Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pole To Pole II

"The fact that these new Brits are polite and hard-working, do not do crack or firearms, nor are they likely to blow up Tube trains, is a function of the culture they have arrived with. It tells us nothing about what their first and second generation descendents will be like after twenty years exposure to the cultural vacuum of the UK." - Pole To Pole I

Maybe I was too optimistic. At the Social Affairs Unit blog, Jane Kelly compares the Poles she used to teach in the early 80s with the young Poles she meets on the streets of London.

Last week the Polish newspaper Gazeta reported that many Polish children are being dumped by their parents who leave for a job in the UK. Last year 3,000 children under four were abandoned - something unheard of ten years ago for non-handicapped children. According to Gazeta the situation is becoming an "epidemic". Something very strange indeed is happening to the Poles.

I taught English at a Polish university in the early 1980s. My students were in the main amiable, respectful, rather quiet and hard working. A few expressed curiosity about the West, asking me odd things, for instance, if there were really hundreds of millionaires? And were public houses all brothels? But mainly they were so hard pressed by the privations of Communism that they didn't think much beyond helping their mothers by joining the next queue for bread or sausage.

The young Poles I now see in London are entirely different. Talking loudly into mobiles, on my daily bus, they shove to get on and push to get off. The words "excuse me" apparently no longer exists.

There is a popular myth that the new immigrants from the east don't have words for "please", "thank you" or "excuse me" in their own languages. But I know this is not true. When I lived in Poland I used to go round saying "excuse me" a lot as I loved the sound of it, all those gushing P's and rolling R's. And courtesy was a very important thing, they were extremely polite people.


Blithering Bunny said...

I posted this comment on Kelly's post, but it's being moderated, so I don't know whether it will appear, so I'll post it here as well:

Except little of this has anything to do with Thatcher or capitalism, and everything to do with the 60's. Most of the West has been capitalist for centuries, indeed far more capitalist than it is now, and most people, even young people, did not behave like this. Nor, in fact, do most Western businessmen act like this now.

On the contrary. The behaviour you're describing is straight out of the 60's "cool" handbook. It comes straight from the rock world -- which, despite all those "universal brotherhood" lyrics is an extremely cliquey, hierachical world where friendship and decent treatment can only ever be offered to those who pass a series of subtle tests, or who pre-qualify on the basis of their importance. It comes from the "Me" generation attitudes of the 1970's which have conquered the West. None of this had much to do with Thatcher or capitalism.

JuliaM said...

Well, at least this is one influx of immigrants that isn't clinging to it's own culture, but is, instead, assimilating rapidly into ours.

That is, our modern culture of instant-gratification, spoiled-toddler ignorant hedonists....

AntiCitizenOne said...

I cannot understand how increasing coercion and extortion (socialism) will bring people together.

In fact I would place the problems at the entitlement culture brought about by the welfare state.

The most succesful people who have to deal with other people in order to make a living, are allways polite.

Benefit addicts are allways the opposite.

Anonymous said...

The Poles I work with are great guys, polite, friendly etc. No complaints about them but we are out in the suburban/rural home counties. Maybe its not so nice in the vibrant big city.


Martin said...

Such rudeness might also be a consequence of having been over- edified by the British government and media for the past two years.

Perhaps they believe their own publicity.

annie mouse said...

who says "please" or "thank you" in London nowadays anyway?

Anonymous said...

This is a bit hard on the Poles. The ones I come across (and I live in a part of London that reputedly has the biggest community of Poles outside of Poland so I come across a lot)are, generally speaking, lighter on attitude than other immigrants or children of those immigrants who have been here longer. In fact they are without attitude in my experience. They are certainly politer then the indigenous population. They are eager to please and work hard. They have opened up shops and cafes - they are entering into the spirit of capitalism. They want to make it work. Who knows what their children will be?

Anonymous said...

I worked with first & second generation Poles for many years, and apart from the accent of the first generation they were all English through & through. No whinging, whining, they married English chaps...didn't bring in a string of cousins from the sticks!
If we have to have immigration, the Poles will do for me.

Charles Martel said...

we've got masses of poles as well in ireland. no problems - no riots - no hassle no complaints. and they all work hard, and dont sponge off the state.

well, it helps , i suppose that the poles are catholic, rather like the irish. at least the Irish priests are happy with the sudden increase in church attendance.

Martin said...


In Ireland you've also had 100,000 of your countrymen striking against the desire of Irish Ferries to displace your countrymen with Eastern European agency labour, you've got migrants providing 9% of jobs and 50% of the jobs growth, increasing youth unemployment, a falling wage rate and the court roll in Navan almost doubling through Poles and other migrants' lack of understanding of the Irish road traffic laws.

And your arms were twisted into voting for the Nice Treat at the second attempt.

Apart from that it's worked out great, sure.

AntiCitizenOne said...

"9% of jobs and 50% of the jobs growth,"

thanks for showing that the fixed number of jobs argument is a fallacy.

AntiCitizenOne said...


Hope you enjoy Balham ("and I live in a part of London that reputedly has the biggest community of Poles outside of Poland so I come across a lot") I do.

Martin said...

Anti Citzen One

Should have read 9% of workforce and 50% of jobs grwoth.

Was posting while hung over