Sawa 8 Oct 2006 / #1Maybe 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 :).