Not exactly a go-to destination for tourists, even immigrants, Poland experienced emigration by its locals looking for better opportunities elsewhere. The history of the country is filled with foreign invasion and war; communism even gripped the country once, and this is quite evident in the architecture today. Foreigners moving in will be met with low cost of living, at least for European standards. Employment prospects are on the rise, which is good news for expats job-hunting. Don’t be turned off by Poland’s past; it has worked long and hard to shake that off and take center stage in international affairs and global trends, while maintaining a strong hold on their rich heritage. We've pulled together a handy guide for expats planning to move to the country...
- Expat Clubs
- Local News Sources
- Country Information
- Resident and Work visa information
- How to get a driving license
- Where to live and about the accomodation types
- Healthcare information including Hospitals and Insurance
- Christmas in Poland
International Friends of Wroclaw
Serves as an informal social club and support network for international families or singles living and working in Wrocław. Club members meet and socialise regularly in spacious premises located on the Market Square provided by the City Municipality since 2004. At present, the I.F.W. Club brings together approximately 150 families representing 25 nationalities.
Address: Ul. Pilsudskiego 44a, Wroclaw, Poland
Tel: +48 882 839 234
International Women's Association of Krakow (IWAK)
A multicultural, social and family-oriented group providing friendship, advice and support to its members.
International Women's Group of Warsaw
The IWG (International Women's Group) Warsaw has been operating in one form or another since 1982 and continues to be a social organization for English speaking women. The group's activities are of interest to the expatriate spouse, who is not the working partner in their household, as well as like minded women residing in and around Warsaw.
Address: Pure Sky Club, ul. Zlota 59, Budynek Skylight
Poznan International Ladies Club
Since 1999, this ever changing group of international, English speaking women have joined together for fun and support. Our purpose is to find friends and to help each other feel more comfortable and connected to this beautiful city.
British International School of Krakow (BISC)
Their curriculum at BISC is based upon the British educational system for 3 to 16 year olds and culminates in the International Baccalaureate Diploma for 16 to 18 year olds.
Curriculum: British, International Baccalaureate
Address: ul. Smoleńsk 25, 31-108 Kraków Poland
Tel: (+48) (12) 292 64 78
Fax: (+48) (12) 292 64 81
International School of Krakow (ISK)
The International School of Krakow has been accredited by CIS (Council of International Schools in Europe) and NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges in North America) since 2008 and has been an authorized IB World School since 2012.
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Address: Lusina ul. sw. Floriana 57, 30-698 Kraków, Poland
Tel: +48 12 270-1409
Mobile: +48 608-010-647, +48 608-012-625
Wroclaw International School (WIS)
WIS is a not-for-profit school run by a Polish public charity, Foundation of International Education, since 2002. It was the first international school opened in the Lower Silesia region and now educates about 100 students from all over the world.
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Address: ul. Zielinskiego 38, PL-53-534 Wroclaw, Poland
Tel: +48 71 782 26 26
TheNews.pl - Poland's best source of news in English.
The New Poland Express
This an English-language site that covers local and regional news including business, sports, columns and classifieds.
The Krakow Post is Krakow's only English language newspaper.
The Warsaw Voice
Capital City: Warsaw
Other Important Cities: Krakow
Currency: Złoty (PLN)
Calling Code: +48
Internet TLD: .pl
Electricity: The country runs on 230V 50Hz. The largest power producing company in the country is Polska Grupa Energetyczna.
To know more about expat life in Poland's major cities, click here>>
Poland is part of the Schengen territories giving visa free access to EU citizens and other countries like the US for a limited period. Other countries that do not fall under visa exemptions must apply for a Schengen visa, type C (short stay, tourism), at a Polish embassy or consulate in their home or host country. This type of visa is valid for 90 days. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has listed countries that are exempted from visa regulations:
A national type D visa is required if expats intend to stay for more than 90 days. This can also be arranged through a Polish embassy or consulate.
- Travel document:
- Completed and signed visa application form.
