• Germany's news in English
 

Poles no longer the losers in Berlin

Published: 19 Apr 2013 07:24 GMT+02:00

Offering a tray of salmon and onion sandwiches and bottles of Żywiec beer, the bar could have been in any big city in Poland – but revellers were actually crammed onto a tiny dance floor in the capital of Germany.

"I come to Cafe Warschau because I love Warsaw. It may be better than Berlin but money's not going to make itself, especially not in Poland," said Magda Podkowinska, who came a bit of home on a Polish-Russian night at the venue.

But the Friday-night scene near Berlin’s scruffy Hermannplatz square is not unusual for the city's many Polish establishments. They are becoming increasingly popular with Germans, as interest towards their large eastern neighbour continues to grow.

Today the 44,000-strong Polish community in Berlin is second only to the city's Turkish population. Yet the city's Poles have largely shed themselves of the negative cheap-labour stereotype, with which some of their compatriots abroad are still sometimes branded.

"The Pole in Berlin is no longer the brick-layer toiling for minimum wage. Now he represents the Polish company which replaces your windows or the Polish doctor who takes the place of the retired German. Poles are now part of the city's professional community," said Adam Gusowski, co-founder of the Club of Polish Losers, which has been hosting cultural events in the capital since 2001.

Gusowski, who emigrated to West Berlin with his parents as a fifteen-year-old, said this successful integration into German society means it can be difficult to find places in the capital where Poles congregate. The venue he runs, despite its provocative name, is far from exclusive in its appeal.

“We host a wide range of events and rarely have the same crowd as the night before. We serve as a venue for all kinds of minorities,” Gusowski said.

The opening of the club was the culmination of a series of developments which saw Gusowski and his friends establish a presence in the capital’s underground scene. After a number of oddball schemes, they realised that nothing they tried was working out.

"We organised a concert for dogs for example. Everyone likes concerts, but no one thought of dogs. So we had a great marketing campaign, spread the word but in the end only two dogs came to the concert, of which one fell asleep and the other started barking and had to be taken out. After all, you've got to behave at a concert," he said with a detectable hint of sarcasm.

The club’s philosophy, Gusowski explained, is that everyone has the right to create art, regardless of their natural talent or ability. The inspiration came from a manifesto published in the 1990s in Kolano, a Polish-language newspaper issued by the self-named Organisation of Polish Losers.

Although the club's name is evocative of the kind of comic self-mockery more commonly associated with British than Polish humour, the message Gusowski and his friends sent out may have encouraged new arrivals from Poland to adapt to their surroundings with a pinch of salt.

While not taking yourself too seriously can be a useful method to cope outside your comfort zone, it is often not enough to integrate into a new culture. Much depends on the reception you are given.

Gusowski believes the change in Germans’ attitude towards Poles in recent years has played a great part in their fitting in.

“Germans have a pragmatic and practical approach to immigrants. Here they’re viewed on the basis of their contribution. If a nationality is presenting itself well and bringing something to German society, it is received well. This is what's happening with the Polish community,” he said.

And some have wasted no time in facilitating this cultural interaction.

Husband and wife Marcin Piekoszewski and Nina Müller, who run Polish-German bookshop Buchbund in the multicultural Neukölln district, said that the weekly Polish language classes held there are attended by 20 to 30 Germans, with diverse motivation.

“Professional, academic, romantic…various reasons. The same reason you might decide to learn French, for instance,” Marcin, a translator by profession, said.

He put increased interest in Polish language and culture down to a recent “healthy normalization of relations” between the Germany and Poland.

“Poland today is not seen as any different, and why should it be?” he said.

But Nina, a German who first came to Poland for a student exchange year in Kraków ten years ago and speaks fluent Polish, urged caution.

“We can live in a bit of a bubble in Berlin. We can forget that the city is not representative of Germany as a whole,” she said.

Nina’s parents in her native Franconia remain sceptical about her interest in Poland.

“They’re quite simply part of a different generation. Certain stereotypes are unfortunately still there, beneath the surface,” she said.

Matthew Luxmoore

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Steinmeier cancels trip to stay at Iran talks
Photo: DPA

Steinmeier cancels trip to stay at Iran talks

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has cancelled a planned trip Thursday to the Baltics in order to stay at nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, a German diplomat said. READ  

Uber complains to EU over national bans
Photo: DPA

Uber complains to EU over national bans

Uber has filed complaints with the EU against France, Germany and Spain as the popular taxi app hits back against efforts to ban it from Europe's streets, officials said Wednesday. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Haltern mourns its children lost in crash
People gather outside the St. Sixtus Church in Haltern on Wednesday evening. Photo: DPA

Haltern mourns its children lost in crash

Haltern's St. Sixtus church was full to overflowing on Wednesday evening, as people flocked to mourn the group of schoolchildren the town lost in the Germanwings flight 4U9525 crash. READ  

Minister wants to ID Schengen passengers
Photo: DPA

Minister wants to ID Schengen passengers

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière wants to introduce rules forcing airlines to ask all passengers for identification when travelling within the Schengen free-movement zone. READ  

Berlin refugee groups speak out against arson
The charred remains of the "House of 28 doors". Photo: DPA

Berlin refugee groups speak out against arson

Pro-refugee organizations in Berlin spoke out on Wednesday in defiance of an arson attack on an art installation and gathering-place in the early hours of Tuesday morning. READ  

Lufthansa promises long-term crash help
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr (r) and Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann near the crash site on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa promises long-term crash help

On a visit to the Germanwings flight 4U9525 crash site in France, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said that the company will do its utmost to help relatives of victims and local people near the crash site. READ  

Draft fracking law meets strong opposition
An anti-fracking demonstration in front of the Chancellery on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Draft fracking law meets strong opposition

The cabinet agreed upon a draft law on “fracking” on Wednesday which will allow testing under stringent rules. But it is unclear whether the law will pass through the Bundestag (German parliament). READ  

Germany's best April Fools' jokes
It's that time of the year again...

Germany's best April Fools' jokes

While it might not be as prevalent as in English-speaking countries, there is still a rich tradition of “Aprilscherze” in Germany. Take a look inside for some of the best of 2015. READ  

April Fools' Day
April Fool! The Local's day in gags
In our April Fool's joke we reinstated the German monarchy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

April Fool! The Local's day in gags

No, you weren’t going crazy when you scrolled through The Local this morning. Today, our network temporarily lost its marbles for April Fools' Day. So, as the clock strikes 12pm, it’s time for The Local to fess up and reveal which of our stories were red herrings. READ  

'Cannibal cop' gets 8-year sentence
Defendant Detlev Günzel at the court in Dresden on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

'Cannibal cop' gets 8-year sentence

A court sentenced a German former police officer to eight years and six months in jail Wednesday for killing a willing victim he met on a website for cannibalism fetishists. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,018
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd