(5 construction site workers)

Why they came?

  1. Every case is for sure different. Me, I was working in Poland and I wanted to change my way of life most of all. To have a possibility to earn more. In practical terms it made me to leave work and this is how I am here.
  2. Yes, it was similar in my case, I was working for a while in Poland, and my brother started working here, and well it happened that he brought me here, just to try. At the beginning I was cutting trees, fruit trees and I met Alf here. Because of him, I came here to construction site. So I started learning all these procedures on how it looks like this construction work. And because of it, I stayed. 10 – 11 years. So this it shows it goes, slowly but still forward.
  3. I was working, but the work has finished. I called my cousin and told him to organize work for me if he could. He was working here with Tomek, they organized it for me and so here I am. 5 years. Of course, it’s the earnings that are the reason to work here, because in Poland I would find something but surely not for the same money as here.
  4. Earlier I was working in Warsaw, and my future brother-in-law called me, that there is work at a farm. I guess it was in 2000. So I came to this farmer. The borders were at that time still closed, so all those controls, and checks, everything at the border. And this is how it started going because I was working at the farm for almost 2 years. And then they started opening borders and then all the construction site work started to be possible in Sweden because the police were not going after us. Before the borders were open, yes, they hunted when one worked in construction site. Controls were happening non-stop and it was difficult to enter Sweden, because on the border you have to tell everything: where are you going, for how many days, how much money you have and so on. But when they opened EU it was much easier to cross the border because there were no more controls, the construction work offers started and people started to trust polish workers, because before they treated us as the second category, to be honest earnings were so low, and as we entered EU also salaries have risen and so on. And Swedish employers trusted us more. And now it goes pretty well. It’s almost 15 years.
  5. It is next country I am living in. First one was Italy where I spend 6 years, then Slovakia where I worked 2 years, and now here in Sweden 4 years. The UK was just temporary, from time to time. Sweden is the best to work as salary is better. In Poland… well, Poland is Poland, you can work there, so so… Just to survive. But you cannot build a house, create better than average condition. All in all, I came here just for one month to help, and what? Coming for a month I stayed how long? 4 years. And this is how it goes.


We have quite a comfortable situation, we often visit Poland. Basically, we are working one month, or one month and a half, and then 2- 3 weeks we spend in the country.

Here we are in order to work, and to the country one goes to rest.

Well yes, but all in all, family stays at home […] with all the problems, with everything they have to deal alone. Or on skype. But when one comes home what a joy it is! Kids are so happy. All in all, kids are missing me the most. But it has to be like that for now.

Every year I promise that it is the last year.

We come here for holidays for a month with our families. We take kids, wives and we live here. At least they can see how the work looks like here, how Sweden looks like. Cool, that’s a pretty cool time, because it looks like it should, the family constellation, yes? Dad comes back from work, welcomes kids, plays with kids a little, has time for kids. Otherwise, it is all limited to phone calls and Skype conversations, and then it ends.

Maybe one day in Poland there will be the same conditions as here so that one can earn like here, so you don’t have to go abroad for money.

Our stay here looks like that: we go to work, we come back from work. Only Sunday is free when we can rest. It’s all about work, food and sleep. From time to time we go somewhere like to the shop, for sale, to the flea market, so then something is happening. But otherwise… autumn comes, grey, gloomy, and one is only waiting for Sunday.

Life slips by, years are passing, and we are standing in the same place.

To be honest, the departure causes that in some way a person distance himself from one another, and to be honest this is how it is if there were not phone calls, Skype, well… it’s good that we have such a wealth now that one can easily connect, yes […] but you have to make effort, so that everything is all right, otherwise… The main effort is kids, because it’s them that unite, yes? But for the kids[1], there could be no marriage. Well, there are a lot of separations. […] Swedish have this system that for them family does not exist for itself, they only have kids, if something is wrong they split up and the kid goes from mother to father. In a situation like ours, no Swedish person would withstand. I don’t know but it would be hard for them to maintain a long-distance relationship as we have. It requires a lot of abnegations, and it’s not that easy. There are problems, there are sicknesses of kids, there are sometimes such situations at home that one really does stress out while at work. Lately, I was also driving down to Poland because my younger daughter was sick and I have to rive down suddenly […] The stress is bigger as you are far-off and you cannot help because you are not there.


