A Foreigner’s Guide to Quality of Life in the Small, Lesser-Known Polish City of Gliwice and What There Is To See and Do
It’s been almost a year since I moved to Poland and the small city of Gliwice. As it was my first time ever coming to the country my expectations and perceptions were vague, solely formed from the media and what you see on the TV and movies.
However, friends, and friends of friends who had visited Poland, had only good things to say about the country which was all I needed to accept an English teaching job and new home over here!
With an open-mind I told my employer I was totally flexible with which branch I wanted to work at, unlike the other new teachers who presumably did a bit more research and knew Gliwice wasn’t very popular or well-known. However I welcomed Gliwice into my heart, here I still am, and I have to say what a pleasant time it’s been!
With so little written about this charming city online, I thought I’d bulk up Gliwice’s little corner of the internet to provide everything one might like to know about visiting or moving here!
★ Quality of Life ★
For me as an expat, the quality of life here has been pretty good. Although Gliwice is small, it provides all the fundamental things one could need in a city. I’m going to explain and review in detail all the factors below which I have taken into consideration to come to this conclusion.
Just click to jump to any specific topic:
POPULATION ➤ Gliwice lies in the South West corner of Poland with around 195,500 permanent residents. It’s part of a hub of small cities, called the Upper Silesian Metropolis Area, which are all connected with good transport links and stretch across the border into Czech Republic.
UNIVERSITY ➤ Gliwice is home to the reputable Silesian University of Technology making it a popular university city and significant Erasmus or student exchange destination for those looking to study abroad somewhere with a lower cost of living. Due to this, most foreigners living here are students.
ENGLISH-LEVEL ➤ Compared to the more touristic cities of Warsaw and Krakow the level of English here is quite low. Naturally, it’s the 40+ generation that are less proficient however I have found many millennials actually aren’t confident in the language at all either. Although you can get by fine on basic phrases (thank you, excuse me, etc.) if you are looking to meet more people and perhaps join some hobby clubs it’s definitely worth making an effort to learn more. I recommend QuickSpeak Polish Language School.
cost of living
CURRENCY ➤ Having a weaker currency, the Polish złoty is worth approx 5x less than the Euro and 4x less than the US Dollar. This, of course, means if you are working remotely for an international company Poland is a great place to live and SAVE. However if you are working for a Polish company, it makes it a lot less affordable to travel to other countries and buy things online.
SALARY ➤ The average monthly salary is around 7,560zł which will allow you to enjoy all the delights of Polish life, however when you convert it; that’s only €1,660 or $1,994 per month. Which can make saving up for moving back home and onward travel pretty stressful.
RENT ➤ I rent a lovely, furnished newly-renovated apartment literally 2 mins walk from the Town Square with another teacher which costs 1000zł/month all utilities included.
GROCERIES ➤ My groceries for the week cost around 100zł
TRANSPORT ➤ While I’ve not had to pay much for transport due to being only 6 mins walk from work and hardly travelling around during lockdown, ticket prices are as follows:
- 4zł for single bus ride,
- 15zł for 24 hrs unlimited bus rides
- 50zł for 1 week unlimited bus rides
- 99zł/month for unlimited bus & tram rides in the city
- Students get discounts, check it all out here.
GOING OUT ➤ Similarly I’ve not spent much on going out, socialising and what not, however when things are normal a reasonable restaurant meal (2 courses and drinks) costs 50zł and bar drinks 8-15zł.
GREEN SPACE ➤ Upon arriving at Gliwice Station you may be surprised to see a whole bunch of palm trees as you start walking up the main street! I had to do a double-take myself when I walked past for the first time with my suitcases back in August.
That’s the entrance road to the Palmhouse (Palmiarnia Miejska) which is worth a visit when you have time. Other than that, like many nice European cities there are plenty of grassy parks with fountains, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and benches.
MOUNTAINS ➤ If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about the locals it’s that their favourite thing to do on the weekend is go to the mountains! No matter the season, heavy snow or clear blue skies they enjoy hiking, ski-ing and all the typical mountain sports you can think of which are all reasonable distance from Gliwice. Having a car will make this a lot more accessible, as the public transport lines are not as well-connected with the mountain areas.
SHOPPING ➤ Now, one might argue that Gliwice lacks good retail therapy areas but that depends where you like to shop. For the typical high street franchise stores, there is the Forum Mall which has a good selection to suit the average person’s needs. However if you are a serial shopper, you will have to travel 45 mins (by train) to Katowice which is the biggest city of the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Area and has a larger selection of stores.
Otherwise you have many individual and independent businesses which Gliwice certainly has plenty of. From the Town Square there are many small cobbled streets with shops selling organic/eco foods, art supplies, boutiques, beauty products and the like.
GYMS ➤ These are starting to open again (around the time of me writing this article) and have been kind of glorified in their absence so no doubt you’ll be wanting to get in on the action. As a reasonably slim and fit nation (which is surprising when you consider their cuisine), there are plenty of gyms to choose from as in any city. The biggest and most flexible in Gliwice is Smart Gym as it’s open 24hrs and has the most branches. Check it out here.
SPORTS ➤ As for playing sports; football, volleyball, handball, basketball, tennis and badminton seem to be the favourites. Although I haven’t seen any football fields or parks big enough for a casual game so maybe more watchers than players over here.
