What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
We're apparently weirdly proud of our boilers - but our littering leaves much to be desired
Chris Green is Senior Reporter at The Independent and i, covering all aspects of UK news. He has worked for the paper since 2007, first as a general news reporter and then on the news desk as Deputy News Editor. In 2010 he was on the launch team of the i. Shortly after returning to reporting in 2014, he spearheaded both papers’ coverage of the Scottish independence referendum.
Friday 29 August 2014
It was a rather unlikely contribution to Britain’s immigration debate: a Polish IT consultant’s account of his experiences of life in the UK in which he expresses his bafflement at sick people who insist on coming to work, cowboy hairdressers and our bizarre obsession with having two taps in sinks.
Entitled “Random stuff that baffles me as an immigrant”, the 2,000-word essay posted on the social forum Reddit has provoked thousands of responses from other users, many of whom praised the author for offering an insight into how Britain appears to foreigners settling here.
In one section dealing with the British habit of littering, he writes: “I’ve once seen three guys in suits in a Tube, around 8pm, eating (in a very messy way) some McDonalds meals. And they left all the packaging on the seats when leaving the Tube. Not even gathered into one bag – no, three of four seats littered with greasy shit. Disgusting. I’ve never seen anything like that before outside Russia.”
He is also mystified by people’s obsession with central heating. “Boilers seem to be a centrepiece of every home,” he notes. “Friends bragging about the greatest boiler maintenance contracts they managed to get. Friends complaining about broken boilers on Facebook. Friends happy with fixed boilers. Friends asking who knows how to fix boilers. WTF is it with boilers?”
The user behind the post, “Michal77”, is a 37-year-old IT worker who lives in Sevenoaks, Kent, with his partner and stepson. He asked The Independent not to reveal his real name as he believes that the anonymity offered by Reddit means that users can express their views more candidly.
He said his family and friends spent a lot of time discussing their perceptions of Britain and that he had read several “very interesting” articles by foreigners who had settled in Poland and other countries. Finding himself with some spare time over the August Bank Holiday, he decided to set out his own views online.
“There were a few hundred comments on it straight away. It just exploded, it was really astonishing,” said Michal, who is originally from the Polish city of Gdansk and moved to the UK three and a half years ago. “I was most happy about the reactions of people, because they were mostly positive. The response was welcoming – only a few comments were hostile.”
Although his post is full of light-hearted gripes about modern Britain, he stressed that he thoroughly enjoys living here and has decided to stay for good. “I love it here. It’s a nice country with generally lovely people – very polite and cheerful, compared to the typical gloom of Poland. I don’t know where that difference comes from, maybe from the heritage or the years of communism, but there is a difference.”
While he said he was aware of the negative political rhetoric about immigration in Britain, he said it was a natural reaction because it was “in human nature” to look for scapegoats. “I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t know anyone from Poland who is on welfare – they are all hardworking people that try to contribute,” he added. “No-one has ever said to my face that I should get lost or anything like that – but I know that it is happening.”
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