Daughter, she knows that I work and I must work so that we have money as she says and… For sure it is a separation with the daughter; we are not close-knit because she sees me only few times a year.

My son when he grew up he brought me his piggy bank so that I would not go aboard. He assured me that he has money.

Also my daughter having a rough time, she called me lately. „Daddy I miss you” my little one said. She’s only 4 years old. Sometimes she yells „Daddy, daddy”, and daddy is not there […]. Also when I depart they are holding my leg, because they don’t want that daddy leaves. But what can I do? They cry because they don’t want but it’s difficult to explain it to them.

My daughter when she was younger she thought that dad is in the telephone. When I came, I was someone else, because dad is in the telephone. So I was foreign.

When kids were younger, they were even afraid, when I came home, they were hiding. The kid runs forward, to the front, looks at you, and then runs back to mom all scared, because of being afraid as you were not there for a while.

It also influences upbringing as every kid needs a mother and a father. The kid spends all the time with mother, and then father comes home, you want to take initiative, and the kid does not want to listen. […] So all the upbringing we have to leave in hands of the mother. We are let’s say… on the side. In family life.

Would you consider staying at home while your wives would emigrate to work as you do now?

We do not see this option.

We are too jealous.

I can’t imagine that.

From X years men were emigrating for work and it should stay like that.

A man is the head of the family. He should earn and support the family.

A woman then is who? The neck that moves the head? I see. A man is the muscles and a woman is the mind.

I can’t imagine that I would be sitting 24 hours per day at home and think about the fact that my wife is working and I am upbringing kids. Well, there is some gender roles division, maybe its Old-Polish, but simply traditional.

I would lose my nerves. All the day at home, it is horribly exhausting.

But on the other hand one has to understand the wife that she also wants to rest sometimes from the kids, right? I come sometimes and say to my wife “go somewhere, I will stay with kids for a while” so that she can rest, psychologically speaking. Every day is the same, and the kids can harrow you.

The Swedes

The Swedes differ much from the Poles.

They are calmer. Settled down, how to say… they have all the buttons tied[2]. For example, there is a meeting certain hour and you have to be there on time. And a Pole would not care about that and would come 2 or 3 hours later. And they 5 minutes after agreed time call you or text you. And so it is. It is sacred for them when you set up a time – you have to be there.

Ample cultural differences are most important. Poles as a nation want to do everything very fast, for now, and here it’s calmer, everything goes slower, entire life. Without stress. They live healthier, without stress, without nerves. They are not absorbed as we are.

But Swedes are not operational, hands-on, efficient, because they sometimes have to do something, and he doesn’t have a vision how to do it. Even, I don’t know, change a tire in care or something, they have a dilemma, he would stay and contemplate how to do it. He is not hands-on, doesn’t have how-to as Poles. A Pole would come, even when he doesn’t have a spanner he would unscrew every bolt, sometimes by having an idea only.

He is working only in his profession. He is trained in this and only in this he will be working. And among us – who is working in their profession?

Everything we take to our hands we will do, and a Swede only what he specialize in, and he will not do anything else, only in his profession, that’s it. That’s why as Poles we can manage abroad, there is a possibility of adaptation to various conditions that exist. We are like chameleons. We know how to deal with basically all the situations. There are different solutions on construction site and one has to manage.

But it’s interesting the Swedish nation, very interesting. Old Vikings…

Regarding comfort…. Well… A small house is sufficient for them, they do not strive for building houses or so. Here [in Poland] everyone builds houses or something, everyone aims at developing himself, have your supply base and your own nest.

They do not attach to material goods, for which we are starving and we want to build a house, so that kids have it, to support and protect kids for the future and yourself also. For them a roof over one’s head is sufficient, it can leak but he will go for holidays, he will use this life for another aim. He can afford it. They keep living, and we are vegetating. We are working.


The Swedes, they are walking on the beach and there is a piece of stick or something else lashed by the water so he [Swede] will take it, he will place on the window sill at home, all those sticks. And he collects, all those stones, wonders, right? How would that be possible in Poland? A wife would come “What is that? a display of stones?!” It is true! But they have their own love of small details.


