Travelers to Poland are met with a rich, varied history, which has led to a rich, vibrant country. Churches from the 12th century stand next to offices from the 21st century that stand next to apartments built under 1950’s communist rule. An excellent train and bus system connects cities throughout the country and within those cities, public transportation is abundant and straightforward. It’s easy for a gapper to explore from the relaxed shores of the Baltic sea to the city life in Warsaw!
Whether you’re looking to travel around for an entire gap year or are interested in settling down and working somewhere for a bit, Poland has an opportunity for you! Learning English is common among Polish children and adults, which is wonderful for English teachers looking to work in Poland. Backpackers have no lack of cities, historical sites, and hip venues to explore.
Promoting English fluency has become extremely important to the Polish government since joining the European Union in 2004. With a growing number of visitors every year, English is an important language for those working in the tourism field, business and healthcare. Teachers are generally hired in September and January with in-person interviews being a part of the hiring process. Depending on the institution, teachers should either have a TEFL/TESOL certificate or a Bachelor’s of education.
Countless English language schools are situated in cities like Warsaw, Krakow, and Wroclaw. The International Language School of Poland is a great example of an institution that is dedicated to helping students learn English to support their future. Also, don't forget to browse ESL Employment, which compiles vacant teaching positions from around the world, including Poland.
Summer camps are also a great option for English teachers in Poland. The Kosciuszko Foundation has a unique program that allows teachers to work with students for two or three weeks, then take a tour of the country. Camps are situated all over Poland and the English taught classes focus on American Culture, Arts and American Sports.
The great thing about Poland is it still has that “undiscovered” feel, even though the number of tourists are growing. Making your way through the country in a gap year won’t seem like enough time once you’ve started!
Krakow, the old capital of Poland, is wonderland during the Christmas holidays. It has a breathtaking market square and gorgeous old world architecture throughout the city. Once you’re done with the sites, be sure to go out on the town, as Krakow has more bars and clubs per square meter than any other city in the world.
Wroclaw has just won the distinction of being named the 2016 European Capital of Culture and is busily preparing itself for a massive year of just that, culture! This hip city will be showcasing events big and small throughout the year to encourage its citizens and visitors alike to take place in the creation of culture. You can even volunteer if the idea of amazing art, concerts and shows is something that interests you!
Warsaw is the largest city in Poland and definitely has a metropolitan feel. The Old Town area was entirely reconstructed after World War II and is a beautiful reflection of what originally stood in the area. With four main universities and 62 smaller schools of higher education, Warsaw is a city that thrives with youth and excitement. Here you’ll find an avant-garde food scene and fashionable French-inspired bars, all at a fabulously affordable price.
Gap Year Jobs
Deciding you’re ready to live and work in another country for a year takes some serious guts and a fair amount of research. Start your online investigation with Careers in Poland. Their site helps foreigners search for jobs based on what language(s) they speak and what Polish cities interest them.
Of course, knowing a little bit of Polish will go a long way in helping you to secure a job. Consider taking some language courses before or while in Poland!
Planning Your Trip
When planning to spend an entire year in Poland, it’s important to consider your main goals. Traveling or working? Indoor activities or outdoor activities? Cities or rural areas? Having an idea of where you’ll be and what you’ll do will help you pack, budget and prepare for your time overseas. Just remember that Poland is blessed to experience all four seasons, so pack with layering in mind!
Cost of Living
Even though Poland is a member of the European Union, they use their own currency, the zloty. It is still relatively inexpensive to live and travel in Poland, so you can get a lot for your money. Expect to pay about $5 USD for a delicious meal, $1.50 for a beer and $0.75 for a liter of water.
Rent in Poland, like most places, depends on where you live. An apartment in a city center is around $380 a month while locations outside of the center can range at $275. A useful tool is Numbeo, which lists everything from the current price of one-way public transit, $0.80 in Poland, to a mid-range bottle of wine, $5.50.
Culture and Etiquette
Polish people are generally prompt in business and a bit late for personal affairs, so be sure to remember when to arrive 15 minutes early and 15 minutes late. Toasts are to be expected in Poland. Maintain eye contact during toasts and take your drink, which is usually hard alcohol, in one gulp. Tipping at restaurants is about ten percent, but check if this is already included in the bill, as it is becoming more common. If you’re going to a Polish home, make sure your socks don’t have any embarrassing holes as you’ll likely be asked to take your shoes off. Shake hands upon meeting and saying goodbye to someone. Don’t bring up World War II, the Holocaust, or Polish borders, as these are highly sensitive subjects.
Health & Safety
Health and Safety
Poland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, which has been falling since 2005. Walking around at night in the main city centers and “touristy” areas is safe and there are generally many other people around in the evening. As with any city in any country, there are a few places to avoid late at night. Pickpocketing is not a problem, but in particularly crowded, touristy locations keep an eye on your valuables as you would anywhere in the world.
Larger towns and cities have excellent doctors and hospital facilities, although wait times can be high, so if possible make an appointment in advance. No particular vaccinations are required to visit Poland.
Cool cities and gorgeous scenery are enough to bring anyone to Poland. But don’t forget about the low cost of living and friendly people. If you’re interested in exploring a country “before everyone else” then head to Poland straight away! It won’t be Europe’s best-kept secret for long.