Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Last week, we experienced record heat waves in Poland. Temperatures across the country topped up to 40 C (104 F).

Such a strange contrast from my first week in Warsaw, and six inches of snow covered the ground in APRIL!

We’ve been living as expats in Warsaw a little over four months. Recently, several friends and readers have asked what’s Warsaw like and how we are adjusting. I’ll admit that the first two months were rough. I shed quite a few tears, and I was depressed.

But now I can see the silver lining of it all. Sure, I still have a bad day now and then just like anyone else. However, I have realized there are many reasons to love living in Warsaw too.

My husband and I recently discussed what we like about living in Warsaw. We feel like we have everything at our fingertips – public transportation, a good location, more international food options, Dr. Pepper and pork – just to name a few things. Besides our family and friends in the U.S., I can’t think of anything else I miss from America anymore.

Top 10 Reasons to Love Living in Warsaw

1. Cost of living – This is one of first factors that attracted us to living in Warsaw. Our cost of living has been cut in half compared to living in Istanbul. Rent, eating out, drinks, international groceries are all much cheaper here. For example, on average, a half liter of Polish beer costs 8-10 zl ($2.50-$3) compared to 8-10 tl ($4.50-$5.20) for an Efes in Istanbul. Doesn’t take long for this stuff to add up!

2. Green spaces – Warsaw is green! According to this study, Warsaw has almost 20,000 hectacres (50,000 American acres) of green spaces and as such has earned the nickname “green city.” In fact, 14 percent of the city’s urban area (7,258 hectacres) is covered by forests – much more than any other European city. Because of all this green space, you constantly see people running, riding bikes and relaxing in the city’s numerous parks.
3. Polish pierogies, piwo and pork – You knew food would be one of my top reasons, right? Polish food is hearty and reminds me of a grandmother’s homecooking. We’ve eaten our fair share of delicious Polish pierogies washed down with half liters of piwo (beer). Piwo was one of the first Polish words I learned. I am almost overwhelmed by the abundance of pork here.
4. Pubs in Parks – The Poles certainly got this idea down pat! As you stroll through the city’s numerous parks, you often will stumble upon a small pub. Our favorite is the Flinstone-like Pub Lolek located in the large Pole Mokotowskie Park. Just park your bike, order some beers and kielbasa and you’re set. We also like the small beer tents set up along the Vistula River.
5. History – After World War II, Warsaw was left in ruins by the Nazis. Nearly 85 percent of the city was destroyed. Then, the country was under harsh Soviet rule for 40+ years. The Poles have endured a lot (too much) and their spirit is one of total perseverance.
This photo shows what Warsaw looked like in 1945 following the war. Devastated!
I love wandering through the restored Old Town area and hanging out in the New Town section. You’ll also see many important reminders of the city’s Jewish history too.  
6. Classical music – I think you could catch a live classical concert every night if you wanted to in Warsaw. Since the city is home to the famous 19th-century composer Frederic Chopin, classical music plays a big role in life here. I like wandering behind the University of Warsaw where you are bound to hear students practicing classical melodies. On Sundays through Sept. 29, you can catch either the noon or 4 p.m. outdoor piano concerts featuring Chopin’s music at Warsaw’s Royal Łazienki Park. A wonderful free activity! (More info:
Just look for the large Chopin monument at Warsaw’s Royal Łazienki Park.
7. Renting bikes – In order to get to those free Sunday concerts, we often ride bikes thanks to the city’s convenient rent-a-bike system by NextBike. After paying an initial 10 zl annual fee, we can rent bikes from more than 50 stations around the city. Rentals for less than 20 minutes are free. Warsaw has numerous bike trails and wide sidewalks that are perfect for long bike rides or quick trips down to the river or the market.
Until we moved here, I hadn’t rode bikes much as an adult except for the times my husband has tried to kill me on vacations in Bali, Belize and Bozcaada. However, I have grown to really like biking. We see much more of the city on bikes; not to mention, that they often are quicker and cheaper than other modes of public transport. And when there’s a promise of a beer in the park, what’s not to like?
8. Farmer’s market – I visit my nearby farmer’s market at Hala Mirowska at least twice a week for the freshest Polish produce. I don’t know much Polish yet, so shopping at the market is pretty comical and involves a lot of pointing and smiling. I love having this market just five tram stops away from our apartment!
9. Ease of getting around – Although Warsaw is a large metropolitan city with a 2.7 million population, I find it relatively easy to get around. Much, much easier than Istanbul, thank you very much! Warsaw’s public buses, trams and subways are just easy to use and inexpensive. For 250 zl ($80), I use a 3-month unlimited, refillable transportation pass. 
Also with smart phone apps such as and, with just a click, I can order a taxi or figure out the fastest way to get somewhere via public transportation.

