Monthly Archives: August 2008

Poles depart*

Oh dear, it’s all doom and gloom in the papers this weekend. First it’s The Economist, which writes about the declining numbers of Poles coming to work and live in the UK. In short:

  • the job market in the UK which sucked all the Polish workers in is beginning to tire;
  • Poland’s economy is growing while UK’s is stagnating to say the least, and the pound buys you fewer zlotys than even a year ago;
  • fewer people have registered for work and about a half of those who’ve come here in recent years have gone back home (although the figures and those relating to the overall number of Poles in the UK as as reliable as the British weather)

Then the magazine moves on to describing the positive things about the recent wave of migration from Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries.

Two issues stand out: first, the recent wave of migration, as the paper puts it,

“has gone some way to decoupling the issue of immigration from that of race”.

In other words, the issue of race has been replaced by the issue of economy.

Secondly, the availability of various low-cost airlines has made it much easier for many ‘migrants’ to travel home and back. Which also means, they can be much more responsive to the changing economic situation and, rather than signing up for state benefits if and when the unemployment rate goes up, most migrants are likely to head home instead.

Which they do and here’s the proof: Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza says that many people do come back home, but cannot cope with the ‘new’ reality and need to see a specialist to help them readjust. Even just a year abroad means they come back with a different approach to life and work and have to cope with different expectations (from family and/or bosses), hostility and other issues.

Told ya! All doom and gloom. So to finish things off, a piece from today’s Independent on Sunday, which claims that

“the Polish Hearth Club, the shabby-chic eating, drinking and smoking hole in South Kensington, may soon be put up for sale owing to the economic downturn.”

Hmm. Guess I’d better go and have a quick żubrówka with apple juice there before the credit crunch (or indeed departing Poles) consign it to history…

*I have to point out, this is not my own title. I have borrowed it from The Economist, which in a clever way, as always, avoids using yet another cliche in the title of the aforementioned article; I can’t even remember how many times I’ve seen ‘Poles apart’ used as a title for various press articles. Yawn!

Image: the medieval city of Toruń, Poland ©janusz I via Flickr used under CC licence

Polish for lovers – polish your Polish, part 2

Aaaah, isn’t this sweet? According to the BBC, Polish could be the new language of love.

Polish language courses in Wales proved to be so popular last year that Cardiff University is planning to run extra courses this year. Mostly for people who want to learn the language of their partners.

“The course lecturer told me that a lot of them had Polish girlfriends,”

said Helga Eckart, co-ordinating lecturer for languages.

So for the novices among you, a couple of useful phrases for lovers:

Kocham Cię! 

That’s ‘I Love you’. If you’re in doubt about the other person’s intentions, you can always make sure they are equally in love by asking:

Kochasz mnie?

‘Do you love me?’ Most Polish yes/no questions begin with the word ‘czy’, meaning literally ‘if’ or ‘whether’, but in a yes/no question ‘czy’ plays the role of the English auxiliary verb ‘do’ and is often dropped in more informal questions. So you may be more formal and say:

Czy mnie kochasz? 

But that does sound a bit artificial.

Of course you can go a step further and ask them whether they will marry you:

Ożenisz się ze mną?

Frankly, if your by now beautiful Polish accent doesn’t make them say ‘yes’ instantly, I don’t know what will ;)

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Image ©lifeinspires via Flickr, used under CC licence

Before you say ‘yuk’!

I’m currently going through my recipe book to select the best Polish recipes with you, but frankly, I’m not sure where to start…

Polish food, you say? Isn’t that just potato, kiełbasa and, well, stodge in general? No, not really and I’ll prove it here. But just out of curiosity, any idea what this yummy dish in the picture is?

Image ©UnorthodoxY via Flickr

Pole poll – moi!

Have you ever wondered what motivates people who move abroad? It’s not always just money or a better life, whatever that means. Many Poles have come here to do other things than just plumbing and plastering, although obviously there’s nothing wrong with plumbing or plastering.

Apart from the fact that they seem to be the only professions or one of very few professions mentioned while discussing the question of Poles in the UK.

So to dispel some of the myths I’ll be asking my fellow Poles in the UK to reveal in an easy to digest, bite-sized poll form what brought them here, what they love, miss and what they would like to take back with them home.

Before I ask anyone such questions, I should perhaps ask myself what I’m doing here, eh? Scary, but hey, has to be done! Here it is:

1. Why the UK?

Initially to escape the rat race I was in, but also to fulfill my life-long ambition of working for the BBC. It was all supposed to last just a few months….

2. If I went back I’d take with me…

…the Brits’ pragmatic apporach to life, the ability to laugh at one’s mistakes and possibly fish and chips. With vinegar.

3. I’ll never get used to…

…having separate sink taps. I always end up having frostbite and scalded hands simultaneously.

4. I miss…

…not being able to pop in to my friends and have a quick chat and a bite to eat. One thing we do in Poland quite often is visit each other at home. There’s always an excuse…

So, that’s it for the first Pole poll. More to come soon!

Image: ©isdky via Flickr

Polish your Polish

Every now and then I’ll try to teach you some useful Polish words, phrases, expressions, etc. One day they’ll come useful, you’ll see!

What word shall we start with? Why not ‘Cześć’. No, no – don’t roll your eyes! I know it’s got only one vowel and two weird-looking characters, but all will be explained.

‘Cześć’ is the equivalent of ‘hi’ in English and, well, performs exactly the same function. Here’s how to pronounce it:

Easy, eh? Just don’t get carried away. Polish people are a bit more formal and while it’s ok to say ‘Hi!’ while speaking to someone in a British shop, your GP surgery or a bus driver, in Poland ‘cześć’ is mostly reserved for friends or to greet someone you know well.

The two funny characters ś and ć are quite frequent in Polish and they simply make the letters ‘s’ and ‘c’ softer. But let’s leave that for another occasion. I don’t want to put you off too soon ;)

Cześć! Hello!

Hi, my name is Michał, I’m a Polish journalist and I’ve been living in the UK for, well, almost 11 years now. On and off, but mostly on.

The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of Poles coming into Great Britain and hundreds of newspaper articles, TV and radio programmes about the impact of this new wave of immigrants on the British economy. Polish shops and cafes have sprung up all over the country, all of a sudden everybody knows a Polish person, has been served by a Polish person, has heard some Polish, but didn’t quite understand what was actually said.

And here’s my problem: apart from charting the impact of a million or so Poles on Britain in and by various mainstream media, nobody has actually devoted much time to explaining what those people bring with them. How they think. What they eat. What they find strange in Britain.

There have been a few attempts at explaining some of the above issues, but I haven’t really seen a single place which would explain – in English – the Polish culture, mentality and the consonant-saturated language to an English-speaking person.

Hence the idea for this blog. The POLSKI blog. (The word ‘Polski’ means ‘Polish'; just thought I’d make that clear ;)

I’ll try to explain some of the above issues, bust (or confirm) some myths (we’re not just a nation of plumbers, plasterers and beautiful girls, you know), teach you some useful phrases, talk about food (must be my favourite topic) and vodka (wódka, in fact), surprise you with a few facts you might not be aware of and generally make you feel more familiar with the Polish nation.

You’re welcome to participate – share your experiences, post comments, suggest new topics – I’ll try to respond to them tothe best of my abilities.

Make sure you use the RSS feeds for posts and comments to keep up to date with the latest posts on here and share the url with friends.

So, welcome and enjoy! Or as we would say in Poland, witajcie i zapraszam!