Swedes’ attitudes towards Poles

The Swedes found out after the opening of borders, that the Poles are nevertheless a nation that thinks. They had thought that we do not think at all, that we just work. This communist block is only for the spade, only for this kind of work. But by and large, from all of those countries I was going to, Sweden does not have such a blockage towards us than for example others. In other countries, there is such a distance, in Germany or in Italy, but they [Swedish] are a very nice country, they do not block themselves from others. In this sense, they are a very friendly land.

The worst thing here is Sweden is that for example, Poles when they start working somewhere if something happens and they screw up, then they take their belongings and flee. This is the biggest problem, because… well, whatever with the money! But here the best is to come back, tell the Swede that this and that did not work out, and then you have their bigger trust because automatically they know that you did something wrong, you corrected that, and they will give you other jobs and will recommend you to their friends. They are like this the Swedes, that they know how to concede when they do something wrong they admit immediately. And a Pole has difficulties to admit. Nothing has happened… it was meant like that…

Women in Sweden

In Sweden, a woman is more dominant, it seems to me. She rules.

It is more equal than at our place.

It depends on the character. But at work women are more equal with men. They can take the same job as men. In our reality, it appears slowly but is not present like here. And here women can for instance brick up, parget, do everything. Drive a tractor… likewise in Russia, with all due respect.

There is one more important thing: women’s clothes. I don’t know if you have seen it, that women’s clothes don’t meet the norms. Our norms. Because at our place women, Poles, they wear nice clothes, in my opinion, regardless everything. And here seeing some cases of women… well seriously… it is like whatever, a bummer. Whatever is on hand. They have a hippie style. They don’t care for their look, clothes, make up. Women at ours when they have two gray hair on their head they dye it immediately, and here half black, half gray, they don’t care. Here women would enter a shop in rubber boots, directly from stable. And at our place she has to makeup, she’s raddled.

But at least our wives are calmer, they don’t have a reason [to be jealous].


Kids in Sweden

You cannot beat children here, it is forbidden. For instance, a kid until 18 years old is in your safekeeping, and just after 18 gets out of a home, he has to deal with everything by himself. And usually the kids furl out, they sit somewhere with friends, they create their own life. There are few families as ours where there is family warmth. Paddle your own canoe. Is it totally bad? I am not sure because children become independent sooner and they have their view on life. But you do not have a family bond.



We like cooking. It is the only pleasure you can have here. Something else than construction works. All in all because of departures one has learned how to cook. To be honest I have not learned that at home because there was no time, I was too young, I was not interested in cooking. I left and I had to think for my own. If you want to eat you have to prepare it yourself. At home my mom or wife was cooking. What they served I ate. And here if you want to eat something tasty, not sandwiches, you have to cook yourself. Unfortunately.

All the products we have from Poland. The meat we bring frozen. And bread – oh no, we do not but Swedish bread, because Swedish bread, typical Swedish bread it is full of sugar, sweet, we don’t like it. So we bring it or we bake our own. Once we brought how many? 200 loaves of bread?

It is also about the economy, we save so that we bring something back home. If we start living here, buying in shops, then not much will be left. If one lived here and earned here it would be the same as in Poland, we would earn less and less we would have to spend.

And when you work hard you have to eat, to be honest.

Here we buy only semi-finished products when something is missing.

Do you remember when we were coming and we were bringing flour? 100 kilograms of flour? We were passing through Denmark and Germany and we had it because well… we were planning to bake bread. In our friend’s place, we have found a semicircular stove, we bricked up the chimney, because there was no chimney, and we said: “ok, so now we will bake bread at your cellar”. “For sure” – the Swede was pleased, he was watching, every Saturday we were baking. So we used some flour for the bread. With my brother we said that we would go to the mill, we would grind flour and would bring it there. We loaded it, we were passing through Germany, through Denmark, because we wanted to see it as tourists – the bridge, everything. And as soon as we entered Sweden TUR has stopped us. A guy came and what? He opened the boot, he looked inside: “What do you have here?” he asked. “Well… Loaves of bread from Poland”. He looked well there is one bread here, second there, he nodded and ok. “And in these sacks?” “Flour”. He stood like this, he googled. „Flour, well… to bake some loaves of bread”. „What are you working in a bakery?” And he lost his mind, he said to my friend „Close the boot and go”. I said to my friend “Look, if we had carried drugs, we could even bring 100 kilos !”

[1] Meaning if there were no kids

[2] Polish saying meaning something is wrapped up