• Germany's news in English
 

Poles no longer the losers in Berlin

The Local · 19 Apr 2013, 07:24

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
Champions League
Bayern get lucky in Champs League draw
FC Barcelona' Sports Manager Andoni Zubizarreta draws FC Bayern Munich during the draw ceremony for the UEFA Champions League group stage on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Bayern get lucky in Champs League draw

11 minutes ago

Bundesliga titans Bayern Munich were celebrating on Thursday evening after a Champions League draw that will see them the clear favourites in their group. Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach weren't so lucky.

Germans still love couch and TV in their free time
Sitting front of the TV - Germany's favourite pastime. Photo: DPA

Germans still love couch and TV in their free time

15 hours ago

A new study shows that Germans' best-loved activity is sitting in front of the idiot box - and when they're not doing that they're probably slumped in front of a computer.

This Week in History
The day that 'sealed East Germany's fate'
At 3am on August 23rd, MPs applauded as the People's Chamber set a date for reunification. Photo: DPA

The day that 'sealed East Germany's fate'

14 hours ago

After the Berlin Wall was destroyed in 1989, East and West Germany still had a long way to go before they could become one nation. But in August 1990, the date was finally set for the birth of reunified Germany.

Migrant crisis
Merkel: Austria tragedy a ‘warning’ for Europe
Forensic experts investigate a truck in which refugees were found dead as it stands by the Autobahn in Austria. Photo: DPA.

Merkel: Austria tragedy a ‘warning’ for Europe

14 hours ago

The "horrible" discovery on Thursday of between 20 and 50 dead migrants on a truck in Austria is a warning to Europe to get to grips with the migrant crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. Other leading German politicians laid out their plans for handling the influx of refugees.

Facebook to meet gov on Internet hate-mongering
Are Facebook keeping a close enough eye on hate speech? Photo: DPA

Facebook to meet gov on Internet hate-mongering

20 hours ago

Update: Facebook on Thursday accepted an invitation from Germany's justice minister to discuss doing more to purge the social network of racist posts after widespread complaints from users.

Berlin orchestra angers Israel with Iran concert
Renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim is under attack by Israel's government. Photo: DPA

Berlin orchestra angers Israel with Iran concert

16 hours ago

Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim is hoping to take one of Germany's top orchestras to Iran to perform a concert there, the Berlin State Opera said Thursday, drawing angry protests from Israel.

Netzpolitik Affair
Merkel's office 'hid knowledge of probe'
The Chancellery. Photo: Heinz Albers

Merkel's office 'hid knowledge of probe'

18 hours ago

After digital rights blog Netzpolitik revealed that state prosecutors were investigating two of its journalists for treason, Chancellor Angela Merkel's office reacted with shock. Now Spiegel reports that the Chancellery knew about the investigation in April.

Internet surveillance
Spies 'traded Germans' data for US software'
Photo: DPA

Spies 'traded Germans' data for US software'

19 hours ago

Media reports on Thursday alleged that German spies traded access to information about the country to the US National Security Agency (NSA) in exchange for surveillance software.

Man City snap up De Bruyne for €80 million
Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: DPA

Man City snap up De Bruyne for €80 million

21 hours ago

Manchester City have signed one of the stars of last season's Bundesliga campaign. But he didn't come cheap.

NATO troops join in large German training exercise
NATO paratroopers training in Romania on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

NATO troops join in large German training exercise

22 hours ago

More than 1,000 NATO paratroopers jumped from aircraft above Germany on Wednesday in one of the alliance's largest airborne training exercises in Europe since the Cold War ended, the US army said.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
Weekend of anti-refugee violence shocks Germany
National
Half of Germans 'have had sex in their car'
Society
Deadly stew spooks home vegetable gardeners
Politics
The man who brought two Germanies together
Features
Where to get your culture fix in Cologne
Education
Fairytale world of Brothers Grimm brought to life
Rhineland
Thieves leave 1,000 open beers untasted
National
Way to some Germans' hearts is through their wallets
National
Germany's biggest challenge: European refugee crisis
Travel
Where to get your adrenaline pumping in Germany
Technology
Could thieves hack into luxury cars?
What to watch out for when snapping your lunch
National
German lefties through history
National
The fight over prostitution heats up
National
Merkel: migrants, not Greece, are the real challenge
Features
How I explained the Queen to the Germans
Education
Why Germany does 'back-to-school' traditions better
National
Germans are ‘not how foreigners think’
National
A mum and daughter reunite 70 years after WWII
Sport
Bra stops bullet in hunting mishap miracle
National
Cows trample German woman to death in Graubünden Alps
Business & Money
Start-up helps new Berliners short cut bureaucracy
National
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after the Second World War
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
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

6,945
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd