According to the latest survey of positive and negative feelings towards 22 nations, the Polish citizens hold positive views of 16 of the surveyed nations. The results of the opinion poll:
The Polish love of Czechs
Czech citizens have been among the most-liked nations among the Poles for years. In the top spots of positive affiliation are also the Slovaks and Hungarians. The main reason is probably the historical and geographical proximity of those Visegrad nations. The presence of Italians could be linked to the shared traditional values of religiousness and the positive view of the Catholic Church.
A multi-annual tendency has been a slow and gradual openness of the Poles towards other nations. At the beginning of 1990s the positive views of the richer nations and the negative views of the poorer nations were prevalent. Since then the general positive view of other nations has been overall on the rise and, according to professor Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, a sociologist, “and with time the positive view is more based on facts, events and conversations with friends”. The high position of the English people in the ranking could be explained by the increased personal links of so many Poles with many English people.
The Polish dislike of Arabs, Jews and Roma
I pondered a question if the Poles were racist. Kolarska-Bobińska: “Every nation is disliked for different reason: poverty, civilizational backwardness or violence.” There are strong historical stereotypes about the Jews still present in Poland. The Arabs are associated with violence since the early wars in the Middle East in 1960s. The media message is that “an Arab is a potential terrorist”.
On the other hand, the Arabs, Jews and the Roma people have something in common: a strong tendency to “lock themselves within their own culture, cloths and language”, says my interlocutor. I would add – they do not assimilate easily.
Low level of liking of the Romanians contradicts a much higher degree of positive views of their neighbours Bulgarians. Bulgaria is a much more popular holiday destination among the Poles, which puts it at a similar position as Croatia. The perception of Romanians, however, is a victim of the Polish ignorance: there are popular stereotypical names given to the members of the Roma people in Poland that hold negative association. The Roma people are often called Gypsies or “Romanians” (“Rumun”).
The Russians and Germans
The negative view of the Russians is a result of a general negative image of Russia and the Russians in Poland. Quite to the contrary, the Germans are investing a lot into amelioration of the Polish-German relations and to improve the old negative stereotype of a German. This effort has been largely successful, since the beginning of the 1990s the Germans were viewed among the richer nations – hence positively. The positive view of the richer nations is on the decrease as the Poles get to know them better.
Ms Kolarska-Bobińska says “this is a standard, normal perspective” and points out that “the growing openness of Poles is a result of their increased wealth and education”.
A linguistic side note of ‘false friends’
A side note is a linguistic dilemma. You can see above that CBOS uses the Polish word sympatia for a positive feeling. Yet sympatia and sympathy are ‘false friends’. Sympatia means liking when sympathy stands for compassion or condolence.