- Biometric photo.
- Visa fee.
- Health insurance.
- Supplementary documents confirming:
- the purpose of the visit,
- possession of sufficient funds to cover the cost of entry, stay and departure from theterritory of Poland;
- the necessity of staying in the territory of Poland for more than 90 days within a half-year period.
For more information please visit the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Site >>
The real estate market in Poland is challenging to wade through especially for expats. Poland did not escape the economic crisis gripping the world. Prices are inflated, rents and sale prices have gone up. Nevertheless, compared to the rest of Europe, it’s still cheaper and more economical.
The types of housing are limited too. There’s a lot of communist-type apartments. These are not refurbished meaning the quality is not that good. Prefab homes have also sprung up, except their rental prices are steep and are located far from amenities.
Due to everything in the country is written in Polish, expats who have little to no experience or fluency in the language will find it extremely difficult, almost impossible communicate and find housing. It is therefore more effective, although not cheap, to turn to real estate agencies. Some of these institutions have a reputation to cheat expats, so it’s recommended to bring along a Polish colleague as an intermediary. Expats can of course look on their own using classifieds and newspaper listings, but it will be more time consuming.
Landlords are also known to prefer a private agreement instead of an official rental contract. In this case, expats should insist on a rental contract as this is covered by law and therefore offers protection for the tenant. There are two types of official rental contracts: temporary and standard contract. A standard contract would normally run for a year, while a temporary one will have a shorter duration stipulated. It is also important to obtain an inventory before moving in especially if the unit is furnished.
EU nationals may use their domestic licenses to drive legally in the country. Non-EU may also use their domestic licenses but coupled with an international license. This is valid for the first 6 months, after which expats must apply for a Polish License. Obtaining a license in Poland requires applicants to go to a recognized driving school, take a course and pass an exam. Theory and practical exams will be administered. The Polish license will be valid across EU territories.
The country has a fully functioning public healthcare system that provides subsidized to free health services to both citizens and legal residents in Poland. Residents should obtain a healthcare provider that is recognized by the National Health Fund. Contributions to the system is done by employers and employees. Public facilities are adequate and up to standard, but this varies in cities.
Citizens and residents make use private healthcare to augment the service they receive in the public system. Private services of course are not cheap and that’s why they don’t rely on it primarily. Long queues and delays in the public system are not present in private facilities, so extenuating circumstances and urgent cases are rushed to private hospitals instead.
National Health Fund
This is the public healthcare system in Poland.
Allianz has been operating in Poland since 1997 and is at the forefront of local competence. It has 120 types of modern property and life insurance policies, as well as pension funds and employee pension schemes.
Address: TU Allianz POLSKA S.A., ul. Rodziny Hiszpanskich 1, 02-685 Warszawa, Poland
Centrum Medyczne - LIM Center
Address: Warsaw, 00-697, Poland
Tel: +48 22 458 7000
Fax: +48 22 630 5049
Individual Medical Care of Damien Hospital
Address: Ul. Foksal 3/5, Warsaw, 00-366, Poland
Tel: +48 600 032 111
Fax: +48 22 843 51 53
MML Medical Center Sp.z. o.o.
Address: ul.Slominskiego 19 lok.503, Warsaw, 00-195, Poland
Tel: +48 604 441 922
Address: nr 2 Akademii Medycznej w Warszawie, ul. Karowej 2, Warsaw, Poland
Tel: +48 22 826 8953
Fax: +48 22 828 6687
How to Celebrate Christmas the Polish Way
This is a quiet time, spent completely different than other countries where people dedicate the 4 weeks before Christmas to parties and shopping. Polish people take up resolutions, give up their favourite foods or drinks and parties and discos are forbidden. It is true! Many clubs and discos in Poland will be closed during Advent! Also, Poles prepare their houses for Christmas. There's lots of cleaning and people wash their windows and clean their carpets very thoroughly. It's a time when you prepare your hearts and homes to welcome Baby Jesus.
