Living in Poland can be a great adventure, but it also has its challenges, for both foreigners and locals. Choosing to live in Poland, especially if you don’t have Polish roots or connections and know nothing about the country, will likely involve a steep learning curve.
What do Polish people say about moving to Poland? What works in Poland and how can you build relations here? Below are 5 quick, important tips to consider, before making the move.
1. Don’t get discouraged
Poles can be a bit bizarre, but just like any other nation they have their pros and cons. What do you need to get used to that irony and sarcasm rule? When I asked Polish people what advice they would offer to a foreigner who thinks about relocating to Poland, I received many sarcastic comments such as:
“I would advise a foreigner wanting to move to Poland to seek psychiatric help first.”
“I would advise them to think twice.”
“I would advise them to wear white socks and sandals in the summer to blend in.”
“I would say: look for another country.”
“ I would suggest to think over whether they actually want to live here. I haven’t seen a more racist country.”
Sarcasm is a two edged sword. It’s equally funny as it is wicked. Some experts claim that sarcasm is used as a mild form of insult. It is a way of softening a critique by using humor without being overly direct.
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist said that “sarcasm is the language of the devil”, while Fyodor Dostoyevski described it as a „cry of despair”.
Apart from indulging themselves in complaining and gossiping, Polish people can be quite bitter. They seem to be unable to enjoy the success of others, they possess the unique ability of finding the downside to every single thing. Luckily that applies to only a certain group of Poles and it would be an unfair generalization to claim that all of Polish people think this way.
The longer I lived abroad and the more countries I visited, the more I appreciated Poland and the more positive aspects of living here I noticed. Such perspective is shared by other people with international living experience.
From my perspective as a person who lived abroad for 12 years, Poland is a very dynamic and growing country, it’s a treasure waiting to be discovered by foreigners. I have also noticed that an average Polish person doesn’t even recognize it, therefore can’t assess their own potential properly – Magdalena Draniewicz
A foreigner should know that Poland is a great country. Poles can make a lousy first impression as they do not smile frequently, but they are wonderful people – Edyta Trujjillo Moncaleano
2. Learn polish language and make an effort to speak, even if you make mistakes
Even if you fail to speak correctly, you will win over the hearts of Polish people.
Being a foreigner in Poland and not being able to speak Polish has its bright sides. For example when you are stopped by the police for speeding you are likely to get away with it as most of the policemen do not speak English. Nevertheless in the majority of other scenarios like bank visits, government offices etc., speaking the local language will prove hugely beneficial.
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Patience is the companion of wisdom – St. Augustine
Patience is not only a virtue but also your ally.
Polish bureaucracy will test your limits and your patience, but foreigners who have gone trough the system claim it was worth it and you shouldn’t give up too soon. In order to ease the pain of incoming foreigners, more consultancies appear on the market offering help by relocation consultants to organize the residence permit.
A foreigner should be familiar with residence regulations in Poland. It may be difficult to familiarize yourself with polish laws without ability to speak and read in Polish. – Monika Stojek, relocation expert, Expatriada
4. Poles have a unique way of building relationships
„Let your home mini bar be always stocked up with vodka and your fridge with sausage. You never know when a neighbor will pop in with a visit”.
“Don’t complain about the local food such as rosół or bigos”
“If you are not much of a drinker, learn how to drink.”
“Read old Polish literature, such as Krasicki’s Fairy Tales.”
The way of building relationships with Polish people will heavily depend on what social class the person comes from, as well as what their background, education, profession and exposure is. In certain circles the best way of building bonds is mutual consumption of strong spirit such as vodka, in others, taking part in corporate and trade events such as conferences and trade shows. Social media are great way to stay in touch but initially face-to-face contact is required. Nevertheless, social media platforms are widely popular. Groups on Linkedin or Facebook will allow you to meet likeminded people. Poland is a dynamic and changing society, what works is observation, active participation, being open to ask questions and not being afraid to make mistakes.
5. Experience of living in Poland will change the way you see the world.
For those who come from Western European countries, USA, Scandinavia or Middle East, the cost of living will be a pleasant surprise.
“That’s the only country where I can buy beer with coins”- I heard once from a man who arrived to Poland from Kuwait for a short holiday break
“I adore Warsaw, it’s a city of a good size, which offers good career opportunities as well as a rich cultural agenda.”- Jason, lawyer from New York
“I come to Poland once a year to take up a series of esthetic treatments. It’s a wonderful place. In Norway I could never afford such an expense.”- Eira
Foreigners who have been living in Poland for a minimum of 6 months agree that it’s a good place to live, reasonably priced, fairly safe, offering good education, art and cultural scene and beautiful nature and historical sites. Foreign entrepreneurs appreciate the potential of Poland and of its people, who may take a bit longer to get to know better, yet it’s totally worth it.
Editing: Dominika Job, manager at Business & Prestige