I’ve spent considerable amounts of time in Poland, an Eastern European country that is currently experiencing both a cultural and economic renaissance. I have been to Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk, and Lublin. Out of all those cities, Poznan is my favorite. I highly recommend it as a great introduction to Poland for Americans, Britons, and other tourists for the following five reasons.
1. It’s dirt cheap
An espresso is $1.25. An excellent dinner for two including drinks doesn’t exceed $25. Monthly rent for a large new apartment in the center of Poznan is $750 or less. Just about everything here is cheap, which is why you’ll find a lot of expats living here without having to work full time. When you’re coming from England or America, where costs are five times higher, it’s refreshing to have your dollar or pound go so far. You pay much less for the same things you can get in your own country.
2. Most people under 30 are friendly and speak English
After the fall of communism, Polish people were required to learn English in school instead of Russian. They continue learning it in university, which is provided by the government for free. This means that most people you meet in Poznan will at least be conversational in English. Even better is they’ll love to practice it with you. This is a good thing since Polish is one of the hardest second languages to learn.
An additional benefit is that Poles really look up to their American and British big brothers. You’ll find yourself commanding respect from strangers simply due to where you’re from.
3. It’s a soft introduction to Eastern Europe
As someone who has lived as far east as Siberia, Poznan offers a good mix of Western business practices and pleasant old European charm. Most businesses and landlords operate on terms similar to what you’d find in the West, unlike their Slavic counterparts in Ukraine and Russia that require a far higher learning curve. This means that you won’t need to learn new social skills or go through culture shock to have an easygoing lifestyle that has the same consumer and social offerings as your own city.
4. It’s a growing economic hub with attractive employment opportunities
The city government is slowly turning Poznan into a back office for Western corporations like Volkswagen, Ikea, GlaxoSmithKline, Nordea Bank, and many others. While most of these jobs will go to Poles, they still require Western professionals to train and manage them. This creates an attractive arbitrage opportunity where you can earn a Western salary while living in a cheap city. This allows you to save significant amounts of money.
5. It has a thriving nightlife scene
If you’re the type of person who likes a night out on the town, Poznan has you covered. You’ll be able to wine and dine yourself every night of the week in a wide range of restaurants, fancy clubs, hipster dives, and “shot bars” that offer $1 shots of Polish liquor. While the restaurant scene is a work in progress, you’ll encounter an indie spirit of young people opening their own burger, sandwich, or espresso shops that out-charm the corporate competition.
While Poznan does have its downsides, including depressing grey weather, dim street lighting at night, and aggressive drunkards loitering in the center, the city still offers tremendous advantages for a Westerner looking either for an exotic location to either visit or live in. I’ve spent over a year in Poznan and while I’m still curious about other cities of the world, Poznan is one that I’m always happy to come back to.