Polish immigrants in the UK
The Polish ‘mythology’ about the UK being a land of filled promises and large amounts of money jumping smoothly – more or less – into Polish pockets (as a Guardian reporter found out back in Poland) is the main reason behind the large Polish immigration in the UK. That is most likely the reason why the Polish immigration in the UK rose from 95,000 in 2004, the year Poland became part of the EU, to 550,000 in 2010. They have become the second biggest migrant population in Britain.
For the Polish populations we could almost say this is the British Dream. In the same way as numerous of our European ancestors moved to America in search of a better life, most Poles leave their homeland due to the impossibility of finding a decent, or any job at all. They come here with hoped and dreams of a better life. They look for jobs that will allow them to make money in order to send some of it home. Even though Poland is not a developing country where the survival of most of the population is dependent on money remitted from other countries, money is always needed no matter where you live.
In 2010, Polish immigrants living in the UK sent around £600 million back to Poland, with £3 billion in total being sent to Poland in 2010 from all across the world. Money transfer companies and banks really like Polish people living in the UK as they recognise their typical Pole and his ‘stubbornness’ in terms of staying in the country even if his job is not what he came to Britain originally for.
About 85% of ‘British’ Poles are employed, however many of them work in positions disproportionate to their tertiary education gained back in Poland. In a random British pub, a pint of your favourite ale can often be served to you by a barman/barwoman with a soft accent who has economic degree from a prestigious Polish university without you knowing that. As a Pole returned from the UK back to Poland, has described to the Guardian: “Typically, they left Poland five years ago because they couldn’t find any work here, but they fail to find anything proper there. So they got jobs much below what their education has prepared them for and they spent four or five years of their lives, working in a bar, not getting any experience. What can you do here after four years as a waiter in the UK?”
What do Poles like about the UK anyway and what is holding them up here, for example if they have a bad job? Is it belief in a better tomorrow? Or simply love for Britain? Speaking generally, the Poles just like the standard of living and the opportunities that they have in the UK that they would not have in Poland. Also, especially young and educated Poles appreciate Britain’s multiculturalism, because “Poland is very Polish.” What Poles dislike is British food… (That, not business opportunities, is the main reason why there are so many Polish ‘skleps’ in Britain.)
Most Poles are really missing their homeland and that is why the Polish community is so extensive: Polish grocery shops, Polish dentists (which Poles say are better than the British ones), popular Polish media (content producing in GB or brought or listened back from Poland), Polish beauty salons, Polish restaurants and bars (with Polish vodka). In some parts of the UK, such as in Hammersmith in London, one could have feeling that he is not in England but in PolENd. These small businesses are, however, an important part of Polish immigrant self-identity and are a significant source of remittances to Poland.
It is hard to say what will be the next trend of Polish immigration to the UK. Many disappointed Poles have already left the island country and gave up their British dream. However, even though it is in smaller numbers than before the crisis, new Poles do still come to the UK, so the numbers of Poles leaving and arriving are likely to be balanced. But if all or most of the Polish immigrants suddenly went away, as the Government apparently wishes (and that they would make an example to most of UK immigrants), there would probably be a heart-breaking note to the Poles from all British: ‘Don’t leave! We would really miss your bread. It is definitely better that the English one.’