Categories
Poland

Names in Poland

Polish names are charming and musical. Although I am American we gave our daughter a Polish name. I think it is a little more unusual and we just like the sound of it. Łucja ( first name) Weronika (middle name).

Example of how crazy Polish first and last names are

However, not all name is Polish flow so smoothly or even comprehensible. Further, if you have ever heard them spoken quickly by a soft-spoken Pole you might agree. For example, there is a funny Polish movie about a Polish man captured by the Germans in WWII. The man being questioned by the German officer has to state his Polish name. It was:
„Jak rozpętałem drugą wojnę światową” Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz

The officer had no idea how to transcribe these sounds to record his name.
Here is a clip from this, I recommend you watch it to get intitated into Polish surnames and Polish Christian names.

Needless to say some Polish names sound funny to the English-speaking ear. But I assure you they are as normal as ‘Kate’, ‘Mark’ and ‘Lucy’, to Poles (Kasia, Marek i Łucja) . You just have to get use to them.

People can be identified by gender of their surname and first name

One of the first things about Polish names that you will notice after staying in Poland for a while is that every girls name ends with an A. At the same time a guy’s name cannot with and a, unless it is a diminutive form of the name (such as Kuba is a diminutive form of the name Jakub (Jacob in English). This is why I was a little bit shocked when I first went to the USA and one of the guys I met introduced himself as Dakota. I thought it had to be a nickname.
The good thing about it is you can look at the name and already know whether it is a man or a woman you are dealing with. There is no gender confusion when you are looking at or hearing a name. I mean once you are introduced you know who you are talking to. The Polish language is like that. If you want to hire a pretty Polish girl you can tell on the application just by the name.
I do not even know why they put the question about gender in all those Polish forms. They are probably just for foreigners. In America for instant you can never really be sure about someone’s gender until you meet hem in person. The USA is quite libertarian when it comes to names, too. You can name your kid Apple or In God We Trust (although I’m not sure how that story ended) or change your name to Princess Consuela, like Phoebe off of “Friends”. This kind of stuff will not happen in Poland, as the Civil Registry is making sure you do not get too crazy with the name. Maybe it’s a good thing.
No one really cares about whether or not your middle name matches your first name. American people seem to be very concerned about this, but here it is more about the patron or the person that you are named after. You rarely use the middle name anyway, so it’s all about the meaning of it.
The most popular girl names in Poland for girls:

  1. Anna
  2. Katarzyna or Kasia, and
  3. Joanna or Asia
  4. Magdalena or Magda
  5. Sylwia

For me they sound lovely.

Polish girls are linquistic masters and can make any name sound sweet

Polish diminutives

Polish love to play with diminutives. For example, I call my daughter Lula, Lulie, LuLu baby Lu baby Łu, Lucyka, etc. This is not only common with kids but adults. Especially girls in Poland speak this way., it is like they have their own language.
Every Polish name has at least 2 diminutive forms, that is a less formal name, used by your parents and friends. You might not be familiar with this as it is very Slavic. Those are used to show affection, it is like calling a cat a kitty.

So the name is Izabela but a mother would call her me Izunia, and maybe a Grandma might say Isia. You can do that with every name there is. In the Polish languages. As soon as you have a Polish girl friend she will start changing your English name to a sweet name in Polish, you will see.
Old fashionable names for Polish babies – retro and vintage
Right now there is a tendency to give babies old-fashioned, vintage names, which I think is a good thing. It is way more classy than some foreign names that sound strange and unnatural with a Polish last name. They were quite popular a few years ago. It is now generally considered redneck to name your kid a foreign name, especially one with the letters v or x, which are not even a part of Polish alphabet. Unless you are foreign of course, if this is the case then you can do whatever you want and no one will blame you.

Name Day

It’s just like another birthday – you get wishes, flowers and gifts (no cake though, but you are supposed to throw a party or at least a little get together and sweets are a must). It really is not as popular anymore but want to honor the Saint with your name. It is more a European thing.

Every day a different pair of names is celebrated, sometimes there is three. You can look it up in the calendar, but it also shows on screens on the bus, newspapers, flower stands etc. Some names repeat a couple of times a year and in that case the closest one after your birthday is the one you celebrate. However, not everyone does. It is more of an older generation thing, my impression is that most young people do not even know when their name day is.

This is a brief view of  imię i nazwisko in Poland.

Categories
Poland Polish economy

Polish mortgage for Americans – EU citizens – Credit in Poland for foreigners

You can get a Polish mortgage to buy real estate in Poland, if you are from the USA or from the EU. However the requirements are more. You might even be a Polish citizen like me with US-based income and the scenario is different than if you are a Polish guy working in Poland with a work contract. You basically need a larger down payment. The purpose of this post is to give you a little more detail based on my personal experience.

Polish house in the countryside - old fashion style

Here are some Polish real estate words: – hipoteka – the Polish word for Mortgage or Kredyty (not uncountable like in English) or Doradca Finansowy, kredyty hipoteczne, pożyczki which is the Polish language word for loan, etc.

