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How to Survive on a Minimum Wage in Poland?


Sawa  
8 Oct 2006 /  #1
Maybe because I am an inhabitant of Warsaw, the positive answer to the above question seems to me by no means possible. However, the increasing numbers of Poles have to deal with problems of living on a minimum wage in their everyday life. Currently, the minimum wage in Poland is about 220 USD a month (this is how much netto the person gets). There is a huge difference between wage and prices in various parts of Poland. For the same job in Warsaw you can get 3 times as much as in Białystok or other small city in the Eastern part of Poland.

The ways which can help you survive on a minimum wage actually depend on the imagination of a given individual. One of the biggest opportunities to make a living for people on a minimum wage are the cheapest shopping malls with their own brand products like: Leader Price, Biedronka, Geant, etc. Such big stores pop up like mushrooms in the small towns of Poland. It's true - the products you can get there are of unknown origin, often low quality, but there are also goods which are the same as everywhere but half cheaper with no eye-catching logos or packages.

Minimum wage-earners also make their ends meet by pursuing a new kind of "sport," which can be called promotion chasing. Usually in the morning each supermarket advertises through loud speakers what kind of products will be on promotion for the next couple of hours. The unemployed, the retired, blue-collar workers, and the like - they all stand eagerly in lines to be the winners of the promotion marathon in stores like Carefour, Auchan and Tesco. Sometimes it can be really depressing to see Polish people pushing themselves just to get some rolls or piece of meat which are a little bit cheaper than usual. These people look like hunters from the Middle Ages struggling to survive in a hostile environment.

What is worth mentioning is the fact that people on a minimum wage, like everyone else, also have their little addictions like cigarettes or alcohol. The cheapest place to obtain these so-called "goods" in Poland is a black market constantly supplied by the Russians or Ukrainians. Our Eastern neighbors smuggle all kinds of very much desired products and sell them for the prices which are affordable even for the poorest representatives of our Polish society. The example of such place is a well-known place of an almost a legendary status known as “The Stadion” in Warsaw. Apart from cigarettes and cheap alcohol you can also buy funnily cheap clothes, shoes, household appliances and practically everything you can think of mainly from the Vietnamese. You cannot demand a high quality and endurance but at least if your dream is to be a fashion follower and you cannot afford prices at famous shopping malls like Galeria Centrum or Arkadia, you can still look cool and nobody has to check what label you are wearing on.

The most expensive thing to afford, particularly in big cities, is an apartment. Needless to say, you can always take a loan, but some people will not get it so easily without certain ceiling of salary and monthly earnings or a work contract. The only solution is to rent the apartment for years which is not a cheap thing to do at all. In the centre of Warsaw the prices range for two-bedroom apartment and is 1500 PLN up. Therefore, most people who cannot afford it decide to commute and live 30-50 km away from the centre. The traffic in the morning can turn a 30-min drive to a 2+ hr never-ending journey.

One of the saddest problems is that I cannot imagine minimum bread winners to go out somewhere in Warsaw. In the restaurants the prices of food and alcohol can be a cause of a headache even for a foreigner. Therefore, the best idea is to stay at home in front of the television with the six-pack of the cheapest beer (1.7PLN per can) or smuggled vodka and dream of the day when the fate changes for better.

The positive thing is that home social parties so called “domówki” are very much in fashion nowadays. If you are dying to eat out and do not have much cash on you, the solution is a “Bar Mleczny” (a milk bar) which is on the verge of extinction due to unreasonable decisions of the former mayor of Warsaw and a current president of Poland (Mr. Kaczynski). You can eat a decent meal there for PLN 7 and have a surprising and sometimes even entertaining company.

