Friday, July 27, 2007

Why it's not a good idea to scare away the creative class

In a recent report, Wirtualna Polska emphasized how the large population of Polish emigrants is not only relatively young and well-educated, but not very likely to return to Poland despite retaining strong ties with Polish culture.

Polish emigration to the UK and the Republic of Ireland since the May 2004 entry into the European Union has reached 500,000 to 2 mln people, research firm ARC said in a report out Thursday.

The firm's base-line estimate is of 750,000 Poles in the UK and a third of that in the Republic of Ireland.

"Only half of the emigrants have realistic plans to return to the country, that is they plan to return within four years," ARC Rynek i Opinia Vice-President Adam Czarnecki said.

The average Polish migrant to the UK is relatively young and well-educated. Three-quarters of the emigrants are in permanent employment with half of those performing skilled manual work.

A fifth of the total work in construction, while the hospitality industry is the second-biggest employer. Over-qualification is a common phenomenon, with as many as 22% of Poles in manual jobs in the UK holding university degrees.

"What seems worrying is that mostly educated young people around 30 years of age are leaving Poland," ARC's Czarnecki said. "That could in future have a negative impact on the Polish economy and the country's development."

While Poland has been an exporter of people for centuries, the latest emigration wave stands in marked contrast with the earlier generations of Poles abroad. The young and educated emigrants take advantage of information technology to maintain what ARC calls "an illusion of closeness to family and friends."

Poles in the UK are also able to purchase familiar brands in the UK, with fully six in ten saying they "buy Polish" while abroad.

A similar proportion go online to keep up with news from the old country, while many also watch Polish television and listen to Polish radio. Of the Polish internet surfers in the UK and the Republic, nine-tenths use communicators to talk to their close ones back home.


Economic disparities--Poland's poverty, and western Europe's wealth--clearly are the biggest motivating factor. There's no question that if it's easier to earn funds for a better standard of material living in one areas of the world than in another, then barring state sanction migrants are going to go from the less favoured area to the more favoured area. Another, often overlooked reason for migration, however, might be found in the public cultures of the receiving and sending areas.

Last July, young Polish author Dorota Masłowska complained in the Guardian Weekly about the prospects for Poland's baby boom generation. Chances for good jobs and a decent standard of living mattered, but what Masłowska argued was the deciding factor for many potential emigrants was the new populist conservatism of the Kaczynski government.

In October 2005, Lech Kaczynski, the candidate for the rightwing party with the Orwellian name "Law and Justice", gained 54% of the popular vote in the presidential elections. I remember how my friends and I mourned that evening, how we sent each other texts: "It can't be true! This can't be happening!"

Polls showed that Kaczynski had mostly been elected by country people with poor educations. But what about the other half of society, what about the young people, who don't want to take an A-level in religious studies or take part in lessons on "natural methods of birth control"?

For me, what is happening in the political arena is simply obscene. And the weeks and months ahead look likely to bring new waves of unheard of political pornography. Underground clubs are being closed down. Programmes where someone intends to discuss fascism are taken off the air. Others are censored. One well-known feminist was practically lynched after she made a joke on a talk show about our so-called "rosary circles". In the name of national values, our president recently had a major row with the Germans because in some satirical paper they called him a "potato". We all blushed with shame as we watched him slugging it out day after day on TV.

At the same time he aims to introduce so-called "patriotism lessons" into schools. And since the leader of the "League of Polish Families" and "All-Poland Youth" became Minister for Education, measuring his success in stones thrown at demonstrators during "Equality Marches" (please note the hallucinatory quality of these titles), demonstrations by young people, students and teachers have become an everyday occurrence.

They estimate that 1 to 2 million people have recently left Poland. They are not the deranged pensioner brigade, the so-called "mohairs" in their fluffy hats. Those people feel very at ease in a Poland where every second person crossing the road is a policeman, and fewer and fewer drivers are jumping red lights, and hardly anyone puts their feet up on public benches any more or drinks beer in the park. At last.

The reason for the peace and quiet is that young Poles have packed their suitcases instead. And not just because of their lack of prospects, but because of all the extra law and justice.


