November 21 2006
-Where were you born?
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my Polish boyfriend, Marek.
-How long have you been living in Poland?
Since May 2005, but for the last ten years I’ve been abroad more than in the UK. I lived and worked in Brussels, Belgium for 18 months, and part (3 years) of my school days was spent in Bonn, Germany.
-What is your age?
I just turned 26.
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Poland?
I met Marek at a voluntary project in Brussels. I had done two internships in Brussels, working for a human rights organisation and the European Commission, but all the jobs I wanted needed four years experience. I decided to go somewhere for a couple of years to get some experience working in the human rights field at a more grassroots level. I found I could do a European Voluntary Service (EVS) project with refugees in Warsaw so that’s what I came to do!
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
No, I’m an EU citizen, and a Brit at that, so it’s pretty easy to live and work anywhere in the EU.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
My EVS covered medical insurance, and once that first year finished I signed up with an insurance company and it’s being funded by my current project (a follow up project to EVS, also working with refugees).
-How do you make your living in Poland? Do you have any type of income generated?
My project is funded by the European Commission but it doesn’t pay me a salary. I work three days a week at the Warsaw Voice, an English language newsmagazine, as a copy editor. I actually was offered an interview there through a comment on my blog! It gives me a probably higher than average Polish salary, and I use my free days to work on my project. I also make some money house-sitting/dog sitting/baby sitting for other expats.
-Do you speak Polish and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
It was very frustrating arriving and not be able to understand anything, so I was pretty motivated to learn Polish and now speak it relatively confidently. I think it’s very important for foreigners to learn the language and when I meet people who have been here for years and can barely say a word I think it’s sad. They’re really missing out.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
My family has moved around for a while now, and I’ve got used to having my friends spread about the world. Without the Internet I guess it wouldn’t be so comfortable – Skype is an expat’s best friend! I do miss my family, but it means when we get together it’s always extra special.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
Once my current project has finished Marek and I are thinking of going to France for a year or so. I am keen to apply for jobs in human rights NGOs and we both already speak the language. I’m getting the feeling it’s almost time for another adventure.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
When I first moved to Warsaw, Marek and I rented a three-room flat in a great suburb for 1400zl a month (600 euros). After a year of renting we decided to invest and bought a gorgeous two-room (66m2) flat in a pre-war building for 490,000zl (122 500 euros) in the centre of Warsaw.
-What is the cost of living in Poland?
Compared to other EU countries, it’s cheap. Compared to my home country of Britain, it’s very cheap!
-What do you think about the Polish people?
My boyfriend and his family are all locals so I’m slightly biased – I think they’re great! On the other hand, I do come into contact with stories of racism and intolerance from the refugees I work with. It’s the same as any country – a mixture of wonderful people, utter fools and quite a few in between.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Poland?
The country is great for traveling – from the coast in the north, through the lakes interesting countryside and varied cities to the mountains in the south. Also, I love that there are proper seasons - the summers are hot and the winters are cold.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Poland?
Learn the language and develop a taste for hefty meals.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Poland?
Well, my blog is Boo