Cultural Musings

Why I choose to live in Poland over America

I get asked this question all the time. Why don’t we just move back to America? Well there’s more than a few reasons I choose to live in Poland rather than in America. It’s a hard decision, obviously. Sometimes we wonder whether we couldn’t have a better life in America, as many people do. But our quality of life is so high here that I’m not sure it’s worth the risk to try. Read on to find out why I choose to live in Poland… for now.

Comfort

Well, we already live in Poland. We met here, we have a house here, mutual friends here, jobs… it’s hard to just pack up and leave all that, especially with a kid. Ok, sure, it’s doable, but it’s also kind of a pain in the ass. We’d have to sell everything, which is a pretty big risk, and just move there. But where? To Orlando where my family lives or to a different place where we find work? Do we want to start over in a place where we know no one? I certainly don’t considering the fact that I know what it’s like and how hard it is. That makes me tired to even think about. It takes years to get comfortable in a place (for me at least) and I’m not sure I have the energy to go through that again.

Not only that, I’m not sure I’d want to put my husband in the position I’m in here. I mean he speaks English, so that’s not an issue, but it’s hard to be different and to be away from your family. I don’t know if I’d want to him to go through that. I know I can handle it because I’ve done it for years, but it would probably make me sad to see him feel the same way and having to deal with all the annoying bureaucracy. But then again, who knows, maybe he’s stronger than I am and would adapt faster than I was able to.

Our jobs

This is the number one reason I choose to stay. My husband and I both have great jobs here. Mine, frankly, I can’t do America, so I’d have to change careers. I really don’t wanna do that because I have the coolest job I can imagine having. So, because of that, it would take a lot for us to move to the States. Polish people would have to stop needing English lessons completely and I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. I certainly hope not 🙂

The fact is, however, that salaries are a lot higher in the States. My husband could probably earn 2-3x there what he earns here for the same position. That’s a tough one to swallow. I suppose if he received a great offer, we’d be tempted to take it. But we won’t worry about that until it happens.

Proximity to other countries

One thing I love about living in Poland is that it means I live in Europe, which means other countries are just a stone’s throw away. I can travel to a number of countries in under 10 hours and that’s super exciting. Each state is also like a little country (some are even bigger), but the culture obviously doesn’t differ quite as much as with different countries. BUT America also has incredibly beautiful landscapes and interesting cities to visit. Tough call.

Safety

Which country is safer? Hm well I guess it depends on the situation. But when was the last time there was a massacre at the hands of an armed gunman in Poland? In America, it’s nearly a daily occurrence. Guns are a hot issue at the moment and I’m gonna jump on the bandwagon. Sorry mom, but I don’t agree with this. I don’t really want to live in a place where every idiot on the street can legally own a gun. I just don’t see the sense in it and it seems to do more harm than good. We live here perfectly fine without guns and I actually feel safer here because of it. However, I do have to say that I think the States might be safer during a time of war. For geographical reasons, Poland isn’t the safest in that case.

Family

This is the hardest one for us as we have great families in both countries. So this doesn’t help us choose one way or another, but we at least we know we’ll have family to depend on no matter which country we choose. I don’t think I’d ever choose to live in a country other than one of ours because of this reason. It’s just better to be near family.

Taxes and social benefits

This is a tough one as well because there are some pluses and minuses in both corners. Taxes are higher in Poland, but there are also a lot of social benefits. Obviously, we don’t get all of those but e.g. a year of maternity leave pay has been a godsend for us since my son was born. Or the fact that we have public healthcare and can afford to go to the doctor. Having had some health issues, this also is a huge perk. It’s hard for me to say whether I’d prefer one way or the other. I’d like to pay less in taxes but I also appreciate the benefits I’ve received from those social programs, so it’s a toss up.

My ultimate goal is to live half the year in Poland and half the year in Florida. I’m sure you can guess which halves 🙂 That way it’ll be more fair to our families and I won’t have to suffer through winter, but only the more pleasant Polish seasons. Is it achievable? Well, I’d say for me it’s definitely possible. I could always just teach online. However, it might be harder if I wanted my husband to join me and obviously it would be a problem for my son once he starts going to school.

So what would you choose in my situation? Would you rather live in Poland or in America?

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30 Comments

  • Reply Danielle Hryniewicz 7 March 2018 at 21:15

    I agree with, and totally understand, everyone of those. I have lived here in Poland for 14 years and do kot have any desire to live there.

    • Reply Danielle Hryniewicz 7 March 2018 at 21:18

      •not (not kot)

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 March 2018 at 15:15

      Do you really agree with everything? Perhaps there’s some other reason you also prefer living in Poland? I also love the people here and that’s one of those reasons I prefer to stay. Something about family traditions as well.

    • Reply Jason 7 April 2018 at 21:50

      I am planning a trip to poland…any recommedations? im 43 and this has been a bucket list for me. Im polish with the last name Chmielewski. Any ideas would be awesome!!!!