This is the way you get a Polish mortgage

  1. having Polish income – just like in the USA (credit check income proof small down payment)
  2. having EU income – like a normal mortgage above, but need to take additional steps. So if you are a Polish guy working in London lets say, you need more money down and proof from your employer and a few extra things and a larger percentage down.
  3. having USA or no non-EU income – Most banks do not touch this but a few do. I recommend going through some special companies that search for mortgages for you, some mortgage brokers in Poland, like Expander. expander.pl – but they are young sales agents guiding your towards their banks, but still they work. bnpparibas.pl

Where to get credit in Poland for real estate

I guess I recommend to try a bank like BNP Paribas, first the Polish subsidiary, not the parent in France.

I think they are pretty good and they do these types of loans in Poland. They are pretty nice and professionals that work there know what they are talking about.

Citibank Poland does not do these types of loans even for Americans, surprise.

Basically the first answer when you look around at bank or call place will be no.

Even Banks that do these loans will tell you no because the people that working are like this, are just low-level clerks, like postal workers and they are really whatever and do not want to be bothered or do not know their job outside of the ordinary day to day tasks.

For example, I asked at a bank where my American friend just got approval and did his loan in Poland and the manager told me ‘we never have done or will do this type of load’ her assistant was nodding in the background. Then I told them that my friend just did, right here. They still said no and gave a nasty look.

This is Poland. People will give you definitive answers even though they have not research it further (communism did this I think). The reason I tell you this is to tell you yes you can, do not give up.

You can get a loan but you need to really look around. For a non-Polish loan, you will need about 100,000 pln as a down payment, maybe 50,000 your target home is not too expensive. But that is only 30,000 us dollars. If you have this doors open. But Poland is not poor Poland anymore and US incomes and bank accounts do not impress, so foreigners getting loans in post a post economic crisis world have a hard time now.

This is in start contrast with 2007 before the real estate bust in Poland and the world where you walk into any bank and you would get 110% loan.

What you need to a Polish mortgage as a foreigner

  • 100,000 Polish zloty down payment
  • Then you will need to show your source of income from your US tax return and or employer. Then a US credit check. If your source of income is large they may lower the down payment. So it is easy except they require a large down payment.
  • Take your age, the total years of the mortgage is shorter, they take it and subtract it from like 65 and that is the maximum length of the mortgage you can take. Remember mortgage comes from the Latin word ‘mort’ and you know that that means.

An alternative is take a personal loan in the USA and use it to buy something in Poland but that is really not enough money or a high interest rate. Also look into UK banks or US banks that finance foreign property, but in this market, everyone wants not only proof of income but a large down payment if you are going to buy the new four letter word in financing that is Real Estate.

Building instead of buying a home in Poland – self finance with a stream of income

Also consider building and home and doing it in stages, it may take like 5 to 7 years but you can pay cash. This is what we are considering doing. Let me know if anyone has questions of need clarification on Polish mortgages and financing.

I think the idea of a dream place in Poland is a good dream and it is our dream too, to have a home in the USA and a cottage in Poland. I just think you have to either pay for building it in cash over many years, which we might do, have 30,000 USD to put down and good USA income, or buy a cheap place in the Polish countryside and fix it up.

Categories
Poland travel

Krakow Poland Wieliczka bus trip cheap

How to tour Wieliczka salt mines for a fraction of the price

If you are on a limited budget while in Kraków and would like to see the salt mine in Wieliczka, do not just get any tour that someone is trying to sell to you. You will see scores of tour agents and students handing out fliers for VIP tours as well as tours offered in your hotel. However, the purpose of this post is to tell you how to go to Wieliczka like a Cracovian or an insider.

Salt from the mines around Krakow. There use to be an massive sea which is why this region has such healthy and salt and mineral deposits

Ifor those on more a a budget and like to use your brain when traveling, try my method of going to Wieliczka. Most VIP tours will cost about 25 dollars just for the transport. However, this does not including the cost of entrance tickets or anything else.

Be smart and take the very same ride on a public bus instead, it will cost you less than 3 dollars round trip and it is a bit of an adventure.

The secret to a cheap adventurous trip to the Salt Mines in Krakow

What you need to do is take the 304 express bus to Wieliczka. It’s quite easy to find them as they are bright yellow (It is actually run by a joint American Polish company but part of the Kraków public mass transit system, it is powered by clean natural gas). While almost all other Kraków buses are blue.

I see many old foreigners and all kinds of people who are not rocket scientists, do not speak any English or Polish, taking this bus to the salt mines, so you can figure it out too. Do not be afraid to try something different.

It stops in Krakow center twice: at Bagatela theater and then Filharmonia.

The 304 also stops at Bonarka shopping mall on the way (or way back) which in square feet is the largest shopping mall in Europe. So it is a win-win as you can do some shopping on the way back.

