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American family moving to Poland - looking for advice!


anna77 1 | 3
20 Apr 2013 #1
Hello,
My husband is being offered to move to his company's Warsaw office for 2-4 years. We currently live in New York area but we used to live in London for his work for 3 years a few years back so the expat thing is not completely new to us. However, neither of us speak Polish so this move would probably prove to be a bit more challenging... I am planning to start learning Polish as soon as this whole thing is confirmed but it's unlikely that I'd have any command of the language soon....

We have two kids, 3 and 7 yo. I have my own business which I will try to run remotely from Poland...
Here are my questions:
1. How easy/difficult is it to get around and get by in Warsaw without being able to speak Polish?
2. Are there English speaking doctors/hospitals?
3. What are the best/safest/convenient to the American school areas to live in? Preferably, with not too bad of a commute to Srod-Miescie (city center) area for my husband's job... How much should we expect to pay for a 3 bedroom apartment there?

4. Do most apartments for rent come furnished or unfinished?
5. Would we need to buy a car to get around?

And lastly, to be able to afford a decent size apartment in a nice area and to pay 2 private school tuitions plus obviously have enough left for everyday purchases, groceries, enough left for travel and kids activities, what would you estimate the monthly income should be? Would 20,000 PLN be enough? 30,000? I understand of course that it's all relative for different people but i am just trying to understand the cost of living in Warsaw and to ballpark the amount necessary for us to maintain the same lifestyle as in NY...

Sorry for so many questions, this has just came up and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this... Would really appreciate any help, especially from those with kids who had to make the similar expatriation recently...

Thank you!
newpip - | 140
20 Apr 2013 #2
There is a huge expat community in Konstancin next to the American school.

it is easy to get around Warsaw if you don't speak Polish but not everybody speaks English

there are English speaking doctors and hospitals Medicover and Luxmed.

I would suggest an area like Mokotow or Kabaty if you are looking for an apartment. For a house there is Sadyba, Wilanow, Powsin and Konstancin.

you can rent furnished or unfurnished- depends what you want. There are two Ikea's in Warsaw so you can furnish yourself for cheap.

I think the American school tuition is about 60,000 pln per year. The British school is slightly cheaper and there are other options too.

There are also private preschools, The English playhouse (I think) and a few others which I can't remember. There are loads.

20 to 30 thousand pln per month should be enough- I think it really depends on your school fees. Apartment prices have gone down, so that should help.
poland_
20 Apr 2013 #3
It is the other way round the British school is more expensive.

For the lifestyle you desire anna77 your budget should be USD$ 100,000 ++ per annum.

We have two kids, 3 and 7 yo. I have my own business which I will try to run remotely from Poland...

As far as schools are concerned it will be a waste of money to put your 3 year old in the American School. It would be better to put your child here preschool.pl. IPW which is a feeder kindergarden for the American School. As for your seven year old the American school have good sports facilities although the British school is far better academically. Both schools are glorified english language schools unfortunately there is no other choice for English speakers in Warsaw. I went with the British school for my kids.

Apartment prices have gone down, so that should help

You will get a nice 3 bed apartment for USD 2,000 per month.

Have a look around the area of Pod skocznia ( mokotow) close by the American Ambassador's residence.
newpip - | 140
20 Apr 2013 #4
I have friends with kids in the British school and they are happy with it. There is no perfect school. But I would never send my kids to the American school, because quite frankly the curriculum is lacking- the facilities are amazing, however. And primarily my kids are not American. But having said that, the community next to the school is all expats if that is your thing while you are here.

Warsaw is a great place to live. Don't be scared. It is worth the trip.
OP anna77 1 | 3
21 Apr 2013 #5
Thank you everyone who replied! I suppose we should find the right school for our older son first and then look for an apartment/house within reasonable proximity to it...

Newpip, may I ask you what you don't like about The American School exactly? Is it the level of academics? The overalls environment?
Our 1st grader attends a Montessori school now which we absolutely love. There are Montessori schools in Warsaw but from what I learned they are only preschools. Our older son is quite advanced academically for his age and we would like to find the right school for him... I found the Meridian School online... Does anyone have any experience with it?

Re sports and extra curricular activities, how accepting the local places are of non-Polish speaking kids? Our older son has been involved in some sports for a few years now, such as Tae Kwon Doe, swimming and hockey and we would like for him to have an opportunity to continue with these sports.

Lastly, if we live in Konstancin, what would my husband's commute be like to Srod-Miescie area where his office is?
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
21 Apr 2013 #6
I found the Meridian School online... Does anyone have any experience with it?

Steer clear.

elementary.meridian.edu.pl/index.php?option=com_contact&view=category&catid=12&Itemid=256&lang=en

Many non-native speakers of English there, not worth the money. Even worse, many of their teachers seem to come from countries with stereotypically heavy accents, as well as a school headteacher with no biography.