Masłowska's view has some merit. Ireland, in the generation after independence, experienced both heavy emigration and a sustained decline in income relative to its European peers, to the point of partly depopulating during the 1950s. Conventional wisdom has it that the cause might be found at least partly in the decidedly conservative policies of the Irish state, preoccupied by the nationalist reaction to the independence and partition of Ireland and giving control over social policy and education to the Church and conservative nationalists in such a way as to hinder Ireland's shift from an idealized conservative rural society into a culture more typical of modern Europe.

Might Poland be following the pattern of mid-century Ireland? That the emigration began despite strong economic growth, and that the emigrants are still connected to Poland, suggests it could be. Since Masłowska wrote her article, between foreign-policy conflicts with Germany and Russia the Kaczynski government has gone on to attract criticism for its homophobic policies, including the illegal creation of a police database on Polish gays and the gay community and the dedication of units of the Health Ministry to helping people look out for gays, who will hopefully be cured--if they don't leave for Britain, that is. At the same time that the Polish government and its health ministry is trying to police the moral health of the Polish nation, and despite hoping to encourage a higher birth rate among Polish women in part to compensate for Poland's emigration, maternity wards in Polish hospitals are facing very serious problems, overstretched by the sheer number of women born in the baby boom of the 1980s--Masłowska's generation--who are starting to become mothers themselves.

To help the already stretched healthcare system, hospitals offer some services for additional fees and the government turns a blind eye on this practice.

In maternity hospitals it has become normal to charge women about 700 zlotys ($240) for painkillers during childbirth and some 900 zlotys for nursing care -- more than the equivalent of the minimum monthly wage.

But the difficulties have not discouraged the government from pushing its campaign for more births.

One traditionalist party in the ruling coalition wants to encourage more women to stay at home to have children and is also lobbying for a total ban on abortion in Poland, which already has some of the toughest regulations in Europe.

"The politicians think that forcing women to give birth to all children -- healthy, sick, wanted and unplanned -- will increase the natural growth," said Monika Rejer, a midwife in a maternity hospital.

"On the contrary, what they are doing is really discouraging women from having babies at all and, certainly given these conditions, in hospitals."


The examples of mid-century Ireland and modern Poland bring to mind the lessons of economist and urban theorist Richard Florida and his extensive writings on "creative class", defined by him as a population of workers devoted to the manipulation and the creation of what Bourdieu called cultural capital: lawyers, software programmers, scientists, writers, and others. According to Florida, the ability of cities to support the sort of cultural diversity that attracts these free-minded, comfort-seeking people plays a critical role in sustaining the overall economic growth of cities, especially in the context of increasing international competition for these workers and the industries associated with them. In the case of Poland, an overly close association of the country with a whole set of public policies considered reactionary by European standards--state-sponsored homophobia, crude pro-natalist policies driven by a latent hostility towards women's autonomy and comfort, a nationalism that can be perceived as xenophobic--not only would do little to attract immigrants, but it would do much to drive away Poland's native population. This appearance, in the context of a increasing intra-European and global competition for skilled workers, is almost certainly a major problem for Poland, for how long can it continue its strong post-Communist growth without workers (new workers, and skilled workers) to produce and consume?

13 comments:

Latvian abroad said...

I think I disagree with the conclusions. When I hear of university-educated people taking up manual jobs in UK... my immediate association is an underpaid Latvian teacher becoming cleaner in UK, because their Latvian salary is too low.

It takes a lot to take up a much lower-qualified job... a simple dissatisfaction with Kaczynski's would be too little, in my opinion. Being underpaid in a major way or having a degree in a field that has no decently-paid jobs in Poland... that would certainly be enough.

The second reason why is disagree is the assumption that the "creative class" must necessarily be politically liberal. Belonging to the "creative class" myself (IT part of it) and judging by my "creative class" friends back in Latvia... I'd say that's quite far from true. Latvia doesn't have (and never had) anything like Poland-type social conservatism but there's a fair number of Latvian nationalists with "creative class" backgrounds. The upstart far-nationalist party, "All for Latvia" has more of a weblog presence than any other political movement.

Randy said...

