Tuesday, 2 June 2015

London vs. Warsaw: Part II - demographics.

I see this post has attracted huge amounts of readers (though not as many as my recent review of With Blood and Scars). I'd like to look this time of life at when it makes sense to live in London, and when it makes sense to live in Warsaw. Addressing the point made by Sigismundo in the comments on the previous post, I'll focus less on economics and more on quality of life.

18-33: LONDON. Let's say you are fortunate enough to have the whole of your life ahead of you. Warsaw or London? Without a shadow of a doubt, London. Life here is more intense. Sure, it's more expensive, whether you're a student or a first-jobber; the trick is to work hard and play hard. London offers you the opportunities to do both. But focus on building social capital, on those aspects which will serve you well in future. London is for 24-hour party people; but you have to be able to afford it, which means you work when you're not playing. No space for slacking. London attracts the best young talents from around the world, academically or in any area of professional or artistic endeavour. There are huge opportunities - but they must be grasped. If you have a tendency to be lazy - London's not for you - it will push you to the margins.

33-45: WARSAW. You've settled down. You want to raise children. Let's face it - London's not the best place for doing this. London schools are either expensive or poor. Warsaw schools are internationally recognised as being better (see PISA results) and cheaper. There's less knife crime and less drugs in Warsaw schools. If you've got this far in life on a successful roll, you'll find that quality housing in Warsaw is cheaper too, compared to what you're earning. You're not hemmed in by urban sprawl. The experience you gained in London will get you a premium on the Warsaw job market (I'm assuming you're a professional here.) And these are no longer the years where you're running around from club to club, so Warsaw's quieter (though nonetheless rapidly developing) nightlife is no longer an issue.

45-67: WARSAW: "When does life start? Priest - at conception. Pastor - at birth. Rabbi - when the kids leave home." Old joke, but this time of life is predicated by whether your children will go to study away from home (when I was 18, the further away, the better), or end up like statistical Italians, living with mamma until the age of 38. This is the time for enjoying the finer things in life - the arts, good food, walks in the country. Unless you are a millionaire, in pounds sterling, not zlotys, London is too expensive. A night at the opera for two will cost you around £500 (2,875 złotys) for tickets and a meal. And Warsaw is more easy-going for folk this age; in London, you feel you're past it, swimming in a sea of youth.

67+: WHEREVER YOUR PENSION ENTITLEMENT IS: Don't move back to Poland if you've been paying into the National Insurance system all your working life. The NHS is rightly treasured by Britons. Your medicines and treatments are free. But if you've been living in Poland until this age, it's no time to move. Travel by all means, visit friends and relatives regularly. But stay close to your pension pot, to your doctor. Poland may be no country for old men right now, but in future it will have to adapt to its demographics. Unless populist politicians screw it up with economic policies that win elections today, sending the bill to coming generations, Poland will be forced to be more old-folk friendly in future.

So there we have it. Mr Dembinski's recepta for a happy and fulfilled life across the two countries he knows and loves best.

This time two years ago:
Warsaw wealthier than most of UK shock!

This time three years ago:
Rail link to Okęcie airport opened


AndrzejK said...

Apart from the fact that my daughters live in London the only other thing I miss are proper local pubs. Duffy's in Pitshanger Lane is great, every time I go to the UK I can pick up on conversations left off six months before.

Yes of course London has much to offer the young and necessarily rich by way of round the clock entertainment, job opportunities etc. But is communting three or more hours per day in overcrowded, smelly and decrepit public transport life enhancing?

Oh and you now have to wait at least a month to see your family GP in London by which time you are either dead or the condition has cured itself. I know that the Polish health service is no better but at least you can see a doctor privately for a fee which is commensurate with the earnings of other professionals. And private health insurance is a fraction of what BUPA would charge you in London (unless you opt to be treated in the Outer Hebrides!).

Professionally in London I would be one of 10,000 or more chartered accountants doing boring and repetetive work. In Warsaw the challenges clients bring every week keep the grey cells ticking over and it is great to hear positive comments from foreign clients.

Ah well I guess horses for courses.....

Paddy said...

Minor coincidence that this more or less follows your life path, Michael?!! ;)

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Paddy

It will be interesting to see how yours pans out (and where!)

Paddy said...

Indeed, watch this space! Hard to belive my first salary when I lived in London in 2005 was 16,000 GBP and I stayed in a flat with no heating for 140 GBP a month next to Clapham South tube. That same place is now a luxury flat in an area in which 1 bedroom apartments can easily be sold for 4.1mn PLN.