There are plenty of good schools in Warsaw - no need to consider this one.
crochetbitch88 2 | 83
22 Apr 2013 #7
I found the Meridian School online

A friend of mine works there, I'll ask him for an honest opinion and will get back to you
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
22 Apr 2013 #8
Steer clear.

+2

I've had a read of their teacher handbook, and it is a dreadful, dreadful place. Teachers are expected to work up to 40 real hours a week in school - which is ridiculous!
mainframe - | 12
22 Apr 2013 #9
You will get a nice 3 bed apartment for USD 2,000 per month.

would the prospect of buying a place - with mortgage - and selling afterwards (with maybe small profit) be insane?
OP anna77 1 | 3
22 Apr 2013 #10
ok, if the Meridian School is out, are there any other options besides the American and British schools? Does anyone have any feedback on the Canadian school? Thank you!
Warszawette - | 128
22 Apr 2013 #11
Hi! I know all these schools since have worked at most of them. Meridian School belongs to a wealthy Turkish financial group owning schools in a lot of countries. At least 50% of teachers are Turkish (some women wear scarves) and they teach in .... English. Montessori Primary School is staffed with people who most often don't have proper qualifications, who teach "English" even to natives although they are from Poland or from other non English speaking countries and who don't stay long as pay and conditions are very bad. The socalled "Canadian" School and the socalled "International American School" are just expensive Polish schools pretending to be "English speaking" - most teachers are underpaid non English speakers working around 40 hrs/week and who don't stay very long.

Basically, for English speakers, there are only 2 schools in Warsaw : the British and the American Schools - all the others are expensive Polish private schools with poor English, poor management and underqualified, overworked, underpaid and therefore not staying long teachers and suitable only for some Polish snobs. I personally believe that only the British and the American Schools should be considered.

(more info in private)
newpip - | 140
22 Apr 2013 #12
Anna, I am just giving my perspective. Primarily, the curriculum is lacking. It follows the American curriculum yet the majority of the students are international- it needs to offer more courses to accommodate the population. But your American and you may be happy with it. My daughter's best friend goes to the American school and she tells her the maths they are learning are something just above a basic level. My eldest is learning maths of which I have absolutely no idea how to do.

My kids are half Polish so they go to a school that offers curriculum in Polish and English. It is not one of the ones listed above. We are extremely happy with it but we are also a bilingual family.

There is no perfect school. We have been thrilled with my children's school but I also know a French lady who was completely disappointed with it after having her children in the school for two years.

I also have an American friend who sends her children to the British school and will never send hers to the American school. They attended for one year until she found out that the American school has a charity status and pays no taxes as well as receiving monies from the U.S. gov't. However, the facilities are amazing and it is great to get to know other expats. I have many friends who have kids at the American school and they participate in lots of fun things but at the same time they are highly segregated from the rest of Poland. We don't want that.

Basically, it is not a simple decision, you need to find what works for you. The International American school is a joke- don't even look there. The so called Canadian school is run by Poles, one of them is married to an American- neither have ties to Canada but are using the name to make money.

There is a montesori school for older children here but I believe it is in the north end of the city.

Basically, for English speakers, there are only 2 schools in Warsaw : the British and the American Schools - all the others are expensive Polish private schools with poor English, poor management and underqualified, overworked, underpaid and therefore not staying long teachers and suitable only for some Polish snobs. I personally believe that only the British and the American Schools should be considered.

are you kidding me? no Polish snobs go the British or American schools? is this a joke?
the school my kids go to is managed well and the English is fine with a combination of native speakers and English speaking Poles- but it is not trying to be an English school it is a bilingual school.
Warszawette - | 128
22 Apr 2013 #13
Hi! you have misread me! Of course there are Polish snobs at both the British and the American Schools but what I'm saying is that all those private Polish schools pretending to teach in foreign languages (not only in English since there are similar schools for French) are pure jokes and aiming at Polish "nouveaux riches".

Yes, there is a "Montessori" close to the center but I can assure you that it's the same crap as the other Polish schools (most people have no credentials, most teachers not native of English but teaching it and not Montessori trained and all of them not staying long since low pay and bad conditions)

I assume it's very easy to open a school in Poland and that's why most Polish private schools in Poland are "bs"; usually State schools are much better and some are even great but this is not relevant here.
Ziemowit 13 | 4,533
22 Apr 2013 #14
most teachers not native of English but teaching it

Though I'm not a teacher myself, I can see no point in that ridiculous statement. Knowing a language and teaching a language are two different things. One can be a native speaker of English and a very bad teacher of it; on the other hand a non-native speaker may not be mastering all the nuances of the language at the native speaker level, but be a very good teacher.