Florida's theories do have their flaws, but I think that they do point in interesting directions.
Economics clearly plays a major if not dominant role in migration-related decisions, but culture might help people who are deciding whether to stay and wait out the current difficulties or to leave and enjoy something better more quickly. If a potential migrant is (for instance) a woman who wants a good chance at starting a career, or belongs to a sexual minority, or is unattracted by the vision of state-enforced piety, knowing that your country is run by ideologues who wants things to operate in a way such that you'll be unhappy could easily push said towards potential migrant towards the decision to leave.

Similarly, people who have their choice of countries to immigrate to are going to think twice about going to countries where they might be unpopular because of their national background. That's one reason why Spain has managed to attract Latin Americans who might otherwise have immigrated to the United States, and why non-American English-language universities have attracted students who would have gone to schools in the states but for the post-9/11 visa restrictions.

romanian abroad said...

The Guardian Weekly piece is a gross manipulation. There is freedom in Romania, in many fields more freedom than in Western Europe (think not stopping at the red lights, the example given, but also think of gambling, alcohol etc.) Still people leave the country in droves. They are half the population of Poland, yet it is believed there are one million Romanians in Spain and another million in Italy.
It's even worse in similarly free Bulgaria, where one of nine million is in Western Europe and USA.
It has nothing to do with the Polish government view on religion and religion-regulated issues, which only reflects a centuries-old way of thinking in the Polish society.

MarcZ said...

That's one reason why Spain has managed to attract Latin Americans who might otherwise have immigrated to the United States

Randy,

Do you really think that Spainards are more welcoming of Latin American immigrants than Americans? Polls show most Spainards think immigration is the number one problem in their country and that immigration rates are too high. That hardly seems welcoming.

I think Latin Americans who go to Spain do so because of the common language.

As for Poland, I personally would not want to live in nation with state-enforced piety, where things are not set up to permit women (and men) to balance work and family life, and where the rights of homosexuals are not respected. But nor do I particularly enjoy living in a country (which I do) where the rights of the unborn are trampled on in the name of progress.

My point is, is that for every person who might flee Poland because it is too conservative in some respect, another might flee because it is too liberal should the ideologies of those in power change. Failure to mention this leaves this theory open to Latvian Abroad's critique that it relies on the prejudice that all intelligent people are liberals.

Sorry, but no.

Aslak said...

Marcz,
I admit I don't have any data on this, but my impression is that Spaniards are worried about immigration from Africa, both North Africa and the current influx of Sub-Saharan boat people to the Canary Islands.

For the rest I too tend to think that economics and unemployment is the main driver of migration. I doubt the social conservatism in Poland is sufficiently repressive to cause anyone but a very small minority to move

Edward Hugh said...

Hi everyone,

Well lots of interesting points here.

"Being underpaid in a major way or having a degree in a field that has no decently-paid jobs in Poland... that would certainly be enough."

I agree with the general consensus here that wage differentials are a main driver of the migrant flows which are taking place, and since these wage differentials are large, and likely to remain so, the flows are likely to continue, and this in itself is a cause for concern.

OTOH, I think Randy may well have a point when it comes to peoples decision about whether or not to *return* home at some point.

Obviously other factors - like whether or not you have bought a home in your new country, or met a partner there - may also play a part, but I can't help feeling that the cultural factor may also come in at this point.

If the loss of younger, more globally open, people makes a country even more socially conservative, then this can be a self-reinforcing mechanism, leading the origin country to be slower to change, and helping swing decisions among those who feel comfortable in their new country of adoption about whether or not to return.

On the creativity issue, I would say that there is a broad consensus in the migration literature, that, other things being equal, those who take the decision to migrate are people with rather more initiative (for example the sort of people who might set up their own business) than those who decide to stay.

The other things being equal part is important as a qualifier here, since as Latvian Abroad indicates, you can't compare those who find good opportunities in their home country with those who are having, for whatever reason, a hard time of it.

But this does mean that the receiving countries are major beneficiaries of migration, since they tend to attract the best in each category, much to the disadvantage of the sending country.

On specific points.

Romanian abroad said:

"yet it is believed there are one million Romanians in Spain and another million in Italy."

