The Polish diaspora of America and the UK is an oft-reported phenomenon. The historical movement of Poles from Europe to the US throughout the 20th century and particularly in the post-war period is well documented, as is the influx from Poland to the UK since the country’s accession to the European Union in 2004. However a less noted and more modern phenomenon is currently taking place in Krakow, a city which has seen an explosion of English speaking emigrants and in the last ten years particularly. But what’s Krakow got to offer, and why has it suddenly become such a popular destination for English speakers to move to?
The answer is not surprisingly a manifold one. For many, it may simply be the indelible charm of Krakow’s medievalism, its classical façades, and authentic historical appearance. For other’s it may be the attraction of a laid back lifestyle, in a city of café culture, art galleries and universities, where the locals are famed for their happiness and open arms. But rarely is migration simply aesthetic, and the Krakow of today seems to have successfully encompassed a number of things that keep the English speakers coming, not to travel, but to live.
Firstly, since the fall of communism, and even more so since the advent of EU membership, Krakow has become something of a self-proclaimed business hub, and no doubt the only city in Poland that could possibly rival Warsaw in terms of enterprise. Google, Samsung, Cisco and IBM to name but a few, have all now established major offices, and there are currently more than 40,000 English speaking natives employed here. What’s more, they are constantly recruiting workers of every skill level; from telephone sales staff, to company directors and software developers.
While levels of pay will rarely match what UK or American citizens would earn at home, the pay to cost of living ratio in Krakow is a very healthy one indeed. Rent, though rising, is still good value (a central, single bed apartment can easily be found for 700-800 PLN a month), food prices are low, and produce is famously fresh and tasty. All this makes for a startlingly nice living standard, and one that is often set at odds with many of the traditional prejudices of Polish industry and life.
One major area that has undergone rapid transformation in Krakow is that of TEFL teaching. English is now the language of business for many of the international firms in the city, and English skills help to open up the European-wide job market for Polish natives. Consequently there are literally hundreds of private language schools here, with thousands of job opportunities to go with them. Learners want native speaking teachers, so the schools are constantly recruiting among the Brits and Americans that arrive. All in all, the prospect of employment for UK and US emigrants to Poland – a country that has somehow faired the financial crises far better than most in Europe – is very good, very good indeed.
To top it all off, Krakow is a town that exudes a really unique character. There’s always something to do and the expat community is seriously alive and kicking. Each week, new meet-ups are organised for the city’s English speakers, and there are a number of great Polish language schools that have acquired a reputation for quickly getting newly arrived prospective Cracovians speaking the native tongue.