Living in Poland?
Living in Poland
At a Glance:
- Most people living in Poland receive basic healthcare under the National Health Fund or NFZ. Under the state health insurance, you can expect to contribute 9% of your salary to the NFZ.
- With express, intercity, and regional trains and the option of buying tickets online, taking the train in Poland is very convenient.
- Buses give you the option of traveling to smaller, more rural areas.
- Driving in Poland can be more hazardous than in many other European countries thanks to the high number of cars on the road. Take necessary precautions, especially when driving at night, and park your vehicle in secured parking lots.
- School is compulsory for all children from the ages of 6 to 18. There are a number of different international schools in Poland.
About the People
As of 2017, Poland has a population of just under 38.5 million, the majority of whom (around 60%) have settled in the country’s urban areas. Warsaw, the country’s capital, has about 1.7 million inhabitants alone. The vast majority of the country’s population are of Polish decent, although there is a small minority of Germans, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Lithuanians, and Belarusians living the country.
Shaped by its rich history, Poland’s many traditions and customs have emerged from Latin and Byzantine influences but have also been influenced by its former European occupiers. The culture is generally welcoming, and life in Poland is shaped by the warmth of the Polish people. Even if you do not yet speak the language fluently, you will soon feel included and find new friends in Poland.
The Polish Healthcare System
In 1989, Poland saw a number of reforms aimed at improving the country’s healthcare system. As a result, life expectancy increased by four years, hospitals were restructured, and primary healthcare improved particularly in terms of quality and availability. In the late 1990s, additional reforms were introduced, and in 1999 the general health insurance act came into force. This was followed by the National Health Fund (NFZ) in 2003. Today, most people living in Poland receive basic healthcare under the NFZ. Expats can also choose to purchase private healthcare insurance for shorter waiting times and additional coverage.
The National Health Fund
The National Health Fund is run by the Ministry of Health. The state healthcare system is supported by government contributions as well as compulsory individual contributions. The amount of these individual contributions depends on the status and income of each person.
The employer is obligated to register all foreign employees living in Poland with the health insurance fund at the beginning of their employment. You should be prepared to pay about 9% of your salary to the National Health Fund. The sum is deducted directly from your monthly salary. If you do not have a job yet, you need to prove that you have health insurance when applying for a residence permit; for temporary stays, citizens of other EU member states as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein are covered through their national health insurance and need to show their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or form E-111.
The public health fund covers basic medical services, including treatment by specialists and emergency care. This compulsory health insurance also covers family members, such as spouses, children under the age of 18 (or 26 depending on whether the child remains in full-time education), and parents and grandparents if they reside in the same house as the insured person.
Medical Facilities and Services
Doctors and nurses living in Poland are generally well-trained, offering top-notch medical services. However, you should keep in mind that in remote areas, healthcare facilities may not always be as widely available or well equipped. Emergency services are also sometimes lacking in rural areas. While younger doctors and nurses may speak English, especially in bigger cities like Warsaw, older staff may not do so. It is therefore worthwhile to learn some Polish before you move. If you suffer from any chronic conditions, try to look up the words to describe your condition and the medication you might need well in advance.
If you require a doctor, you should try to make an appointment in advance. This is because there is a lower number of doctors and nurses in Poland than in many other countries, making for long waiting times. If you need to see a specialist, make sure to get a referral from your general practitioner first. Some types of specialists, such as dentists, ob-gyns, and psychiatrists, are the exception to this rule and do not require a referral.
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