SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

Big cities play a dominant role in European research and policies on immigration. However, in recent years the focus has shifted to smaller units. The research upon which this article is based assumes that neighbourhoods' spatial configuration and social tissue constitute an influencing context where interactions develop. Mainly using semi-structured interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, this article examines the experiences of Polish immigrants who live and/or work in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood in Barcelona. This article highlights some patterns emerging from the accounts of inter-ethnic interactions there, namely that for a number of native interviewees, Polish immigrants are ‘invisible’ and, in contrast, among Polish immigrants, there are difficulties in understanding Catalan/Spanish cultures, but interactions with Latin-American immigrants are highlighted as frequent. Additionally, the article concludes that urban fabrics (e.g. scarce public areas), local policies (e.g. commercial bias) and socio-economic characteristics (e.g. over-exposition to massive tourism) are factors influencing on inter-ethnic interactions.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

Big cities play a dominant role in European research into and policies on immigration. They constitute the contexts of interactions not only between the native population and immigrants, but also among immigrants themselves. However, in recent years the focus has shifted to even smaller units: neighbourhoods (Amin, 2002; Lee, 2002; Jayaweera and Choudhury, 2008; Tyler and Jensen, 2009; Wessendorf, 2010). While far from deterministic, the research upon which this article is based assumes that neighbourhoods' spatial configuration and social tissue constitute an influencing context where interactions develop. Furthermore, in this article ethnicity is understood as a continuous construction based on everyday life experience. That subsequently implies the need to focus research efforts on the place that is a stage for immigrants' everyday life interactions. In this sense, one may wonder if and how the experiences undergone during these interactions have an influence on opinions about immigrants and the native population (Wallman, 1982; 2005; 2006; Giddens, 1984; Lofland, 1985; Essed 1991; Lofland, 1998; Morén-Alegret, 2002; Lin, 2005; Karner, 2007; Wimmer 2007; Hickman et al 2012).

In any event, this article focuses on Polish immigrants, and there are also relevant and current examples in the literature regarding the influence of place on the interactions that Polish immigrants are engaged in. Gill and Bialski (2011) even talk about the “tyranny of micro-geography” in referring to the impact that immediate neighbourhoods have on immigrants of low socio-economic status when it comes to forming and accessing social networks. Place was also an issue in the study conducted by Stanek (2003) into Polish immigrants in Madrid, where he described the limited relations between Polish immigrants and the native population. In addition, he explained that Poles fail to understand the social function of bars in the everyday life of Spaniards (Stanek, 2003). Furthermore, location – particularly neighbourhood and school – was also noted as a relevant issue by Ryan (2011). In particular, mothers with young children are described as those who, via their children, included neighbourhood contacts with the native population in their social networks. Not only schools, but also related places of encounter such as parks or playgrounds have been mentioned by Lopez-Rodriguez (2010). Both Ryan (2011) and Lopez-Rodriguez (2010) observe that these neighbourhood-based acquaintances are of various levels of intimacy.

The aforementioned studies, though mostly devoted to the formation of networks and ties, explicitly mention the importance of place in the interactions. This exploratory article focuses on the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood in Barcelona. Mainly using semi-structured interviews, it examines the experiences of Polish immigrants who live and/or work in this neighbourhood. In addition, ethnographical interviews with members of the native population and with other immigrants constitute a great deal of the research upon which this article is based. This is not only as a means of comparison, but above all a way of understanding the dynamics regarding social and spatial relations in the neighbourhood.

Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

Polish immigrants arriving in Barcelona encounter a significant human diversity. According to the local census (Padrón Municipal), in January 2011 17.46 per cent of Barcelona's residents were foreign nationals coming from all over the world. Over thirty national groups consisted of more than 1,000 residents. The present composition of Barcelona's social landscape has been shaped mainly during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Since the 1960s, transcontinental immigration, mostly from less developed countries, began to make its presence felt (Sepa Bonaba, 1993; Domingo, 1995 et al.; Morén-Alegret, 2002). The 1990s and the first decade of the twenty-first century saw the most significant immigration of low-skilled workers from Morocco, the Philippines, Pakistan, and especially in the 2000s, from Latin-America. During the second half of the 2000s, Asian immigrants, especially Chinese and Pakistanis, have been those showing the most significant growth in Barcelona, simultaneously extending networks involving a variety of businesses. At the same time, due to the economic crisis, over the past few years the African and Latin American immigrant population has become almost stagnant and the numbers of some nationalities have declined (see Figure 1).

image

Figure 1. Changes in Percentage of Migrant Populations in Barcelona City Over Time by Continents of Nationality (2000 – 2011)

Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Padrón Municipal Revisado.

Download figure to PowerPoint

The first decade of the twenty-first century was also a period of increasing migration from Poland to Barcelona. Between the years 2001 and 2009 Polish immigration in Barcelona multiplied nearly eightfold, and in the period 2009-2010 became apparently stable at a figure of roughly 2,300 people.1 The most important events driving this migration were the accession of Poland to the European Union (EU) in the year 2004 and the opening up of the Spanish employment market to Polish immigrants in 2006. This trend is also similar to their increase in other parts of Catalonia and Spain. Nonetheless, the limited number of Polish immigrants in Barcelona ten years ago should not be interpreted as meaning that they were not present in Barcelona in the previous decades.2 Three examples of this presence are especially worth mentioning:

  • -
    the foundation of the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Poland to Barcelona in 1930;
  • -
    the beginning of activity of the Polish–Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Barcelona in 1931; and
  • -
    the post-war influx of Polish children stolen by the Nazis during the second world war (Barbería, 2008; Pernal, 2008).

Additionally, in the mid-1990s, a group of Polish immigrants instigated a social process in order to set up a Polish association in Barcelona. For instance, in 1996 some of these participated in the Festa de la Diversitat, where they distributed leaflets (Morén-Alegret, 1999). Their main aims were to organize social and cultural activities, to raise awareness about Poland by distributing information among local Catalan people and to participate in Catalan cultural life on a par with other immigrant communities from abroad or from other parts of Spain.

The increase of Polish immigration to Barcelona following accession to the EU in 2004 has to be considered as a part of larger phenomena. Estimates based on various statistical sources suggest that in the following years, numbers of Poles ranging from hundreds of thousands to two million migrated to other EU countries (Kłos, 2006; Związek, 2006; Fihel, 2007; Fihel and Piętka, 2007; Ośrodek Badań, 2007; Kaźmierkiewicz, 2009). Two significant features of the post-2004 immigration are the immigrants' age and education. According to various studies and statistics from the UK and Ireland, the post-2004 migrants have been visibly younger than those who left Poland in the previous years. On the other hand, those young migrants are mostly well educated, increasing the “brain drain” phenomenon (e.g. Burrell, 2009). Even in Spain, which was traditionally perceived as a destination for migrants working in the agriculture and construction sectors, the increase of highly trained Polish migrants is visible in metropolises like Barcelona (OPI, 1996; 2001; 2003; 2006; Lectura del Padró Municipal, 2011).

Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

The neighbourhood is the smallest administrative unit in Barcelona that allows comparison between the qualitative data compiled and certain statistical indicators. It is also the lowest tier for implementing or demanding local integration policies. Since 2008 the city of Barcelona has been officially divided into 10 Municipal Districts and 73 Neighbourhoods (i.e. barris).3 There is no particular geographical concentration of Polish residents in any of the neighbourhoods. There is nevertheless a visible pattern, with the neighbourhoods with the highest number of Polish immigrants being those that are mostly centrally located (see Map 1).

image

Map 1. The Neighbourhoods of Barcelona with the Highest Number of Polish Immigrants Displayed, the Sagrada Familia Highlighted (Grey), 1 Jan 2010.

Source: Lectura del Padró Municipal d'Habitants. Departament d'Estadística. Ajuntament de Barcelona.

Source map retrieved from: http://www.bcn.es (elaborated by authors)

Download figure to PowerPoint

Today there are a few key places marked by the presence of Polish immigrants on the map of Barcelona, and some of them are within or close to the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood, particularly, the Polish Information Point run by the Polish-Catalan Association and the Polish shop named “Krakoviak”. Additionally, the Polish School and the Consulate General of Poland are also relatively close to this area. Among the aforementioned places, the “Krakoviak” shop can be considered the most significant “Polish” spot for the everyday life of Polish immigrants for the following reasons:

  1. its geographical location, close to the homonymous Gaudí temple in central Barcelona;
  2. the permanency of its location over recent years;
  3. its accessibility on a daily basis; and
  4. its street level access and its visibility for passers-by.

In addition to being a grocery store with Polish products, it is used as a place for exchanging information and services. According to a number of interviews carried out in Barcelona, these reasons were also taken into account by the board of the Polish-Catalan Association before recently moving its offices (including the Polish Information Point and the Polish Library) to a location close to this Polish shop.

Today Sagrada Familia is mainly considered a semi-central, lower middle-class neighbourhood located in the Eixample district, with a percentage of foreign residents that is around the average for Barcelona (see Table 1 and Map 1). This residential neighbourhood in Barcelona is characterized, among other things, by a high population density, immigration diversity and visible immigrant economic activity. Sagrada Familia is a neighbourhood hosting immigrants mainly from Latin-American origin. Although local statistics seem to reveal that Italians make up the most represented national group in the neighbourhood, it should be borne in mind that a number of them were born in Argentina.

Table 1. Principal Foreign Nationalities. Sagrada Familia, 1ST January 2010
 MalesPercentage of Total Male PopulationFemalesPercentage of Total Female PopulationTotalPercentage of Total Population
  1. Source: INE Database; Data extracted from the census sections for 1st of January of 2010; http://www.ine.es (access: 06.03.2011); Elaboration: Authors.

Population Total23885100.0028282100.0052167100.00
Spaniards1959682.042377484.064337083.14
Total Foreigners428917.96450815.94879716.86
Eu Community citizens13585.6912514.4226095.00
Germany1180.491200.422380.46
France1810.761770.633580.69
Italy5192.174001.419191.76
Poland380.16480.17860.16
Portugal820.34750.271570.30
United Kingdom1180.49920.332100.40
Romania930.391120.402050.39
European Non-Eu citizens1990.832550.904540.87
Russia290.12820.291110.21
Ukraine370.15440.16810.16
Total AFRICA2180.911230.433410.65
Morocco1520.64880.312400.46
Total AMERICA19017.9623958.4742968.24
Argentina1560.651650.583210.62
Bolivia1750.732871.014620.89
Brazil1070.451580.562650.51
Colombia2431.,023081.095511.06
Ecuador2541.063411.215951.14
Peru3451.443851.367301.40
Total ASIA6062.544791.6910852.08
China3551.493391.206941.33
Pakistan1070.45200.071270.24

Some Basic Observations on Methodology

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

This article analyses the contemporary interactions between Polish immigrants, the native population and other immigrants in the spatial and social settings of the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood as part of the Eixample district and Barcelona. Subsequently, it focuses on outcomes of those interactions: the opinions that Polish immigrants develop about other immigrants and members of the native population, but also how Polish immigrants are perceived by the locals and by other immigrants.

Together with relevant documental and statistical information, this article presents original data collected during fieldwork carried out in Barcelona between April 2011 and July 2012. In order to understand the encounters in this particular place of interaction, it would be interesting to reveal the perception of the various users and parties involved. In particular, insights gleaned from 32 interviews with local stakeholders and Polish immigrants are offered.4 In the next sections, a selection of the most illustrative interviewees' quotes is presented. The interviews were audio recorded and conducted in Spanish, Catalan and Polish. The quotations displayed in this article are translations into English. The average duration of the interviews was approximately one hour. There were two groups of interviewees: 20 neighbourhood stakeholders5 and 12 Polish immigrants.6 In order to analyse the data collected, the cross-case, case-oriented analysis of the transcriptions of the interviews with Polish immigrants was triangulated with the analysis of the interviewees of other origins and with documental/statistical data.

The interviewees were mainly contacted and accessed using a snowballing technique. Nevertheless, certain criteria were applied when making the decision about who would be the most relevant persons to be interviewed, including: their relative importance in the studied area, the need for variety, the need to recreate the structure of the neighbourhood's social fabric, gender and age. In general, the following issues were tackled during the interviews: the neighbourhood as an urban context, the neighbourhood as a social unit, the neighbourhood as a destination for migrants, the neighbourhood as an arena of conflict and cooperation, the perception of the presence of Polish migrants in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood and in the city of Barcelona. The interviews with policymakers focused particularly on the immigrants' presence in the neighbourhood, immigrants' participation and immigration policies. In the case of Polish immigrants, the interviews focused on the interactions with people of other ethnic origins who live in Barcelona and in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood and the perceptions built on those interactions.

Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

The Sagrada Familia neighbourhood's urban fabric consists of wide, one-way streets that separate what are largely apartment blocks, mostly up to six storeys high. The streets itself are the channels for a heavy traffic of cars and buses running through the city. The lack of open, public and green spaces is one of the neighbourhood's characteristics. According to some residents, this greatly influences life in the neighbourhood. Another impacting factor of this densely populated neighbourhood is that two central squares – Sagrada Familia Square and Gaudí Square – are constantly saturated by continuous inflows of tourists. The abovementioned characteristics have an impact on the perception of the neighbourhood as a base for social life in general, and in particular on the perception of the immigrants' presence in the neighbourhood:

If you walk through the quarter (…) you notice that there are a lot of bars and restaurants (…) of Chinese people (…) Peruvian bars, Colombian bars (…) Nor does it have a presence on the street (…) since this is a quarter for residing [dormitory] not for living in (…) This a very touristy quarter (…) The presence is not very obvious (…) In other places you see it like: wow! But here, you don't.(Spaniard, female, 34 years old: ‘SP-F-34', Multicultural Interaction Group technician, works in Sagrada Familia neighbourhood: ‘SF’)

Statistics show the Peruvians and Chinese as being (after Italians) the next most numerous nationalities. Both of those nationalities are mentioned by interviewees as having an important presence in the neighbourhood. The Peruvians are often included as part of the ‘Latin Americans’ or ‘South Americans’. Additionally, some interviewees also include Colombians, Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Argentines as part of this group. Mexicans, although frequently mentioned as present in the neighbourhood, do not appear as a group in the list of main foreign nationalities (see Table 1). This fact may tie in with comments made by some interviewees that a number of Latin-American immigrants do not live in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood, but only work there. Other group ‘labels’ mentioned by interviewees are ‘Muslims’ (specified as Pakistanis and Moroccans), ‘Senegalese’, ‘Eastern Europeans’ (specified as Romanians, Ukrainians and Russians), and ‘European migrants’ (mainly Italians).

None of the twenty interviewed non-Polish local stakeholders mentioned Polish immigrants as a group of immigrants that is present in the neighbourhood. The local stakeholders asked directly about the presence of Polish immigrants in the neighbourhood generally showed a lack of awareness about the presence of this group:

Poles… they are not one of the collectives we work with. In GIM [i.e. the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood's Multicultural Interaction Group] we don't talk about them. We talk a lot about other collectives, but not about Poles. I do not even have a preformed image. The only ones with a presence in the neighbourhood are the Romanians. (SP-F-34, Multicultural Interaction Group technician, works in SF)

Some exceptions to this pattern were the cases of a jeweller who talked about a regular customer of Polish origin and the Environmental Classroom/Aula Ambiental technician (Spaniard, female, 37) who mentioned a Polish volunteer as a socially involved man in his twenties who participated in activities during his rather short stay in Barcelona. It is important to mention here that the Environmental Classroom is one of the few locations in the neighbourhood where an interaction between the native population and immigrants takes place. This is a project created and funded by Eixample District Council, aimed at promoting knowledge about and responsibility for the environment in the immediate surroundings.

We have one Polish customer (…) at the beginning I felt a bit wary, because he was very serious, very brusque and looked around a lot. If someone comes into a shop like mine and looks around a lot, then you think: what's he looking at? (…) He often came for repairs (SP-F-50 of Italian-German origin, jeweller and member of the Traders' Association, works and lives in SF)

In addition, among those interviewees who had contact with Polish residents and those who did not, Polish immigrants are seen as a group of European immigrants who ‘don't stand out’ and are very similar to the native population in terms of their external characteristics, behaviour and life styles. Interestingly, the interviews with natives showed significant differences in the perception of Polish, German, and Ukrainian, or Romanian immigrants. The Polish immigrants are included and described as part of the following categories: ‘People from the East’, ‘Eastern Europeans’, ‘Central Europeans’ or simply ‘European Union’ immigrants. Importantly, it seems that the perception of Polish immigrants resides half way between the perception of German and Scandinavian immigrants on one hand, and of Romanian or Ukrainian immigrants on the other. The former tend to be described as non-immigrants, European citizens, executive directors of international companies or capital investors who (apart from their lighter hair and blue eyes) are unrecognizable in the public realm. The latter are described as the economic immigrants who are sometimes involved in crime, begging and alcohol abuse. These are often portrayed by the interviewees as untrustworthy immigrants who create trouble in the public arena.

The portrait of Polish immigrants is somewhere in between. First of all, although the number of Polish immigrants that live in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood is similar to the number of Ukrainians and Russians, and higher than Byelorussians and Bulgarians, the presence of immigrants of the latter nationalities is mentioned more often than the presence of Polish immigrants. This happens especially when it comes to the negative characteristics:

The immigrants from welfare-based states like Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands or even Germany, are viewed with admiration (…), whereas Romanians are seen as – oh, poor little things, but… we are better (…) Poles, I do not think they are perceived in the same way as Romanians. Poles are not stigmatised with crime the way Romanians are. I think a Polish immigrant is seen as – those poor ex-communists that are trying to earn a living, we will see how they behave – that's more or less the idea. It is more a lack of knowledge. (…) He has blond hair, blue eyes and speaks English… so it is already an attractive image. But I know nothing about the Polish community in Barcelona. (SP-M-32, political party, unemployed, lives in SF)

What the Catalan, who is a person who consider himself as belonging more to this neighbourhood, thinks of a Romanian is that he is a person who lives to deceive and to cheat, but on a small scale… (SP-F-50 of Italian-German origin, jeweller and member of the Traders' Association, works and lives in SF)

[In the 1990s ] people had no idea about Poles (…) they had no idea about Eastern Europe (…). There were typical questions: Is it somewhere near to Russia? Do you speak Russian? It was completely exotic, but there was no prejudice. (Polish, female, 36 years old: ‘PL-F-36'social mediator, works in SF)

An added characteristic of Polish immigrants is that their country of origin is still generally little known by the native population and perceived by interviewees as an “exotic” land that has few connections with Spain. However, according to an interviewed legislator who is a local stakeholder, the latter issue has improved since EU accession. Several stakeholders were also aware of the presence of a Czech bar and a Hungarian shop in the neighbourhood, although those establishments are physically less visible in the quarter and the number of the immigrants of those nationalities is smaller than the number of Polish immigrants:

I suppose that the Polish community here must be quite large, but I have never met a Pole here (…) No, I didn't know about the Polish shop, but I know that there is a Hungarian shop, where I bought something once. (…) I have also seen a Czech bar, it is on Provença street, on the corner with Castillejos. (SP-M-27, political party currently governing in Barcelona, works as neighbourhood councillor and lives in SF)

The reality of the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood shows that the aforementioned, probably stereotype-based differentiation may result in a more inaccurate perception of public spaces. Thus the members of the native population and Polish immigrants interviewed described the Sagrada Familia Square as one of the neighbourhood's public areas that was problematic. The groups of homeless people who spend their time in the park consuming alcohol are perceived as damaging to the image of the neighbourhood and a source of potential conflict. In the view of native stakeholders, the members of this group of homeless people are of Eastern European origin, though not Poles. However, in the view of the interviewed Polish immigrants, it is evident that the majority of the abovementioned group are immigrants of Polish origin. Ethnographical observation and some interviews showed that the vast majority of the aforementioned group are indeed of Polish origin. The emerging observation is that paradoxically while this group is viewed extremely negatively by other Polish immigrants, the native residents who spend time in the same park seem to have relatively positive or neutral relations with the homeless Poles. In contrast, the same public area is occupied by groups of young Latin-Americans who are often mentioned by native stakeholders as a group that makes them feel uneasy. There are no relations observed between them and the Polish homeless. Instead, there are some interactions between Poles and native voluntary workers in local charities, who are residents “watching over” some of these homeless Poles, especially in terms of taking care of their health:

