The following account was given to the museum, as part of the forthcoming community exhibition with the Multicultural Friendship Association. We will be sharing more stories with you over the next few months. Many thanks to Natalia and other participating members of the Multicultural Friendship Association.
It has been fifteen years since I first arrived in the UK, in London to be exact. I will never forget the overwhelming mix of emotions when I stepped into the city that I never thought I would be able to travel to, never mind live and work in. So many different cultures and languages, not to mention coffee shops on every corner and just overall abundance of everything. For someone who lived all her life in a small town (population of 15,000), London was like the whole world in one place. As most of my Polish friends, I did not speak English and was never planning to stay too long, just long enough to learn the language and earn enough to get me by.
My first job was in customer services in KFC where I have learnt some of my first English words like: chicken thighs, drumsticks, corn on the cob etc. I was always confused when customers would greet me with ‘alright mate’. I remember thinking: “why would they call me ‘mate’, not knowing what that means. I was also shocked by how many regular KFC customers we had and how “take away” culture was a norm in this country.
Fast-forward fifteen years and I am accustomed to take-aways, eating out, tea with milk (another mind-blowing British “thing”). However, to this day I would never greet anyone with “alright mate”.