These are special masses (or communion services) held at dawn each day during Advent. It is created mostly for kids who attend with the lampions and collect special puzzle pieces which form a final picture at the end. The aim is that if you attended all you will have the completed picture at the end of Advent and you are well prepared for Christmas.
Know as St Nicholas/Santa Claus in other parts of the world. He visits Polish kids much earlier on 6th December! Poles have different understanding and tradition related to Santa Claus. According to the Polish tradition "Święty Mikołaj" is a generous bishop who has been giving presents to kids. Nowadays there is a lovely tradition that the family member dresses as the Święty Mikołaj and visits kids with a bag of gifs. He always has a short chat with kids (who are frightened!) and asks them if they were good or bad. If they behave well, they get a present.
It is tradition that the tree brought in and decorated on Christmas Eve with a star on the top (to represent the Star of Bethlehem), lights, "bombki" and sweets. On Christmas Eve, the women get busy with cooking for the evening meal so decorating the Christmas tree is delegated to men and kids. The tree is usually kept at homes till the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6th
Wigilia is the main Christmas meal happens on the 24th December. The house is cleaned and everyone gets washed and puts on their festive clothes. Traditionally people feast before the meal and wait for the first star in the sky to start the meal
These dishes are believed to give you good luck for the next 12 months. For Catholics the 12 dishes symbolize Jesus's 12 disciples. The meal is meat free; this is to remember the animals who took take of the baby Jesus. Everyone has to eat or at least try some of each dish.
In my household this meal contains the following: "barszcz" (beetroot soup) with "uszka" (little dumplings with mushrooms) or "krokiety" (pancakes with mushrooms or/and cabbage, in breadcrumbs, fried on oil or butter) and/or mushroom soup with noodles! The carp is the main dish of the meal with the potatoes, cooked cabbage and mushrooms. To drink you have "kompot z suszu" that is drink made by boiling dried fruits and fresh apples (and is not that tasty actually but very traditional). Other traditional dishes include: pierogi (stuffed dumplings) with sauerkraut, jellied fish, herring in oil etc. For dessert you can get a poppy seed roll made of sweet yeast bread, "kutia”, ‘makowki’ - mixed dried fruits and nuts with wheat seeds, "piernik" a moist cake made with honey and gingerbread cookies.
A traditional Christmas fish bought a few days earlier - alive. This is one of the traditions I do not like that much. As you keep the fish in the bath until it's killed by the lady of the house! The carp's scales are said to bring luck and fortune and by some are kept for the whole year.
This is a thin wafer made of flour and water, similar in taste to the hosts that are used for communion during Mass. Sharing Oplatek is very important Polish tradition. It opens the Christmas Eve meal. People go around the table, break the wafer and exchange with others the wishes for peace and prosperity.There is a legend that if animals eat oplatek on Christmas Eve, they will be able to speak in human voices at midnight, but only those who are pure of spirit will be able to hear them.
This is a lovely traditional as there is always an empty place kept at the meal table for an unexpected guest. Poles believe that no one should be alone or hungry on Christmas.
The final element of the table prepared for Christmas Eve meal are the white table cloth and the straw which is put on the floor of the room, or under the table cloth, to remind people that Jesus was born in a stable or cow shed.
They are opened on 24th of December and not brought by St Claus but by a small Baby Jesus (Dzieciątko), Angel, Star, Starman (Gwiazdor) – depending on the region. You wait to open the presents till after the Christmas Eve Feast so it takes a long of time….because after 12 dishes, Poles tend to sing carols together.
On the 6th of January Poles go to church and Polish Children also get dressed up and go around houses to sing carols. Carollers are called kolednicy. These are mostly kids that walk from house to house dressed in costumes to present the Nativity scene so there are angels, shepherds, kings, sometimes also as devils.
So I could actually go on and on with it...As I realize there is so much involved in Christmas and there are other regions of Poland that celebrate it a bit different to me, but for now……….
Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia! *
*Contributed by Aga