10. International foods – Lastly, we have been impressed with the city’s selection of American burgers and steaks, Vietnamese food and pizza. International food isn’t “Turkified” like it was when we lived in Istanbul, so I actually can eat a decent bowl of pho or bánh mì  sandwich. Now, if only, I could find some authentic Mexican food somewhere.
While it’s taken more time to grow to love Warsaw, with a bit of insatiable curiosity and some patience, I have come to realize it’s a great place to live!

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Mavi göz said...

Beer in polish is piwo, not pivo ;))

Alyson said...

I completely understand this feeling! After moving to London, people kept saying don't you love it, but I was thinking of Istanbul. Over the months, I've come to love lots of these same little things about London. And the nice summer weather certainly helped in improving my outlook :)

Joy said...

@Vixen, ha ha! I've gotten so used to pronouncing the W like a V in all the Polish words that I always spell words with a V instead of W now! :-) #expatproblems

@Alyson, Totally agree! Sometimes, all you need is a little time to adjust. Though I am a bit afraid of the winter here. Yikes!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

wow...104 in warsaw has to be killer. i bet there isn't much A/C there? i am glad you are settling in. that is an adventure i would like to go on. i just found out my polish last name means hatmaker!

Joy said...

@Joyce, Not quite 104 here in Warsaw but elsewhere in Poland. Yep, no AC so we went to a hotel for 2 nights. Hubby has to wear a suit to work so he wanted some place where he could cool down.

That's great about your family history! I just discovered a "beer street" in Gdansk so we must stop by there. :-)

Mary B said...

Keep an eye out for corn on pizza, though maybe that is just a Russian thing. I'm pretty impressed with the looks of that burger, pho and banh mi :)

R. Samolot said...

You eating soup with a chopsticks and going for beer (there is no Polish beer) on bicycle?

Julia said...

Joy, great to read about you sitting down with hubby and looking at all the good parts to life in Warsaw...and we're sold. We enjoyed Krakow but you've made Warsaw look a bit more appealing. On our list! :)

Joy said...

@Mary, no corn on pizza yet, but we did have that in Turkey before! :-) Yep, we're pretty happy with our wide variety of food choices!

@R. Samolot, Not quite sure what you mean, but I often eat Asian soups with chop sticks and have a spoon on the side for the broth. :-)

@Julia, I'll keep trying to entice you then! Warsaw really is such a livable city!

Anonymous said...

I guess you'll soon be sharing a story of your adventures at the polish
police station once they bust you after drinking'n'biking. That will be

Joy said...

@Anonymous, I certainly hope that we won't get pulled over by the bike police! :-)

R. Samolot said...

They not pullin'. They jump from the bike Path bushes. It is like 5000zł ticket + 2 yrs in prison on parole. At least US Embassy got good lawyers.
I hope you finally will understand simple fact- you living in really stupid country.

Unknown said...

I just came across with your blog.
We have been living in Istanbul for 4 years now and before we lived in Warsaw for 4 years as well.
Warsaw it is a city that you don't fall in love at first sight! It takes time, but after knowing the city and get familiar with nice and cute places like parks, restaurants, cafes, you start having a good time.
Comparing with Istanbul what do I miss from Warsaw?
Parks, we used to go very often to Lazenski park
Nice cute restaurants
The social expat life: the expats are much more conected
In short I hve realized that how much liked Warsaw after we left.
We don't miss the constant NIE MA

Joy said...

@Joao Xavier, what a coincidence! I completely agree w you. I didn't fall in love with Warsaw at first sight like I did with Istanbul. It's taken time to explore the streets, find those cute cafes & fun pubs, modern restaurants, etc. But we have, and now we really like Warsaw. Just yesterday, we discovered a fun, hip Saturday market near Zoliborz. I almost felt like I was transported to Brooklyn or something! ;-) said...

Hi Joy, I jumped over here from Kirsty's blog. I'm hearing you on moving to a new country. We moved to Shanghai after four years in Tokyo this year too and let me tell you that is a huge change. Shanghai is starting to feel like home though it all takes time doesn't it. Mum's from Lodz so looking forward to seeing what you get up to in the kitchen.

Joy said...

@Nancy, great to have you stop by! For some reason, I would have lumped Shanghai and Tokyo in same category. But I guess that's not really fair as Baltimore and DC are very different even though they are only an hour apart in the US! Guess it just takes time to get settled. :-)

Hopefully, I'll be sharing some more Polish recipes down the road as I learn 'em.

Tom said...

Hi all,

We have just finished a post about the "Top 5 things to do and attractions in Warsaw Poland".

