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Culture shock (my neighbours in the UK are Polish and Slovak)


butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #1
Hi,
I am English and have just been moved from a small village to a more urban area. My neighbours are Polish and Slovak. I have never has neighbours from Europe before. I am on here because I am concerned about my neighbours, but recognise that this may be a prejudice that I did not know I have. I hope I am not prejudice, but feel that perhaps my ignorance of alternative culture maybe causing this. Please don't take offence I am writing on here because I want to overcome this and understand ways different to my own. When we moved in our neighbours, who do not speak English well, insisted on helping and I mean insisted and then charged us, which is not my way. When I help people I help if offered unless of course I am at work whereby I am contracted to be paid. I have no problem with paying for help, but feel this should have been clarified in the first instance. They do play music loudly and talk loudly, but in fairness all noise is stopped by 9pm. Also I said 'nice to meet you' to one of the gents two doors up to which he replied 'OK.' I am very paranoid that the neighbours are going to con us or burgle us and I know this prejudice is within me. I worry too as the whole community around us know or are related to eachother and there are people in and out. I would like very much for someone who is from Europe to talk to me about this. Am I right to be worried? Do they mistrust me too? I want to overcome this and get on in the new community but we are the only English in our road and I feel overpowered by this different culture. Its like permanently being on holiday. Thankyou. Please do not be unpleasant in response to this thread I know how it sounds but it has taken a lot to come on here and try to gain some understanding.
hythorn 3 | 580
28 Sep 2011 #2
would I be right in thinking that you are attending university for the first time?
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #3
No..... I have graduated with a Masters, I have five children, married and in my 30s I also own a business. I live in a nice size house simply in an area that is different to where I have previously resided.
gumishu 11 | 5,017
28 Sep 2011 #4
I am very paranoid that the neighbours are going to con us or burgle us and I know this prejudice is within me.

the cultures are very different and the people don't know the English language and culture that much as you have already stated
it is pretty natural that you don't feel safe being a single English family in the vicinity surrounded by foreigners especially such foreigners (think of moving into some urban area in Cairo not knowing any Arabic - i wouldn't feel very safe nor trusted anyoune right away - in fact I would be suspicious just of everyone around)

people of various backgrounds came to England - actually better educated people (especially with the good English) tend to avoid sticking around other Poles, still even the less educated classes can prove to be very decent people (especially trades people), younger uneducated generations can prove to be a nuisance but it's not set in stone

there can't be much socialising if the other side doesn't know English (nice to meet you - OK) - what I think being in your situation you should invest some time in making some Polish friends outside of this particular community first (it takes Polish people with decent English to do that) - I would aim for people who go to church as these are usually decent people - maybe they have some meetings around the church - this is where you can meet and socialize - there can be some old Polonia institution there around to - younger generations of Poles don't join such institutions often (quite contrarty) - but the aim for you is to have good Polish friends or just decent Polish acquintances who care and would be of help intervening on your side if things become tense with your direct Polish neighbours - you just perhaps can need some help translating when you want to clarify some issues misunderstandings

the advantages of this are - you get to learn more about the culture (join some cultural events, even if only culinary) - you can learn to appreciate some elements of Polish culture - you may eventually find nice friendly people with whom you really can socialise even if not on a regular basis - I know it takes some effort and investing some time - and probably seems a very roundabout approach to dealing with your neighbours - but it can prove very difficult and tense dealing with them directly

btw watch your neighbours closely too and figure out who knows the best English among them ( perhaps you have to test them for their English a bit) - then again those who know English better might not actually be leading personalities among them - it takes a bit observing and figuring so you need your cool and not just withdraw into yourself when you're confronted with larger groups

as for offering help (insisting on it) and then chargin for it - it's not a typical Polish thing - even more it could have been the dynamics in their group - someone with a good intentions might have offered help just because felt like it and then other members of the group might have thought they want some money for it and the person who started the thing might have just given in to the pressure of the group or some headstrong vocal member of the group

(this is not to say the scenario they all meant to squeeze some money from you from the very start could not be true - it could)
Ziemowit 12 | 3,606
28 Sep 2011 #5
It sounds very amusing, but I'm sure it is real. The "Pologne profonde" is not necessarily what the "Angleterre profonde" might be. In fact, it is completely different. I would not worry too much of a burglary; you and your "Englishness" are simply something to which the folk of the village are not able to adapt too quickly.

