An Introduction to Poles in the UK

An Introduction to Poles in the UK

An Introduction to Poles in the UK

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When it comes to multicultural marketing, research is key. However, that can be time consuming and so we have decided to take the matter into our own hands and create a series of go-to guides for some of the most prominent ethnic minority groups in the UK.

This time, we will have a look at British Poles, their culture, values and traditions. Based on these aspects, we will provide a few insights to build marketing campaigns that seamlessly resonates with the UK’s second largest minority group.

The Polish presence in the UK is to be reckoned with. As of 2019, there are little less than 700,000 Poland-born residents, and only English and Welsh are more commonly spoken languages than Polish. 

Getting to know Polish culture

The history of Poles in the UK goes back all the way to the 16th century, but the first sizeable communities began to emerge throughout the 19th century as a result of the political turmoil that Poland was experiencing at the time. WWII, and the subsequent Communist rule, further increased the number of Poles settling in the UK and, in 1951, there were more than 160,000 Polish people already here.

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When the Berlin Wall fell and much of Central and Eastern Europe regained freedom, another wave of migration from Poland took place. But it was not until 2004, when the country joined the EU, that Poles began to arrive at unprecedented rates; in the first three years after accession, more than 400,000 settled in the UK.

This is important for two reasons; second- or third-generation ethnic Poles are more likely to identify more with British values and social attitudes, whilst also retaining some of their ancestral traditions. On the other hand, those who settled in the UK only after Poland’s accession to the EU, are more likely to identify somewhat or closely with the culture that they grew up with.

Even so, Poland is at a crossroads; those born after the fall of Communism tend to be more tolerant to different cultures and lifestyles, whereas older generations retain many traditional views and are usually more religious. The social attitudes and cultural values of recently arrived Poles can vary considerably.

In more general terms, Poland is a Central Slavic country, which means that they belong in the same ethno-linguistic family as Russians, Bulgarians and Serbs, but are more related to Czechs and Slovaks. According to Poles, they view themselves as the ‘softest Slavs’, yet they are regarded by many as grey and serious people.

Poland is an ethnically homogeneous country, but also religious; Catholicism is one of the pillars of Polish culture and most of their traditions, holidays and values are modelled upon it. For instance, Christmas is the most important holiday in the Polish calendar, with the festive season beginning on the 6th of December and large family and religious gatherings taking place on Christmas Eve.

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Name Days, or imieniny, are also a big deal in Poland; parties or gatherings are commonplace, and children tend to receive gifts in the same proportions as they do on their birthdays. Another major religious holiday in the Polish calendar is Easter, although celebrations do not substantially differ from British ones, except for the food served.

Speaking of which, Poles take great pride in their cuisine, and rightfully so. Potatoes, pork, chicken, poppy seeds, cheese and cabbage stand out as its staples, and pierogi (Polish dumplings), kielbasa, bigos and kotlet schabowy are considered the national dishes. Family gatherings are synonymous with an abundance of food, whilst vodka is also conspicuously present.

Marketing to British Poles

When constructing a marketing campaign aimed at a Polish audience, the first step is to establish what age group you are trying to engage. Younger generations will allow for more creative freedom, while older generations will require a stricter adherence to traditional Polish values.

In terms of imagery, a truly distinctive Polish essence will be achieved through a visual design that emulates traditional embroidery patterns, which are mostly inspired by flowers. Poland’s culture is vibrant and has no shortage of colour, but the national colours, red and white, are the safest choice.

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As a result of the large number of Poles living in the UK, several events celebrating their culture and community take place throughout the year, such as Days of Poland, which is considered the biggest of its kind. This festival attracts thousands of Poles and consists of live performances from popular musicians and artists from Poland, as well as an abundance of traditional food stands.

Other important festivals include the Goniec Polish Festival in London, the Luton and Bedford Polish Festivals, and the Laxton Hall Fun Day, which is targeted to Polish children and takes place in several cities across England and Wales. Getting involved in any of these festivals as either a sponsor or a direct participant (when possible) would be a great opportunity to showcase an authentic campaign to connect to this group.

Na zdrowie!

Targeting a Polish audience represents a significant business opportunity; presenting your brand as a partner who understands and respects them will earn you the loyalty of the second largest minority group in the UK.

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