The Sagrada Familia Square (…) has groups of homeless people who live there in the street. (…) They can make a mess anytime, but it's a small problem (…) Nowadays they are usually immigrants, whereas before they were locals. Nowadays you can find that these are people from Eastern European countries who mainly have a lot of problems with alcohol (SP-M-28, member of local socio-political organisation, lives in SF)

‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

There are few places where encounters between Polish immigrants, members of the native population and other immigrants in the neighbourhood (but also outside of it) take place. The data gathered also enables us to note that the image of Polish immigrants is mostly vague, even in its stereotypical version. In general, the stakeholders interviewed have little contact with Poles, and this does not allow them to draw clear portraits. In contrast, the opinions of Polish immigrants presented below are based on their experiences of interactions in a variety of places. Importantly, several Polish immigrants interviewed (regardless of their socio-demographical characteristics) were either unaware of or not interested in the features of Catalan society before their arrival. All of the Polish immigrants living or working in the neighbourhood who were interviewed had multiple interactions with members of the native population in the area under study and outside it. Private flats were the less frequently mentioned places where interactions occurred, and were relevant only in cases of family-based relations where a member was of native origin (mixed marriages, cousin's spouse, etc.) or in single incidental encounters during parties held at flats. The workplace and schools were the places where interactions that sometimes also developed into more permanents relations most frequently occurred. The streets, squares and commercial establishments were places where there were frequent but incidental interactions. Bars, restaurants and places of entertainment, although also mentioned in the context of members of the native population, were seen rather as places where there were interactions with Poles and other immigrants.

Several of the interviewed Polish immigrants distinguish between “Catalans” and “other Spaniards” in terms of the native population. While there is a lack of a more developed opinion on other Spaniards, the most important characteristics seems to be that they are more open to new friendships than Catalans:

Some Spaniards think of Poles as being closed. I haven't talked that much to Catalans. When they [Spaniards] got to know us, they saw that it was not like that, and that we are good workers. I have never had problems with Spaniards. They are not prejudiced towards Poles. My Brazilian friend also has a good opinion of Poles - saying they treated him well. (PL-M-32, salesman, works in SF)

Tolerance and open-mindedness towards immigrants in general are stressed as a feature of Catalans. However, at the level of personal relations, Catalans are often perceived among the interviewees as being closed and difficult to understand. The latter is stressed especially when it comes to issues concerning the political independence of Catalonia and the use of the Catalan language:

They are definitely different, but it is hard to say what the difference is (…) I can't understand the Catalan soul, I don't understand some things. I can't find the key to what the difference between this culture and the Spanish one is. I ask people but they can't give me a precise answer (…) I don't like this nationalistic approach. (PL-M-37, English teacher, works in SF)

A frequently mentioned issue is the Catalan language. The Polish immigrants interviewed (including those mixed Catalan-Polish marriages where the couples speak both Catalan and Spanish) believe that the high political and personal pressure to speak the Catalan language is negative both for immigrants and for the promotion of Catalan culture. Several interviewed Polish immigrants mention that too high a pressure on speaking Catalan might be an obstacle both in establishing new acquaintances among Catalans and Polish immigrants (especially those who do not plan to stay in Catalonia permanently), and in participating in the social and cultural life of the neighbourhood and city. Although there were no clearly positive comments on the politics that promote the Catalan language, the same interviewees show some level of understanding on the promotion of the Catalan language. This happens especially if they explicitly compare the issue with Polish experiences historically regarding a lack of political independence. In fact, in the rest of Spain, Catalans are sometimes referred to disparagingly as ‘Poles’, and playing with this idea one of the most successful Catalan TV programmes is currently a humorous show called ‘Polonia’ (see: http://www.tv3.cat/polonia).

Importantly, the opinions about the use of the Catalan language and language policies are derived not exclusively from neighbourhood or city-based interactions. It seems that the observation of the political and cultural scene by the interviewees plays an important role:

I don't speak Catalan, but I understand it. I often encounter negative reactions here because I don't speak Catalan. There are some radical nationalists, and some unpleasant things can happen. Once someone complained because we only have signs in Spanish. The inspectors came and they tried to fine us because they found one small inscription that was not translated. The language policy is given a high priority here. They can cut expenditure on health care, but there must be money for the language policy. I think they are overdoing it and that they stand to lose more than they gain. I see it in my children. They don't have enough class hours for learning the Spanish language in school and they make mistakes. (…) My husband is Catalan and he believes that they are overdoing it. He is upset that the children don't speak Spanish well. (PL-F-47, shop keeper, works and lives in area perceived as traditionally belonging to SF)

This article is not however focused on linguistic conflicts – a topic that will be tackled elsewhere. For more contextual details on linguistic issues in Catalonia and Spain, see for instance: Burgueño, 2002; and Codó and Garrido, 2010.

How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

Several interviewed Polish immigrants had not had any contact with immigrants before they arrived in Barcelona. The interviewees admit that by experiencing everyday life they develop their own opinion not only about native Catalans but also about immigrants from other countries. The places where Polish immigrants meet other immigrants on a daily basis are: immigrant-owned shops and bars, the workplace, schools, squares, sport events and shared flats. Some remarks about those experiences are outlined below.

Although the Polish immigrants interviewed see Barcelona as an extremely diverse city, in two cases they are “disappointed” by the high presence of Latin-American people. In their eyes, the accumulation of the Spanish-speaking population makes Barcelona less diverse than cities like London or Berlin, which according to the interviewees contain a more visible and audible cultural diversity. However, another Polish interviewee, on comparing the same cities, insists that Barcelona is even more diverse than the British and German capitals (obviously, all three of the interviewees base their opinions on personal experience and not on statistical figures). In any case, the presence of mass-tourism is noted as a factor that sometimes blurs the impression of a highly diverse society in some parts of Barcelona and especially in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood.