I personally think Bagatela (a small theater, you can notice it, because above it is a large screen advertisement) is easier to reach from the Main Square. All you need to do is walk along Szewska Street (pronounced like Chef-ska, it is easy to find as it as McDonald’s on it) until you find it crossing with Dunajewskiego Street.

The busy Karmelicka Street is kind of an extension of it. Once you get to the zebra crossing on your right, you will see your bus stop. Across the street you should see a cosmetic store called Rossmann (good to know if you need anything). If you have Rossmann behind your back and the Planty park is across the street from you, you are at the right one.

The bus actually has a decent schedule for a bus that goes out of town, it usually comes every 15-20 minutes. So just stand and wait or ask people. Most young people speak some level of intermediate English.

Where to buy the tickets for Weilicka salt mines

Which ticket to buy? It is easy, do not worry. It is good for your brain to figure this out. Buy not just, regular bus tickets for this one as it goes outside the city border (obviously, you are trying to get to Wieliczka not just a Krakow local stop). You could buy a local ticket, and ‘play dumb’ (like I did not know) and they would not fine you because you are a foreigner. But technically could get a 60 pln if you have bad luck and get caught by a bus ticket checker, and have not the right ticket, but I have personally never been checked outside the city center in all the years I have ridden public transport in Krakow. So do not worry.

What you need an agglomeration ticket (bilet normalny aglomeracyjny). It costs 3.20 zł. (that is like 1 dollar).

You can buy a ticket on the bus with the driver or in he automatic machines on the bus. They take change, not bills.

You can also buy it right there at the stop, there is a ticket machine and a kiosk not very far from it. The bus has a machine that you can use if you did not manage to get your ticket earlier, but those are less complex and will only take change, a lot of time the exact amount and if you insert a 5 złoty coin in, it will most likely spit it back out. So my advice is take care of the tickets before you get on the bus. You can also buy it as a kiosk from a human not a machine.

Once you are on the right bus it is down the hill. You get off the bus at the stop that says Kopalnia Soli. It is right by the Salt Mine and I believe there is a sign that is easy to notice.

A single ticket to a guided tour around the mine with a foreign speaker costs 68 złoty. If you are an individual visitor or in a group of 5 or less, you do not need to book it.

Once at the salt mine they have English guides and English everything you like. Its like the Disney of Krakow and very easy to get around and figure things out. It reality is is not far from Krakow so you do not have to worry about anything. There are vans and other ways to get back.

I like actually buy some of the salt and take a bath in it. It has many micro-nutrients that are good for mood and aliments and detoxification. You could bring it back to your hotel and take a bath.

If you take this challenge it is a safe way to try an off the beaten path adventure travel for less. If you have any questions just ask.

Enjoy your trip to Wieliczka for less.

 

Categories
Poland Polish food

Polish Zapiekanki – cheap food in Poland

If you want to know where and how to eat cheap in Poland, here is a food that although is not really traditional Polish cooking, it is part of the Polish diet. Za-Pie-kan-ki literatlly means something that is baked.

Polish Zapiekanki

A zapiekanka is the most popular kind of fast food In Poland. No one really knows the story behind inventing it, but what I know is that it first became popular in 1970’s, during the Communism period in Poland. It is quick and extremely easy to make, even for someone who hardly knows how to make scrambled eggs. Zapiekanki are very popular among college students, as they can make a good, filling and hot meal and at the same time are relatively cheap, especially if you buy them frozen. This kind is not that great though, so if you are not a student have a real one instead.

Zapiekanki is a cheap way to eat in Poland, look at the prices in Polish Złoty on the right.

What actually is a zapiekanka?

It’s a half of a long roll with different kind of toppings, baked in an oven and served hot. You might find it close to pizza although it rarely contains tomato sauce. The two basic ingredients that are used in a classic zapiekanka are cheese and mushrooms, but nowadays it revolved to a level where you can choose from such things as a Mexican or Greek style ones, so mushrooms are no longer a must as they do not go with everything.

I like lots of vegetables on it as the base price is pretty cheap and even if you go hog wild you are talking less than 3 dollars for a substantial meal. In Krakow,  found the best one in Podgorze where I live (ask me for directions). It is called the ‘red pepper pizza shop’ in English, but the one in Kazimierz is a Jewish and hipster district of Kraków are the most popular as late night pub goers get food there.

Pizzeria "czerwona papryczka" is where I recommend to get a real cheap and good baguette in Krakow.

The most popular toppings are mushrooms, cheese and ham, served with ketchup or garlic sauce on top. Those can be made at home easily and a lot of Polish moms use them as quick dinner replacements when they do not have time to cook a more complex meal. For a homemade one you can use a round bun or even a slice of bread, as long as it is a wheat product. Dark whole grain bread is great, but I would save it for a different occasion as it will never make a good zapiekanka. The base has to be neutral so that you can fully enjoy the fun stuff that is on top of it.

Warning about this Polish food – If you eat it before you go to bed you will have so many wild flying dreams as they load it up with mushrooms. Normal Polish mushrooms but still they are powerful enough to give you crazy dreams.

