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Interview with Lois - An American expat living in Poland

Updated 7 Jun 2013
Lois is an American expat living in Poland. She moved to the western city of Poznan in 2011 when her husband was transferred there with his company. Although Lois finds the Polish bureaucracy and customer service somewhat of a challenge, she finds the quality of life in Poznan to be excellent and especially enjoys the old architecture, the greenery and the Polish food.

Learn more about Poland in our Poland expat guide or read more expat experiences in Poland.

About you

Lois - An American expat living in PolandQ: Where are you originally from? 
A: Tucson, AZ, although my husband is a retired military officer, so we have lived in a number of places.

Q: Where are you living now? 
A:  Poznan, Poland

Q: When did you move to Poland? 
A:  I moved in March of 2011, my husband has been here since October 2009.

Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A:  I’m here with my spouse; our children are grown and out of the house.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do? 
A:  My husband’s employment brought us here.  I’m a CPA, but I’m not permitted to work here.

About Poznan

Q: What do you enjoy most about Poznan, how’s the quality of life? 
A:  Coming from a desert city that isn’t very old, we love the architecture, the greenery, the food.  The quality of life is excellent.  Poznan is a university town with a lot of things going on: art, music, sport, fine dining, etc.  

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home? 
A:  Dealing with Polish bureaucracy is my biggest frustration.  OK, it may be tied with a lack of customer service for biggest frustration. Poland has come so very far since their communist era, but they haven’t left everything behind.  

Q: Is Poznan safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: I feel the city is safer than our hometown, but I also know of expats who have been attacked.  Don’t be stupid, keep your wits about you so you can watch out for yourself (limit the vodka intake) and stick to well-travelled areas at night.  

Q: How would you rate the public transport in Poznan? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car? 
A: Compared to Tucson, the public transportation is fantastic.  With so many people living in high rise apartment buildings, the city is much more densely populated; it makes for more practical public transportation.  We have one car, which my husband drives to work (and we take on some of our trips), but we never drive when we’re going out in the city.  The buses are very new and modern.  The trams are a great way to get around, but many of the drivers have a heavy hand with the throttle and brake.  Hold on, it will not be a smooth ride.  You could easily manage without a car; taxis are another very affordable option for getting around the city.  

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Poznan?
A:  Our needs have been met.  We have Cigna International health insurance; they reimburse us for expenses overseas.  My first experience with a doctor was to think she was the rudest person I had ever met.  That has not been my husband’s experience.  He was hospitalized (in a private hospital) and we feel that he received good care.  The doctors spent much more time with us than we would have expected, but they said less, less willing to discuss a prognosis.

About living in Poznan

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Poznan as an expat?
A:  It depends on your family situation.  As empty nesters, we enjoy being in the city, near a tram stop.  It makes it easy to take advantage of the city nightlife.  Many of the expats with children live in the suburbs, near the British School or the International School.  

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Poznan?
A:  Everything is available, from very small walk-ups, to luxury flats, to homes with gardens.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A:  We may be paying more than some, but housing is comparable to home.  Other than gasoline, the rest of our cost of living is very low.  

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A:  We do have some Polish friends, but mainly, we socialize with other expats.  Most Poles are welcoming to foreigners, but often, only in a cursory way, only a few have made an effort to include us in their lives.  

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Poznan?
A:  It has been for us, but we are also quite happy doing things on our own.  I have made many friends through the Poznan International Ladies Club and through a Women’s Bible Study associated with Poznan International Church.   Many expat women make connections though their children’s school.  

About working in Poznan

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Poland?
A:  My husband’s employer is the same American company he worked for in the US, so he did not need a work permit, just a resident permit. I have the same document.  As a non-EU citizen, I am not allowed to work.  

Q: What’s the economic climate like in Poznan, is there plenty of work?
A:  I feel that most of my Polish friends, who want work, have work, but some have wished for part-time work, something that doesn’t seem very common.  Many Poles work multiple jobs (sometimes seasonally).  

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A:  This is a big issue.  First of all, I want to say that Polish people are not lazy, not by any means.  They are very industrious, keeping immaculate homes and gardens.  There is, however, no shame is being lazy at work – a holdover from their communist days.  It seems to be a national pastime to see how much you can get away with.  

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: Sadly, no.  My husband’s employer normally does that, but someone decided it wouldn’t be necessary for this contract.  
Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A:  Because my spouse is working, his adjustment was easier than mine – which included not only a new country, but becoming unemployed.  

Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A:  We are here without our children.

Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A:  Friends send their kids to the British School, the International School, and to local Polish schools both public and private.  They all have their pros and cons.  

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A:  I want to qualify some of these remarks by saying we really like it here; we’re glad we came.  That being said:
  • Don’t expect it to be like home
  • Don’t expect to change them
  • Treasure the adventure
  • Bring many of the documents you keep in the filing cabinet or safety deposit box at home, marriage license, birth certificates for children.  You’ll need to have these translated into Polish for application for resident cards, etc.

~ Interviewed June 2013

> Are you an expat living in Poland? We'd love to hear from you, so please contact us to share your story.

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