Having said that, professional bodies such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, the Chartered Institute of Marketing - and now, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply - are all present in Poland, selling training, accreditation and membership - professional qualifications are all the vogue. Delivered by British organisations, with much of the coursework in English. The British Council is doing sterling work in Poland, as is the British Standards Institution.
Meanwhile, across in the UK, Poles are becoming more embedded in the British economy, with over 100,000 securing National Insurance numbers in 2013 alone. Polish is officially the second-most spoken language in the UK, according to the 2011 census. Poland is ranked nation number six in terms of numbers of entrepreneurs who've set up companies in the UK (21,000 set up 22,000 co. ltds). Ahead of Poland are countries that have had far longer business connections with the UK or are simply far more populous (the top five are Ireland, India, USA, China and Germany). Poland ranks higher than France, Italy or Holland.
If one is to measure the mass migration of Poles to the UK in solely economic terms, there is no doubt that the balance is strongly favourable; the National Institute of Social and Economic Research says that immigrants from the eight CEE countries that joined the EU in 2004 have added one percentage point to the UK's GDP. So Poles are responsible for around two-thirds of that sum.
Ten years after Tony Blair opened the UK labour market to Poles, their presence is visible right across Britain in a way few other immigrant groups have visibility beyond the big cities. Last week I was in Scotland, visiting Ayr and passing through Paisley; compared to multi-ethnic London, these county towns were whiter than Warsaw, and yet both had a Polski sklep.
|Polska Chata/Cottage Shop, Ayr|
|Misiek Polish Shop, Paisley|
Writing a day after Ukip secured its first parliamentary victory, I fear that the benefits to Britain of migration from people who want to create prosperity for themselves and thus enrich the nation (rather than try to shove some unappealing religious dogma down the throats of the indigenous population) will be lost in a fuzzy argument about Brussels.
A putative referendum in 2017 asking the British people whether they should quit the EU is a threat to the stability and cohesion of the EU and indeed to Poland and other member states bordering Russia. Given the debate will hot up in the 209 days leading up to the General Election next May, it behoves all Poles in the UK to be on their best behaviour, not to act in such a way as might prompt their neighbours to vote Ukip.
|A message to you Sebek, Piotrek and Sylwek - bin your beer cans. [Perivale Park]|
* EF's English Proficiency Index for 2013 put Poland in eighth place ('high proficiency') in its global ranking of how good non-native speaking countries are at English. Ahead of Germany, Russia or France. In 2011, Poland was ranked 12th with 'moderate proficiency'.
UPDATE December 2014: EF's English Proficiency Index for 2014 put Poland in sixth place ('very high proficiency'). Only the four Scandinavian countries and Holland are ahead.
On an entirely unrelated point: Warsaw has enjoyed a wonderful run of beautiful sunny weather; today's top temperature was over 23C, the third day in a row of over 20C maximums.
This time last year:
Ale, architecture and city politics
This time two years ago:
The pros and cons of roadside acoustic screens
This time three years ago:
Moaning about trains again
This time four years ago:
Warsaw streets - Dolna, Polna, Rolna, Smolna, Wolna. Lost?
This time six years ago:
Ditches, landscapes, autumn
This time seven years ago:
Golden autumn in Łazienki park