Where to eat zapiekanka?

You will find them anywhere in Poland. By the bus stop, on the beach, in bars and football stadiums. They are everywhere, but if you want the best one, come to Kazimierz – old Jewish district of Kraków. It’s famous for its zapiekanki and it is probably the only place where you can get one with feta cheese and barbecue sauce, if that is what you like.

How to make zapiekanki?

Here’s what you need to make a classic one:

  • A wheat bun (preferably a long and skinny one)
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Ham, salami or bacon

And this is what you need to do:

1. Melt some butter on the frying pan, throw in sliced mushrooms and chopped onions. Add some salt and pepper and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Cut the bun horizontally in half, spread some butter on it and place the mushrooms on top using a big spoon. Then put some ham on it and cover with cheese, it can be grated or just slices.

3. Bake for about 15 minutes at 185°C (365°F) until the bun is crispy and the cheese is well melted and starts to dry around the edges.

After it’s done you can sprinkle it with chives. Most people like it with ketchup or even mayonnaise on top, I like it with both.

Enjoy!

 

Categories
Poland

Are Polish people negative?

Polish people are positive and happy people. Many Poles like to say Polish people complain and are depressed. I disagree.  It has been a great pleasure for me to live in Poland with peaceful humble Polish people. Polite people, who respect tradition and the old and really try to improve themselves and society. People who explore the world and ideas. Polish people are positive and have great intellectual curiosity.

Since I live on both sides of the big pond (in Poland and American) I think I can make a more reasonable assessment of Polish society more than someone who has not.

  • This post about Polish culture not only answers, if, but why.
If you see yourself as a speck of dust floating through the universe - this is what life will give you - but if you see as infinite and divine, this is what life will give you. This is me in the modern museum of Art in Kraków.

We create our own reality and the people who do complain in Poland, it is their problem. However, it has nothing to do with Polish society or Polish people, but a vocal minority of spoiled cry babies who do not have the courage to look deeper at the issues of life; and just see reality defined on the surface in terms of material wealth.  I try to stay away from messed up people. I am not my brother’s keeper.

Melancholy Vs. Complaining victims – Some Polish people  are melancholy, this is different from the energy vampires who complain like babies – people who are not proud of and defend their own culture.

The melancholy, maybe just they need more sunlight, but even these depressed ones seem to be laughing about their negativity and depression and smiling. They joke and laugh about their depression and they are quite funny about it.  This is just the way they like to talk.

American Vs. Polish negativity – But Polish people are not more negative than other people.  I am Polish and American and travelled the world so I have perspective.

Look at the stereotype of the happiness people on earth, the Americans.  Smiling Americas yes, but we love to complain too.

I am American and all I can say I am glad I live in Poland today. I do not have to be subjective to all the negativity of American politics and news.  Americans like to complain about Obama or  the debt or the economy or schools and everything else. Even me I am somewhat Libertarian and I complain about both parties the GOP and the Democrats. Gee Wiz I am happy I cancelled by Cable or I would be laying on my sofa, glued to CNN and depressed.

In fact, I would say that Polish people at this juncture are less negative than most. In fact, all my Polish friends are positive and have a sparkle in their eye and warm and caring. Students and the young are particularly a positive.

Who is complaining in Poland

Energy Vampires in Poland

So the stereotypes of Polish people complaining is from a specific voice of people. Lets look at who complains in Poland and why.

The old in Poland have faith (and moved mountains by bringing down communism) and the young have hope ( and have a sparkle in their eye). So who is negative?

In my observation, there are some people 40-60 year old people, really to 55, that have made negativity, nihilism cynicism their fundamental way of life. They are not even aware of it.

Some but not all.

I think this is comes from a lack of faith and trust. They confuse the church with religion and quickly embrace pop culture cynicism.

That is they are cynical because they have neither faith in the great sense or hope and faith in their own personal meaning in an individual sense. They muddle though life.

I think this came from a time in Poland when they did not know how to handle the break from black and white cultural structure they had, so they choose to see only shade of grey. Their negativity which they call  ‘realism’ pollutes the young like communism polluted the water. They have a mission to take the magic out of life for people.

Me I avoid these people. But this has nothing to do with Poland, but rather people in general. Negative people or energy vampires are found everywhere. It is not Poland.

They try to rob the youth of faith and hope  indirectly. They do this  subtly by not encouraging hope.

Therefore they paint a picture of their world as grey and whatever, Co mam robić – wszystko jedno. But under this I think they lack faith.

Good news about Polish society

However, the Polish people I know are not like that at all. Most are sweet and positive and have faith and hope in God and humanity and themselves. Some lack confidence, but that is something different, more a human problem. So are Polish people negative? No and if you know some that are I would suggest you find a new circle of friends. It has nothing to do with being Polish society, a few people who are on a journey towards the dark side.

Categories
Poland

Are Polish people honest?