Also I said 'nice to meet you' to one of the gents two doors up to which he replied 'OK.'

That really says it all.

I suppose your village is somewhere in the Spisz or the Orawa region in the south of Poland. You will be perceived as wealthy foreigners who have enough money not to even bother to spend it on any help received from them. But be aware when doing business with them; their offer of help may usually mean a kind of offer for doing something for which you are expected to pay.

Being a Pole myself, I am always rather suspicious when getting into business with country people. But I live in a big town and I know that country people from "la Pologne profonde" may be rather different from us, people of the "Pologne urbaine". Obviously, the difference between them and the English people in Poland has to be even greater.
gumishu 11 | 5,017
28 Sep 2011 #6
I think you got it all wrong Ziemowit - butterflylizzard just moved to a vicinity which is full of Poles and Slovaks in her own country (which is England I presume)
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #7
~;Thanks it was my slovak neighbours who charged for help. Things are not tense at the moment they all smile, but seem abrupt in the way they talk. Is this usual? Are Polish people Catholic or anotherdenomination on the whole?
hythorn 3 | 580
28 Sep 2011 #8
I believe that the gentleman in question has moved from a village in the UK to a city in the UK.

My advice would be to smile and to generally leave them to themselves.

I would not expect them to rob you blind.

As you are clearly well qualified and have opportunities to be successful might I presume that your neighbours also live in a
decent house? if so, they are even less likely to be blaggers and might be professional people such as yourself
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #9
Thats right I am in England in a multi-cultural urban area where our family is the only English on our road and we're not wealthy lol. I was upset when I said nice to meet you and he said OK as it seemed well rude .
Teffle 22 | 1,321
28 Sep 2011 #10
Also I said 'nice to meet you' to one of the gents two doors up to which he replied 'OK.

You might be making too much of this.

Could it be that he knew your Polish wasn't good, and neither was his English so he resorted to the internationally understood term of OK rather than, e.g. również or something (this term may not be even correct but you know what I mean) which might have caused confusion?
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #11
I am a woman. I am not well off by any means and nor are my neighbours. We were moved due to exceptionnal circumstances (domestic violence) with no say in our move.

My Slovak neighbours live in one house that appears to be split into three flats and all know eachother, then beyond them are several houses of polish people. They seem well presented and by no means uneducated. I think they work in construction. My slovak neighbour likes cider (a lot) and he has a friend an older gentleman who visits. I guess in the UK we have become very nuclear in terms of family and don't have this community where everyone knows everyone. When my mum was little there was a community culture but us brits have lost that along with the extended family which is a shame.
hythorn 3 | 580
28 Sep 2011 #12
forgive me, the gender symbol thingy should have given me a hint that you are a lady

Poles are abrupt but they are not being rude.
It is their language
In English you would say 'might I trouble you for a piece of paper', whereas in Polish you would say 'give me a piece of paper'

they are not being aggressive it is just the way they roll

By and large, they are decent people and you could have far worse nations as neighbours
gumishu 11 | 5,017
28 Sep 2011 #13
ngs are not tense at the moment they all smile, but seem abrupt in the way they talk

yes both Slovaks and Poles are quite loud when in their own company and our talk is pretty emotionally charged then (it may seem that Poles constanly argue (in fact Poles do argue often (but not constantly as it might have appeared) and are pretty straightforward with any criticism))
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #14
Thankyou and yes it does sound like constant arguing...even discussions seem loud lol
gumishu 11 | 5,017
28 Sep 2011 #15
actually there is one strange thing that people who are in small groups in foreign surrounding curiously are often even louder than they would be in more familiar settings - it's a psychological phenomenon - it is best observed here in Poland watching Roma families or groups - they are very loud and noisy - unusually for the setting you might happen to watch them in - different factors come in play here

another thing people tend to be louder with those well acquainted (family members including)
hythorn 3 | 580
28 Sep 2011 #16
when I first went to Poland I thought everyone was argueing with each other.
they were just talking
one interesting cultural thing is that Poles tend to talk over each other in conversations
they do not wait until one person has stopped talking, they just butt in
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
28 Sep 2011 #17
'might I trouble you for a piece of paper', whereas in Polish you would say 'give me a piece of paper'

