The BEST Guide to POLAND
Unanswered  |  Archives 
 
 
User: Guest

Home / Life  % width posts: 133

My own thoughts about life in Poland (have lived here for two years)


pubben 2 | 15
17 Aug 2010 #1
I've read this forum for quite a while, but I have not bothered to reply to most things. I see it can be quite tribal. What I notice first and foremost is that, many posters here seem to be very sensitive to criticism of Poland. Also, they tend to be Polish ex-pats rather than Polish people living here in Poland.

I thought I would offer some of my own thoughts about life in Poland.

I've lived here for two years, and to be honest, I do not like it. "Good, go home." Yes, I've already anticipated the responses. Let me say first, that I think Poland is a beautiful country. Stunning. Polish people are warm and hospitable and the premium Polish people place on family life is both admirable and a lesson to 'western' societies. Were these the only things important in life, Poland would be a paradise. They aren't. It's not. And I think Poland is a country with serious problems.

First and foremost, I often hear about just how materialistic and greedy western people are, particularly people from the US or UK. Pot. Kettle. Black. I have never seen such a materialistic society in my life. Whilst I understand that there are historical and sociological reasons for this, and that most former communist countries suffer from the 'starved man at the banquet' syndrome, it does not change facts. Poland is one of the most materialistic societies I have encountered. Far more so than any other 'western' country. Deny it all you like, but it is true.

Prices are next. 'Western' brands are treated as premium products and prices inflated accordingly, although there is often no other choice. Let's take cosmetics - any aftershave, perfume, face cream etc and you can comfortably double what you would expect to pay in western Europe. Razor blades?! Jesus. Electronics? Well, we'll add another 20 - 50% at least. High street brands? It varies, but certainly Diesel jeans are at least twice as expensive, Levis too. Benetton, Esprit, Mothercare etc all far more expensive than elsewhere. I often here about how prices are much lower in Poland than in other countries, and for certain products such as food, transport etc it is true - in absolute terms. In relative terms, they are as expensive, if not more so than in other countries. Check any economic data set from the ONS, US state department or academic research and you will discover that comparing prices to wages, Poland is one of the most expensive countries to live in in Europe. In western Europe and the US it takes the average person between 10 - 15 hours of work to buy an iPod, in Warsaw it takes 45.

Which brings me to my next point. Wages. Stupidly low. The average wage is 3200 zl per month (2009 Polish government statistics) now this is the average of everyone in the country, from the very highest earners to the lowest. Anecdotally, most people seem to earn around 1500 - 2000 per month. Starting a career is a joke: "So we really like you, what's the lowest you're prepared to work for?" A friend who could not find work as a Child Psychologist went for a job in an office, she'd had some office experience and just needed a source of income. She was told afterwards that she had priced herself out of the job by saying she was not prepared to work for less than 1200 zl per month. It seems counter productive, apart from highly specialised work, such as IT, Law or Engineering, where you studied does not seem to matter, how low you'll work for is all that counts. How is this going to improve things? Surely companies want to attract the best and brightest, not the cheapest? Let's not even talk about contracts some women are made to sign promising not to get pregnant for a pre-determined period. Worker's protection is farcical. It's not only ordinary workers, even highly trained workers are expected to work for next to nothing. My girlfriend's dad is director of a neurology department in a hospital. His remuneration? 5000 zl a month. Were it not for private sector work he would not be able to afford to live.

Problem four. Taxes / Health system. ZUS and taxes are so high it is untrue. Again, look at taxes as a percentage of gross income in any of the aforementioned economic data sets and you'll discover that Polish people pay proportionally more tax than people in Scandinavia. And what do you get? Nothing. The government spend approximately 4% of GDP on the health system, which happens to be one of the lowest rates in Europe and the developed world. Small wonder the NFZ is crumbling. I am sick of hearing about how bad the NHS is, or how expensive the US healthcare system is. In terms of public health, mental health, cleanliness, equipment and expertise, they are streets ahead of the NFZ. You get sick in most European countries and you need medicine then you'll pay a one off price for your drugs. In Britain, aspirin, NRT or drugs for cancer all cost the same. Yet in Poland, one cannot say that. In fact, Poland has the 3rd largest pharmaceutical market in Europe and the lowest health expenditure. This surely hints at a private sector in dire need of regulation. Either that, or a population of hypochondriacs. I am 100% sure that it's the former rather than the latter. Certainly, if I have kids I would not want them to be seriously ill in this country. Roads and other public services are a joke. Where does all the tax go? What do people get for it? I read a recent article in Gazetta Wyborcza that said that roads in Afghanistan and Iraq were better than Polish roads.

