Krakow is one of my favorite places on earth. It is a medieval city full of young people. A wonderful, striking combination.” Jonathan Carroll
When Poland joined the European Union Great Britain was one of the first ‘western’ countries to open its labor market to Polish people. This decision resulted with Polish employees flooding the country in search for work. Although Poland had experienced an exodus of people in the past, probably it had never taken place on such a large scale, in such a short period of time, to a smaller country. The discussion whether this decision was right for both countries is ongoing, considering the fact that British people started experiencing problems with finding a job, while people in Poland could not find specialists for certain service sectors. However, the income difference between both countries was and still is too large to expect that the situation will change in the nearest future.
British sense of humor found a new target. English tabloids started publishing stories about Poles eating British swans or Poles getting killed by urinating on electric train tracks in Britain. In spite of some occurrences of besmirching or caricaturing immigrants, British and Polish people developed positive relations through working and living next to each other. These relations as well as the the wide choice of flights for reasonable prices between both countries, encouraged British people to pop out for a weekend to Eastern Europe. Prague, Vilnius, Riga and Krakow were on the top of the list. However, the style of those weekends abroad became intolerable for local inhabitants of Krakow… In 2011 a British newspaper The Telegraph published comments of the Polish police and a restaurant manager regarding this problem:
– “We’ve observed British tourists coming to Krakow for long weekends in groups. They like to have a laugh, they can be loud, vulgar, drunk and sometimes take their clothes off; it’s a particularly British thing which other nationalities don’t do,”
– “We recently had one man who just stood up and took off his trousers, and then others did it. We had to ask the entire group to leave”
As mentioned before, this problem did not touch Kraków only. The British media responded with giving some advice to tourists on safe behavior and avoiding troubles:
However, in one of its articles the website Krakow Post mentioned that many of Krakow’s pubs’ employees do not see anything particularly annoying in the behavior of British people. They are content that the impressive amounts of tourists from Britain boost the local industry and are generous with tips.
How do British perceive the reaction of local people on their behavior? The comment below below shows one side of the story:
Another side of the story is told by Colin.
Colin is an Englishman from Liverpool and he enjoys travelling. He is involved in the Legacy Project which began with his performance for the London Olympics. Since then there has been many different groups set up to do different projects: flash mobs in London, different parades or different performances and so on. One of his friends who is a professional choreographer and who was also in the Olympics wanted to do something new and different. So Colin’s group started performing something different, a sort of a contemporary dance. They performed in a theater in London. The group consists of forty members performing at different ceremonies. Colin is the first character coming out on stage in this performance. The reason why Colin is a good person to talk to about travelling to Krakow, is that he has been visiting this city regularly for the last six years.
I came because of Ryanair because they had a special offer from Liverpool to Krakow. I had heard that Krakow was nice. I wanted to visit Krakow because I knew it was a nice town. I came to Krakow maybe in 2007. My first impression was: ‘wow’. I was very impressed with what I saw and I was very impressed with how friendly people were. It was my first time and I enjoyed it so I kept on going back to the same place, the same hostel each year. Apart from Krakow, I have been to Warsaw for a day, and to Karpacz.
How come you did not pick Prague?
I have been to Prague once. I choose Krakow because I think it has a right size. I have been to Prague before it commercialized and I do think it is a beautiful city. Now it is so commercialized, it is too many people there, it is too expensive. Prague is … to use an English phrase “stuck up its own ass”. I have been to Budapest as well and a part of it is nice, but not nice enough to keep me going back there. I want to travel more around Poland, but I do not have much time at the moment. But I always want to go to Krakow in December for 6 days. I choose December because I like the snow, I like the Christmas atmosphere
How did you cope with the Polish language and infrastructure?
The first time I went to Krakow it was kind of difficult to get around, to understand for example how to pay on a tram. Sometimes I had a free ride because I did not know how to pay, but shhhh… but again it is not because its Poland, it is because it is a different system. If I go to a different city in England I would also not know how to pay for a bus. But now I know the city and I know how to do it. When it comes to English I have always been able to explain things, using hands, but quite a lot of people in Poland speak English. But some people are shy, when you ask them about things on the map they would say, ‘sorry we can’t speak English’, but I understand it, it is difficult to speak a different language. If do not do it too often, you get a bit shy or embarrassed.
Have you observed any changes?
The first change I have noticed is that some people , especially women, are a bit more wary now.It is because of the fact that a lot of British people come for stag parties and and they are after one thing, whereas before I could talk to women without any problem in Krakow. Now there arre all thinking: ‘oh, another British tourist, he is thinking bla bla’… I think it is because of too many stag parties. I think it is not good for Krakow and not good for out reputation. This is the main thing that has changed. Another thing is Schindler’s factory museum. Also, under the market square there is a museum , but I don’t know if its new or I did not know about it before. When it comes to kinds of tourists, I noticed that a lot of Czech people come to Krakow…
Your encounter of Poles in the UK
Before I came to Poland first I do not think that there were so many Poles in Liverpool. There is a lot more Polish people here now. I think sometimes the attitude of Polish people in England is completely different from Polish people in Poland. A lot of them are friendly, but some think that its their right to complain about things and say that Poland is better than England. Then I say: what are you doing here? I think some Polish people think that they deserve to do nothing and get a lot. Not only Polish people, but other people too. One guy that I know that was in the Olympics, has been living in England for over 10.years. When we were having very strong winds that trains were cancelled because tree branches were falling down and so on, he was saying ‘this would never happen in Poland, we would be well prepared’… Also, I know that we have a different culture, yes, please, thank you etc… I understand different cultures because I traveled, but some British people may see Polish and other Europeans as rude if they do not use this polite language.
Uniqueness of Poland
The history and culture are very unique. I think with the culture, the attitude of many Polish people is very different than in other places in Europe. In so much that if you become a friend with a Pole, it is a good friendship. In a lot of cultures in Easter Europe when you approach people there is a cold wall. You have to break that wall and come through it, but with Poland that wall is not so strong. Its easier to come through it, does that make sense?
When it comes to history I think the the WW2, with holocaust and Aushwitz, is very unique. I know there were many problems in other countries, but in Poland it was the biggest problem. I think the way Polish people have come back from that is unique and surprisingly Polish people can be friends with the German people! I like Aushwitz (although maybe I should not say it this way) because I see something different each time I go. It is very difficult to take everything in at one time.
My favorite thing to do is wandering around the city, especially Kazimierz. I like Kazimierz for its special atmosphere, because you know what happened there, and the architecture is amazing, I just like it. I went to the Old Synagogue. I always walk around back streets and find something new, like different architecture. I still want to see more.
Because I like to interact with people, I like the social life. As you know I am an older person, but act like a young person. I do not want to be old and boring. I find that by staying in a hostel you get to learn more things, because people have done things while in a hotel you stay in and chill, you don’t interact so much. It is cheaper and it has group games like Beerpong. While I stayed in hostels I met people of different nationalities. We are still friends on Facebook. I will very likely go back to Poland next year. But I have never been there in summer so I might go in the summer as well.
Thank you for you time Colin and god luck with your projects!
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