The neighbourhood itself, its urban fabric, and the individual nature of immigrant activity within the neighbourhood seem to be factors that are influential in the interactions between Polish and other immigrants. All these factors were especially pointed to by those Polish immigrants who had an opportunity to move to Sagrada Familia from another neighbourhood in Barcelona, or those who live and work in different neighbourhoods. An interesting example is a young mother who some years ago moved from the surroundings of Les Corts and Sarrià to Sagrada Familia. She insists that she can see many more immigrants in the streets of the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood than in her previous one. She says that before she did not experience the presence of immigrants as closely as in Sagrada Familia. She also points out that it is in Sagrada Familia where she first started to stroll with her daughter. She quit her job in order to take care of her and she had more time to wander around. In addition she mentions that the wide pavements of Sagrada Familia are more suitable for walking around and getting to know the neighbourhood than the ones in the area around her previous flat. Her account is quite consistent with the UK-based findings of Lopez-Rodriguez (2010). While this interviewee mentioned public places such as playgrounds and schoolyards as being places where immigrant and native mothers coexisted, at the same time she expresses her disappointment about the low level of interaction with those residents. However, she also hopes that in future she will develop more interactions, especially at her daughter's school:

There are not a lot of places to visit with children. We go to the square in Industria Street. There is a group of Ukrainians or Russians with their children, but they have no contact with us, they stick together. My Polish friend and I also meet up, so we form our own group. Sometimes others approach to chat, but there is not a lot of contact with Spaniards there. There are more Spanish mothers in the Sagrada Familia square, or those from other developed countries like the Netherlands. (…) I recently found out that there are some flats rented by international companies for their employees in branch offices. (PL-F-34, unemployed, lives in SF)

The immigrant groups most often mentioned in the interviews are ‘Latin-Americans’ or ‘South-Americans’ with some special importance given to Brazilians and Argentines. They are met both within and outside the neighbourhood to the same degree. Flats, in the context of sharing, partying and domestic employees, and workplaces, are frequently referred to as places of interaction. Nonetheless, the high presence of Latin-Americans on the streets and squares is mentioned several times as a characteristic of the neighbourhood and city's diversity. There are various features that characterize that group among Polish immigrants. They are the most often mentioned group of immigrants when it comes to acquaintances, friendships and working together. They are described as friendly, open and keen to help. The fact that they can speak Spanish is often highlighted:

Mainly Spaniards, Catalans, and Brazilians. People from South America, from Paraguay… A very nice and good person (…) I hadn't paid her for the internet, she told me: you can pay when you find a job. (PL-M-32, salesman, works in SF)

Poles nevertheless recognize the Latin-Americans as people belonging to a culture that is “different from ours”, which is visible in “their behaviour”. Surprisingly, the commonly-shared Roman Catholic religious background and the church as a place of encounter were not widely mentioned as features that would aid contacts between Polish and Latin-American immigrants or influence their perception. The other qualities of Latin-Americans, mentioned by Poles, are especially the loudness and the street life going on late into the night. These characteristics ascribed to Latin-Americans are shared by the Polish immigrants and Catalans interviewed who live or work in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood:

Sometimes you can see in the playgrounds that the children of immigrants do not behave in the way you would approve, they are aggressive. These are mainly Latin-American immigrants' children. It also depends a lot on the parents.” (PL-F-47, shop keeper, works and lives in area perceived as traditionally belonging to SF)

The other group of immigrants often mentioned are the Chinese. The comments of the Polish interviewees focus mainly on the businesses that Chinese people run in the neighbourhood. Several of the interviewees believe that their shops are one of the landmarks of the area surrounding the Sagrada Familia temple:

As I see it, all the bars and shops around the Sagrada Familia have been taken over by Chinese, and the groceries by the Pakistanis. I think these used to be Spanish shops. (…). They take over all the businesses. In theory I don't mind, but in the long run they are a threat to us, because it's well known that they take over the workplaces and flats (…) These are organized groups, I believe. They contract these families to run the shops. These Chinese families don't open the shops on their own. I try to avoid their shops. I buy in the greengrocer here, but it is run by the Latin-Americans, and if I buy clothes I go to the city centre. (PL-F-30, shop keeper, works in SF)

Those comments are very similar to the comments made by some interviewed native stakeholders: supposedly Chinese immigrants are a closed community, the quality of the shops and products are poor, and there is also suspicion about the source of the economic resources that allow Chinese people to open a large number of new establishments. Nevertheless, apart from their commercial establishments, the comments about the Chinese community are neutral. The number of observed relations between Polish immigrants and Chinese is scarce and it is limited to Chinese-owned establishments. That is explained by the fact that Polish interviewees mainly mention linguistic and cultural differences:

I associate the Sagrada Familia with a high number of Asian people. The various Chinese shops around the temple make me think about Asians while I think about immigrants.(…) it was a surprise that they have taken over businesses that were here for generations. It is probably happening all over Barcelona. I sometimes use their shops, but I have bad experiences when it comes to the service and quality. I know that it is a different culture, but… (PL-M-37, English teacher, works in SF)

Another group of immigrants with whom Polish immigrants have experienced interactions in the neighbourhood are Romanians. They are mentioned in the context of teasing, quarrels and lack of safety in the neighbourhood's streets and squares. From some interviewed neighbours' perspective, they are sometimes perceived as outsiders who abuse tourists:

The neighbourhood is safe, except for the Romanian gangs. These are groups that go around looking for people to cheat. We live here so we know about it and avoid them. But tourists are often assaulted in front of our eyes, near to Sagrada Familia temple (…) There are also some Romanians begging on the streets. It started when Romania entered the EU. They are by the church and on the streets. In the morning a car brings the women and distributes them. They are not a threat, they don't steal. (PL-F-34, unemployed, lives in SF)

Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

According to the immigrants interviewed who are also Polish stakeholders on a Barcelona level, there are some basic patterns of social groups when it comes to developing relations and new acquaintances. Polish immigrant workers who have been hired on the construction sites and are currently back in Poland because of the economic recession have developed relations mainly among themselves and among other Polish immigrants. They were often visitors at the Polish shop in Sagrada Familia, but they often lived and worked together and did not engage in interaction outside of this circle. Some Polish stakeholders noted – and this can be confirmed by official statistics – that nowadays most of the Polish immigrants arriving are young people (see Table 2). They tend to avoid contact with other Polish immigrants and engage in interactions with the native population and with other immigrants. Their main advantages in the job market seems to be a good command of several foreign languages and knowledge of IT technologies.

Table 2. Polish Residents in Barcelona by Age and Education Level, January 2011
 Total0–19%20–39%40–59%60–79%80 and more%
Barcelona2 0882049.77155774.5730114.42251.2010.05
Eixample district376307.9829778.994612.2330.8000.00
Sagrada Familia78810.266178.21810.2611.2800.00
 Did not study%Primary school%Secondary school%Higher education degree%
  1. a

    Out of total Polish residents aged 16 years or more: Barcelona: 1913; Eixample District 348.

