Tracing the Journey of Cross-cultural Adaptation by Polish Migrant Women in Ireland
Increasing mobility amongst migrants in Europe has raised awareness for people’s specific migration experiences. This paper explores the cross-cultural experiences of Polish migrant women in Ireland, and their adjustment to Irish culture. Since EU accession on 1st May 2004, more than 200,000 Polish migrants arrived in Ireland and changed the face of Ireland considerably. Poles are generally expected to adjust very well for their perceived similar background of being Catholic and sharing a similar history of emigration and foreign occupation with the Irish. One may ask whether those similarities make life easier for Polish women than for other migrants here and how life in Ireland compares to their lives at home in Poland? On the surface, Polish women appear to ‘get along very well’. Underneath this surface, a different pattern emerges that questions their straightforward adaptation. From in-depth semi-structured interviews it appears that they are very attached to home and their families at home; they buy Polish food and mainly socialise with other Poles. Maintaining home culture traditions and behaviour is imperative to their process of adaptation. At the same time, they adopt host culture behaviour and follow, for instance, some host culture socialisation patterns by socialising with their colleagues outside home after work. This contrasting behaviour has impact on their cultural identity that changes over time as a result of their migration experience. In this paper, I wish to explore the women’s cultural identity, how it differs to the host’s identity and the changes brought about as a result of being exposed to another culture. One key aspect portraying the differences between Polish and Irish identity is friendship. Polish women are, for instance, strongly attached to their przyjaciółka, who is more than a friend, and for which exists no word in the English language.
Keywords: Cross-cultural Adaptation, Cultural Identity, Friendship, Socialisation Patterns, Host/Home Culture
Dr. Katharina Storch
PhD candidate, School of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies, Humanities and Social Sciences