Friday, November 03, 2006

Welcome to Englandski !

A sign of the times in London. The cinema guide now lists films with Polish subtitles.

Borat - Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan (Polish Subtitles)

It is well known that since May 2004 well over 500,000 (and probably nearer 1 million) Poles have come to Britain due to the granting of full employment rights under EU membership by Poland.

This is significant movement indeed when considering Poland only has a population of 40 million and Britain around 60 million. So it is probably fair to say that around 1 in 40 Polish passport holders are currently in Britain and around 1 in 60 people in Britain are currently Polish.

Britain has historical links with Poland- most recently WW2 when many Poles fought bravely as part of British forces on behalf of the Allied war effort. There is a big Polish war memorial to the west of London.

However the scale of recent Polish arrivals has been unprecedented. Whole suburbs of London are now significantly Polish with shops selling Polish food and advertisements in Polish. Large towns such as Southampton have concentrations of Poles- around 1 in 8 people are now Polish.

Polish registered cars are common sights and Polish coaches drive up to London from the Channel ports daily. The budget airline network has expanded hugely and it is possible to get bargain flights to and from Poland for a low as £30 ($50).

"The non-threatening face of mass-migration"

This huge level of immigration is of course entirely legal under EU law. There is no border hopping needed as between Mexico and the US or for non-EU passport holders between France and Britain. In theory it is quite legal for all 40 million Poles to come to Britain at once. It would be interesting to see when the Government reacted !

Poles mainly seem hard-working and civilised. In fact they are a welcome variation from many British born "citizens". No danger of Catholic Poles sneaking onto planes with liquid explosives hidden in shampoo bottles like some of our "British" cousins. You won't find anyone from Wroclaw taking rucksacks full of explosives and broken glass onto the Tube. Equally you don't (yet?) see Polish youths hanging around in "hoodies" intimidating the elderly. If only the same could be said for all ethnic English youths.

Poles (in the main) are genuinely here to work and behave.

If people were truly honest they would admit that the fact the Poles are often blonde and certainly white means they create less of a threat. If 1 million Somalis had come to Britain in the last 2 years, I am certain reaction would be different.

Even their more Latin looking cousins from Bulgaria and Romania will not get such an easy ride with restrictions recently being announced to prevent similar numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians coming to Britain in 2007.

Poles of course are doing good jobs and jobs that there aren't enough British people to do. We seem to need them.

But one thing is certain London is changing and quite quickly turning Polish. Today I bought my lunch from our Polish cook in the office. Her Lithuanian colleague was arranging the sandwiches. I queued up behind a Polish girl in the Post Office (I noticed she had a well typed job application to be posted). The Poles are everywhere in London.

Welcome to Englandski !


cw-patriot said...

A somewhat related comment ...

I teach piano, and two of my younger students (brothers) just came under the care of an au pair who is a young, twenty-year-old who just arrived in America from Poland.

The mother of these boys actually decided, after staying at home with them for seven years, that fulltime motherhood is not for her (thus the au pair).

Their mother accompanied them to their lessons for the past two years. She would sit with one while the other had his lesson. Ninety percent of the time, she would spend that hour working on a lap-top, pretty much oblivious to her sons' presence, while the son who wasn't being taught entertained himself on a pocket video game, or otherwise.

I often wondered whether her interaction with them was as distant at home.

In the three weeks since their young Polish au pair has been here, she has been the one who accompanies them to their lessons, and the difference between her interactions with them, and those of their mother, is striking.

She spends the entire lesson time reading to them, playing games on paper (tic-tac-toe, etc.), talking with them about their day at school, etc. The rapport is a sight to behold, and her interest in them appears to be quite genuine. It does my heart good to watch the warm interaction.

I am certain that your view of the mass Polish migration to your area is an entirely different story, and I can most definitely appreciate the desire that I assume you (and most Londoners) have not to lose your national identity. (I share that desire here in America, what with the mass illegal immigration from south of our border.)

But thought I would share with you one small personal experience with a young Polish woman that has had pleasant repercussions.

~ joanie

Luis said...


Thanks for your comment.

I actually have no problem with the Poles whatsoever. In the main they are charming and friendly and when encountered in places like shops often make a nice contrast from fellow grumpy Brits !

The lady who works in our kitchen at work is Polish and always has something positive to say.

My "other half" hails originally from Ukraine so I am certainly quite positive about that part of the world ! I have also visited Poland a few times both with work and on holiday. Krakow is a beautiful city. Warsaw has a lot about it and there is beautiful countryside there too.

So I am probably more Pro-Poland than quite a few others !

However there remain some reservations. I wouldn't want all Poles to come to Britain :-) That would not only cause us problems but also deprive Poland of its sons and daughters.

In terms of wider immigration there have to be controls and limits. England is already one of the most crowded nations on earth as our real estate prices show.

My main hope is that the economies of places like Poland recover to such an extent that people have no reason to leave and in fact maybe a few Brits will move there !