Society. I have never seen such endemic racism and homophobia in a society. There are obviously problems in other countries, no country has an unblemished record in these areas, but they try and massive strides have been taken to ensure progress. Only this year, the Supreme Court ruled that they could not say homosexuality was not a disease until medical tests had been carried out. A lesbian friend is banned from seeing her mother, until she goes to a church camp to 'cure' her. Obviously this could be an isolated incident, but I doubt it. Racism and Anti-Semitism are both appallingly embraced. Just speak about race for a few minutes, even to an educated person and you're bound to hear some derisory comment about N*****s or 'czarnuch', gypsies or Jews. Jedwabne anyone?? There is also a class system, as elitist as anything in operation in Britain, America or Western Europe. So many times I have heard about "stupid people living in the village".

These are my thoughts. I know that there are reasons why all these things occur in Poland. We can explain them politically, economically and sociologically. It doesn't make them acceptable. It's why I don't like Poland. It's why so many Polish people move to other countries. My girlfriend studied at the Jagiellonian University, widely acknowledged as the best in Poland. About 90% of her former friends, classmates etc have left Poland. Graduates from top universities should be shaping the country, shaping its work-force, joining the government and the civil service. This could be such a wonderful country, but there are massive problems. People say things are getting better, but the wealth differential is getting worse every day. The Kraków tolerance march was threatened and intimidated once again this year, I'm sure it happened elsewhere. I think instead of attacking other societies and cultures, Polish people should have a long, hard look at their own. Now. This isn't the time for talking about the Liberal Constitution or Golden Freedom, it is about the here and now.

Now, I expect to be slated...
sobieski 107 | 2,128
17 Aug 2010 #2
Talking about perfume prices,there is a simple explanation for that.
They contain alcohol and therefore the excise part comes into play.
pgtx 29 | 3,159
17 Aug 2010 #3
Poland is one of the most materialistic societies I have encountered. Far more so than any other 'western' country. Deny it all you like, but it is true.

what's your reasoning...

It varies, but certainly Diesel jeans are at least twice as expensive, Levis too. Benetton, Esprit, Mothercare etc all far more expensive than elsewhere. I often here about how prices are much lower in Poland than in other countries

Poland is expensive... it's cheaper to travel to the US for shopping...

I have never seen such endemic racism and homophobia in a society.

some people take it over the board... just look at this forum...

Now, I expect to be slated...

you got some good points i agree with...
every country has a bad and a good side...
David_18 68 | 982
17 Aug 2010 #4
Word!!!

Couldn't have said it better myself :)
Englishpoznan 4 | 102
17 Aug 2010 #5
Either that, or a population of hypochondriacs

You've hit the nail on the head there! Every Polish person I know has a whole cupboard full of medicine. I will never forget an ex flatmate of mine who produced a large suitcase full of medicine when I complained of a sore throat!

If you want to get rich in this country open an Apteka!
OP pubben 2 | 15
17 Aug 2010 #6
Talking about perfume prices,there is a simple explanation for that.
They contain alcohol and therefore the excise part comes into play.

Perfumes yes, but other cosmetics, not really. Quick example as I went shopping today:

Clinque Facescrub for men - Sephora 149.99 zl. Boots GBP 12.99

pubben:
Poland is one of the most materialistic societies I have encountered. Far more so than any other 'western' country. Deny it all you like, but it is true.

what's your reasoning...

Consumer spending, advertising, culture. I have as much evidence as people have when they say Britain and the US are materialistic. It's an observation.
Tlum 10 | 155
20 Aug 2010 #7
Great review. Prices are high, wages low. It may change when the Chinese flood the Polish market with their goods. I know some Poles work a week to buy a pair of 'branded' trousers or shoes; that's something it's not easy to understand though.
plk123 8 | 4,150
20 Aug 2010 #8
many posters here seem to be very sensitive to criticism of Poland. Also, they tend to be Polish ex-pats rather than Polish people living here in Poland.

the overly sensitive ones are, for the most part, the poles living in PL.. many that haven't experienced anything but PL..

the other stuff as hard as it may be for many to hear/read, i observe the same. but you may get crucified, as you already know.
richasis 1 | 420
20 Aug 2010 #9
I've lived here for two years, and to be honest, I do not like it.