  • Reply K 7 March 2018 at 21:43

    I guess being in your shoes, I would simply stay in Poland. Relocating anywhere is difficult in general and when you have everything nicely settled I see no need for that. If you miss your family make them visit more often or go on holidays together. Poland is a fine place to live – it’s just Poles that underestimate it.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 March 2018 at 15:16

      That’s so true. Poles really underestimate how nice a country Poland is to live in. They just don’t realize it because they’ve never lived elsewhere and they listen to the hype about other countries. Having lived in the States, it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s just some kind of myth here that other countries are like the promised land… the grass is always greener I guess.

  • Reply Melissa Paterson 7 March 2018 at 23:24

    America. Definitely America. 🇺🇸 Florida, if we’re talking specifics. 🌴☀️🌺
    I’d settle for the half & half deal, though. Beggars can’t be choosers… 💙❤️

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 March 2018 at 20:32

      Melissa!! Hahah well… half and half ain’t all bad! At least until Maks goes to school. Miss you guys 🙂

  • Reply Bezem 7 March 2018 at 23:25

    >every idiot on the street can legally own a gun

    Actually in Poland everyone can own a gun if they are over 18. Its black powder gun but its still a powerful stuff.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 8 March 2018 at 15:14

      True, true, however it’s MUCH harder!! There are tests, background checks, you have to be part of a shooting club, etc. There are lots of requirements. You can’t simply walk into a store and buy it because you feel like it.

      • Reply def 8 March 2018 at 16:03

        BEZEM was talking about other type of guns without any permissions. Like old guns on black powder from XIX century. But you know. If someone want to kill you he can do it with car or knife or bare hands :]

        • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 May 2018 at 10:00

          You can for sure but it’s a lot harder! You have to get very close to them for that!

      • Reply Bezem 11 March 2018 at 07:17

        You actually can. Black powder guns are availible to everyone of minimal age of 18.

        For modern guns you need licence.

      • Reply Jendrej 23 April 2018 at 19:50

        Actually you don’t need a licence for a *black powder* gun, without any special requirements.

  • Reply Piotr 9 March 2018 at 02:08

    Great post-well balanced and pointed out andvantages and disadvantages of living in Poland and America. Well, there aren`t any good answers to your questions and doubts. Regardles of your decision, you will gain something new and lose all your things you achieved so far. There`s always the other side of coin unfortunately. If I were in your shoes, I would spend the summer months in Poland and the winter ones in Florida. At least until Max doesn`t start going to school. After that, you always can choose homeschooling for your son if needed. This is a lot less popular here but possible as well. You have to ask a school headmaster for the agree if I remember correcly. I`m assuming that Max is going to go the Polish primary school obviously. I think switching beetween Europe and States would be probably the best for you and your relatives. I know transantlantic flights may be tiring but on the other hand… You would see your American family a lot often and wouldn`t miss them so much. I hope you make a good decision and won`t regret that. Fingers crossed!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 May 2018 at 09:59

      In a perfect world…. that’s exactly what I would do! Like you said, before Max starts going to school, it’s definitely a possibility. So I have about 6 years to do it 🙂 better get started!

  • Reply Witek 13 March 2018 at 15:51

    Hey Leah, I think it really boils down to your purchasing power in a give city/country and the amount of time/effort it takes to achieve that. The quality of ones life sucks if you don’t have a nice roof under your head, cant go the grocery store without worrying about the prices, have a huge mortgage, or are just generally living hand to mouth. And it sucks if you have to work some corporate job like a slave to achieve that.

    If you’re in a situation where you can better any of that elsewhere, then it’s worth the shot to try.

    I, like you, was born and lived in the U.S. my entire life and made the move to Poland at the prime age of 31 (now 35). Being from California (living in the Bay Area) everyday life was expensive. Like super expensive ($1m fixer upper houses). Two salaries at good jobs needed to get by and your life is tied to your job. Forget about kids… no time. And god forbid you get laid off… 2008/2009 saw folks loose everything they had.

    In our case here in Poland, now my wife doesn’t need to work, I work half as much as I did there (generally less stress with no corporate job), and finances don’t keep us worried at night. There’s time for our kids. Time to go on vacation (without checking email). No boss. Big house, big yard, no mortgage. Why go back?

    Obviously there’s no perfect place on this planet… the pollution here sucks, food is boring (how many perogies can you eat?), and winters are gloomy, but this is a nice country generally. As you mentioned, you don’t have to worry much about getting gunned down when walking down the street (or your kids getting shot at school).

    On a side note, I think poles as are generally less risk takers as a whole, especially outside of the big cities. Back in California, people relocated often, changed jobs every few years, went back to school, all to better their life’s in the long run. I see too many folks here bitchin about their low salaries, etc., but don’t put any effort to make a change. Same town, same house, same jobs their entire lives. A bit of laziness, or maybe it’s fear, or lack of motivation… not sure.

