Living in Poland vs living in Finland as a foreigner!

[The post below is only my honest opinion.]

Although it’s not fair to compare a tiny Finnish town to a big Polish city, I am still going to write about how the general experiences have been for me in these two countries as a foreigner.

1. Looking different 

I’ve finally started to jog alone in and around a nearby park here in Lodz and I garner quite a lot of attention! Practically everyone looks at me twice, probably wondering what’s a foreigner doing here. On a sunny day, my sunglasses and dyed hair do help but otherwise, I often end up getting noticed quite a lot. It is not so uncommon to see foreigners here in malls or other touristic places, but the number still remains quite low and hence a subject of curiosity. In Finland, especially in big cities, my plain South Asian look is probably old news as it’s quite common to see foreigners and also a lot of inter-racial couples and children.

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Baltic sea coast, Poland

2. Cuisine

I regularly enjoy the everyday Polish foods except perhaps bigos I love the soups – zurek, rosol, barszcz, zupa pomidorowa. I have recently even started to like pickled cucumber (ogorki kiszone) so much! Polish food is delicious and so are the drinks- oh the varieties of divine Polish vodkas. Beer is not bad either. Finnish cuisine is a bit limited and mostly based on fish, meat and potatoes. My favorites probably were the varieties of pulla bread.

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Cold beer and warm sour soup in Zakopane, Poland

3. Weather

Poland is warmer than Finland. I lived in the Central West region of Finland, and on my second winter in the country I experienced as low as -30 degrees temperatures. Poland hasn’t been that harsh on me, although I was told that the last winter and this one have been exceptionally warm. I am indeed enjoying the shorter winters here, whereas in Kokkola I would have to wait almost until the end of April for all the snow to be gone. I also like seeing the sun for more than 5 months a year. Finland’s long, dark, 8 months of winter can get depressing sometimes.

A hill in the middle of winter in Kokkola, Finland

4. Everyday nature

Nothing for me tops the dramatic Nordic natural beauty of Finland. I enjoyed living in Kokkola, which has many parks and forests. The season change is incredibly spectacular in Finland – it’s hard to believe that it’s the same place in different seasons. The summers are  truly unique, with the sun almost never setting down in the Northern region of Finland, while the opposite in winter. I also had the fantastic opportunity of watching Northern lights (aurora) – nature’s most mesmerizing phenomenon – during my stay in Finland. Nature is a very big part of people’s everyday lives in Finland. Poland is naturally a very beautiful country as well, with the Baltic sea to the North to the magnificent Tatra mountain range to the South. Poland also has a lot of forests and lakes. But I feel more connected to nature while in Finland.

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Biking to university? No problem! Finland 😀 

5. Daily costs and location

As a student, living in Poland has been much cheaper for me. Sometimes foods like chicken and apples can be even cheaper than in Nepal. Poland also has more options on purchasing goods and services as a customer. Finland has very limited choices on fashion stores, other kinds of shops and services as many big businesses are at least partly government-regulated.

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Helsinki harbor front, Finland

Due to Poland’s central location, it’s quite easy and affordable to travel to countries around Europe. There are good ,direct connections to almost every major country. Life in Finland, on the other hand, is insanely expensive. Traveling is not as cheap and easy. Although the cruise trips to Sweden and Estonia are very popular, getting to port cities (Helsinki, Turku) from other places can still be expensive and long. So, living in Poland as a student, is fine, but as a worker, maybe not so much.

6. Safety

I have frequently been asked by foreigners and even Polish people if I’ve experienced any kind of racism in Poland. Honestly, no I haven’t. People do tend to stare quite often, but it is true for every country in the world with homogeneous population. I’ve sometimes felt unsafe during weekends when it’s very common to see drunk people around. It is also common to see gangs of guys (mostly football hooligans) walking around neighborhoods during evenings. I have also heard about street fights among guys taking place. But overall, it’s a safe country with lower rates of violent crimes compared to other big countries in Europe. As a foreigner, I just make sure that I’m cautious in going to secluded, unlit areas and I’ve just been fine. As I lived in a small town in Finland, going out alone even at 1 in the morning was perfectly safe. I haven’t tried doing that here in Poland and I am not very keen either. However, I generally feel much safer in Finland than in Poland.

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In Krakow, Poland

7. University and studies

Since I am/was on an exchange year here, I can only speak for my university in Finland and university in Lodz here. As a technology student, I have found that the courses offered here are much more diverse. The students I found to be generally more hard-working and smarter. What I do miss about my university back in Finland are the infrastructures. I have no idea how the Polish universities rank worldwide, but I’ve been pretty satisfied as far as university and studies go. It’s a good idea to check and find out in-depth about the universities and education system if you’re planning on coming to Poland for studies, or Finland, for that matter.

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Student town where I spent 2.5 years in Kokkola, Finland

8.  Language, people and culture

I lived in Finland for almost three years and never really needed Finnish language to get by. Almost everyone there speaks English. Finland even accepts documents in English language for official purposes. Almost all major notices in big places are also in English and that makes life much easier. I did basics of Finnish language during my first year, but never really needed to use it in everyday situations. In Poland however, it’s a near miracle to find locals with fluent English language skills. And may I add, Polish language is one of the most difficult languages in the world (of course, if you’re of non-Slavic origin). You will definitely need at least basic Polish skills to get by, unless you plan on exclusively using signs and gestures. The government offices here have a very lax environment and are sometimes painfully slow. They still store a lot of data physically in big files etc. I would have imagined that they had moved on to the digital era of storage, but turns out not. I have even heard (and been surprised at) the staff announcing in Polish in foreigner’s department here! Getting an official job done at a government office is tedious (all your papers have to be translated and verified) and costly. In that aspect, it’s much easier, faster and more organized in Finland.

