«Population, Space, Place Special Issue. Title ‘Good relations’ among neighbours and workmates? The everyday encounters of Accession 8 migrants ...»
Until you start mingling with people it’s difficult to have an inter-relationship with people. But sometimes you meet in the shops and you would say, you'd look and think, that face looks strange – hello, how are you? What are you looking for? How are you settling in? And things like that. You make yourself more like available to help them because of the experience that you had when you came here. I mean I try and do it that way. Because of the difficulty that we had when we arrived in the early 50s… If you see a strange face you try to make that face feel welcome.
Respondent 2: I think we … accommodate more people at [Community Centre]. The most cosmopolitan place in [city name]…Oh yes, very accepting.
(FG 7 established West Indian community) Some of the A8 migrants in our study highlighted similar mixing with their new neighbours. Whilst such neighbourly interactions are perhaps not transformative (in terms of directly facilitating feelings of integration), the civil nature of banal encounters and kind ‘acts of mutuality’ (Thrift, 2005) with established community members living in their streets were seen as communicating respect (Boyd, 2006) and
making a positive difference to everyday lives:
Sometimes we may have a chat [with neighbours] During Christmas time we shared the cards. (FG2 men, Polish new migrants) [W]here we live now the whole street is English people and they are very polite, we are greeting each other and at Christmas I’ve got cards from my neighbours. (FG1 Slovak new migrants) My neighbours have been very kind...They knew I could not speak English so she try to help me, slow speaking, hand movements so I could understand.
(Roma family interview 3, mother) Similarly, both established community members and A8 migrants further discussed notable spaces in their neighbourhoods that provided, and framed, certain encounters between diverse people with common needs or interests. Indicating the inevitable ‘throwntogetherness’ of places (see Massey, 2005), especially where interests are likely to overlap (Dines and Cattell, 2006), respondents spoke of different communities accommodating each other in schools, at nurseries and in one particular
case in a gymnasium:
Interviewer: Have you got any contact with A8 migrants?
Respondent: Some. When anybody new comes in the school where my kids go they always do try to let the parents know that a child of this minority has come, just to let the kids know that if the child has got a different language just to be a bit more patient and that with them. (FG8 established white community).
My wife is going with the other kids with the neighbours to some child place. I think they will be going together to the nursery. (FG2 men, Polish new migrants) I meet them [A8 migrants] in the gym. That is the one place that everybody gets on well because you have to because of what we do. […] You get to know them like anybody. You get to know people, you weigh people up. You get to know people gradually. I found most of the Poles are OK. (FG8 established white community) ‘Good’ workplace encounters Participants in our research also discussed workplace encounters between the more established local workforce and new A8 workers. Reflecting the fact that black and minority ethnic workers are over represented in the lower echelons of the UK paid labour market (Mason, 2000), many of the workplaces occupied by A8 migrants were typically already home to ethnically diverse workforces. In many ways therefore the multicultural working environments shared by established communities and A8
migrants were a microcosm of the city neighbourhoods that they lived in:
Eastern European, you name it… On induction day it’s like the United Nations. It’s really mixed…We actually did a survey last year and we had 27 languages on site. [KI8 food production company] One of the employers interviewed in the study described the increasing amount of
mixing that he observed between A8 migrants and established community workers:
It’s like a greying at the edges but from both sides. So here [on diagram just sketched; pointing to the middle section of 2 slightly overlapping circles] we effectively get quite a lot of integration …A classic example when one of my security guards says, I can say 12 words in Polish now. […] In another example one of our Polish ladies was getting married. Fifty per cent of the guests that she invited were actually [city name] people. […] What was nice was that, we have a social club and every year we have a Christmas party.
You could see almost like a defrosting of the atmosphere. People who were out and out [region’s name] republicans, as it were, actually started talking to them [A8 migrants]. (KI4 logistics/distribution company) Some of the A8 migrants themselves also spoke of having broadly good relations with their new work colleagues. One male Polish participant talked of how ‘the English
workers respect us’, he explained how:
They [the employer] brought us here because English people weren't able to make a product of required standard, product that you could sell... English respect us. They invited us to play cricket, golf. They organised entertainment once in a while. (FG2 men, Polish new migrants) Another Polish respondent explained why he was happy at work and keen to stay in
I think it is quite nice and a lot of societies what you can join. And they don't treat you as a person from a different country, but you get, like I'm a member of Aquatic Society in [city name]. Nobody is treating me like a person from Poland, I'm just one of the members. (FG2 men, Polish new migrants) It must be noted, however, that the participants who indicated such positive workplace encounters were largely drawn from the Polish community who generally had better English language abilities and higher levels of educational attainment than the Slovaks and Roma (see also Eade et al, 2007). Allied to this an earlier wave of postWWII Polish migration has led to a large and well-organised Polish community in the city in question with associated networks of support. These pre-existing networks of community support enhance the ability of some Polish workers to secure better paid employment and they subsequently appear to be willing to stay for longer periods of time in one work location; thus arguably aiding exposure to, and willingness to engage in, relations with established work colleagues.
The examples of positive mixing in neighbourhood and work spaces presented here could, perhaps, be dismissed as largely superficial encounters that arguably do little to generate the genuine integration of new A8 migrants, or erode the prejudice and hostility of some established community members (Valentine, 2008). However, such mundane and banal encounters should not be so easily discounted. Perhaps these ‘mundane and situated’ connections (Conradson and Latham, 2005) do have the potential to instigate more meaningful encounters, or at least serve as a useful first step in reducing the barriers that exist between new A8 migrants and established communities and serve to nurture future ‘good relations’ There is much discussion, particularly in policy circles, around whether meaningful encounters can be encouraged and/or facilitated through a more proactive management of encounters or the provision of events (Winstone, 1996; Norman, 1998; Allen and Cars, 2001). In this vein, some of the established community participants in our study had suggestions as to how to provide for more meaningful encounters; borne from slight
frustration as to the lack of mixing with new migrants in their lives:
Interviewer: Do you think that these new migrants have any knowledge or awareness about your religion or culture?