I can assure you that it's the same crap as the other Polish schools

I hope you have devoted enough consideration to this problem and you are not displaying here what is commonly thought of as "typical French arrogance".
Warszawette - | 128
22 Apr 2013 #15
Of course, I'm talking about native speakers QUALIFIED to teach their language and not about any native of any given language. Sorry but if to teach English and in English, I'd rather trust a native of English with the proper qualifications than a Polish teacher who usually is not top at the language. I myself hold a Master's degree in foreign language education from an American university and believe me, I know what teaching means so I see a huge difference between real teachers and those who pretend to be. I have worked at most of those so called "international" schools in Poland (for several years at some of them), and I do know about them and that's why in order to have solid teaching in English, the British and the American Schools in Warsaw are the only ones to be considered.

Pity that some posters are so ... xenophobic.
newpip - | 140
22 Apr 2013 #16
I am not xenophobic at all- I am just giving my experiences as a foreigner living in Warsaw for about 11 years...with two kids in a private school and I disagree that the American or British schools should only be considered- but if she is only here for a short time and wants to hang out with other expats who are also only here for a short time than yes, the American or British school is what she is looking for. My children's school is more a Polish/English school and is not geared towards children whose native language is something like Spanish, French or German. It is smaller and really caters to the native Poles. I do think our schools French lessons are very poor and at some point I will probably have to think about extra French lessons for my kids. I do know the German lessons are quite poor as well.

It just depends what she is looking for in a school.
As I said, my opinion is that the American school has curriculum that I feel is behind our school, particularly maths. Another issue is that my children have their birthdays in October and November which means that they would be put back a year as the cut off date is Sept 30th. And another issue- we are not American. I want my kids to learn world history and geography not just American centred. I haven't really investigated the British school, I have friends with children there and they are happy with it but as we are happy with our school there is no need to move our kids.

Just out of curiousity- why have you worked at so many of these schools? floating from school to school doesn't really give you a lot of credence in your opinion.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
22 Apr 2013 #17
Of course, I'm talking about native speakers QUALIFIED to teach their language and not about any native of any given language.

Doesn't matter. I've known some horrific teachers who might have been qualified, but who spent most of their time in the pub rather than thinking about professional development. I certainly wouldn't hire a native who spent all day Sunday in the pub!

I assure you that there are Polish teachers with far more knowledge than 99% of native speakers in Poland.

I myself hold a Master's degree in foreign language education from an American university and believe me, I know what teaching means so I see a huge difference between real teachers and those who pretend to be.

American university? You won't impress us with that - we all know about how the US system of accreditation works for universities.

The fact that you've worked at most of them rather says something about you rather than the schools.

Just out of curiousity- why have you worked at so many of these schools? floating from school to school doesn't really give you a lot of credence in your opinion.

My thoughts exactly.

Some might very well be dreadful like that Meridan school, but I'm sure there are plenty of private schools out there that give a decent education. Having qualified native speakers isn't the be all and end all, especially if you've had to hire cheaper teachers for other subjects as a result.
poland_
22 Apr 2013 #18
would the prospect of buying a place - with mortgage - and selling afterwards (with maybe small profit) be insane?

The main problem is the lack of liquidity in the Warsaw market. If you bought the apartment very well and your conversion was USD1 - PLN 3.30-40 perhaps.

It just depends what she is looking for in a school.

+1

Like Pip I have been in Poland quite a while, many expats I have spoken to over the years have kicked themselves for not putting their children into a good private Polish school, they consider it lost opportunity for their child to learn a second language. The one thing to take into consideration is your child will be in a class which is 70/80% English second language. Both the American and British schools are very happy to have native English speakers and so are the parents of children in your childs class.

The so called Canadian school is run by Poles, one of them is married to an American- neither have ties to Canada but are using the name to make money.

I would disagree with you here the Canadian school started in a flat many years ago just like the British school. The people behind the Canadian school are very nice people are very serious about what they do, once again it is a language school. I have friends and neighbors with their children in the Canadian school and they are very happy.

Polish snobs at both the British and the American Schools

Do you not believe spending 50-80,000 PLN per annum on your childs school fees is one up-manship. We all want the best for our children and if you can afford it - Why not?
newpip - | 140
22 Apr 2013 #19
newpip: The so called Canadian school is run by Poles, one of them is married to an American- neither have ties to Canada but are using the name to make money.

I won't disagree. I am basing my statement on a meeting I had with them 9 years ago. No doubt things may have changed- I personally don't know anybody that has children there but my daughter's teacher used to teach there.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
22 Apr 2013 #20
Is the British school actually the best that Poland can offer?

I'm not so sure that I'd be happy with my child learning in an environment where the main teaching language is L2 to the vast majority of students.
newpip - | 140
22 Apr 2013 #21
I don't think there is a perfect school in Warsaw.