Polish values

Polish people in my experience are honest peaceful humble people. I have personal  stories of honesty to prove it, the last being the most telling about morality in Poland.

Negativity from communism distorts reality – Polish society is good

I remember when I was taking a tour of Poland in 1999 my tour guide warned us sternly, hold on to your wallets at all times, Polish people will steal if they get a chance.

After repeated warnings after the first week of the tour, I clung to my money with dear life, thinking at any corner a rogue bandit or local Oliver Twist was to make off with my cash.

However, during the second week of the tour I noticed our Polish tour lady was basically being negative about everything, the change to capitalism from communism, people and Poland in general. I started to argue with her that I actually felt safer in Poland than NYC or almost anywhere in the USA. She rolled her eyes. However, in my personal observation there seemed to be low crime and people dealt fairly with me in the market, even though I could not really speak Polish.

Straightforwardness in Polish business

Here is a specific example, I one time handed a girl in an open market a hundred zlotys note thinking it was a ten, and she ran after me to give me my change. In fact this type of thing happened more than once, I know I am a little out there. That is someone was given the chance to take advantage of me and they did the opposite, that is, go out of their way to help me in terms of justice and fairness.

Since I have lived in Poland a number of years I have had generally positive experience with Poles.

 

My wallet full of cash that was returned to me.

 

 

The day I lost my wallet – in Poland and it was not Stolen

The other day I lost my wallet full of cash on the tram. I had baggy pants and I was trying to avoid someone on the tram I did not want to see. It was actually the lady that was involved in helping me get citizenship who worked for the government of Poland in Krakow. She is very nice but I have always feel self-conscious about my Polish as I have an American accent, so did not want to chat with her as she is a very proper formal lady. I hurried out of a crowed tram to avoid her and my wallet dropped out.

I retraced my steps over and over, and did not find it. I looked everywhere and asked everyone. I had several hundred Polish zlotys in cash and my US and Polish IDs and my bank cards etc.

Why I did not panic?

I was not in panic as I have lived in Poland long enough to know Polish people are honest. Maybe because it is a Catholic nation or because parents teach their children right from wrong. Even though I live in a big anonymous city with many poor people, for me it did not matter, I trusted the values and honestly of the people of Poland.

Sure enough the next day I picked up my wallet at the tram office with all the cash and belongings inside. Some honest Pole returned it all. I really did not doubt it for a moment.

 

Categories
Poland

Poland shale gas – USA partnership

Natural gas energy in Poland

Poland has over 5.3 Trillion cubic meters of shale gas. It is an estimate.  This would make it the largest reserve in Europe only second to Russia. And really the reserves are right up there with Saudi Arabia (7 trillion cubic meters). Poland could potentially become fairly rich nation like a Norway, if it develops if this energy and the contracts are handled properly. Poland also wants to pursue a nuclear energy program.

Warsaw Presidential palace where Komoroski and Obama met to talk about shale gas extraction with US oil companies and Polish reserves.

The general idea is to make Poland energy rich and independent with coal, shale gas, nuclear and alternative energies. In my estimate it is on this path and will help Poland. The issue is to balance with environmental concerns and capital shortages to develop this.

Poland needs to protect the shale gas investments and not give it away.

Where are these resources in Eastern Europe? The shale gas in southern and eastern Poland is part of a very large underground reservoir of natural resource reserves. It had been rumored for a long time, but Poland did not want Russia involved in the extraction so kept is secret.

Why is this important and why are the Americans the energy partner with Poland? It could supply Poland and the EU with all its energy needs. Since France and Germany need this specific gas the most, Poland saw it in its best interest to get help from the Americans.

I think this was the right thing to do. President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minster Donald Tusk are aware of this and that is why I think they prefered dealing with the Americans in terms of a partner for shale gas extraction and exploration. ExxonMobil  have been mentioned – stock ticker XOM – for leading the exploration. The key point is they can not give it away, it has to be very advantageous for the Poles or they should not do business.

What is shale gas? – Is it oil or can we fill our cars at the pump?

This is not oil, but shale gas. It is embedded in the earth and the extraction process is complicated and has environmental implications.  Shale or sand gas from fine grain sedimentary rock and oil are profitable only now as technology increases and oil is over about 60 dollars a barrel. Gas is a close substitute for oil and can be used to drive cars. In Poland we use it and it about half the price of petrol at the pump.

US partnership with Poland over energy

Obama want to respect democracy and give Poles visas right? Obama’s trip to Poland was behind the scenes about shale gas contracts for US companies to have rights to explore in Poland – good for Poland I guess as it is costly to explore and extract shale gas. It is not like drilling and pump, it takes capital and cash. I question Obama and the way he handles the US economy with spending, but however, on this point on energy and foreign policy with Poland – it is a win-win for the US and Poland.

The Polish government wanted to US partner instead of a Russian or other partners of course as this is part of Warsaw’s policy of independence in terms of energy.

If Poland does have the shale gas as projected Poland will be a very rich country, that is of course if Warsaw negotiates the contracts correctly.