All in all, based on the examples above, I can say that even living on a minimum wage in Poland can be quite an experience, especially in a big city like Warsaw. On the other hand, you won't get better opportunities to get paid better in any other country in Poland, so luck plays an important role here :).
Markos  
8 Oct 2006 /  #2
I'm glad I don't have to live on minimum wage (not only in Poland as I think everything's the same story). But as you noted - Poles are very inventive people and I'm sure some of them get really good deals on these "store promotions" or any other "product testing". I should add that I'm positive not only people with minimum wages take advantage of it - quite the opposite.. :). Some Poles still like to stay in long lines as it's a good way of socializing..
krysia 23 | 3,057  
8 Oct 2006 /  #3
My aunt, cousins and other family members live in Warsaw. I used to live in Żoliborz. I was just there with a visit and couldn't believe the prices they were asking for rental units! That's how much they pay in the US to rent! With the Polish wages, I don't know who can afford it. But some must have good jobs.

The restaurants I found cheaper than in the US.
But for example, you order steak. In Poland the menu quotes you one price and then when the bill comes, it's higher. Because they charge you not by the steak order, but by how much it weighs.

And they still charge for using the toilets. I guess the old "babas" need to make money somehow too...
Markos  
8 Oct 2006 /  #4
Because they charge you not by the steak order, but by how much it weighs.

REALLY?? I lived in Poland as a child/teenager (never been to restaurant by myself I guess) -- but didn't know they do charge based on the weight of the steak... Is it the case in all restaurants or just some of them?
lef 11 | 478  
8 Oct 2006 /  #5
Sawa

Great article, things can only get better?.

The Government tell us that the average wage in poland is 2400zl, and a lot of people earn much more....?????????
OP Sawa  
8 Oct 2006 /  #6
I took the information about minimum wage from this page:

pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C5%82aca_minimalna (642 zł netto).
Kowalski 7 | 621  
8 Oct 2006 /  #7
I know myself a person who lives on a minimum wage. She doesn't pay her rent though for years now and is - for those who don't know - protected by law from being evicted (city has no places to evict people like her to). Her money goes for utilities, food and legal drugs. She gets occasionaly additionaol help in food and cash from some social services. She's a bad worker but not fired because she has a kid. She never pays her transportation tickets and just gets another fine issued, she has bad credit history, debt collectors at her door from time to time. Her knowledge about food nutrition is limited to zero and instead of some rice, beans, vegies etc she tends to buy junk food. She parties a lot and is often seen drunk. Her home is dirty, furniture old, walls were painted many, many years ago, ALL in her house remains in a very shaby condition and she needs a dentist job. I know her pale doughter breakfast often cosnists of eating some white slice of white bread with some fruity marlmalade and if not for school meals she'd go hungry. This woman had recently received some overdue money, a one time payment of some sort and she has bought herself ... a brand new, latest fashion home theatre entertainment set and ... a cell phone.
krysia 23 | 3,057  
8 Oct 2006 /  #8
the case in all restaurants or just some of them?

No, just some of them.

Kowalski
Is this person in Poland or the US? Because there are people like that in the US.
Kowalski 7 | 621  
8 Oct 2006 /  #9
This is in Poland. There are people like her everywhere I think.
Oska  
8 Oct 2006 /  #10
Yes, what's the deal in Poland with all these "hi-tech" devices? I see a cell-phone is a must for a Pole. I've been living in the US for a few years and only bought one a few months ago (I could afford one a few years ago but I didn't really needed it:).
lef 11 | 478  
8 Oct 2006 /  #11
I see a cell-phone is a must for a Pole.

good point, everyone in poland seems to have a mobile phone, wheres the money come from?
Markos  
8 Oct 2006 /  #12
wheres the money come from?

I guess not all Poles earn a minimum wage and most of them can actually afford to get stuff.
Kowalski 7 | 621  
8 Oct 2006 /  #13
hi-tech devices in Poland ARE a fashion statement (not just a usefull more or less gadget) and strangly they can also determine here your social status. It's the same in Brasil and other south American countries. I think buying those things makes us crossing into the first world...:)

(...)Having no flat screen tv set may couse you suffer in Poland and almost as much as having a "bad address" in US or having ...no internet.
krysia 23 | 3,057  
8 Oct 2006 /  #14
Poles like to show off what they have.
I know a few here in the US. They have to have everything brand new. First they had to get a boat, A brand new one. Then a Yamaha motorcycle. Brand new. Now they got a brand new truck for $30.000. All on credit. They are here illegally. They don't have health insurance. I think the money got the better of them. I only hope they will be able to make all payments...
Kowalski 7 | 621  
8 Oct 2006 /  #15
Poles like to show off what they have.