We hope you'll enjoy the post as much as we have enjoyed writing it!

Happy travels everyone!


Liz Ahmet said...

Merhaba Joycum! :) I am just catching up on your blog, the last post I read was about your sudden move to Warsaw from istanbul! I'm so enjoying your posts about farmer's markets and places around Warsaw, you're a fantastic guide and I really admire the way you adjusted to this city... leaving istanbul is easy for no one...

Anyway, I'm really enjoying the recent recipes and posts! I think we both can agree that the best way to find out or experience the culture of a certain city is to eat your way through it :D

I've been to Warsaw thrice, I love its old charm but it's also very hip... if you want to find some real mexican cuisine or texmix here are my suggestions

Here's their website^
The Mexican

Price range: $15 - $20
Cuisines: Mexican
Dining options: Late Night
Neighborhood: Stare Miasto

Podwale 29, Warsaw, Poland (Stare Miasto)
This one is just okay, don't expect too much :) but if you're missing mexican food, this will do it.




Joy said...

@Tom, Great post! Thanks for sharing!

@Liz, Merhaba! Great to hear from you! It's been awhile. :-) We usually get our Mexican fix at El Popo since we live in Muranow. It's the closest one to us. They serve a decent "pollo mole" which is one of my favorite dishes. We still haven't been down to WTF yet either. One of these days. And I know that Blue Cactus got a new American chef this summer, but it's a bit farther for us to get to.

Thanks so much for the tips! We are still exploring Warsaw and finding new things to like! Happy new year to you!

Unknown said...

If your in Warsaw this is an absolute must! it's not far from the palace of culture... 3 min cab ride. You can't go to warsaw with out seeing old town!

Unknown said...

Hi all,my husbands new post in Warsaw for 3 yrs and we moving there with our 3 kids ( 10 yr old, 7 yrs old and 1 an a half) ..I can see that none of you didn't mention anything about kids. can anybody tell me how kids adapt to there and what's out there for family life..thanks all..x

Unknown said...

i have been impressed by your findings i am very interested in iving Warsaw this year from november until march 2015 as the cost of living is low and the city looks great to experience. how easy is it to find and rent apartments? do you recommend any agents that you may have used yourself ?

Joy said...

@Joshua, If you don't have kids or if you have young kids, then I'd recommend the Centrum area. We enjoy this area bc then you're close to a lot of great parks, restaurants, museums, Old Town, etc. Powisle is the new "hot" up and coming neighborhood. Otherwise, Mokotow also is a great option with a lot of green areas and houses or apt. options. First check out as people often post apt ads on here. If you'd like our Realtor name, please let me know too. Cheers!

Unknown said...

Thank you, everyone! The postings here are so encouraging and inviting. I envy each person who is enjoying a happy, healthy life in Warsaw. I sure hope to join 'you' in Poland by the time the new school year begins.

Joy said...

@Steve, Thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll enjoy Warsaw as much as we have. If you have any questions about Warsaw, please feel free to email me. Happy to help!

Anonymous said...

where did you find that pho? it looks pretty legit!

Joy said...

@Anonymous, there's a small Vietnamese place called Toan pho on Chmielna St. close to Nowy Swiat. It's my fav spot so far, best broth, and only costs 15 pln for 750 ml. of soup!

Unknown said...

Hi Joy!
Such a nice blog! I am also an American expat here in Poland, just not in Warsaw. My husband is Polish and we with our two children live in Łomża (2 hours north of Warsaw) and I been here for 10 years. I look forward to reading more about your time here. I have gotten very good at finding alternatives for our American ingredients or just places to find things we want, so let me know if you ever need any help. You can find me on FB under Danielle Partridge Hryniewicz

joanna said...

Hi Joy, just stumbled upon your blog and as an American expat living here via Mallorca it's a tough place to crack. I'm living alone and was wondering how you met people? Are there any expat clubs or get togethers? Looking to explore and there are so many things going on now it's overwhelming. So many new restaurants and food type events. Thanks.

Joy said...

Cześć Danielle! Thanks so much for stopping by! I think I'm finally really settled in Warsaw and know where to find all my baking goodies or how to make substitutions. If you ever come to Warsaw, let me know! I'd be happy to meet up for a coffee! 😊

Joy said...

Cześć Joanna! Hopefully you have settled in a bit more in Mallorca, which is definitely on our travel list too!

To meet other expats, I always look to see if there are international and American expat groups. We have both here in Warsaw and they host monthly events. Another good resource is This online portal is free to join and seems to have groups every where in the world. Our Warsaw internations group hosts a bunch of different monthly events. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

you can not compare beer in warsaw and istanbul. turkey political leaders raise taxes for alcohol year for year because of religious reasons.
i think living in istanbul is "all in all" more affordable than in warsaw (if you not an alcoholic)

Joy said...