Oh, Yes, Poland might get added to the list of visa exception companies but Tusk said this was not a priority in the negotiations. Rightfully so as Poland is an EU country and this gives Poles a huge market to work and live in and the US is more for tourism. The gas and natural resource issue is more important.

When you hear an  US President talk about democracy be a little skeptical, usually there is something else behind the scenes like oil or gas or supporting an ally that is in the best interest of the President at the time. Think of the wars in Kuwait, Iraq and Libya and why they were fought.

Skepticism aside, in conclusion, I think the US and Poland have similar ideals in terms of the world and vision of freedom and democracy. These countries are two great allies and I think Poland and the US will benefit from further cooperation as the US and Poland are both lights for the free world. This shale gas in Poland will help Poland in the long run, especially with US help in terms of capital.

I am fairly postive about the idea of exploring for oil and gas in Poland with the USA in a business partnership, however, what is your opinion on Polish natural resources and the Warsaw’s policy of extraction and partnership with the USA?

 

Categories
Krakow Poland

Krakow market square and cloth hall – a short tour

The market square in Krakow is the largest market square in Europe. It might be the largest in the world, considering most places in the world do not have traditional market squares besides Europe.  However, for Europe it is the largest open market square. Below I made a video of the center of Krakow. I posted it on my YouTube channel where I have a few other videos about Krakow and Poland.

Cracow Main Market Square

The size of the market square is 40,000 sq meters or 430,000 square feet. If you were to fly over the market you would see three evenly spaced roads each at right angles to the main market square.

Below the market square is even a larger network of tunnels and caverns and secret passages. But that is a for another topic and day.

The exception to this symetry is ul. Grodzka, which is the oldest street and on the southern side.

Krakow is a Medieval Gothic town. The market squares are lining museum pieces. It is also the geographical center of the city.

Cloth Hall Krakow

At the center of the market square in Krakow is the Cloth hall. The market square is called the Rynek Głowny or literally main market. Many towns have something called a Rynek. Rynek means market in Polish.

The large yellow building in front of us is called the Cloth hall or in Polish the Sukiennice. It was started in 1344. It now has more of a 16th century look with gables and gargoyles. There was also a 19th century reconstruction. This is and was a center for trade. You can buy things specifically Polish and made in Poland.

It is the world’s oldest continuously running shopping mall. Krakow has the oldest Shopping mall in Europe the Sukiennice and arguably the largest also Galleria Bonarka. I like to go to both. The prices in Cracow’s cloth hall are good. I actually still go shopping there for things from time to time. Where can you find a wooden chess set or mountain slippers for ten dollars but here? In a modern shoopping center you will pay many times more for the same or lesser quality.

In the Middle Ages, on Monday’s you could also buy fresh meat. The animals were butchered in another part of Krakow. At the end of the day of course prices went down.

Old City call tower

The town city call is called Wieża Ratuszowa or literally the town hall tower. While it was used by the city of Krakow government it contained a room for the town council, court and jail. It also had a room of torture (see the anthropology museum for this) and a storage area. Now it is a museum and you can go up in the tower. At the base is a cafe.

The statue of Adam Michiewicz

This monument was erected in 1898. He was Poland’s national poet born in Lithuania and died in Istanbul. However, we do not know if he ever came to Krakow, probably not. However, he is buried in the Wawel castle. When the statue was first put up, there was controversy whether it was too modern and not appropriate for the poetry of the Rynek. The statue was taken by the Germans during the war and sold for scrap but recovered in Hamburg Germany after the war.

Today, along with Empik bookstore people wait for dates or meet their friends. If you watch my movie below you will see a few girls in font of Empik waiting for someone. Watch for the girl who turns her head.

This is a short history as I want you to actually someday visit the center. In another post I might include more details. If you have any questions please let me know. I have lived in Krakow a good part of my life. There are also a number free English-speaking walking tours in the center if you take a trip there.

Categories
living in Poland Poland

Life in Poland – What is it like?

Everyday life in Poland

As an American who has spent a good part of his life in Poland (I am a Polish citizen also) I have a unique perceptive on life in Poland. I can see this better than a native Pole in some ways as I have something to compare it with.The bottom line here is life in American is easy but life in Poland is beautiful.

Despite the fact that Poles love to complain and be contradictory and argue that things are wrong, the reality I think most of them in their hearts know how beautiful of a country it is.

The way I see Poland

The first thing you will notice about Poland is life is sweeter. You do not make as much money or have all the niceties of living in the US or UK but life has a quality all its own. It is like living in another century. If you have ever seen the movie ‘Kate and Leopold’, you have the idea. Life has a different feel to it that you can not describe. Yes, in the States we have more Playstation, but so what.

It would be hard to argue life in Poland is anything but beautiful

What I mean is there are just as many things in Poland as in the USA to buy and consume, however, the culture here is people would rather spend their time in a park reading a book than a mall. People are much closer to their families and often live three generation in the same house. Unless you live in a city, every Polish person I know has a small piece of land and they grow something.