Source: Lectura del Padró Municipal d'Habitants. Departament d'Estadística. Ajuntament de Barcelona.
Barcelonaa190.991919.9873238.2697250.81
Eixample districta20.571711.7612535.9120458.62

Before the crisis, most Poles worked in the construction sector. Afterwards, following the mass layoffs, over time these workers and their families were forced to leave. These were families that had lived in Spain for several years, with their children attending Spanish schools for several years. Younger Poles then begin to appear more frequently. These are students or those who have recently graduated, and are well prepared. They cope well and even under these critical conditions are able to find employment in the Spanish jobs market. I have heard about IT specialists, small businesses that work in the services, etc. (…) A young person who came to learn Spanish would not necessary look for contact with other Poles. This type of person prefers to get to know the local life, at the least at the beginning (…) In contrast, the older people, who don't like to learn the language, are attracted to everything Polish (…) Yet when the time comes to send their children to school and maintain relations with other parents, this is a turning point. (PL-M-35, Polish Information Point activist and employee, works in the outskirts of SF and often visits the neighbourhood)

In contrast to the pluralism displayed by younger Poles, according to some interviewed Polish stakeholders, middle aged Polish immigrants (including married couples, when both are Poles, and their families) prefer to maintain relations with other Polish immigrants and rarely look for new acquaintances outside of these circles. Nevertheless, this does not mean that they form any structured associations, but rather that they develop individual contacts through the families and acquaintances.7 Anyhow, there are various opinions of stakeholders on the engagement in bonding activities. This seems to be influenced by various factors described above.

The Poles (…) don't need to set up activities that would be aimed exclusively at Poles. Poles integrate very well, and I believe that they integrate easier with members of the native population and it is easier for them to participate in associations that are not strictly Polish. In contrast, I see groups of Chinese or Asian people in general that are integrated within their group. They do not venture outside of it.(P-F-40, Polish school head, engaged in activities run by the Catalan-Polish Cultural Association located on the outskirts of SF)

Several of the interviewees were parents in a relationship with a member of the native population or with a Polish partner. Although it depended on the time they had been in Catalonia and their knowledge of the local language(s), it seems that the most common important landmark in their interactions with members of the native population and with other immigrants is the moment when a child goes to school for the first time. Parents (in this study both mothers and fathers) with young children are the ones who most frequently develop neighbourhood-based interactions, in a similar way to that observed in the studies conducted by Ryan (2011) or Lopez-Rodriguez (2010). The social life of the classroom and school in Catalonia is very developed and mainly organized by parents associations (i.e. AMPA). In addition, in the case of Polish immigrants married to members of the native population, the quantity of interactions increases, especially in relation to the spouse's family and friends.

These basic patterns of engaging in acquaintances gleaned from the accounts of the Polish stakeholders interviewed are quite similar in structure to the general conclusions of the previously mentioned Madrid and UK-based studies, and there are some interesting features of the interactions observed in Barcelona that are worth noting here.

The impact of the location and its social characteristics on engaging in networks (Gill and Bialski, 2011) and the perception of the traditional places for encountering people (Stanek, 2003) have been mentioned in previous studies as obstacles to developing new and diverse relations mainly with regard to Polish immigrants engaged in low-skilled jobs. On the other hand, both the afore-mentioned studies comment on the fact that the long working hours also impede building bridging ties. Sagrada Familia is a well communicated neighbourhood that can be understood as an open-system (Wallman 1982; 2005; 2006). As a result of this, and according to the interviews with the neighbourhood stakeholders, it constitutes a “workplace” for many people commuting from outside (including some of the Polish immigrants interviewed), but also a “dormitory” neighbourhood for those working in other areas. This means that many of those using the neighbourhood's public areas are only “part-timers” with no time for real engagement in the neighbourhood's social life or with very little presence in the public areas. This is also a feature of those Polish immigrants who are connected to the neighbourhood by their work, residence or both. It is important to mention here that the work culture in Spain in many cases includes long working hours continuing until night time (e.g. until 8.30 pm to 10.00 pm for some of the immigrants interviewed). According to our observations, consistent with the Gill and Bialski (2011) studies, these immigrants are often limited and compelled to engage in everyday interaction only in the workplace and areas they pass by, such as squares, commercial establishments, etc. Interestingly, in the case of the Barcelona study the pattern is not limited to low-paid or low-skilled immigrants. The social-class based differences are replaced by type-of-work and life-stage based time constraints. In addition, these are seen as dynamic by the interviewees themselves. Several of them recall the diversity of interactions they had in past stages of their lives and in the other jobs they had. Importantly, it is not a feature exclusive to the immigrant origin of interviewees, and some impact of the economic recession on the working time is also mentioned and observed:

It was a lot of fun with them 7 or 8 years ago [during university studies]. We were partying all the time. I had a good relationship with friends from Uruguay and Argentina. Now [raising a child] I have more contact with Poles. (PL-F-34, unemployed, lives in SF)

I spend most of my time in the shop. Because of what I do my friends are mainly Poles. It is shop, shop, and shop. I don't go to restaurants. I used to go to the gym. Before, I was also a member of a traditional Polish dance club. (PL-F-30, shop keeper, works in SF)

Discussion and Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

This exploratory article presents data from the first recorded contemporary study based on documental, statistical, and empirical evidence on inter-ethnic encounters of Polish immigrants living in Barcelona. Specifically, the focus here has been on the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood. On the basis of the ethnographic fieldwork already carried out there, some topics for further discussion and research can be outlined. The following issues can be highlighted as the most significant: a) “Invisibility” and/or pre-made neutral/positive perception of Polish immigrants among a number of neighbours and local social actors sometimes leads to misleading appreciations of reality in public spaces; b) Constraints on developing interactions are more often related to the type of job and/or lifestyle immigrants have rather than by the fact of being better off or disadvantaged immigrants; c) Even though Polish immigrants sometimes describe Latin-American immigrants with negative remarks, they have a general positive image and have relatively frequent interactions with Latin-American immigrants; d) Polish immigrants usually acknowledge Catalonia's self-determination claims (as it echoes some of Poland's historical hazards), however, there is often a lack of understanding of Catalan cultural issues among them, and they have negative opinions about Catalan language promotion policies; e) There is a shared feeling that more public policies and open physical spaces are needed in order to engage little participatory immigrants (like many ‘invisible’ Polish) into social networks of hosting neighbourhoods.

The findings presented in this paper show that the basic characteristics of Polish immigrants in Barcelona are somewhat similar to the profile of Polish immigrants in other European countries. Despite some alterations, the three types of Polish immigrants self-description analysed in a UK-based study (Fomina, 2010) can also be found in Barcelona: a) self-confident and highly-trained; b) disadvantaged and stuck in one place; c) the so-called “old migration”. The degree and significance of the “old migration” is smaller in Catalonia than in countries like the UK and France, but their integration and interactions patterns are similar. On the other hand, statistics and qualitative data show the increased importance of highly skilled young Polish immigrants perceived as people who move freely within the diverse environment of Barcelona and eschew interactions with other Polish immigrants (e.g. disadvantaged ones). In Barcelona, the later can mainly be found among professions such as construction workers, handymen or housekeepers. As in the UK or Ireland, they tend to relate mostly within the Polish immigrants group and have reduced external interactions.