I think your numbers are on the high side here. In Spain we do have reasonably accurate numbers, since to have a chance to regularise (see more on this below) you need to be on the local town hall register. You also need to register to get free health care and education for your children, so the numbers are *reasonably* accurate, and according to the most recent data there were about half a million Romanians in Spain as of 1 January 2007. Of course Romanians continue to arrive, and funnily enough I passed a coachload of your compatriots on the motorway on my way home to Barcelona this afternoon.

I have also looked through the Italian ISTAT data at one point, and while this is much less reliable since they have no official data on undocumented migrants, the data we do have via the regularisations suggest that your number again may be rather high. If we say there are 500,000 in Spain, then I would guess about 250,000 (ie more or less half) in Italy, since this would fit in with the much lower rate of inward migration into Italy, which has much lower economic growth and has not had a major housing boom.

This does NOT mean that the flow out of Romania is not without importance, quite the contrary, and indeed the flow may now be accelerating after accession. This is obviously going to have quite serious labour shortage consequences back in Romania, especially since the official unemployment rate seems to be only around 2.5%.

In turn I have the impression that Romania is "emptying out" Moldava, and would be grateful for any perspective you can offer on all this. Basically, if the Baltics crash for credit boom and labour supply reasons, unfortunately Romania and Bulgaria may not be too far behind. I was reading only this morning that land prices in Romania were now 5 times their equivalents in Poland.

Cultural factors, incidentally, may play a part in explaining why Romanians and Bulgraians are in the south of Europe, and Poles and Latvians in the North.

Mark said:

"Do you really think that Spainards are more welcoming of Latin American immigrants than Americans?"

Well, I would say that the evidence on two counts is yes, using "welcoming" in a more extensive sense.

In the first, and clearest case, any undocumented migrant (including Latin Americans) who remains illegally in Spain for 3 years and at the end of this time has a work contract on offer may immediately "regularise" their situation and become legal (this is the importance of registering). So Latin American migrants can confidently come to Spain (often entering on a tourist visa, another way in which Spain is more welcoming) and KNOW that in three years they can start the process of becoming a European citizen. In the US, unfortunately there are still some 11 million "illegals" who don't know whether they will ever be able to become US citizens.

Using "welcoming" more broadly, it is also important to remember that most migrants want to send money home, and in this context the rapid rise of the euro in relation to the dollar has certainly made Spain much more of a pole of attraction.

"Polls show most Spainards think immigration is the number one problem in their country and that immigration rates are too high."

I think you need to be careful with these polls. What you say is true, but what people are mainly concerned about is that fact that all these migrant flows are irregular, and the majority of people would like to see a more regularised flow. Also the volume has been enormous, much bigger proportionately than the comparative flows in the US - nearly 5 million people in 6 years - and again people are somewhat reeling from this, in the way the UK is reeling under the volume of Poles who have arrived, but this doesn't mean that either the UK or Spain are about to become immigrant "unfriendly" countries, they just need a bit more time to digest the volumes, that is all.

Indeed I have been really surprised by how many people in Spain have rapidly come to understand that the future of their pensions is tied in with the arrival of migrants. There is virtually no disagreement with this perspective among those responsible for public policy.

Aslak said:

"I admit I don't have any data on this, but my impression is that Spaniards are worried about immigration from Africa"


Yep, I am sure you are right here. All though, while some of this is racism, by no means all of it is. When people say they are concerned about immigration this means a lot of things, among which is that the government should do more to stop people dying in the sea.

In this context it is interesting to note that the government has taken an initiative to address these concerns: they have opened offices in Senegal to organize legal shipments of temporary migrant workers into Spain.

Edward Hugh said...

Just to add a few points of my own. What is happening in Poland is, of course, only one example of a much bigger phenomenon.

Migrants are flowing at an accelerating rate along a downward slope which stretches from Uzbekistan to Ireland. This is perhaps one of the clearest signs we have of the way globalisation is steadily gathering pace. The other indicator here would be the rate of financial flows, and the way that central banks are increasingly having difficulty controlling the situation. See, for example, this post from Claus about the very important paper the Danish economist Carsten Valgreen presented at a conference in Madrid this month. (Buttonwood at the Economist also had a piece about this paper as it concerns Latvia only last week).