Respondents 1 and 2: No, they don’t know.
Interviewer: Do you know about theirs?
Respondents 2 and 3: No.
Respondent 1: How can we mix [with new migrants]? Like having a day where people from all religions get together, an open day.
Respondent 2: Yeah, we should meet and find out what happens in their religion and tell them what happens in our religion.
Respondent 1: I’m saying that we should have an open day where people can find out about each others religion/culture. We should have sessions at local community centres and invite everyone from cross cultures to meet and discuss. (FG6 women, established Pakistani community) Other participants (the white gym user previously noted, a local authority education service provider and a young, Roma man), further both commented on the potential of sport, most particularly football, in terms of its potential for a positive comingtogetherness of new migrants and established community members around a particular sporting endeavour. This chimes with Amin’s (2002:970) discussion of ‘micropublics’ as potential spaces of cultural transgression and his exemplification of sports associations as intercultural places that can disrupt racial and ethnic stereotypes (see also Back et al, 2001; Bale, 2003).
The above discussions illustrate that the mundane encounters that occur between members of communities and newly arrived A8 migrants can to some extent promote at least tolerance and civility among diverse communities that share the same neighbourhoods and workspaces. However, perhaps the most dominant theme that was evidenced in our study was the extent to which many members of established and A8 communities lived essentially separated lives.
EXCLUSIVE ENCOUNTERS? SEGREGATED PLACES AND SELECTIVEWITHDRAWAL
This next section moves away from the more positive encounters considered above to discuss a more problematic set of relationships that exist between established communities and their newly arrived central and eastern European neighbours and workmates. Although people often shared the same physical space, members of both the established and A8 migrant communities we interviewed relayed numerous accounts that emphasised the cultural and ethnic distance between them leading to routinely unconnected everyday lives. The section begins by exploring the lack of meaningful mixing at the neighbourhood level, before moving on to consider the ways in which mundane workplace encounters may prevent the building of ‘good relations’ between new migrants and established community members.
Parallel lives? Separate communities within shared neighbourhoods
A theme identified by many participants in this research was that of propinquity – living side by side – but an absence of meaningful interaction and mixing between new migrants and established community members (see also Holland et al, 2007).
Such a public discourse of ‘parallel lives’ vi is of course heavily critiqued (Phillips, 2006; Simpson, 2007). The characterisation of the lives of A8 migrants and established community members resident in the same neighbourhood as entirely parallel with a complete absence of interaction is perhaps an unhelpful stylisation of social practice. To assert this would be to gloss over the nuanced nature of everyday social interactions that render complete bifurcation between different social groups highly unlikely for many people. Yet is must be acknowledged that spatial closeness may actually serve to create or entrench tensions between groups as strangers are brought ‘close in’ which may be a discomforting experience for some (Watt, 1998) and perhaps lead to people behaving in a more ‘capsular’ manner (de Cauter, 2000).
Members of the established white and Pakistani communities interviewed expressed frustration that meaningful mixing with A8 migrants in their neighbourhoods is largely absent from their lives. The Pakistani community in particular felt that the lack of a common language was a barrier to more meaningful interaction between
Interviewer: You said there are new arrivals in the community - do you mix with the new community?
Respondent 1: We are getting mixed as they are living [in] the same place, but they are not mixing up…There is segregation within the street.
Respondent 2: Language is a problem which is preventing interaction and interrelations. (FG5 men, established Pakistani community) We can’t talk to them as we don’t understand them and they don’t understand us. (FG6 women, established Pakistani community) Beyond the barriers that different languages may create, established community members also spoke of a tendency for A8 migrants’ to gravitate towards fellow
nationals. For example:
Interviewer: Do you mix with Eastern Europeans?
Respondent 1: I think if you didn’t know them already they probably just want to stick with their own community.
Respondent 2: It’s like at school isn’t it?
Respondent 3: We have had a lot [of A8 migrants], we’ve got a lot that come to our local primary school. We do try don’t we.
Respondent 2: They don’t want it. I mean you smile at them, that’s all we can do, to try and integrate them.
Respondent 3: We always stand outside the door, when we take the kids in we’ll have a natter, catch up and see what’s going on in the area. And if you try to involve one of these [A8] mothers it’s almost like you’re into them.
Respondent 2: Yes a brick wall.
Respondent 3: It’s like - “What do you want to know about me for”?- The more you try and bring them in, invite them to things, a lot of the time they don’t want to know. They throw it back in your face. (FG8 established white community).
Respondent 1: These people [A8 migrants] don’t use these [community] centres.
Respondent 2: I think they stick to their own little groups. […] Like with all new communities they stick to their own with people they know. (FG6 women, established Pakistani community) The frustrations expressed above by established community members could be perceived simply as a way of deflecting any blame for a lack of meaningful mixing away from themselves and onto the new arrivals. However, members of A8 communities interviewed concurred with this notion of ‘sticking-together’ with those you know. Furthermore, the Polish women make the related point that civil encounters occur between neighbours, but they do not equate this to a more
meaningful type of ‘mixing’ that is able to break down barriers between people: