them but they didn’t). However priests were talking that those children are somehow guilty and poor priests were only “weak sinners”. Since that wasn’t enough they started to say that pedophilia happens everywhere and as it is bad so we should fight it (not with the systematic covering crimes by the Church). And that too wasn’t sufficient fully. So thet started to speak about “a rainbow plague” and that it’s them (gays; or I should say gay men because there are no lesbians in the agenda) who are the true threat to the children long with the sex educators that will led practise lessons of masturbastions in schools. Few months later – closer to the elections – the ruling party picked it up – AND BUM. No one speaks about pedophilia in the polish catholic church again.

    Lastly you don’t really see a contradiction with saying “gay people are OK but they can’t get married because I don’t like it/the priests say it is a sin”? (I mean a civil marriage since it is a marriage also) or “are OK but but they should not show it in public (again, I mean nothing extreme, just holding hands, hugs, light kisses; like a normal hetero couple)?”

    P.S. Sorry it was not that short.

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