Like I posted previously, we are happy with our school but it is lacking in other languages besides English or Polish. The maths and sciences are super - but it doesn't have the best gym facilities, but luckily the school cooperates with a local public school so they are able to use their gym and pool facilities.
OP anna77 1 | 3
22 Apr 2013 #22
Newpip, what's the name of the school your kids attend? How difficult would it be for a child who does not speak a word of Polish to integrate into it? Do they provide any assistance for children like that in terms of Polish language? How many classes are taught in English and how many in Polish?

In general, I would love for my kids to pick up Polish while we are there as I firmly believe that they can only benefit from speaking a different language (we are a bi-lingual family already, speaking Russian and English at home). However, since it's a temporary move, I don't think I would want to enroll my kids into a school where education is only in Polish. A bi-lingual school would be ideal, provided they offer enough support for kids who do not speak Polish and meet our standards in other ways.

Another concern is how quickly my 7 yo will be able to make friends in an environment where he does not speak the language. He will be leaving some great friends behind and I am sure will be feeling lonely in the beginning. Providing him with an environment where he can make new friends fast would be a huge consideration for us. By extension and knowing from experience we had living in London, we would probably also have a higher chance meeting new friends amongst parents of the schools our children attend than elsewhere... Lastly, we will be choosing where to live mostly by proximity to school... So a lot rides on the school choice!
poland_
22 Apr 2013 #23
Is the British school actually the best that Poland can offer?

As for high quality British education in Poland The British School is number 1.
Do not consider these jokers: britishschool.pl/kontakt.html to be part of the same group.

I firmly believe that they can only benefit from speaking a different language

There is also the Ecole maternelle et élémentaire: lfv.pl less expensive than both the American and British schools. Many of the fringe diplomats put their kids there it has also become popular with middle income expats.
mainframe - | 12
23 Apr 2013 #24
Basically, it is not a simple decision, you need to find what works for you.

Anna77 - it should never become more complicated than that.

To simplify things - I guess your experience will be quite similar to what I imagine happened in England. In Poland - all your important transactions will probably be in English - as most people speak/understand it

(unless you want to buy a banana on a common local fruit stall - in which case you say "ba-na-na" ;)

Warsaw is a very interesting place for different reasons. There is only one way you will find out :)
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
23 Apr 2013 #25
As for high quality British education in Poland The British School is number 1.

There really isn't much competition though, is there?

But what I mean is more from the perspective of someone living here for the long term - is it actually all that it's cracked up to be? I'd always wonder how they would be able to attract really great teachers.
newpip - | 140
23 Apr 2013 #26
Anna, I sent you a private message- it is on the top in red.
poland_
23 Apr 2013 #27
I'd always wonder how they would be able to attract really great teachers.

Well not all the teachers are great.

But what I mean is more from the perspective of someone living here for the long term - is it actually all that it's cracked up to be?

There is no other option if you want higher British education.

This is the education path of our kids below.

The British School until key stage two year 6

Polish private school ( gimnazjum) with emphasis on English as a second language.

The British school for pre IB and IB program.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
23 Apr 2013 #28
Well not all the teachers are great.

See, that would concern me - the fees are so high that you would expect fantastic teaching. But the pool of acceptable teachers is probably quite small (UK qualified and willing to live in Warsaw) - so you start to wonder.

There is no other option if you want higher British education.

Maybe no other option, but is the British education really any better (for someone living in Poland permanently) than a Polish education?

This is the education path of our kids below.

How do they find the transition from the British School to the Polish system?
newpip - | 140
23 Apr 2013 #29
This is why I am happy to have English speaking Poles teach my kids. This year there are quite a few native speakers teaching so I am not so concerned, but, if it were only Poles it wouldn't bother me as we speak both at home so my kids wouldn't suffer. They get paid well for Polish standards and they are very happy to be there.

From my understanding, the American school- not certain about the British but it is probably similar, doesn't offer the best pay as compared to other Amer or Brit schools in the world.

There is usually a recruiting fair once a year where potential teachers look for work abroad. some of the higher paying jobs would be Dubai or Asia- Warsaw is on the lower end so it often doesn't attract a lot of potential teachers.

I am not saying the teachers that teach at any of the schools are poor quality- so please don't read it like that.
My kids had a super American teacher but after two years he left for Dubai. That is just the way it goes.
poland_
23 Apr 2013 #30
The British school Warsaw is part of Nord Anglia [nordangliaeducation.com] they have schools all over the world I am sure this is a draw for many teachers.

Maybe no other option, but is the British education really any better (for someone living in Poland permanently) than a Polish education?

That depends on the choice of university/country it will obviously be better for students to do IB over A level.

How do they find the transition from the British School to the Polish system?

No problem both children are bi-lingual +.They also benefit from the two different methods knowledge/usage.


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