True. It's so visible in clothes they wear, too. Some don't go to corner store if not dressed up (man and women).
bolo 2 | 304  
8 Oct 2006 /  #16
Poles like to show off what they have.
I know a few here in the US. They have to have everything brand new. First they had to get a boat, A brand new one. Then a Yamaha motorcycle. Brand new. Now they got a brand new truck for $30.000. All on credit. They are here illegally. They don't have health insurance. I think the money got the better of them. I only hope they will be able to make all payments...

Well, on the other hand it IS good for the American economy -- because Poles seem to be very good buyers. And I think IF Poles get to get waived an entry visa to the US - that would be mostly because they are perceived as good workers and buyers.
Kowalski 7 | 621  
8 Oct 2006 /  #17
And because they are white? - just a hint!
krysia 23 | 3,057  
8 Oct 2006 /  #18
Ahh, those "entry visas" .What the goverment doesn't say is, that you have to return to Poland and no lawyer will touch it to help you stay in the US. Not through marriage or visa extension or other possible way. If they overstay their visa, they will be here illegally forever. Some might get caught and deported. And when they finally do return, they will be refused an entry to the US.
lef 11 | 478  
8 Oct 2006 /  #19
guess not all Poles earn a minimum wage and most of them can actually afford to get stuff.

Just seems everyone in poland has a mobile phone, more so young people, (mobile phones are not cheap)
Kowalski 7 | 621  
8 Oct 2006 /  #20
What sucks most is this 100 USD fee for privilidge of talking to immigration clerk at US Embassy, payable regardless of weather you get visa or not.
bolo 2 | 304  
8 Oct 2006 /  #21
I had to pay twice before they let me in. After that, one of the school here in the US advised me to "go back to Poland" and arrange a student's visa from there." I'm glad I didn't try their advice.. :)
krysia 23 | 3,057  
8 Oct 2006 /  #22
So bolo, you here illegally???
You don't have to answer that. Just wondering....
Actually, it's none of my business. I'm glad you're here!!!
bolo 2 | 304  
8 Oct 2006 /  #23
So bolo, you here illegally???

No, I'm legally [brunette] now (but was illegal for about half a year). After having got my F1 visa as a student I was legal again.. :)
krysia 23 | 3,057  
8 Oct 2006 /  #24
So you are brunette??? COOL!!!
And all this time I thought you were a yeller....
bolo 2 | 304  
8 Oct 2006 /  #25
After wearing different masks on so many occasions they are actually getting yeller and yeller I guess..;)
krysia 23 | 3,057  
8 Oct 2006 /  #26
You didn't have to answer that first question. It's none of my business, you know.....

So bolo, do you walk around without a mask for halloween?
plg 17 | 263  
9 Oct 2006 /  #27
he walks about with a chicken head when its not halloween
nosoul  
11 Oct 2008 /  #28
hey i would be coming in to poland,warsaw in some few weeks as a student...how do i get a good job and live well with the minimum wage?????
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
11 Oct 2008 /  #29
As a student, u should know how. If not, u should learn like many of us have had to do in the past.

Beans on toast, plenty bread rolls (50gr for a big one) and tap water, LOL
SeanBM 35 | 5,808  
11 Oct 2008 /  #30
Buy fresh veg from the farmer's market "stary kleparz" boil some water make a big pot of stew or soup, it'll last for days and tastes best on the third day but to be thrown out after that.

If you eat meat, buy chicken or lamb etc on the bone and boil the bones to make stock.
And porridge, nothing wrong with it and it fills you for half the day. Rice or potatoes are cheap and if you get good potatoes leave the skin on (it's where most of the nutrition is).

Go to art galleries opening new exhibitions for free wine (it tastes like vinegar, but beggers and choosers).

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