Fair enough. Still, why do you remain in Poland?
And no, I do not mean to say

"Good, go home."

I agree with much you've said. I'm just curious.
Richfilth 6 | 415
20 Aug 2010 #10
I wholeheartedly support the sentiments of the original poster, although I will say there has been a modicum of change over the last six years (I moved here a few months after Poland joined the EU.)

I will say, however, that a large number of Poles in cities will agree with you; they are equally frustrated by prices, taxes, and the speed of progress.
Chicago Pollock 7 | 504
20 Aug 2010 #11
pubben

I think instead of attacking other societies and cultures, Polish people should have a long, hard look at their own. Now. This isn't the time for talking about the Liberal Constitution or Golden Freedom, it is about the here and now.

I've never been to Poland but what you have posted I have surmised from the posts on this forum.

It appears because of the long occupation by foreign powers Poland has never taken a good look at themselves. They've always blamed the foreign powers and have never considered their own deficiencies. You're right, they need to take a long hard look at themselves and quit romanticizing the past. Poland needs to change and look inward. They need to look to themselves for solutions to their problems. Polish society needs to become more egalitarian, more inclusive.
FUZZYWICKETS 8 | 1,884
20 Aug 2010 #12
there are many truths within the OP. truths i've been waiting for people to accept on this forum for a long time so that we can stop arguing about the same crap every day.

but, as i anticipate, people will agree to a lot of this, keep their mouths shut for a day or two, and then the next thread will go up about something in Poland and everyone will start another flame war, talking up Poland again, making it out to be something it's not.

call me pessimistic, but it's par for the course on PF. a bunch of posters in denial. i don't want PF to become a Poland bashing site, i just want people to cut the crap.

thanks for the thread pubben, but my expectations are low.
aman 1 | 3
20 Aug 2010 #13
I don't agree with the most things said here. I will only comment on what I mostly agree with: racism and homophobia.

I am a guy of Asian origin (doesn't matter what part of Asia) who lived in Asia and the U.S. (third of my life) prior to coming to Poland.

I have to say I've never been aware of my 'Asianness' prior to coming to Poland. In Asia it's normal, but also in the States I've never considered myself Asian, just another American guy. I could never and still don't understand ethnic pride.

But I've been reminded of my 'Asiannes' and of my oriental looks so many times, that quite frankly I am getting pretty sick of it, especially since I consider myself a true cosmopolitan.

Homophobia of course is a huge problem. I see totally educated, young and smart people making the most stupid remarks about homosexuals. It's almost like 19th century.

Now having said that, I would not say that Poland is the most racist or homophobic country I've been to (Russia and United Arab Emirates are). I also do think that Poland is a lot more liberal than it used to be and is constantly improving. I do think that Krakow (the city where I live) has a great future. I love Poland and my girlfriend is of Polish origin, albeit she grew up in another country.
Matyjasz 2 | 1,544
20 Aug 2010 #14
I've read this forum for quite a while, but I have not bothered to reply to most things. I see it can be quite tribal. What I notice first and foremost is that, many posters here seem to be very sensitive to criticism of Poland. Also, they tend to be Polish ex-pats rather than Polish people living here in Poland.

It all depends how you voice your criticism, and having been here on PF since 2006 I must admit that your post with no derogatory words was a very refreshing one. Usually those criticisms that you mentioned were just venting by frustrates and lets be frank here, that never helps bringing a consensus. Quite the contrary, it sparks more arguments, witch is also very visible in topics about america and GB. Either way, you did make many valid points. We, as a society, are at the same time family oriented and antisocial. The english have a wonderfu word that lacks in polish language that would come in handy here, namely inconsiderate. We are also generally leery of others outside our circle of friends, outside our family, outside our neighbourhood, our village, city, our profession and of course outside our cultural circle.

Yes, the wages are low. This was the main idea to bring foreign investment to the country after the fall of communism. It's been 20 years now though...