Being a good human and Christian is the focus of most unless you are one of these new rich metro men.

Green Krakow - note the monestary on the right

Economics of Poland

The first thing people ask is what is it like in terms of the economy.  What is the cost of living in Poland? Well Poland is a modern EU country that left communism a quarter of a century ago. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit you can make as much money as you want in Poland. Working at job is harder you need to have concrete skills. If you are an entrepreneur or a manager you will be richer than your counterparts in London or New York if you factor in the Polish standard of living and lifestyle. I know people will disagree with me on this, but human labor, from baby sitters to house cleaners, special tutors for your children, personal trainers and massage people and garners are very cheap. You can buy local organic vegetables that cost a lot in the USA. You can take vacations to places like Crimea or the Baltic for relatively little money.

How can you say Poland is poor?

If you are a worker you will be about 20% poor than in the USA. That is the reality because Poland had the war and communism.But not everything is about Złoty and dollars. Further, Poles get around the system a lot so what they report might not be the reality. I see a lot of big cars in Poland and nice houses.

Small mall in Poland

It will take until about 2025 until Poland is on par with the West in terms of worker. But in terms of managers and business owners, except for the extremes it is already there, actually higher as reported in the Economist magzine. I wrote an article on Why Polish wages are low.

If you make money, you have a nice life in Poland

Dating life in Poland

It is 100% better for love and marriage. If you are marriage in Poland you wife will stand by your side and be very loyal. She will not care about money and it would be considered gouache to focus on such things. Not every Polish girl is like this as there are new Poles who are as bad or worse than the US and will divorce you or not date you if you are not making money. But generally Polish dating is all about marriage and having a family. If you are not married it is a great place to find a spouse. Ask me if you have questions.

Day to-day life in Poland

It is the same as all over the world, except things move at a slower pace. People are more relaxed and easy-going. If you send someone and e-mail do not expect it to be returned right away. Even me, I am lazy about this but in the USA I would not do this.

It depends if you live in the city or country in Poland.

Polish farm house in anytown, Poland - the coutryside is amazing.

In Poland I shop for food everyday. My wife cooks homemade meals from scratch everyday. Poles do not go out to eat too much as if you have a Polish wife cooking what is the point, the food will be of lower quality at a restaurant.

Garden house in Krakow - at least I hope it is a garden house.

Living in Poland is like living anywhere else in Europe. I think the Poles tend to be more connected to nature as manifest by the large percentage of people in Poland who have farms or gardens. Even in Krakow, there are a number of garden houses.

Now this is a charming garden house in Krakow

Polish weather is not the best

I would say six months you stay inside because of winter. Three months are 50-50 and three months are ideal. Summer all business basically slow down to a snail’s pace.

Try to get something done in the summer. You will notice the whole country is on vacation. Krakow, the Baltic coast Warsaw even is left for the tourists.

People are not smiling as much in Poland,  I think mostly because of the weather. It is a micro climate where moisture from the Atalanta meets cold weather from the north and it is mostly damp, cloudy and cool.

I would say only one in five days are really sunny at best.

Are Polish people friendly?

I think generally Polish people are friendly. You always have more primitive people who are negative and angry about life, but in my experience people are very nice in Poland. If someone is upset at life they will be upset at the world. It is not you. While in America, I think people are more friendly, at least on a superficial level. It is more like it takes people time to trust you and you have to earn your respect.

Customer service in Poland

It is getting better but not the best. Basically if something breaks it is your problem, even if the EU grants you a two-year warranty. To get a return on a defective product you need to prove everything and they will still tell you no. But in the end if you argue you will get it, because that is the law. Do not yield to intimidation. The first answer will always be ‘no’. It is your problem. Why are you bothering me. You need to complain to the top.

Government in Poland

It is exactly like customer service. At the basic level it makes paperwork hard. People take it easy and do not know their job. However, at a higher level, the people in charge are very responsible and want to improve the system. I think Poland is still a socialist country weighted down by an army of bureaucrats. It is changing fast but not fast enough. Poland could be one of the richest countries in Europe, in seven years, if it eliminated the income tax. However, to do this it would have to modernized, computerize all aspects of government. It would have to privatize the social state. In return it would be a rich country for all.

Demographically Poland is going from 40 million to 35 million very soon. People have few kids and many leave for the USA, UK and now Germany as the EU is one market. In some ways this is great, housing prices in Poland should continue to fall, but on the other hand the fat government will not be able to pay the bills and will tax the people or to p[ay for the fat bureaucrats pensions. I do not know what will happen. I think eventually Poland will invite immigrants from Ukraine and Asia and Turkey. If you want to get a Polish citizenship and you have Polish roots, you are welcome.

