Sunday, 3 April 2011

Polish plumber's wife in London - what do Polish women think about their new country?

Over the past five years I have followed a Polish online discussion group in order to explore what Polish immigrants (women in specific) think about British culture. The results of this study were presented at two conferences: in London, UK in 2006; and in Krakow, Poland in 2010. Below is a short summary of the study. Polish women expressed a wide range of positive and negative opinions about how the Brits go about things. Data was gathered at two points in time: in 2006 and 2010; and then the data were compared to find out if there were any changes in how Polish women 'judged' their new country. In 2006, the participants discussed mainly material culture. Women criticised a range of issues: lunch boxes that children take to school, extreme (and silly) school safety, carpeted bathrooms; sinks or queues at bus stops.

In addition, Polish women disliked British humour: one of the participants shared a story relating to it which is meant to reflect that British humour is unique:

“ I was on a student camp in the USA in the past. There were around 300 people from all over the world. In the evenings we set down around and joked. So some Australian or a German tells a joke and everyone is laughing except for the Brits. So when the Brit was telling a joke, no one was laughing except for the Brits”.

Poles expressed unfavourable views toward quiet and distant underground commuters (In London), excessive politeness, or respecting the law. On the other hand, cultural diversity, customer service or social mobility were seen as positive aspects of the British culture.

In 2010, the expressed views were less intense and focused mainly on subjective culture: class society, humour, the widespread support for charity work amongst others.

Overall, the results of the study indicated that the opinions became weaker over time, and more accepting of the culture: One of the participants said that she “accepts everything” even though sometimes she does not “understand some phenomena”. Another one says: “in general, I have very positive attitudes”.