12 October 2006

The Second Tranche Of EU migrants

From Eastern Slovakia the first tranche of EU migrants after May 2004 were mainly male breadwinners and worked in labouring and construction. A significant number of (generally younger) single females also moved to work as aupairs or in the caring professions, but often ended up branching into retail/hospitality etc.

Thinking to the village in Slovakia that I know best, maybe half the working age population has worked or is working in Britain or Ireland. We've gone past the early adopters. Even a young mother has left for a short spell to work at the same place as her Slovak boyfriend in rural England. She will almost earn the same in a month in the UK as she would in a year in her previous job at Tesco's in Eastern Slovakia. With permission, here follows an annotated translation of a letter detailing a new migrant's first impressions after less than a week in the UK.

Hi, we are fine. On Thursday and Friday, we experienced English rain for the first time. I work with my boyfriend’s mum and we talk more than we work. Today we went to the sea (I’ll tell you the exact name later because I can’t remember), but I liked it very much and I liked the playgrounds (Note 1). We made a boat out of paper and set it out to sea.

Yesterday, went to the church but it was locked (Note 2). Next time we will try to go at a different time. I’m thinking that I will go back to Slovakia and bring children back, but I’m not sure how it will work. Tell Praguetory that I really like their red brick houses (Note 3).

We work eight hours a day in a vineyard, but we get Sundays off. But next week will be hell and it will be very busy – we won’t have Sunday off probably (Note 4). If you go home, look after my angels. I miss them very much. I learn English with a speed you can’t imagine. The other day an old woman stopped me on the street and I could understand what she was saying. There are very friendly people here (Note 5). The village is small, but very green, just like where we live. When you get home, tell the family not to worry about me. Take care. Sending kisses to everyone and let me know when you get home.

Note 1 - She has kids aged 4 and 5, so she thinks about these things.
Note 2 - In Eastern Slovakia churches are always open.
Note 3 - A lot of Eastern Europeans are fascinated by our style of homes.
Note 4 - European Hours Directive? Only joking
Note 5 - You hear a lot of self-flagellation about how terrible we are. Most of the Eastern Europeans I know are very positive about most English people they meet.


Anonymous said...

I don't want my homeland to be seen as a country of migrants and I certainly don't want my fellow citizens to cause Britain any problems regarding immigration, unemployment, crime or anything else. I want to stress that United Kindom is viewed as a very pleasant and attractive country by many here in the Slovak republic and we really appreciate that your government have decided to open Britain's labour market to the new EU members, which is truely European stance (see: 4 basic European freedoms). I'd like to see that all Slovak citizens who travel to work in the UK are legal workers and that they behave well there. The best for the future would be, if only high-educated people from my country worked in Britain and other way round. To achieve this aim our country needs to reduce its unemployment rate, because it is the main reason for the leaving. Our previous right-wing government has done a lot (unemployment fell from 18% to 9%), but unfortunately in June the voters chose socialists, so we can expect that their measures will have quite different effect.

Note 3: I cannot confirm it because people usually speak about the things they like about England with Englishmen but as an unbelievable Anglophile I am impressed by hundreds things typical for England and the UK as a whole, including red-brick houses.

Praguetory said...

The free market reforms that reduced unemployment in your country has made a great improvement for your countrymen in my opinion. Unfortunately, in regions where unemployment remains high, work choices remain limited.

In hindsight I think that the population movements and work opportunities will be considered as a plus for both nations. In due course, I hope and expect that Slovakia will be seen as a land of opportunity for all Slovaks and a beautiful and cultured nation by outsiders (which it is already by the way).

Croydonian said...

The reaction to eastern Europeans in the UK has been almost completely positive. Just check the online news sites.

dearieme said...

New to you, Praguetory, so just to say thanks for a fascinating post.