You have already made your decision to relocate and have obtained all the documents necessary to legalise your stay. It is now time you finally made your departure. How to prepare for a smooth transition overseas to minimise the risk of “culture shock”? Follow the guide below to prepare for a successful departure and estimate the outlays you need to incur immediately after the arrival.
Language: learning the basics
Language problems remain one of the most frequently reported difficulties by those who choose to relocate overseas. Inna Grynova, who has been working at Google's Wroclaw branch since 2011, describes her experience:
"Knowing the language is key when finding your way around in a new environment. Those who arrive from countries where no Slavonic languages are spoken find it extremely difficult to learn Polish. If you're not from Central Europe, it's almost like learning Chinese. These rustling strings of sounds are like nothing you've ever heard before. If you have relocated for professional reasons and work in a multinational environment, you will find it extremely difficult to learn Polish. Multinational corporations prefer to communicate in English, which makes is all the more difficult for their employees to learn Polish. Polish language courses are also a formidable challenge. The majority of the classes are held in the early afternoon to cater to those who study or seek employment and can devote several months to learn the language. As a result, foreign professionals have difficulty finding a suitable course. I was looking for a course to attend after work, but found none to fit in with my schedule."
Kateryna Sukhetska is from Ukraine. She says that the similarities between Polish and Ukrainian can help only at the very beginning of your stay. "My Ukrainian was enough for me to survive. At some point you just simply have to learn Polish, however. This is particularly valid for those who wish to stay in Poland for a longer period of time."
The following conclusions can be offered as a result:
- It is worth learning the basics prior to your arrival in Poland. If you are planning to stay in Poland for a longer period of time, English may turn out insufficient for everyday communication.
- That being said, language schools should meet a growing demand not only for foreign languages among Polish speakers, but also for the Polish language among the expats."
Looking for a flat: on your own or professional advice?
It is not only learning Polish that foreign professionals find challenging as they arrive in Wroclaw. Oleksandr, who arrived in Poland in January, works in one of Wroclaw's multinational corporations. He says that finding a suitable apartment was a real issue at the beginning.
"I have arrived in Wroclaw only recently and I found it particularly challenging to find an apartment. There were so many people looking for a flat in Wroclaw that it took only several hours for the offers to expire. The real estate agency I worked with provided me with a list of available apartments, and it was no longer valid the next day. All foreign professionals at my company reported the same problem," says Oleksandr.
So, it is worth finding a flat before you arrive in Poland. You will spare a few stressful moments both to yourself and your family. However, looking for a flat on your own (especially if you are yet to arrive) may turn out to be quite difficult, which is why it worth using the services of professional real estate agencies. A lot of ads are available on the Internet free of charge. You may also want to join special groups at social networking sites such as Facebook, as the owners often use them to post their ads directly, without any intermediaries. You should bear in mind that real estate agencies usually charge commission for their services that is tantamount to half or one month's rent. That being said, real estate agencies can provide you with a safety net. Whenever there is a dispute between a landlord and a tenant, the agency may step in to resolve the issue.
What to focus on when signing a lease agreement:
- If the lessee intends to rent the apartment for a larger group of people or is expecting his or her family to arrive any time soon and join them for a longer period of time, the names of all the tenants with their suitable passport numbers should be added to the lease agreement. This is required for your family to obtain a temporary residence permit.
- Additionally, foreign nationals who apply for a residence permit are also required to provide their proof of address, e.g. their current lease/purchase agreement and the document that shows they are residing in Poland legally make them eligible for a temporary residence card, which in turn is prerequisite to obtaining a residence permit.
Renting a flat in Wroclaw
"Foreign nationals are increasingly interested in flats for rent," says Przemysław Święch from Verso Nieruchomości. "We mostly work with Ukrainian, Italian, Indian and Spanish nationals. It is usually their Wroclaw employers that contact us on their behalf. We are less likely to work with private individuals.
According to Lidia Dołhan from Wrocławska Giełda Nieruchomości [Wroclaw Real Estate Exchange], foreign professionals usually seek large high-standard apartments with a parking space or small one- or two-bedroom flats.
"The former are usually rented by managers who arrive in Wroclaw with their families," says Lidia Dołhan. "They usually choose three- or four-bedroom flats that range from 5 to 10 thousand PLN including utilities. 90% of such agreements are signed be their employers. Even though it is usually prospective tenants who view the apartment and decide whether they would like to rent it. Smaller flats are usually rented by regular employees, who seek accommodation on their own.