Now one thing is reasonably clear to me at this point, and that is that the institutional and political discourse is way behind the curve as regards the rapidity and magnitude of all this.

Also, as I say, we need to think about the sorts of things Randy is talking about way beyond Poland. In Russia for example.


As we have been seeing, the Russophone stock in CIS countries like Uzbekistan is being rapidly depleted, with the consequence that the ethnic composition of the flows into Russia is changing significantly.

This is predictably provoking a sharp change in reactions back home in "Mother Russia". One illustration would be the recent demands coming from the Moscow municipal authorities to restrict inward migration, or another would be this piece in the St Petersburg Times about the demographic future and "ethnic composition" of the city.

As Randy points out attitudes towards gays and ethnic minorites give us some sort of barometer about how sending societies are handling the rapid cultural transition which occurs as they have to look for ever newer sources of labour supply.


One illustration would be the recent demands coming from the Moscow municipal authorities to restrict inward migration into Russia itself, or another would be this piece in the St Petersburg Times about the demographic future and "ethnic composition" of the city.

Also this piece in the International Herald Tribune on gays in Russia couldn't but catch my eye.

The point is, these societies are not only losing young citizens outwards as migrants, they are also ageing rapidly, and the concern must be that such processes could create circumstances where the negative consequences of migration for the sending country only serve to reinforce the situation.

We simply don't know what the consequences of having ageing electorates all over the place are going to be.

Also I found this link from the Institute for War and Peace which gives some indication of the extent of the problems which are arising in Uzbekistan.

And indeed one of the concerns which democrats there are voicing is the impact of the outward movement on internal attempts to achieve changes, though on balance in this case I think the return flow of ideas is likely to be beneficial rather than detrimental:

“I think the authorities are very worried that [Uzbek] citizens are not under their control, and may bring back awkward ideas such as the fact that people live better in Russia, and questions about why we live like this in Uzbekistan,” he said.

Yoldashev added, “They’re gathering information about people who are dissidents and who have left the country…. The government wants to have precise statistics about people who leave the country in order to know who they can put pressure on.”

But Khudoiberganov warns that imposing taxes on people who have left the country to work will only make people leave permanently – either by acquiring Russian citizenship or by applying for refugee status. This is already happening, according to one farm manager, who said life in the other former Soviet republics looked increasingly attractive compared with the repressive atmosphere in Uzbekistan. “They feel themselves beyond the surveillance of the state, and naturally they ask why people can’t live like this in Uzbekistan,” he said. “We all live next door to each other, in countries which at one time were pursuing the same path of development.” Whatever the authorities do to curb the flow of emigration, Yoldashev says people will continue to go, to escape economic hardship and lack of opportunities. “It’s practically impossible to stop this process. Whatever the authorities do, people need to eat and you can’t sew their mouths shut,” he said.

MarcZ said...

I think you need to be careful with these polls. What you say is true, but what people are mainly concerned about is that fact that all these migrant flows are irregular, and the majority of people would like to see a more regularised flow.

Um, what evidence do you have for this?

Also the volume has been enormous, much bigger proportionately than the comparative flows in the US - nearly 5 million people in 6 years - and again people are somewhat reeling from this, in the way the UK is reeling under the volume of Poles who have arrived, but this doesn't mean that either the UK or Spain are about to become immigrant "unfriendly" countries, they just need a bit more time to digest the volumes, that is all.

Let me see if I can wrap my head around this. While polls show that 89% of Spainards think "too many immigrants" are coming to Spain, and you yourself admit that the number entering Spain has been huge, you don't think the people are going to move to restrict immigration (i.e. enact their wishes for their country via the law) because that would be... what, rude? Not nice? This is where I stumble. You think people are just going to do nothing, while something that 90% see as a problem for their country compounds. That's an interesting conclusion. Is the entire country catatonic?

(Poll referenced here, can't do a link, sorry...
http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/index.cfm/fuseaction/viewItem/itemID/13135)

Indeed I have been really surprised by how many people in Spain have rapidly come to understand that the future of their pensions is tied in with the arrival of migrants. There is virtually no disagreement with this perspective among those responsible for public policy.