The aspect that calls for more profound comparison in the future is that Polish immigrants in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood are not perceived by the native population as petty criminals or in any other negative way as they are in the other aforementioned countries. In fact, Polish immigrants in Sagrada Familia can be considered ‘invisible’ immigrants. While for individuals of some ethnicities, outdoor sociality is habitual or even homelike, as pointed out by Hickman et al. (2012), others may feel disturbed by manifestations of social activity in the neighbourhood's public places. The dissatisfaction expressed by some natives with Latin-American immigrants socializing on the street and the phenomenon that Polish immigrants rarely participate in neighbourhood's festivities and organizations are examples of this pattern. Still, ethnicity is not the unique factor here. The patterns of socializing on the street that were observed in this study are quite similar to what is described by Hickman as “cultural constructions and experiences (…) informed by specific intersections of ethnicity and class” (Hickman et al., 2012: 86). An illustration of this statement is the lack of perception of the presence of Polish immigrants by the native interviewees in the centre of the studied neighbourhood (around Sagrada Familia Square), where the Polish shop is located and where a group of Polish homeless spend their days consuming alcohol. While Eastern European immigrants drinking alcohol outdoors in Peterborough (UK) are perceived by South-African immigrants as disturbing or even threatening (Hickman et al., 2012), they are rarely seen as such by natives in Sagrada Familia. Instead they are negatively depicted by other Polish neighbours as corrupting the image of Polish immigrants.

The native population explains the observed “invisibility” by the physical similarity of Poles to other central Europeans and even to Catalans and other Spaniards themselves. The aforementioned patterns concerning the type of employment of Polish immigrants, as well as their knowledge of foreign languages, seem to enhance this “invisibility” similar to the case of Polish immigrants in Ireland (Bobek, 2010). One might conclude that this “invisibility” is a direct consequence of the limited number of Polish immigrants in the neighbourhood and in the city. However, Polish immigrants, both the highly skilled and the disadvantaged ones, remain “invisible” even compared with other less numerous Central and Eastern European immigrants. This is definitely an interesting subject for further research, where the hypothesis concerning the impact of the quarter's fabric on this lack of perception may be developed. Especially since the aforementioned “invisibility” encourages an erroneous image of reality in public areas.

Interestingly, this rather general “invisibility” does not mean that all Polish immigrants only interact with their compatriots, either low-paid or better off Polish immigrants are often limited to interacting exclusively in their workplace or flat, because of time constraints imposed by their work and/or lifestyle. Two of the most repeated issues worth stressing concern the interactions of Polish immigrants with immigrants of Latin-American origin and with Catalans. Some perceptions of Latin Americans that can be found among Polish immigrants in Barcelona – such as loudness and permanent presence in the street – are nearly identical to characteristics of Latin-American immigrants mentioned in previous studies elsewhere. A relevant example of such a similarity is the Polish immigrants' perception of Puerto Ricans in New York's Greenpoint neighbourhood (Sosnowska, 2008). Despite the abovementioned negative remarks, Polish immigrants have a rather positive opinion about Latin-American immigrants. This observation is worthy of deeper insight in future international comparative studies.

The possible lack of understanding of Catalan culture by Polish immigrants emerges as another interesting topic. Criticism towards some policies promoting Catalan language is expressed by a number of Polish immigrants interviewed. Paradoxically, these policies are partially seen as impeding integration. On the other hand, the need for neighbourhood-orientated integration policies is visible in the context of places where interaction takes place. This is especially true in a neighbourhood like Sagrada Familia, whose urban fabric offers very few public places where interaction can occur. Not only schools, but also workplaces, shops, and bars are the major public areaa where Polish immigrants develop inter-ethnic interactions. The Environmental Classroom in Sagrada Familia and the Multicultural Interaction Group seem to be important spaces and places (besides state schools, the public library, and the civic centre) with regard to interaction between natives and immigrants in the neighbourhood. A similar observation has been made by Hickman et al. (2008) while underlining how important the existence of private and public interaction spaces are in UK localizations, especially for young people.

The lack of immigrants' participation in the traditional social life of the neighbourhood seems to bother the native population. This behaviour is explained by the Polish immigrants as the result of lack of time, unawareness of these possibilities and lack of participatory habits. Nevertheless, it would be important to empower this kind of social participation, especially in a society where living together is often significantly based on common social activities. Therefore, it would be relevant and required to carry out further applied research that would involve participatory methods and look at policies fostering the participation of immigrant groups, such as the Polish, in particular urban settings and sites of encounters. In this sense, among others, the experience of the Neighbourhood Forums implemented in the Concordia Discors research project would be an interesting reference to take into account.8

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

This article is linked to the PhD project provisionally titled Polish immigration in Catalonia, prepared by Dawid Wladyka at GRM, Geography Department of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and co-directed by Ricard Morén-Alegret and Àngels Pascual de Sans. The fieldwork upon which this article is based is linked to the international project “Concordia Discors” funded by the European Commission (coordinated by FIERI, Italy). Some ideas expressed here were inspired by the participation of the authors in this project. In addition, the authors are grateful to the Spanish Ministry for Research and Innovation (grant number CSO2009-13909) for the data on Polish immigrants and other residents gathered during fieldwork in a small Catalan town, Castelló d'Empúries. The latter was helpful as a control group when preparing this article. Last but not least, the authors would like to thank the International Migration editor and three anonymous reviewers for their useful and kind comments on an earlier version of this article.

Notes
  1. 1

    Regarding the evolution of registered Polish immigrants in Barcelona from 2001 to 2010: 2001: 291; 2004: 793; 2005:1026; 2006: 1391; 2007: 1882; 2008: 2136; 2009: 2328; 2010: 2295 (Departament d'Estadística, Ajuntament de Barcelona; Censo de Población y Viviendas 2001; INE, IDESCAT; Lecturas del Padrón Municipal de Habitantes: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 y 2010.)

  2. 2

    In general, during the 1990s and 2000s, most research on Polish immigration in Spain focused on Madrid region (e.g. Colectivo Ioé, 1998; Stanek, 2003).

  3. 3

    Barcelona City Council's Statistical Department explains the idea and introduction of the neighbourhoods division in Barcelona at the following website: http://www.bcn.cat/estadistica/angles/terri/index.htm

  4. 4

    The indicated number of interviews allowed the authors to reach the data saturation point regarding the main aims of this research.

  5. 5

    Persons with wide networks of acquaintances and knowledge about the neighbourhood.

  6. 6

    Four of these interviewees were considered as Polish stakeholders: persons with wide networks of acquaintances and knowledge about Polish immigrants in Barcelona.