Actually there is no point in me repeating your words. I could actually add few points here and there...

Poland is a country in a making. The transformation it took was enormous, but I do understand that some people would wish the pace of changes to be faster but talking here won't fix the problems.
tow_stalin - | 57
20 Aug 2010 #15
I've lived here for two years, and to be honest, I do not like it. "Good, go home."

and then your post should have ended... :)
Seanus 15 | 19,706
20 Aug 2010 #16
I disagree. His post contained many things which I have been thinking for some time. Posters like delphiandomine and SeanBM are free to disagree with me but I've seen prices rising across the board. I've really needed to tighten my belt due to work changes, meaning I get less than before. It makes you budget and prioritise.

Salaries are ridiculously low in relation to all the costs you incur here. I'm decidedly above the average but still don't consider myself as doing that well. I can't imagine savings accounts being overly common here ;)

As for anti-Semitism, I think Poles are largely impassive here. I don't hear much mention of Jews, apart from this forum. Racist? Yes. When I tell people that I listen, from time to time, to Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, The Four Tops etc etc, I get slated for siding with those nig*ers. I have the utmost respect for so many black artists and that's not gonna change. They have made sterling contributions to music :)

ZUS and taxes = theft. I typically pay 1300PLN together and that's an absolute farce. I told the doctors here that they could forget me paying for anything due to me paying 840PLN a month against my will. I'd be prepared to take the risk of staying free of illness.

Oh yes, and materialism runs rampant. I've never encountered a more money-obsessed society. The Japanese virtually never mentioned it!! It's embarrassing!
wildrover 98 | 4,451
20 Aug 2010 #17
pubben

Great post...I am sure you will get some stick over it , but it seems to me to be a fairly acurate look at Polish life...
al111 13 | 89
20 Aug 2010 #18
Pubben from a foreigner's observation i'm sure u share many opinions about POLSKA with a lot of people here.Many expats i have met are here either because they have family connections or are very optimistic opportunists. It's a lovely country in other aspects and as of development it still has a long way to go, much longer as long as the young educated keep fleeing to the west.

As for Apteka's yes i did observe that the first month i got here. Once had a business plan to open a line of them coz they are doing very well, but then again who can blame them if doctors always issue out prescriptions just by looking at your symptoms without sending you for tests.Once heard of a neighbour who went to a Professor of Gynocology coz she had problems with her bleedings she was told straight away when she got there that she had cancer. Later turned out to be the type of tampoons she was using she was gutted coz she had spent over 500zł at "the specialist". Just goes to show sometimes what a joke the health care system is here in Polska.
Kasha83 - | 8
20 Aug 2010 #19
Well done! A piece of good, constructive criticism.
skibum 8 | 62
20 Aug 2010 #20
I was happy here until i read all that now I feel like i want to be back in the UK.

Only joking, good article though, much of it rings true with what I've seen here, but I still prefer Krakow to Leeds.
szarlotka 8 | 2,209
20 Aug 2010 #21
Matyjasz

I would struggle to improve upon this response. Great post.
tow_stalin - | 57
20 Aug 2010 #22
sorry pubben, i thought that you are next incarnation of sheila...

i agree with most of your observations - wages, prices, taxes. just like ziemkiewicz write - living in poland is sometimes like swimming in jelly - it's possible, but damn tiring...

the other thing i fully agree with you is stance of many, so called, educated poles from cities to poles from province areas. i'm sick of it. i live in biggest agglomeration in poland (it's not warsaw), have 2 university degrees, net wage quite above polish average (even if average is counted gross), and still can't understand why there are educated poles who curing their complexes in this way. you're not better, you educated idiots, can't you understand such a simple think? you have no right to such a behavior!

when talking albout anti-semitism and homophobia. i think that most poles might be slightly anti-semitists, rather in verbal level only. but... most of jews are anti-poles (i saw official israel video about preparing trip of students to german death camps in poland). both nations are full of ignorant when talking about each other. going to so called homophobia... sometimes i think that everything which isn't pro-homo is called homophobia...
wildrover 98 | 4,451
20 Aug 2010 #23
but I still prefer Krakow to Leeds.