DANCE ➤Let’s talk about dancing! Gliwice follows the rest of continental Europe in that ballroom dancing (or partner dancing) studios far outnumber any hip hop or modern dance studios. Which is totally contrasting to native English-speaking countries which generally have far less interest in couples dancing. Perhaps it’s the men? Back home I can’t think of any straight man who would take a couples dance class seriously without their girlfriend insisting, whereas in Poland the majority of guys are already into it or would be up for it!
CULTURAL ➤ Gliwice’s origins date back to the 15th century and hence, have a lot of interesting architecture and historical sights to see. The medieval buildings to visit include;
★ Somewhere from more recent times, and in my opinion a lot more interesting to visit is Willa Caro. A perfectly preserved 19th century building fully furnished and decorated in the renaissance style where you can go and imagine what life was like for the aristocrats who lived there back in the day.
★ Last but certainly not least is the building that takes the most prestigious title in Gliwice; the Radio Tower! Listed as a ‘Historical Monument of Poland’ it is tied to the most significant war catalyst event you’ve never heard of which can be fully investigated in it’s museum on site. Furthermore, it is considered to be the tallest wooden construction in the world at 118m and the only remaining radio tower made of wood.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Although I came here during the first wave of coronavirus, the worst of it was thought to be over so most restaurants and bars were opening up again with light restrictions. For those initial months I was able to get a small taste of the night scene and variety of pubs, bars and restaurants.
➤ PUBS & BARS
The good news is the variety of pubs and bars seems to be pretty substantial. The Town Square is the central hub and most busiest (usually difficult to get a seat in Summer!), with all the surrounding small streets providing endless choices.
Mostly trendy, modern style places with outdoor seating allowing you to enjoy those perfect European sunsets while taking in the evening city vibes. For me this was THE sole reason I wanted to move back to Europe, so if you’re looking for that special buzz in the warm evenings with a cold beer or fresh cocktail (if you’re me) then I’d say Gliwice has got it!
The not-so-good news are the restaurants. Gliwice simply doesn’t have that abundant selection of cuisines and styles like you find in bigger cities. This may well be due to far less expats coming over and setting up shop serving their home specialities like they do in the more popular, well-known cities.
Moreover, I don’t get many enthusiastic recommendations when I ask students about eating out. Even from walking around I have never thought, “Oh, that looks nice, and there too. Wow gotta remember to come here when it’s open as well!” – which I definitely do in other cities.
When it comes to nightclubs I personally don’t think a vast range is necessary as I tend to find that people generally have 1 or 2 ‘go-to’ clubs that they rarely stray from. Which leads to my point that, Gliwice only having a handful of clubs should keep most people happy. Unless, of course you live for the club scene and like to go out during the week as well as on the weekend, you will need a bigger city.
Overall I obviously haven’t really been able to embrace and experience the nightlife in all its glory yet due to the extended full lockdowns in Poland. HOWEVER, I am hopeful that with the current schedule planning to open everything up before June I will certainly make up for the time lost and write a full guide on where to go out ASAP.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT ➤ Gliwice is connected well to the surrounding towns and nearby cities, with their bus and train links. Both are super cheap with lots of ticket options to suit your lifestyle (see ‘Cost of Living’ or check out the details on their website here). They can run 5 – 10 minutes late sometimes, but generally very efficient and easy to use.
TAXIS ➤ Uber, Bolt and standard cabs are another option for those who prefer it.
SCOOTERS ➤ They also have those electric, rental scooters that launched in most cities a few years ago. One annoying thing is that people ride them on the pavement without too much caution, as well as casual cyclists who I have had to move out the way for on numerous occasions – very frustrating!
You can experience the best of all four seasons in Poland; from hot, blue-sky Summers – to mild, golden Autumn’s – to frosty Winters with generous helpings of snow – to blooming Springs that often can’t decide whether to give rain or shine!
Average temperatures seem to change every year these days, however generally the Summer months fluctuate from 18 to 34°C (64°F to 93°F)
Winter is very unpredictable, giving us +5°C to -20°C! (41 to -4°F) For me, it was the coldest I had ever experienced in my adult-life! …Maybe that’s why I am so excited for Summer!
Gosh, where do I start? So much to say about this, but firstly and most importantly is how friendly and welcoming everyone has been to me. Especially as a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language or know particular social etiquettes I received warm welcomes all round and was never made to feel bad about not speaking Polish.
STEREOTYPES ➤ A few stereotypes I had before coming here was that Poles were serious, reserved people with somewhat old-fashioned approaches to life. While this is not completely incorrect I have found them to be very much open-minded, forward-thinkers who are very critical of their country’s leadership and outdated catholic way of thinking. They are confident, bold and don’t like to say they’re “fine” when they’re not.
One slightly unfriendly thing is that cashiers, shop attendants, and other day-to-day customer facing workers don’t always put on a smile or have friendly body language like they do in the UK and other native English-speaking countries.
But I’m gonna stop there as the next post in my Polish blog series will go deeper into what Poles are really like and debunking the typical stereotypes people may have in their head from movies and the media!
Which brings this guide to a close! So I hope you found out everything you needed to know. I’d love to hear if you are planning to move here, so leave a comment or drop me a message about that.
You can also subscribe to keep updated on my Polish blog series and other posts coming soon! (see below🠗🠗🠗)
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