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Street art in Lodz, Poland

The Polish people are generally family-oriented, homely and religious. I’ve also found the people to be friendlier. I feel more connected with Poles than Finns. Finns are usually distant and aloof in the beginning, but I have also met some interesting Finnish people. Poland sometimes makes me more nostalgic and home-sick whereas Finland is altogether a completely different world.

Regardless of their own perks and drawbacks, I deeply love both countries for their unique specialties and the experiences they’ve offered me.

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22 thoughts on “Living in Poland vs living in Finland as a foreigner!

    1. Thanks Sartenada 🙂 The photos I used on this photo are not mine. But I do know Neristan, it’s so quaint and peaceful 🙂 Your blog looks interesting as well!

    1. You’re right, I do miss the snow and Finnish winter sometimes, but to think that it lasts so long in Finland kinda makes me glad that I am enjoying a more temperate weather here 🙂

  1. Unlike u i lived in Poland before and then moved to Finland… i feel in in heaven here in Finland … i have no negative about Poland too but Finland is far safe, friendly and caring place as far as foreigner are concerned here in Finland you don’t feel like but Polish people make u feel that you are stranger there… looking at you few times is “must do job” when you are not white…

    1. I guess everyone has different experiences of the two countries. Of course Poland is more homogeneous, poorer and perhaps less safe, but it also has sides that I really like 🙂

    1. Typing from phone is so difficult.. I am not sure if my last unfinished reply was published. But here you go again,
      I am not really crazy about the ones with meat, maybe because we Nepalese are so used to eating meat momos (very similar to pierogi) with often very spicy sauce. I’d have to say I loved the ones with spinach and also the ones with tuna 🙂 The more unconventional ones :))

  2. A very nice blog – you say so many interesting and positive things about both countries!

    But, one thing: I wonder if you asked the authors of the photos if you could use their images. If not: you write they are “from Google”, but, you know, Google is not a bank of free photos to use, it is a search engine. You can find photos and look at them, but you can’t just copy someone else’s images and post them on your site without even mentioning the author’s name. Would you be happy if someone reprinted your blog on their website, without asking your permission or even letting you know, and without mentioning your name, and just said “This story is from Google”? It is the same with photos. I realise you probably just didn’t think about it, and that many people do it, but this is not right. When you want to use someone else’s photo, you need to ask them first and credit them, and if it is too much work, just use your own photos. Without asking permission you can link to someone else’s website but not take a picture and paste it on your blog!

    I hope you understand: this is not to be mean, I just wanted to let you know that this is not the right thing to do and sometimes people get in trouble over this.

    1. Hi little alien, thanks for stopping by.
      I really appreciate what you said and have decided to take all photos down. I was actually wary at first to use random photos found from google, but seeing so many other people do it made me perhaps underestimate the seriousness. On the side note, I do have some of my own pictures of the places, so I might use them here instead. Although they’re not that good.
      Have a nice day!

  3. I haven’t been to Poland or Finland…yet. But I hear they are both beautiful!

    I feel like it’s hard for me to fit in anywhere because I am so tall and nobody can figure out where I’m from!

    1. Hi Ameena! Yes, both countries are beautiful in their own ways.
      Yup, from the pics that I have seen on your blog, I wouldn’t be able to tell your exact roots either 🙂

    1. Finland (or the Nordics) is indeed a challenging place. The weather is really one of the biggest challenges for foreigners. The snow fascinated me for the first few months, but the lack of Vitamin D and brightness quickly started getting me. The summer on the other hand completely mesmerized me. A land of extremes (in terms of weather at least), for sure.

  4. Interesting post, once again! 🙂 Loved reading about Poland. I agree with you on all the points about Finland – though I’ve never seen the aurora borealis! (I do dream of seeing it one day! But without a car it’s hard since I live in central Helsinki and the city lights prevent seeing it. And it’s too expensive here to afford keeping a car… so there you go!) 😉 Anyway, I’d love to visit Poland one day. By the way, one of my favorite authors and my absolute travel hero is Ryszard Kapuscinski, have you read any of his books?

    1. Thank you for your nice words! Yes, I realize that I was lucky to live on the Central part of Finland from where I could see aurora so effortlessly! I wish I could see them again 😦 I really recommend you visiting Poland 🙂 I think you would enjoy the historical sites, old towns and food. 😀 No I didn’t know about Ryszard Kapuscinski until now, his Wikipedia page looks handful – maybe I’ll try to find some of his translated work online.

  5. Hi Puja, That was interesting for me to read. 🙂 I have Work permit to Poland and never know about the Nation. Basically, I am from India and would like to know few details like…
    Expenses,
    cost of living,
    Environment(Climiate)

    Please advise!

    1. Hi Vijay. Poland is quite affordable especially when compared with other EU nations. A salary of about 3000 PLN and above should cover expenses of a single person easily. There are four distinct seasons, and during winter it can sometimes get as low as -20 degrees, summers are pleasant and warm but sometimes rainy. Hope it helps! I suggest you browse on internet for detailed answers. 🙂

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