When I said a few days ago that I much preferred living in Warsaw to London, here is his riposte:
"London v. Warsaw:
- Substantially well developed public transport network
- Better town-planning order
- Not-destroyed pavements
- Lack of stand-out ramshackle houses
- Much more polite public services workers (for instance bus drivers)
- A better information system
- Greater ethnic/cultural diversity
- Fewer gated residential estates
- More theatres/cinemas/museums/art galleries
- More airports
- More sport/recreational facilities
- More recreational green fields
- More universities/higher schools/colleges
- Substantially younger population
- Substantially higher average salary
- Much lower level of corruption
- 38th v. 84th place in Mercer's 2015 Quality of Living Survey
- Lower VAT "
First things first: Warsaw is a much smaller city than London. Even if you question the official population statistics (1.8 million) and look upon Warsaw as an agglomeration rather than a city artificially constrained by its city limits, it's still around four times smaller in terms of population and three times smaller in terms of area than London. Therefore it has lower population density. So we'll not be comparing like with like - size wise, Warsaw's more akin to Birmingham or Manchester, the two urban areas competing for the role of England's second city. In London, you are lost, a minnow. In Warsaw, the chances of bumping into someone familiar is much higher.
But the key thing is economy. Let's get right to the point: London is an immeasurably richer city than Warsaw because of the accumulation of capital. Not being invaded or partitioned has its benefits. You can find yourself living in a £6m Kensington town house for no other reason than because your great-grandfather had the gumption to buy it for £3,000 back in 1910. Wages in London are artificially pumped up by City bonuses, which distort the housing market, an effect magnified by the endless demand for London property from the world's rich.
At the heart of the 'where's best to live' debate is a comparison of how much you can earn in both cities. The figure to bear in mind is this: the average salary in London, after tax, is a little over two and half times higher than average salary in Warsaw. Two and half. (Well, 2.65 to be precise.)
Sources: Gross average salary for London, £27,999, May 2015, after-tax pay calculated via the Salary Calculator. Gross average salary for Warsaw, 5624.89 zł, March 2015, after-tax pay calculated via Kalkulator Wynagrodzeń.
|Average after-tax salaries compared|
|zl/month||14,835 zl|| |
Right. Let's now look at living costs.
If you want to buy a family house of average size in Zones Four or Five - a three-bedroom terraced house with some 150m2 of useable space - you will need to budget for around £400,000 (over two million zlotys). To be able to put down a deposit on said house, you'd need around a 10% deposit, or £40,000. According to the Guardian (4 May 2015), quoting a KPMG report, you need to be earning £77,000 a year gross in order to be able to be a first-time property buyer in London. So a couple each earning £38,500 could afford to buy a place in London. And the average wage there is £27,999.
[One question I constantly have about the sustainability of Central London's economy is how in God's name does the service sector manages to find people to work in it. There are people working in cafes, restaurants, pubs, hotels, shops, earning £12,000 to £15,000 a year. How do they do it? Where do they live? Do they commute in from Zone Six, where you can still rent a small one-bedroom flat for £500 a month? Or do they live four to a room in Zone One, living on Tesco Value Sliced White Bread and baked beans?]
On the edges of Warsaw you'll find 150m2 houses selling for less than 800,000 zlotys (£140,000). According to this 2015 report, the median salary in Warsaw is 6,000 zlotys/month or 50,000 zlotys a year after tax. So a similar situation to that in London... BUT the killer is the transport.
A quarterly Warsaw central zone public transport pass costs 250 zlotys (at today's exchange rate, that's £43). This gives you a bit more geographic coverage than London Zones 1-3, a bit less than 1-4. Now, a weekly Zone 1-3 travelcard costs £37.70, a weekly Zone 1-4 travelcard costs £46.10. So public transport is 13 times more expensive in London than in Warsaw. And remember, folks, that median take-home pay in London is just two-and-half times higher than in London.
If you're dumb enough to drive to work (unless you have a company car), with cars and petrol costing pretty much the same in both cities, more fool you.
How much UK house will your salary buy? Have a look at this handy calculator.
Finally, my Warsaw vs. London arguments
- Lower crime rate (burglaries, assault, car theft etc)
- Far fewer knife-murders and stabbings in schools
- Far less drugs in schools
- Far fewer people wanting to blow you up for religious reasons
- Safer to walk the streets at night
- Faster rate of improvement in many areas of life
- Proximity to countryside (my bedroom, 9 miles from the city centre, looks out over farmland)
- Lower population density
- No poncy class system
- Ability to buy fresh seasonal produce from farmers' stalls on street corners all over town
- Better climate (although this is changing)
- Sense of pride in, and direct connect with, Warsaw's history
- Sense of pride that I'm living in the city that my father is from
So, I'm happy to be here, no plans of going back to London. I już!
This time last year:
Jeziorki, magic hour
[Read this post, you'll see why I love where I live]
This time three years ago:
Świdnica, one of Poland's lesser-known pearls
This time six years ago:
Spirit of place
[Another 'why I love Jeziorki so' post. Walking around for an hour without bumping into a single soul? Try doing that within a nine-mile radius of Hyde Park Corner!]