Yes, and in America there is a broad consensus among those responsible for public policy that all immigration is good immigration, and we should have more immigration - always more! That doesn't mean that the majority of Americans want to see their counry transformed into a Latin American nation. Most of us do not, and we smacked down the Senate's recent attempt at doing so pretty hard. Similarly, I doubt most Spainards want to see their country transformed into an African colony. There are limits to what people will put up with, even if their pensions are on the line.

Edward Hugh said...

Hi again Matc

"Um, what evidence do you have for this?"

Well, just living here really. Talking to people, listening to what they say, in the shops, that sort of thing. Listening to the radio, watching TV, reading the papers, and.... oh yes... looking at the latest local election results.

There were several hard line anti-immigrant parties who stood in these elections, and they did get a few more votes here and there, but nothing significant. There was however a significant rise in abstention, and I do think that was related to *unease* about the unregulated way that all of this is happening. I think this is a concern. Nearly 5 million migrants have entered Spain *illegally" and then legalised, that is what I think people would like to see changed. People would like to see Spain become a country which they feel was more *normal*, ie where there are laws, and people attempt to enforce them, even though I don't think they would want them enforcing rigidly. Spain, in this sense *is* "different".

"you don't think the people are going to move to restrict immigration (i.e. enact their wishes for their country via the law) because that would be... what, rude?"

No. I think what I am saying is that most people want something doing, but to regulate the flows, not to stop them. I think they know that economic growth (if it doesn't suddenly schreech to a halt now this sub-prime thing has started to come here) depends on having migrants to replace the people who retire since there are fewer children in this current generation.

"That doesn't mean that the majority of Americans want to see their counry transformed into a Latin American nation."

Look Marc, I'm not trying to tell you what the US should do. I don't think that is up to me. Citizens in the US should act as they see fit, and as they feel to be in their own long run interests. But then you can't criticise us here in Spain either if we accept the Latin American migrants that you don't want. That was where this whole conversation started I think.

Latvian abroad said...

Edward,

what did you mean by this?

Cultural factors, incidentally, may play a part in explaining why Romanians and Bulgraians are in the south of Europe, and Poles and Latvians in the North.

It sounds like an interesting theory but I don't get it.

Regarding Poland, I also would like to emphasize two distinctions. First, between

a) a government politician making noises about more piety;
b) society actually shifting into the direction of emphasizing more piety.

And second, between

a) the most liberal (or most conservative) segment of population using "we will leave because of that" as a debate argument;
b) substantial part of population actually basing the decisions to leave/to return on social issues.

I'm pretty sure we are seeing the a) part of both of those in Poland. I'm not convinced yet we are seeing b).

Randy said...

Latvian Abroad:

I like the distinction that you make between

a) the most liberal (or most conservative) segment of population using "we will leave because of that" as a debate argument;
b) substantial part of population actually basing the decisions to leave/to return on social issues.


I think that there's a good case to be made that Poland might be experiencing situation b. Marcz argued that the discomfort of left-leaning people in Poland might be comparable to that of right-leaning people elsewhere:

As for Poland, I personally would not want to live in nation with state-enforced piety, where things are not set up to permit women (and men) to balance work and family life, and where the rights of homosexuals are not respected. But nor do I particularly enjoy living in a country (which I do) where the rights of the unborn are trampled on in the name of progress.

The difference is that, presumably, the country where MarcZ lives doesn't require--for instance--mandatory abortion from all of its citizens regardless of their individual moral consciences. The Kaczynski government in Poland, in marked contrast, is trying to pressure people to follow particular moral dogmas. These dogmas may well, as Romanian Abroad suggests, be deeply rooted in Polish culture, but I'm not sure what any authority has been recognized by all the relevant parties as having any right to monolithically Polish culture as anything.

Does economics play a primary role in Polish emigration? Yes, clearly. A good case can also be made that cultural tensions within Poland plays a secondary role, and that these tensions might well play a primary role for some potential emigrants, and could also discourage potential immigrants. If cultural differences become political issues, and if politics has precipitated waves of emigration in the past, then ...

Edward Hugh said...

Latvian Abroad said:

"what did you mean by this?"

Cultural factors, incidentally, may play a part in explaining why Romanians and Bulgraians are in the south of Europe, and Poles and Latvians in the North.

