Moving to Poland
Expats moving to Poland will find themselves in an extremely safe country occupying a strategic position in the heart of Europe. Having effectively weathered much of the economic storm of recent years, Poland remains one of Europe’s best-performing economies.
Poland has never been the most popular expat destination, and when the country officially joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, emigration statistics sky-rocketed, leading to a population decrease as hundreds of thousands of Poles left their homeland for greener pastures.
A history entrenched in foreign occupation, repeated post-war partition and high unemployment rates left a sizeable grey cloud on Poland's horizon, but a "shock therapy" programme initiated in the early 1990s, as well as a period of reforms, lead to a market economy that has only truly become successful in recent years.
There is an increase in work opportunities for enterprising foreigners and new arrivals usually find work in industries such as IT, finance, human relations, manufacturing and English-language teaching. Despite these opportunities, those looking to relocate will still face a number of challenges. Poland is well known for its tedious bureaucracy and, as a result, large infrastructural changes are slow to take effect.
Salaries are among the lowest on the continent and the cost of living in Poland still remains on the lower end. Although public healthcare provision is adequate, the government spends the lowest percentage of its GDP on healthcare, and expats should explore their private health insurance options in order to have access to private healthcare facilities.
Although Poland’s public education system has undergone many positive changes in recent years and tuition is free to all children resident there, including expats. As Polish is the language of instruction in public schools, the majority of expats opt to send their children to international schools in Poland. There are a number of these to choose from, particularly in the major cities.
Expats living in Poland need to prepare themselves for a relatively conservative environment, as strong family values and a powerful Catholic undercurrent still dominate the social milieu. Another potential difficulty is that, with the exception of Poland's vibrant youth, very little of the Polish population speaks English. This can complicate just about everything, from assimilation into the working environment to solidifying meaningful social connections.
On the upside, Poland's largest cosmopolitan centres, Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk, Wrocław and Poznań are gradually making their way onto the international stage, with a growing café culture, a thriving night-life, and an increasingly cutting-edge cuisine scene. There's a reason the Poles are known for their ability to have a good party, and a long legacy of vodka is only one part of the whole.
Expats moving to Poland with an optimistic attitude can certainly succeed, but the path may prove to be more difficult than in other destinations.