I don't ever recall coming across a Polish person who actually says 'give me a piece of paper', it's usually give me a piece of paper please (prosze), unless they are familiar with you they always ask.
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #18
so what seems conventionally rude to us is not rude .... I am a very keep myself to myself person but would like to feel that i can cope with the differences. Have you any advice on how to maintain or build trusting acquaintances
a.k.
28 Sep 2011 #19
I was upset when I said nice to meet you and he said OK as it seemed well rude .

Don't take it as an offence if a person who you speak with doesn't know at all or knows only little English. Probably the person didn't heard you well or had difficulties to work out your accent and thought that you said the usual thing which people ask when they meet, that is "How are you?". "Ok" would be a natural response for a Polish person.

I am very paranoid that the neighbours are going to con us or burgle us and I know this prejudice is within me.

No one will tell you what kind of things you can expect from those particular people, simply because we haven't met them and haven't seen them, so on what basis do you want us to judge them? Polish society, like everywhere in the world, is composed with people from all walks of life as well as English society is. Aren't there in England neighbourhoods full of English people who you wouldn't feel quite safe with too? If you find those particular people suspicious then be carefull but don't paint with the same brush all Polish people (or other nations).

but seem abrupt in the way they talk. Is this usual?

You mean in English?
gumishu 11 | 5,017
28 Sep 2011 #20
Have you any advice on how to maintain or build trusting acquaintances

offer help as often as you can see someone needs assistance - if you feel safe pay a visit from time to time - consider bringing your kids with you - most Poles (and i guess Slovaks too) are quite welcoming hosts (and don't mind people coming in without previous notice) - if your neighbours have children treating them with sweets from time to time is a nice thing and it definitely breaks ice - actually now I think it is most difficult to break the first ices especially with the big language communication gap - so be on the lookout for friendly gestures from your neighbours and try to show your gratitude and return such gestures - just don't push yourself into anything - if it's not natural what you do (you don't actually feel like doing it) it won't work or actually can spoil your ralationships with the neighbours (not that they will be instantly offended but poeple tend to perceive insecurity in other poeple and might think your strange and/or fake)
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #21
Yes I agree...I have had some really nasty English neighbours in the past. Next door and beyond always smile at me and i know the language barrier is difficult. I have been looking at learning basic polish online, I speak other languages and have recognised some words and trends at a brief glance. I am not the sort to visit neighbours not because I am antisocial but more so because I have a lot of family, work, school runs etc so am often tied up. I am recognising stereotypical prejudices in myself that I am not happy with as this is not the person I thought I was. Are Polish people generally Catholic? or other? I dont think its fake I think its the british etiquette instilled in us from an early age here .
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,163
28 Sep 2011 #22
insisted on helping and I mean insisted and then charged us

LOL ! It's not "different culture", they seem to be damn plebs.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,606
28 Sep 2011 #23
I think you got it all wrong Ziemowit - butterflylizzard just moved to a vicinity which is full of Poles and Slovaks in her own country (which is England I presume)

Oops! It seems you are right, Gumishu. I think I was somewhat misled by the "Britocentrism" of the OP: her statement

I have never had neighbours from Europe before

made me at first think that she herself has always lived somewhere outside Europe (in India, for example); since in my naivety I was wrongly assigning the United Kingdom into Europe, I thought she would not be a resident of the UK of which I thought was in Europe; then I thought that since she was talking about the Polish and the Slovaks, she really must be living in Poland or Slovakia while wrongly assuming that neither of these two countries belong to Europe; next - as she has been addressing herself to the Polish Forum, I thought it can't be Slovakia where she lives, but it must be Poland.

