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Is this casual racism on my mums part? Aibu in thinking so?

(145 Posts)
Dinosaur1991 Wed 29-Jun-16 09:52:46

My mum works in a big supermarket so obviously serves many customers a day. Yesterday she said that 99% of polish people she serves are rude and ignorant, very much implying that this is how she feels about Polish people in general. She doesn't think there's anything wrong with this as it's just her opinion and got huffy with me when I said I don't want it said around my son. Is she being slightly racist or am I massively overreacting?

x2boys Wed 29-Jun-16 09:59:39

Yes i think you are being a bit unresonable shes just saying the polish customers she has served are rude and ignorant shes not saying polish people as a whole are there was a thread on here last week saying polish women were all very slim hmm but my ds friends mum who is polish is far from slim.

RedHelenB Wed 29-Jun-16 10:01:36

In her experience that may well be true so no, not racist. Must say thePolish children I encounter usually have good manners but where English is a second language it may be harder for the parents to sound polite perhaps?

Blablabla1984 Wed 29-Jun-16 10:07:21

Regardless of if it's racist or not she shouldn't be saying stuff like that in front of kids. Kids do repeat what adults say and sometimes make things bigger than they are. So you don't want your little one saying: my grandma says Polish people are rude.

So i am with you in this OP, YANBU!!

aginghippy Wed 29-Jun-16 10:07:32

YANBU and not overreacting. I would be the same.

How does she know who is Polish anyway? hmm Do people now have to show ID to go through the checkout?

It's just her opinion, sure. Just like some people might have an opinion that Jews are stingy and black people are lazy. It's still prejudice.

NikiSaintPhalle Wed 29-Jun-16 10:14:16

If she hasn't travelled much outside this country herself, she may be entirely unaware of how very different the concept of ordinary 'politeness' is even between geographically close European countries.

I can't speak to Poland and Poles specifically as I've never been there, and all the Poles I know were functioning in a second or third language in another country, but I can think of several other European countries where the level of politeness generally used in the UK in, say, an interaction with someone on the checkout of a supermarket, would be seen as insanely over-elaborate.

There are languages which don't have a word for 'please', for instance, because you would indicate politeness by using a more formal version of verb and pronoun, and sometimes when native speakers of those languages function in English they can seem abrupt and rude without any such intention.

thecatsarecrazy Wed 29-Jun-16 10:29:35

I think it was more to do with them not having great English though. For e.g if I say would you like a bag? They just say no, or i get give me bag. Comes across as rude but they're are normally more polite once they have been served. Also I encounter far more twatty english people who don't use any manners.

Dinosaur1991 Wed 29-Jun-16 10:34:50

I asked her whether it could potentially be a language issue but she claims, "but they understand perfectly when I ask them for their loyalty card". She has always been one for sweeping statements and I usually just don't comment to keep the peace but as I said my son was there and I don't want her to feel she can say this in front of him.

Birdsgottafly Wed 29-Jun-16 10:38:05

""How does she know who is Polish anyway? hmm Do people now have to show ID to go through the checkout?""

Having conversations in Polish, to their companions, or on the phone, is usually a give away.

As said, they're are cultural differences in the way nationalities communicate. I have found certain ones more brusque, this includes relatives.

This is about accepting difference and then not stereotyping everyone of that culture that you meet.

LemonScentedStickyBat Wed 29-Jun-16 10:45:51

Back in the '80s I remember my (immigrant!) parents getting to know a black person and liking him - apparently the fact he was a nice bloke was the "exception that proved the rule" (just remembering this makes me feel ill - they have improved a LOT since then with regard to racist attitudes).

I think it's confirmation bias I'm thinking of - OP's mum met a couple of rude Polish people and now that's all she sees - ignoring the many perfectly polite people?

NikiSaintPhalle Wed 29-Jun-16 10:49:23

But understanding a language isn't the same as functioning in it like a native speaker and obeying its unspoken rules. In France it would be very rude to walk into a shop and just ask for what you wanted without first saying hello to the salesperson - in, say, Russia it wouldn't. Some people make an effort to act according to the rules of wherever they are, others consciously or unconsciously stick to the way they would behave at home.

MrsJayy Wed 29-Jun-16 10:57:57

Yes it is casual racism and sweeping generalisation although i have a few polish neighbours and they always sound brisk especialy if they are chatting amongs themselves . When i lived in my old house my neighbours were hungarian and polish and they always sounded like they were arguing even when they were talking to their toddler if they were speaking in their language i think its just how they sounded because they were not a bit rude

user1465823522 Wed 29-Jun-16 11:00:04

it is racist - sadly it's that causal every day racism that is so damaging.