"Centrally located one and two-bedroom flats attract most of our clients," explains Przemysław Święch. "One more important thing is whether they are close to bus or tram stops."
Apartments of this kind range from 1.5 thousand to 2.2 thousand PLN. The prices provided do not include the utilities. Foreign professionals seek flats that are both fully furnished and equipped with household appliances, pots and pans, plates and cutlery.
Apartment prices in Wroclaw (as of April 2016). The prices depend on the quality and location:
- One-bedroom flat: from 900 PLN + utilities (Psie Pole, basic standard) to 2,500 PLN (city centre, upmarket building, e.g. Rondo Verona, high standard)
- Two-bedroom flat: from 1.4 to 3 thousand PLN
- Three-bedroom flat: from 1.8 to 4 thousand PLN
- Four-bedroom flat and larger (high standard): from 5 to 10 thousand PLN
Applying for a bank account is yet another formality that you have to go through if you wish to settle in a new reality. Wroclaw high streets are lined with banks that offer their services to individual clients. You can now open a personal bank account on the Internet. Find out more about most popular personal accounts (as of March 2016):
"Foreign nationals must provide a passport and a residence card or any other proof of legal residence in order to open a bank account. If you are student, all you need is a passport and your student card. Our bank provides a special mobile app to provide services 24/7. Foreign clients will like the fact that it is simple and intuitive, and it's also available in English. You can you use it to transfer money overseas, exchange currency at competitive rates and negotiate the rate at any of our branches if you wish to change a large amount of money. You can also use the app to buy a tram tickets, pay your parking fees and use a cash machine without a card, says Magdalena Soczyńska, Customer Assistant, Bank Zachodni WBK, Branch 5, Wroclaw.
Wroclaw has a well-developed public transport network. More than twenty tram lines and ca. fifty daily bus services (which can be divided into regular, express, rush-hour and metropolitan services) and thirteen night services provide the residents of Wroclaw with convenient transportation opportunities throughout the city. The up-to-date tram and bus timetable can be found here. Smart phone users are also offered easy access to timetables, as they can now download an app called Jakdojade.pl or browse a suitable page here. Detailed information about the type of fares available and their prices can be found here.
Single adult ticket costs 3 PLN (you can buy a single ticket or a 30-minute ticket that you can use to board any number of bus and tram services within 30 minutes from validating your ticket). A student ticket costs 1.5 PLN.
A penalty fare costs 150 PLN (as of April 2016). If you pay your penalty fare within a week from issuing the fare, the amount due will be reduced to 120 PLN.
A lot of people, foreign nationals included, use Urban Cards, which provide convenient access to tickets and concession from the selected partners of the programme (tickets to selected artistic events, etc.). More details concerning the Urban Card programme (also in foreign languages) are available here.
Nurseries and schools
Raghavender Balasubramanian, Head of Wroclaw's Crisil Irevna branch, has been working in Wroclaw since July 2014.
"On my first arrival in Wroclaw, I was looking for a school for my daughter. Personnel at the Wroclaw Metropolitan Area Development Agency arranged meetings with head teachers because I wanted to see the facilities and their educational offer. On my second visit, I was able to go through all the formalities to rent an apartment. All in all, everything went quite smoothly and I could relocate my family to Wroclaw. My daughter is now going to an international school and she is also attending extracurricular classes such as ballet.
Foreign residents in Wroclaw can send their children to public nurseries and schools (which provide education in Polish) or use the services of private schools and nurseries, with English as the language of instruction. The list of municipal schools and nurseries is available here. The list of international schools in Wroclaw can be found here.
"We've got three sections: a nursery (children between 6 months and 3 years of age), preschool (3 to 6 years) and primary school (6 to 12 years). The curriculum at our primary school combines the elements of American and Polish education systems, and has been certified by Lower Silesia's Chief Education Officer as compliant with the requirements of the Ministry of National Education. We teach around 200 children from 20 different countries. We offer a shuttle service to and back from school and numerous extracurricular classes such as swimming, horse riding, modern dance, music, football, etc. We also have our own kitchen and canteen in which we prepare and serve 4 meals throughout the day," says Minakshi Sharma, Head Teacher and owner of the American School of Wroclaw.
Foreign Professionals in Wroclaw [GUIDE]
The feature was prepared in collaboration with RelocateYou and the Wroclaw Metropolitan Area Development Agency
President of RelocateYou sp. z o.o.