I'm truly sorry for my mistake due for my insufficient knowledge of geography.
Wedle 16 | 496
28 Sep 2011 #24
Thanks it was my slovak neighbours who charged for help. Things are not tense at the moment they all smile, but seem abrupt in the way they talk. Is this usual?

Yes you have to be careful of the Slovaks, have you found them looking at your wife strange? If there a lot of men going in and out of a house, it could well be a " house of the rising sun" the Slovaks are very active in this area. Just be careful of your children, especially if they are Slovak gypsies...
Jars777 20 | 70
28 Sep 2011 #25
I was upset when I said nice to meet you and he said OK as it seemed well rude .

Hi there.... I can give you another European (by the way England is Europe too... always amuses me. Sorry!) example. I am German and I am married to an Englishman. When he first visited my home town in Germany he asked me for the translation of: "Nice to meet you". Totally oblivious to the culture difference I told him the German phrase. He kept saying it to people and they hardly ever replied or just nodded which made him felt awkward. It then dawned on me that Germans do not say this at the time of introduction... because they don't know yet if it is nice to meet you... Germans might say this after spending an evening together with someone... It was nice to have met you... but not before.

The English are suuuper friendly and always worried to offend someone... if I may say this, without wanting to offend... it is often slightly over the top and maybe sometimes not true. Superficial.

So... I cannot speak for the Polish but I am assuming that it might be similar/the same.

Don't expect them to say the whole Excuse me, please, would you, could you.... which are so embedded in the English language/culture. It might not be part of their culture and if they haven't been in the country for long or haven't mixed with British people, then how should they know?!

Hope this explains it a little.
Teffle 22 | 1,321
28 Sep 2011 #26
So... I cannot speak for the Polish but I am assuming that it might be similar/the same.

I know what you're saying, but Poles do say miło mi (I'm only guessing the spelling)

It's not rare. Unless it maybe doesn't mean exactly the same as nice to meet you
Jars777 20 | 70
28 Sep 2011 #27
Germans say "Angenehm" which is the same as miło mi... but it is slightly less binding that "nice to meet you".

Germans are just a little bit more hesitant to overwhelm someone with superficial friendliness. My experience with Polish people is similar...
gumishu 11 | 5,017
28 Sep 2011 #28
I am not the sort to visit neighbours not because I am antisocial but more so because I have a lot of family, work, school runs etc so am often tied up.

it's not the first thing to do - to invite yourself into your neighbours' homes - but when you are more familiar with them try to make an effort to visit them - just leave your problems/current issues behind for the moment - and definitely don't deny any invitations from your neighbours into their houses (unless you are actually on the run) - even if you just drop in for a while (a quarter) (because you know you still have so much to do) - but just forget your obligations/home duties for this short moment and try to enjoy yourself and their company - don't decline when offered some food (it might not be your favourite food but if you make an effort of eating some of it you can safely decline any more of it on a short drop-in visit
OP butterflylizard 1 | 13
28 Sep 2011 #29
this is a language difference I guess not deliberate ethnocentricism; I never know whether to call myself british or english as no one seems to say english... and european in english colloquial speaking means on the continent or mainland as opposed to in Britain, it is a linguistic oddity. It is not meant in any capacity other than that. I have no idea what a house of the rising son is, but the slovak next door are a family with children who attend the local school. There is mum and her partner the children and possibly grandchildren and i think (i may be wrong) a second family as the house is divided into maisonettes but they all share a garden and entrance. I see what your saying about the language as one bloke asked for a cigarette and said 'give me a cigarette please' where as we would say 'please may i have...'
Teffle 22 | 1,321
28 Sep 2011 #30
Jars777 said:

My experience with Polish people is similar...

I've noticed too that proszę which has a wide range of usage is used in almost exactly the same way as bitte - i.e. as please or you're welcome or after you, etc etc would you agree?

On topic, the funny thing is OP, that it's the Anglophones who are unusual - it's not a Polish or Slovak thing, as Jars777 has hinted.

The Spanish, French, Italians... all much more direct in their speech and don't, as they would see it, beat around the bush the way many English speakers do!


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