I still prefer my old farm in Pomerania to my semi detatched in Leeds...
WhyMedSchool 6 | 35
20 Aug 2010 #24
Where do Polish taxes go? To pay for the salaries of the endless number of useless bureaucrats that work for the worst bureaucracy in the world except for maybe India.

I think this is a major issue that was missed that will be an incredible hurdle for the future economic development of this country. How many foreign dollars are directed elsewhere because Poland makes it so difficult to spend them here?

Also - separation of Church and State anybody? How about access to abortion? Spending tax payer money to protect a cross outside of the presidential palace? The list goes on and on...
delphiandomine 85 | 18,274
20 Aug 2010 #25
Sorry, but the original post contains so much nonsense that I can't stop myself laughing. I'll highlight just a few things -

Razor blades?! Jesus. Electronics? Well, we'll add another 20 - 50% at least.

I bought razor blades the other day. I paid almost exactly the same price as I'd pay in the UK for the same product.

Electronics are about 10% more expensive due to currency movement - no big deal. And yes, I buy a lot of electronics - and the price difference compared to the UK is so small that it's not worth buying there. The UK, incidentally, being the cheapest place in Europe for electronics.

Poland is one of the most expensive countries to live in in Europe. In western Europe and the US it takes the average person between 10 - 15 hours of work to buy an iPod, in Warsaw it takes 45.

Uh...wages are lower, maybe that's why? And you cannot compare the EU to America when it comes to electronics - the EU always has been much, much more expensive.

She was told afterwards that she had priced herself out of the job by saying she was not prepared to work for less than 1200 zl per month.

More nonsense. The minimum wage is 1317zl a month, and this is enforced. Anyone being paid less than minimum can quite easily win in court without much fuss - the legal system being very heavily weighted towards employees.

Let's not even talk about contracts some women are made to sign promising not to get pregnant for a pre-determined period. Worker's protection is farcical.

Someone clearly knows nothing about the Polish legal system and how strongly it protects workers. In fact, Polish workers are protected almost as heavily as French workers! And as for such contracts - I'd love to see one. They don't exist - for the simple reason that no employer is stupid enough to do such a thing in a country where the labour laws are ridiculously strict.

My girlfriend's dad is director of a neurology department in a hospital. His remuneration? 5000 zl a month. Were it not for private sector work he would not be able to afford to live.

Obviously, he hasn't told you about all the bribes that he's received that "increase" his salary dramatically. Anyway, if you can't afford to live on 5000zl a month, something is seriously wrong with you.

Problem four. Taxes / Health system. ZUS and taxes are so high it is untrue. Again, look at taxes as a percentage of gross income in any of the aforementioned economic data sets and you'll discover that Polish people pay proportionally more tax than people in Scandinavia. And what do you get? Nothing.

More rubbish. My effective tax rate this year is hovering about 13% as a sole trader. Not bad really, especially when it includes pension and health care! Many people are also getting away with an effective 9.5% tax rate, especially teachers and translators.

In terms of public health, mental health, cleanliness, equipment and expertise, they are streets ahead of the NFZ.

Wrong again. Compare NFZ dentistry to NHS dentistry. I rest my case.

I read a recent article in Gazetta Wyborcza that said that roads in Afghanistan and Iraq were better than Polish roads.

Could that be because post-war reconstruction has been funded through the exploitation of that countries resources? It's hardly a big secret that American companies have been using Iraqi money to reconstruct the country that they destroyed!

Society. I have never seen such endemic racism and homophobia in a society. There are obviously problems in other countries, no country has an unblemished record in these areas, but they try and massive strides have been taken to ensure progress. Only this year, the Supreme Court ruled that they could not say homosexuality was not a disease until medical tests had been carried out. A lesbian friend is banned from seeing her mother, until she goes to a church camp to 'cure' her. Obviously this could be an isolated incident, but I doubt it.

Obviously someone has been winding you up senseless. Could it be that your lesbian friend actually had a major falling out with her mother over her sexuality (which goes on all over the world) and that her mother wants nothing to do with her? Good excuse to tell the gullible foreigner, anyway.

About 90% of her former friends, classmates etc have left Poland.

And they're the ones who will have nothing to come back to - while they work as waitresses in Western Europe. Let's be honest here - the best graduates don't need to leave Poland at all, because there's so much opportunity here. Actually, the ones that left are very often the ones that can't hack it in Poland - or they simply want to earn a lot of money by Polish standards quickly.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
20 Aug 2010 #26
Well, delph, you are fighting a lone battle here as the accuracy of his statements are very evident.