MrsJayy Wed 29-Jun-16 11:06:52

Yes its the kind of comment that drips into peoples mind and stays and carrys on to the next person

scaryteacher Wed 29-Jun-16 11:54:40

I find that some Belgians don't do queueing, don't say thanks when you open a door for them, and they can be very direct, which I find rude. That's not racist; it's a commentary on the inhabitants of Belgium I encounter on a daily basis.

Some are great, my Belgian friend buys me a coffee when I bring her tea bags and a craft magazine back from UK.

I find my Polish cleaner a tad rude when she arranges a time for me to pick her up, and then alters it at the last minute. We communicate in French though,,as my Polish and her English are non existent. Her speech when on the phone to a fellow Pole is very rapid and staccato and sounds very brisk.

Numberoneisgone Wed 29-Jun-16 12:00:49

There are often cultural reasons for other people seeming rude to us. For instance saying please and thank you is drilled into our kids in some other cultures a tip of the head serves the same purpose.

A lot of my Easyern European friends are way more straight to the point than my Irish ones, I am Irish, but we love a good talk around a subject, they are more direct. I think on this constant bid to stamp out racism we seem to think that cultures everywhere are homogenous but that simply is not true.

Your mother is wrong about the entire Polish population being rude but maybe they do not share her cultural background.

RiceCrispieTreats Wed 29-Jun-16 12:09:01

Yes, it's casual racism.

No, yanbu to to think so. And you really should pull her up on it when she makes such statements in front of your DC, or they will learn that it is acceptable to disparage others on the basis of nationality.

jennasmith951 Wed 29-Jun-16 12:09:13

I don't think its appropriate to say that in front of a kid, cause then the kid is going to grow up to have racist views. Moreover, you cannot generalize about the whole population of a country based on just some people you have met. There are good and bad people from all nationalities and races.

DaphneCanDoBetterThanFred Wed 29-Jun-16 12:18:54

Not Polish, but have been told by my Polish students that their culture (and possibly Russian too) is really different when it comes to smiling. Smiling too much comes across as dishonest or kind of annoying and they think it would be really weird to smile at a stranger, or at who's serving you in a supermarket. Don't know of course if that's true for every Polish person in the entire world, and I've certainly met lots of smiley Polish people, but may go some way towards explaining what your mum is experiencing.

TL;DR: they're not "rude", and cultural differences exist.

And they really do. I lived abroad in a country that was over the top polite, customer is king, staff are scum who must lick customer's boots etc etc, and also spent time in Denmark where customer service was .. quite minimal and a little bit scary. Was winter and freezing though, so I don't blame them grin

MrsJayy Wed 29-Jun-16 12:22:39

My dh found the American ott customer service weird says that they are far to bloody cheery for his liking to much chat apparently confused

WorraLiberty Wed 29-Jun-16 12:25:43

I don't believe her when she says 99%.

We have a large Polish and other EE countries community here, as well as a large African community. I am a lollipop lady and I meet a lot of foreign parents twice a day, every day.

The vast majority are absolutely lovely. Then again, that might be because I greet them with a big smile and a "Good morning/Good afternoon".

Has your Mum tried being bright and friendly to them? If she thinks 99% are rude and ignorant, I'll hazard a guess that she hasn't.

Nannawifeofbaldr Wed 29-Jun-16 12:25:59

Of course the Polish customers could be reacting to her manner towards them.

All the Polish people I know are lovely but when I was on holiday there I noticed that exchanges in shops were quite brusque so I would assume it's a cultural difference.

She absolutely shouldn't make sweeping statements in front of your son.

RedToothBrush Wed 29-Jun-16 12:33:42

If they are behaving differently to how you would expect a British person would, the first thing you do is ask 'why?'

It is only rude if the intent is rude.
Otherwise its just a clash of cultural expectations and norms.

SmillasSenseOfSnow Wed 29-Jun-16 12:34:28

Great posts from those who understand the gulf between different countries' social behaviours. I live outside the UK now and here the UK/American way of doing customer service and politeness in general (even extending to the phrase 'How do you do?') is seen as simply insincere and not to be copied.

When I lived in Germany (for nearly a year, and not the only significant time I'd spent there), despite speaking German to university level I felt utterly at sea in terms of what exactly you even talk to people about and how to express it in order to seem 'normal' and friendly and be accepted.

I think many people who haven't experienced this may grasp that speaking a foreign language is not simply literal translation, but may not grasp the extent to which that is true. The things you might want to say/convey might be expressed in a way far different in another language - but more than that, it the very things you want to say may not be things any local would ever think to say in conversation, and will get a confused/shocked response. It can take a long time to dare to say or do anything in a foreign country once you realise this, and any time you do try to be friendly or polite you can end up analysing the response you got over and over, trying to work out whether it was received well or not.

littleprincesssara Wed 29-Jun-16 12:35:03

Of course it's bloody racist!

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