Transportation in Poland

Going on a decade of living here and I do not need a car. Does that say something. Every small town as a good bus or rail connection and every city has trams and buses. It is very easy to get around Europe without a car. I have never had a problem. Polish people complain about Polish roads but there is less traffic here. In Krakow you can get from one end of the city to another in 1/2 hour. Try doing that in Boston, maybe you can on a Sunday, but not Monday morning rush hour.

Sports in Poland

People are not as into sports as in the USA. except for soccer every one is pretty much just walking for fitness. There are gyms of course, but people ride bikes and walk and look very thin, not as meaty as American guys for example, more intellectual. But Americans are very smart people, just more like the ancient Romans and the European like the ancient Greeks. People play chess a lot like in all Eastern European post communist countries.

Education in Poland

It is a classical education, focused on literature, languages, history and religious as well as science and math. No Political correctness added. More about know Polish literature and history and liberal arts. I like this ideal. The average Poles is much more aware of the world than most people in the west about geography and art and literature. No question, however, people in the West have a more realistic view of business and understanding of markets. Poeple in the USA understand a job is to make money and do a service. In Poland people granduate with Masters degrees and think it is below them to work in a shop. This is crazy, just because you have a degree means nothing. Polish students need to realize this.

Religious life is important in Poland

Do not be mislead that region is gone. Religious families have many children, not religious new Poles do not have kids. Do the math. New Poles might win out, however, I think no one can predict the future. Today, faith is very alive in Poland and the center of life for most.

Family and faith is the center.

Everyday life centers on faith and family in Eastern Europe.

I love living in Poland and if you have any questions or are thinking of moving to Poland, just write.

Categories
Poland Polish economy

Why are Polish wages low?

Polish wages are lower than the EU

Polish wages are not on par with EU average wages. Why is this so? Poland has been free from communism for over 20 years and part of the EU for over 7. Why does someone only a few hundred miles away in Austria, Germany or Sweden get paid many times more than workers with comparable skills in Poland?

It is changing but I know many educated Poles with low wages. On one hand, if you want to start a business it is a good place as wage levels are low. Start a business in Poland and you can be rich and employ cheap labor with good skills.  However, but on the other hand for the average Pole it is harder to live.

I am a capitalist and economist and in a free market, which the EU is, this should not exist unless there is some market distortion. There could be an argument that the lack of capital that causes this but in my view it is more a distortion of the market lets look at why.

Why wages are low in Poland

Here are the three reasons why Poles earn less.

  1. excess government drains resources of the people
  2. lack of capital to generate enough labor demand
  3. bosses have an Eastern European business acumen.

Poland’s government is still not free

The main reason is the government controls too much, the system is weighted down by laws, ZUS, lack of transparency, corruption, high pension for government workers that they could never get in the private sector, early retirement for government workers etc. The country is socialist country. There is a huge tax on the productive. The government wants to change but it is still a long way from transparency. Bribes must still occur in government because the things I see just do not make sense.

  • I would pass a law like Norway did that if you are caught in a lie or a bride, you lose your future pension for life. In one day it stopped corruption.
  • I would privatize everything and model it on a libertarian system of government. Let the markets work and reduce the weight of government offices.
  • Increase taxes on tobacco, drinking etc 2000%.  Save money on health care, while generating money for things like hosptials. Greece use to be one of the unhealthiest countries and they did this and over night statistics changed and it became one of the healthiest. There are a lot of people living off the system and drinking and smoking their life a way. It is unfair for the productive.
  • I have many other progressive ideas for Poland that is the beyond the scope of this post.

Government controls and offices still have too much power. Government sector workers seems to be richer in many ways than private sector workers.  Some how things to do not add up.

Lack of capital and developed money markets

The Polish economy had no crisis and is hot. It is exporting to Germany and the world and there is a world of opportunity for business. Capital is coming in from everywhere. I do not think there is a capital shortage in Poland. It is a golden opportunity for those who see it.

Polish business owners

I personally think it is because many Polish owners are greedy and do not play by the same rules as in the west. A great example is Polish real estate prices are distorted to the point it is twice that of Berlin for example. Markets are not competitive and business owners know this. They manipulate the system and keep wages low.

I see a large difference between rich and poor.  Bosses have much more and flaunt it as new rich do.  I see those who have power able to work the government system, legally and maybe even illegally to their own advantage. On the surface the old ways of socialism has been removed. But the reality is there is a lot of red tape and bureaucracy still that needs to be overcome in Poland.

Tea party movement in Poland

Poland needs to wake up and even a tea party movement to liberate it from the burden of government.  When markets are free middle class wages rise. When a country is socialistic, everyone is poorer except those in control.

I have personally had many roadblock in government. I tried to do the honest good thing.  Fat cat bureaucrats are too entrenched.  I would say at the top and in Poland in general people are responsive and very aware of these things. I did get a response when I pushed an issue high enough, but low down it was hard.

Hence, why are Polish wages so low? Excess government. It drains the economic life out of people. But the good news is I love living in Poland and things are nice here. If I sound like I am complaining I am not. I do the same about the USA government and its excesses because I am more of a libertarian Adam Smith free market economist.