First, the only way I got cheaper blades for my Wilkinson Sword was through Allegro. Otherwise, I'd've been paying through the nose for them. Also, convert your salary through kantor rates and tell me you earn a lot. I'd be on 11,000 pounds a year if I thought that way but your money can go further if you are careful.

Media Markt here deal in electronics and they are not cheap. Many other places charge disproportionate prices.

Salaries, not wages. Salaries are for permanent work whereas wages are for temporary and seasonal work.

Delph, that figure doesn't apply to all contracts. Also, strictly enforced? That's bull as many here get under 1000PLN gross and they don't claim as litigation is vexatious. Ask those that distribute fliers how much they get. I did and was shocked. Ask some cleaners and others that do ancillary jobs. The list goes on and on.

Also, delph, don't take such a minimalistic approach. PIP often don't represent your interests well and where is the small claims procedure to give those who want to win amounts under 750 pounds (c3800PLN)? Are workers informed as to their rights?

Throw in a palliative and you have decent tax figures. I have a lot of invoices which lowers my tax. Without those, it seems to be around 13% but they take it down to around 11% effectively (1/9th typically). ZUS is expensive into your 3rd year and beyond. 840PLN does sting, delph, you can't tell me otherwise.

NFZ works well enough and is full of consummate pros. The NHS has been burdened by people beyond return. Yes, hypochondriacs burden NFZ here but it's on a different scale.

Polish roads aren't littered with mines for a start. They are not dirt tracks like in Afghanistan. There is no comparison.

There is a fair bit of racism here but it lies latent. It wasn't as overt like in Britain through the BNP and football fans. Homosexuality is frowned upon and it's pointless denying it. However, it can change and many don't take such a hardl line on it.

It depends where you are, delph. The same opportunities don't exist around the country.
FUZZYWICKETS 8 | 1,884
20 Aug 2010 #27
Seanus wrote:

840PLN does sting, delph, you can't tell me otherwise.

as soon as he's had a business in Poland for 2 years, he'll let you know. you're forgetting just how green he really is.

imagine Delph if your 2-year cheap ZUS honeymoon ended AND you actually had to start paying rent? now THAT would "sting".

i guess you'd have to sell off your A/C units.

it's like shootin' fish in a barrel.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
20 Aug 2010 #28
My rent shot up from 750PLN to 950PLN (with internet and bills paid) in one change. That's another major expense. I've had my business since Oct 2007 and the 330PLN ZUS was fine :)
Kasha83 - | 8
20 Aug 2010 #29
Let's be honest here - the best graduates don't need to leave Poland at all, because there's so much opportunity here.

Firstly, as Seanus pointed out, you don't have the same opportunity in every part of Poland and with all due respect, the way you perceive Polish reality is ''idyllic'. Secondly, in my opinion people emigrate due to many different reasons (yes, for many it is only an economical reason)....but as long as they are satisfied and happy with doing what they do and wherever they are it is their business and I cannot understand why it suddenly causes such a big public concern (let me add that it is a very negative / nicely said/ attitude towards emigrants)....yours 'the ones that can't hack it in Poland' is as shallow as famous 'Polish failures in GB' said by our previous president L.Kaczynski
delphiandomine 85 | 18,274
20 Aug 2010 #30
Kaczynski was right to a degree with such a comment though - where's the sense in the public funding people through 5 year degrees if all they do is move to the UK to work in low paid employment? Let's be realistic - while the UK might offer better salaries right now, those same people are going to come back with no experience in their trade

We're already seeing in Poznan that people won't hire others who don't have relevant work experience in the UK. I know several HR managers, and all of them say the same thing - what relevance does dish washing have? There are plenty of people in Poland with great English skills, especially among younger people - someone who went to the UK to wash dishes is not going to be at any particular advantage at all.

And strangely, the same applies for TEFL teachers - many of them don't realise that when they return, they'll struggle to find a good, normal job.


Home / Life / My own thoughts about life in Poland (have lived here for two years)
BoldItalic [quote]
 
To post as Guest, enter a temporary username or login and post as a member.