"It sounds like an interesting theory but I don't get it."

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a theory, but it is a sort of (anecdotally based) hunch I have.

First off, of course, immigrants tend to go where there are other immigrants from their own culture. All the studies show that networking factors are important.

But this leaves us with deciding how the first, or earliest, arrivals get to where they are (the so-called 'heroes', since they face the most adverse conditions). Clearly random factors play a big role here, and thus these are processes which are very dependent on their "initial conditions".

We have a very large and significant Pakistani population in the centre of Barcelona, for example. This may be the biggest of its kind on mainland Europe. Now how did it get here? My guess is (and it is only a guess, based on some conversations with early arrivals) is that the community started with people who had been working somewhere or other in the Arabian gulf, and then tried to find a way to head up towards relatives already established in the UK. They got as far as Barcelona, found the going difficult, and decided to stay put.

As I say this is just a guess, but accidental phenomena like these can change the whole face of cities. This is important to remember in the present context where flows are so rapid and so large.

Now my impression of why Romanians and Bulgarians may be more comfortable moving into Southern Europe is based on a number of observations.

In the first place, this division between North and South in migrant flows has origins which pre-date the 2004 EU8 accession decisions. Bulgarians, for example, started to arrive in significant numbers in Spain post 1998, ie after their economic crisis. There were very few Poles here at this point. Mainly the Poles seemed to have been busying themselves trying to enter Germany or France. One Bulgarian who came to Spain at about this time explained the rather comic incident he experienced where he and two other Bulgarians (travelling on forged Czech passports) took a bus from Poland headed for Paris. At the German frontier all the rest of the passengers (who were Poles) were made to alight, but the "Bulgarian-Czechs" were left on board to continue their trip on a largely empty bus.

I don't know when the first Poles who fired up the latest wave (I mean obviously there was a large post WW2 community) started arriving in the UK, but I wouldn't mind betting you could find early flows in 2002 and 2003.

In the second place, I did do some qualitative research into one Bulgarian community here in Spain (we did in-depth interviews with 22 people from a variety of different cultural backgrounds) and I was very struck by the way people identified with the whole "Latin culture" idea.

Bulgaria has had tensions between majority and minority cultures, but it is surprising how, for example at the level of popular music, you can see an influence from the southern part of the Mediterranean, just like in Spain.

Also, the Bulgarians have the figure of Baj Ganjo, created by the novelist Aleko Konstatinov. I was surprised by the wry smiles and positive responses I got when this name was mentioned.

So I would say, yes, there are Latin features you can see in Bulgarian social and cultural life, ones that you don't find in the Polish , Estonian or Latvian ones.

Romanian is, of course, a Latin language in its origins, and again, if you look at the list of positive freedoms Romanian Abroad mentions:

"think not stopping at the red lights, the example given, but also think of gambling, alcohol etc."

Actually, alcohol would be another area, since while vast quantities are consumed in Spain, this is not normally done in an open, public, setting (the Basques are again different here) like it is in the UK, where people often uncork the wine hours before getting into the food. Alcohol in Spain is traditionally consumed around a table where there is food. If you go into a Spanish bar and ask for a straight "coup de vin", as would be quite normal in say France, you will almost certainly get frowned upon.

Again, with the Bulgarians, I couldn't help noticing the association between rakia and food, as well as the incipient sexism where the women go off to the kitchen to prepare things while the men talk.

The Dutch organisational scientist Geert Hofstede developed in the 1970s a theory of cultural dimensions (based on the idea of low vs. high power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long vs. short term orientation) and I think there is something in all of this, and this view can help understand how people are attracted more to one culture than another.

It can also help us understand why, for example, MarcZ doesn't feel expecially attracted by the "Latin" qualities the US Latinos bring with them, while over here in Spain these qualities are not seen as especially threatening, or why people saying that they are "very worried" about immigration doesn't imply (as it almost certainly would do in a North European setting) a hostility to migrants. Not least of the reasons for not making this assumption would be the fact that most Spanish families have members who, in the recent past, have been migrants themselves, and that tends to make them rather sympathetic to the whole migrant situation.

Latvian abroad said...

Thanks for the explanation, Edward! It was very interesting.