  7. 7

    The engagement into activities arranged by the Polish School and the Catalan-Polish Cultural Association are two exceptions. Both organizations have major bonding roles for Polish immigrants in Barcelona. See: http://accpbarcelona.blogspot.com.es/ and http://www.barcelonakg.polemb.net/?document=736

  8. 8

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Polish Immigrants Encountering Diversity in Barcelona
  5. Selecting a Barcelona Neighbourhood Containing and Surrounded by Polish Institutions: Sagrada Familia
  6. Some Basic Observations on Methodology
  7. Invisible Immigrants: Polish Immigrants in the Eyes of Some Local Stakeholders
  8. ‘Closed’ Catalans? Members of the Native Population in the Eyes of Some Polish Immigrants
  9. How Poles Perceive Other Immigrants: Loud on the Street But Good as Friends
  10. Place and Time also Matter for People Who are Better Off
  11. Discussion and Conclusions
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References
  • Amin, A 2002 Ethnicity and the multicultural city: living with diversity, Environment and Planning A, 24: 959980.
  • Barbería, J. L. 2008Els nens que Hitler va robar. Orfes de la barbarie nazi” in VVAA Polonesos a Barcelona. Un munt d'històries, Barcelona: Ajuntament de Barcelona – Consolat General de la República de Polònia a Barcelona: 1231.
  • Bobek, A. 2010Polscy migranci w Irlandii. Rola sieci społecznych w procesie migracyjnym oraz w kształtowaniu się społeczności etnicznej”, Studia Humanistyczne AGH, 8: 5768.
  • Burgueño, J. 2002El mapa escondido: las lenguas de España”, Boletín de la A.G.E, 34: 171192.
  • Burrell, K. 2009 Polish Migration to the UK in the ‘New’ European Union: After 2004. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • Codó, E., and M. R. Garrido 2010Ideologies and practices of multilingualism in bureaucratic and legal advice encounters”, Sociolinguistic Studies, 4(2): 297332.
  • Colectivo Ioé 1998 Inmigración y trabajo. Trabajadores inmigrantes en el sector de la construcción, Madrid: OPI / IMSS, Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales.
  • Domingo, A. et al. 1995 Condicions de vida de la població d'origen africà i llatinoamericà a la Regió Metropolitana de Barcelona, MMAMB, Diputació de Barcelona, IEMB, Barcelona.
  • Essed, P. 1991 Understanding everyday racism: an interdisciplinary theory, Sage, Newbury Park.
  • Fihel, A. 2007Najnowsza migracja z Polski do Wielkiej Brytanii” in Biuletyn Migracyjny – Dodatek, 12: 16.
  • Fihel, A., and E. Piętka 2007Funkcjonowanie polskich migrantów na brytyjskim rynku pracy” in CMR Working Papers, 23(81): 143.
  • Fomina, J 2010 Parallel worlds – self-perception of Polish migrants in the United Kingdom, Institute of Public Affairs, Warsaw.
  • Giddens, A 1984 The Constitution of Society. Outline of the Theory of Structuration, Polity, Cambridge.
  • Gill, N., and P. Bialski 2011New friends in new places: Network formation during the migration process among Poles”, UK Geoforum, 42: 241249.
  • Hickman, M., H. Crowley and N. Mai 2008 Immigration and Social Cohesion in the UK: rhythms and realities of everyday life, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, London
  • Hickman, M., H. Crowley H, and N. Mai 2012 Migration and Social Cohesion in the UK, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Jayaweera, H., and T. Choudhury 2008 Immigration, faith and cohesion: evidence from local areas with significant Muslim populations. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  • Karner, C. 2007 Ethnicity and everyday life, Routledge, London.
  • Kaźmierkiewicz, P. 2009Migraciones y redes transnacionales: Comunidades inmigradas de Europa Central y del Este en España. Migración de mano de obra polaca a Europa Occidental. Tendencias y perspectivas”, Revista CIDOB d'Afers Internacionals, 84: 3348.
  • Kłos, B 2006Migracje zarobkowe Polaków do krajów Unii Europejskiej”, Infos, 2: 14.
  • Lectura del Padró Municipal d'Habitants 2011 Departament d'Estadística, Ajuntament de Barcelona, Barcelona.
  • Lee, J. 2002 Civility in the city: Blacks, Jews, and Koreans in urban America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Lin, J., and C. Mele 2005 The urban sociology reader, Routledge, London/New York.
  • Lofland, Lyn H. 1998 The Public realm: exploring the city's quintessential social territory, Aldine de Gruyter, Hawthorne NY.
  • Lofland, Lyn H. 1985 A World of strangers: order and action in urban public space. Lyn H. Lofland, Waveland Press, Prospect Heights.
  • Lopez-Rodriguez, M. 2010 “Migration and the quest for normalcy: Polish migrant mothers and the quest for meritocratic opportunities in the UK”, Social Identities, 16 (3): 339358.
  • Morén-Alegret, R. 1999 Integration(s) and Resistance, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick, Coventry.
  • Morén-Alegret, R. 2002 Integration and Resistance. The relation of social organisations, global capital, governments and international migration in Spain and Portugal, Ashgate Publishers, Aldershot/Burlington
  • OPI 1996–2007 Anuario Estadístico de Extranjería, OPI, Madrid.
  • Ośrodek Badań and U.W. Migracjami 2007 Metodologia badania migracji z Polski, Ośrodek Badań nad Migracjami UW, Warszawa.
  • Pernal, M. 2008Barcelona, bon port. Historia del centre d'acollida per a infants polonesos (1946– 1956)” in Polonesos a Barcelona. Un munt d'històries, Ajuntament de Barcelona–Consolat General de la República de Polònia a Barcelona, Barcelona: 94189.
  • Ryan, L. 2011Migrants' social networks and weak ties: accessing resources and constructing relationships post-migration”, The Sociological Review, 59(4); 707724.
  • Sepa Bonaba (Kopesesse), E. 1993 Els negres catalans, Altafulla/Fundació Serveis de Cultura Popular, Barcelona.
  • Sosnowska, A. 2008Polacy, Żydzi i Portorykanie. Liderzy polskiego Greenpointu o nowojorskich grupach etnicznych”, in: Working Papers of II Kongres Towarzystw Naukowych na Obczyźnie.
  • Stanek, M. 2003Los inmigrantes polacos en Madrid. Una etnografía de la vida cotidiana”, Scripta Nova, Universidad de Barcelona, vol. VII, núm. 141.
  • Tyler, K., and O. Jensen 2009 Communities within communities: a longitudinal approach to minority / majority relationships and social cohesion. University of Surrey.
  • Wallman, S. 1982 Living in South London, Aldershot, Hants.
  • Wallman, S. 2005Network Capital and Social Trust: Pre-Conditions for ‘Good’ Diversity”, Milan: The Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei Note di Lavoro Series.
  • Wallman, S. 2006The Diversity of Diversity: Implications of the Form and Process of Localised Urban Systems”, ANTROPOlogicas, No. 9.
  • Wessendorf, S. 2010 Commonplace Diversity: Social Interactions in a Super-diverse Context, MMG Working Paper 10-11.
  • Wimmer, A. 2007 How (not) to think about ethnicity, COMPAS Working paper no. 44, Oxford University.
  • Związek, B.P.O. 2006 Emigracja zarobkowa Polaków do Irlandii, Warszawa: ZBPO.