@Anonymous, I'm sorry, but you are totally incorrect! We have lived in Warsaw now for 2 years. We pay less rent and for our mobile phones and even going out to eat is much cheaper in Warsaw compared to Istanbul.

Unknown said...

Oh wow! After living, working and struggling with expat life in China for the last three years, reading this entry from your blog has absolutely warmed my heart and made me realise that my upcoming move to Warsaw is a great idea. It sounds like bliss!

Anonymous said...

Hi, great post about my city, I'm glad you mentioned the green spaces - they do rock. Just a question here, I'm making a study - do you guys mind diggining more into Polish (or wherever you expatriated) politics, deeper insight into our history, into our customs and traditions? I'm asking since I was an expat in Italy myself and I actually didn't mind the above that much... It came naturally, to some extent. I just lived an easy life without bothering much. You know what I'm saying - I was neither at home nor there, so I was a bit dropped out. Do you have it as well? Thanks for reply!

Joy said...

@Anonymous, Thanks for your comment and questions. Yes, my husband and I have both done a ton of reading about Polish history especially regarding WWI and II, the Holocaust, during Communism and post 1989. I've read a lot of historical as well as historical fiction regarding these topics. I think it's important to delve into the culture wherever you live. However, I have not been interested in Polish politics, mainly because there's hardly anything in English and takes too much work to try and translate and understand what is available.

I've also really embraced the Polish food culture and the markets as well. I'm naturally curious! :) Hope my comments help your study!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joy,
My husband is Polish but has been out of the country for many years. He still has family in Warsaw.

We are now in Chicago. I have lived in Chicago for about 20 years and liking it. But after a few visits to Warsaw, we are seriously considering retiring there. I am pretty adaptable, but I fear the challenge of learning Polish. Is it difficult to pick up the language? While learning, how do the locals respond to you, that is, are they friendly and patient?

Joy said...

@Anonymous, Great to hear from you! Well, Polish is certainly not an easy language. I took two intensive levels at a language school here in Warsaw and then had a private tutor once a week or so for nearly 2 years. I would definitely recommend learning some Polish to get by, but there are plenty of the younger generation (20s and 30s age group) that speak some English.

As far as friendliness, it's hit or miss. Some Poles are tolerant and accepting of a foreigner trying to speak Polish and other times they are rude and act like they don't understand if you use the wrong "tense" of the word. It's been the most frustrating language for me to learn. I speak Spanish and Turkish conversationally and have also picked up some French and Italian.

I would recommend that you seriously look into it and perhaps give it a shot. The upside is that you can get sooo much more for your money in Poland! :)

Sandra55 said...

I was in Poland last yer and I can say, that Polish language is form me too hard:), but i liked this country and Warsaw. I spent there 2 weeks and visited many interesting places. I stayed at Belwederski Hotel form Hotele Wam Group and I can say it is the best place to stay in this city, with nice service and comfortable rooms.

Unknown said...

warsaw is really cool .... socializing and all this other stuff

Mal (IntoTheCity) said...

Joy, I have so much to say, not sure what to start with- you did actually bring a lot of joy to my life :)

I found your blog accidentally, searching for some colourful houses in Notting Hill as a little homework before my Easter trip to London and then I discovered you used to live in Poland, which is my home country. For me, being a Pole, who was living abroad in the past (and is planning to move back in a couple of months), your blog is absolutely fascinating. It gives me a completely different perspective, your posts about Polish cities let me discover them again, let me get some fresh point of view. Thanks so much for these, your post are so fun to read!

Here's my view on Warsaw from slightly different perspective in case you're interested:

no pressure though :)

And Lodz... I've never like that city (and I'm sure a lot of Poles would agree on this) but I fall in love with what I saw in your post, it looks exactly like my kind of place! I will definitely go there, not expecting anything (good or bad) and explore the city on my own :)

Again- thank you for your great work :)

Lots of love,


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Alexas Heals said...

Warsaw is a beautiful city. You've captured it well in your photos.Warsaw it is a city that you don't fall in love at first sight! It takes time, but after knowing the city.While reading your article, I imagine every thing you did. You are a great storyteller.Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Mary Rental said...

I really want to visit Poland!You described it so brightly, I wanna go there now!

Unknown said...

Great post! I have been living in Warsaw for almost six months a year ago! I loved the city and I try to go there from time ot time. I loved how many great places there are, I could never get bored there. I loved discovering new restaurants and bars to hang out with my friends. My personal favourite is the Bubbles in downtown. They specialize in champagnes and sparkling wines from all over the world as well as delicious food. Every time I go to Poland I visit them.