    Anyway, just my $0.02. Cheers!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 May 2018 at 09:58

      Hey Witek! Awesome comment. I totally agree on all those points. We really don’t have much to complain about here… but then I heard recently that 50% of Poles earn 1600 zl per month – Yikes! That’s for sure a different life than you sketched out. But I mean I think there are a lot of opportunities to earn more than that, like you said, if someone is motivated and just decides to move to the city or is a bit more flexible in terms of where they’ll live and what kind of job they’ll do. I teach in a few factories and I see how they really struggle to find people to work in the shop floor and in the office as well. It’s really an employee market and I just don’t think it’s really a problem to find a job that pays better nowadays. But you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone a little bit and perhaps shop around. Maybe people expect to be able to find a great job wherever it is they grew up and the fact is that it’s just not always possible! And I think Americans are willing to accept that and they’re also willing to pick up and move on if that means the chance at a better life. I see my friends do it all the time. I suppose it’s changing here as well.

  • Reply Sergiusz 14 March 2018 at 13:35

    Well..
    For one American willing to settle in Poland, there is probably 20 Poles willing to settle in the US and 50 willing to settle in Western Europe..
    I am from Poland, I love Poland, I go to Poland every year and try to spend there as much vacation time as I possibly can…
    As long as this does not affect my 115,000$ a year American job ..
    The attraction of Eastern Europe will be growing, as long as cities like Warsaw, Cracow, Budapest or Prague will keep what Paris, Rome or Cologne lost years ago – the safety of its inhabitants.

  • Reply Kadewu 29 March 2018 at 21:14

    Maybe you could choose to live in a third country :-)…

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 May 2018 at 09:51

      Like where? 🙂

  • Reply Jason 7 April 2018 at 21:52

    Hey any ideas of a great place to stay and or visit? I live in California, and want to visit Poland this summer. It would just be myself. Im 43 and this is a bucket list of mine. I am also polish with the last name Chmielewski, but i heard that my last name is like being named Anderson over her in the states…very common. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 May 2018 at 09:50

      Hi Jason! Wow where to go in Poland? That depends on what you like. The cities Gdańsk, Wrocław and Kraków are obvious choices, but I’d also really recommend the Polish mountains like Tatry, Beskid Żywiecki or Sudety if you like outdoorsy things. The best times to come are from May-early October, spring and fall being the best times to visit. Hope that helps!

  • Reply ling 28 April 2018 at 10:50

    Cool article!!

  • Reply Joanna 30 April 2018 at 15:17

    Thank you for this insightful post! I’m native Polish and like living in Poland. Actually, I’m a bit surprised many Poles aren’t satisfied with life in here. I think we have everything what’s needed for comfortable life – low unemployment, well-developed infrastructure and transportation, beautiful mountains and interesting cities 🙂

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 May 2018 at 09:43

      Hi Joanna! I wholeheartedly agree. I think it’s just a grass is always greener kind of thing here, you know? People wish they had what other people have.

  • Reply Joel 17 May 2018 at 14:54

    What about the political situation? I have a Ukrainian friend who lives in Warsaw and she tells me about the creeping fascism in her Poland. Of course, you could say the same thing about America under Trump, but it seems to be further along in Poland. When the rule of law goes, so do the jobs. Thanks for a great blog post. By the way, I’m a 50 year old Floridian from Palm Beach County weighing a move to Poland or elsewhere in the EU.

  • Reply Joel 17 May 2018 at 14:55

    That should read “Poland,” not “her Poland.” Typo.

  • Reply Jason 14 August 2018 at 22:43

    Love your blog, Leah. Thank you for sharing your experiences in moving from the U.S. to Poland, which my Polish wife, 7 year old daughter (who is fluent in Polish and English) and I are considering. We’ve traveled to Poland about 8 or 9 times over the past dozen years, and my wife and daughter enjoy their summers there. Gdansk and Wroclaw are possible destinations, given their livability/human-scale as medium-sized cities that have universities, good airports and are somewhat international. I think proximity to family and a higher income (relative to cost-of-living) are big factors. Her parents are in Poland–mine are in California–and I have my own business, allowing me to work remotely while servicing clients and have a good U.S. income. I’ve learned a fair amount of Polish through self-study (books/CDs/online), but am nowhere near fluent–I’m quite happy to remedy that through tutoring and serious study. I think we would rent for a year in a central, convenient location before buying.

    What do you think would be the first-year challenges/obstacles to moving? Navigating housing, schools, government bureaucracy (business, permanent residence), banking, building friendships…? What takes up the most time or energy in transitioning to Poland? Thank you!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 27 August 2018 at 14:23

      Hey Jason! Wow you guys have a really cool life it sounds like. You’re lucky you’re able to travel around so much. In reference to your question, I’d say the biggest obstacles are definitely obtaining a residence permit – it’s a huge pain and it really depends on where you apply because sometimes it takes 1.5-2 years (around Wrocław) and where I live (Sląsk) it only takes around 3 months. Otherwise, building friendships take ages – for me at least. But I live in a place with relatively few foreigners so that’s also probably why. And if you don’t speak Polish it’s a challenge to meet people. The biggest challenge is definitely language – you have a step up since you know something already – go you!! That’s incredible. It’ll be so much easier that way. But I had a huge barrier because I was ashamed of not being able to speak for so long. Definitely spend as much time as you can with people who don’t speak English and get a teacher! I can give you a recommend if you need it 🙂

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