Written by Patrycja
Hello, my name is Patrycja, I come from Poland and I am a first year BA (Hons) Computer Animation Art and Design student at BU.
Bournemouth is an English town, right?
Well yes and no. I find Bournemouth to be very international as there are people from all around the world, and this makes me feel less like a stranger. What’s more, there are a lot of Polish people, or people that know Polish people, or people who have family in Poland! I am not even surprised anymore when someone from Bulgaria says that their grandma was Polish. Honestly, I was so shocked when I found out before even coming here that there are three other Polish girls on my course. All of them have lived in the UK for a while, but they speak Polish and everything. One of them became a really good friend of mine and we talk about all the cultural differences, Polish food and our childhoods in Poland.
Throughout my first year, I have met many more Polish or half-Polish people, and most of the situations have been hilarious. I met a half-Polish, half-Czech guy in quite a funny way: I was hanging out with my Lithuanian friend (I told you, international people everywhere!) and he received a call and started panicking because he didn’t have the number saved so he thought that it might be his boss or something. However, when he picked up, it turned out to be his friend, and my friend said “wait, you can talk Polish with each other!” so we first met by talking on the phone which was… quite strange. When I started as a Student Ambassador, another Ambassador contacted me and turned out to be Polish as well, even though he came here from Lithuania. He was probably the first person in Bournemouth I spoke to in Polish. Working as a Student Ambassador, I also met another Polish person that came to Bournemouth many years ago. I didn’t know that he was Polish at the beginning (even though I heard the foreign accent) as everyone used the English version of his name and he didn’t say anything. I was spelling my name letter by letter, and when he was writing it down I was quite surprised that he got it so fast. A few days later I saw his name in the email and I understood that I could have just told him my name without spelling it!
Oh no, are Polish people everywhere in Bournemouth?
Well certainly not everywhere, but you can hear a conversation in Polish sometimes at the bus stop or in other places. One of the most well-known Polish annual charity drives – WOŚP (The Great Orchestra of Christmas Help) is also organised here by Polish people and is quite a big event.
And of course you’ll find a lot of Polish people in church on Sunday. In Bournemouth, there is a whole Polish parish and two Polish priests, and a lot of Polish people are quite religious so they regularly gather together to pray.
Can you get Polish food in Bournemouth?
Yes, there is even a Polish shop and restaurant in town. It is also possible (to my surprise) to find a lot of typical Polish brands in ASDA, Tesco or even in smaller markets and grocery stores. What I personally find the funniest is Polish people shopping in Lidl; we also have Lidl in Poland and as it’s not the most expensive shop, we like to shop there (and a lot of students in Bournemouth like it for the same reasons.) I will never forget a Polish family in Lidl singing a song from a Polish Lidl advertisement while doing their shopping. I don’t think they were aware that someone might understand Polish and hear what they were singing. I had to fight the urge to say ‘hello’ in Polish or join them in singing that silly song. I am still smiling from the memory of that event.
So when you say that you are Polish, what happens?
Well usually people immediately shout the only word that they know in Polish (which I will not say here, but it sounds similar to the English word “curve”) and I usually find this situation very funny as it is a Polish swear word. So that means that some other Polish people they met before me had the amazing idea that this would be the best thing to teach them in Polish. Some people surprisingly know some other words and can greet you in Polish for example. My Polish friend and I even had a situation at a bus stop when a guy heard us speaking Polish and asked us what language we were speaking. When we answered, he started speaking some Polish words and said that his ex was Polish.
Is it hard to be Polish in Bournemouth?
For me, it’s not too difficult. I am quite far from home, around 1600km, but Bournemouth has a direct plane to Krakow twice a week which takes less than 3 hours. The time difference is just an hour so I haven’t had any problems with contacting my family and friends at home. There are a lot of Polish and international people here, and I can easily find Polish food, so I do not feel alone and I am finally studying a subject I truly love.