Polish cleaner blows the lid on 'dirty' Germans

 

Berlin

The much-vaunted Teutonic virtues of organisation and order have been dealt a withering blow in a new tell-all book – by a Polish char lady – which exposes her German employers as mean, filthy homeowners, who don't pay up and set devious traps to check that her work is done.

Under German Beds by the 32-year-old Polish cleaner – who writes under the pen name Justyna Polanska – has only just been released, but the account, which is drawn from her 12 years' experience of cleaning for well-to-do German households, already seems destined to be a bestseller.

The book was among Germany's 100 top sellers after only six hours yesterday. "I hope that my bad employers read this book and start behaving better," Justyna told The Independent. "The idea is to persuade everyone who has a char lady to think again," she added.

Justyna is one of the estimated 500,000 Polish cleaning women who have arrived Germany since the collapse of communism in search of better pay in return for often humiliating, hard physical work. She has the Polish equivalent of A-levels and came to Germany to learn the language. She hoped to train as a make-up artist. "That never happened, so like many Polish women I ended up as a cleaner," she said.

She describes how the overwhelming majority of Polish home cleaners in Germany are obliged to work on the black market, despite strict laws which outlaw untaxed jobs. Her employers include judges, policemen and lawyers, but none were prepared to accept Justyna as a legal employee and refused point blank to meet the extra costs that declaring her job would have incurred. In one case, her policeman employer, who refused to grant her legal status, spent the day tracking down black market workers on building sites.

She relates how she cleaned for judge who insisted that she dust cannabis plants he kept in his apartment that had been seized by police during a drugs raid. "It's pointless chucking away things that have been confiscated," the judge told her.

However, some of the most stomach-turning passages in the book are the author's detailed accounts of the type of filth that she has been obliged to clear away during her charring odyssey. Under beds, she finds the remains of whole toenails, the decaying corpse of the family pet hamster that has been missing for weeks and even two extracted wisdom teeth.

"When I lived in Poland, I thought Germans were all clean and orderly," Justyna said. "However, I since have discovered that most of this is a façade and that there is a lot of dirt behind it."

Filth is not the only problem Justyna encounters. Her employers also set humiliating traps which are designed to test the honesty or thoroughness of their home cleaner. In one incident, she discovers a quantity of euro notes, strategically placed under a bed. "I always put the notes back on top of the bed," she explains.

In another incident, an elderly woman deliberately smeared the underside of a lavatory seat with excrement to monitor whether she had cleaned everywhere. Furthermore, would-be employers treat her with contempt and use racist insults. She describes how some Germans who answer her newspaper advertisements offering her cleaning services hear her foreign accent and instantly demand: "Where do you come from?" Her reply: "From Poland" not infrequently elicits the answer: "No thanks" or "Shit Polack".

"There are those who think that a cleaning woman loves dirt and therefore deserves to be treated as such," she said. She relates how a wealthy woman employer took her into her bedroom to show her a dress she had just bought on a shopping trip to New York. On pay day, however, she left only half her weekly wage on the kitchen table and a note which said: "Sorry, Justyna – short of cash."

It comes as a relief to learn that not all of Justyna's employers are quite so insufferable. "The good ones call me 'my pearl' – it may sound like kitsch, but it shows how much they value me," she said. "They are the ones who say hello when they run into me on the street. There are not many like that," she added.

Making a tidy sum across the border

* Polish cleaning women make up around a third of the estimated one and a half million Poles living in Germany. The overwhelming majority work on the black market.



* Thousands of Polish women, many of them with qualifications for less arduous jobs, started making for Germany's big cities after the fall of the Berlin Wall, first to earn German marks and then euros.

* The "Polnische Putze" (Polish charlady) has become almost a standard requirement in wealthier German households since the collapse of Communism in 1989.



* Germany has strict laws outlawing cash-in-hand jobs. However, most Germans with Polish cleaners refuse to declare their charlady employees because they would be obliged to pay additional taxes if they did.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements