Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Lidl Supermarket bans Polish

I don’t speak Portuguese.  Neither does my family.  So it was with relief that when in Lisbon last year that in the local supermarket that the people made an effort to communicate, even finding a member of  staff that spoke English if the pointing and sign language was not enough.

I don’t speak Swedish but do have a little Norwegian to my name.  No matter: if neither is enough in either Stockholm or Kristiansund, shop workers will instantly switch to English.  They don’t ask if I live there or just visiting; they just do it.

The question I have then is what on earth is going through the minds of the managers at the Lidl in Kirkaldy that have just banned their Polish employees not only speaking Polish between themselves, but have also ruled that they can no longer speak to Polish customers in their own language either?

It is certain that the workers there have better things to do than talk about their managers.  This move is both petty and racist.  It is not as if the Polish workers in Lidl refuse to speak in English to their Scottish customers.
More worryingly though is the many comments of support that the ban has solicited social media, such as The Scotsman’s Facebook page.  I would say that opinion is divided fifty : fifty.

To those people who support the ban I say this: next time you are abroad, in whatever capacity, and a store worker makes the effort to speak to you in English, you had better stop them right there, even if you are not able to speak the local language.  Anything else would be hypocritical.  


It has been drawn to my attention that some people are uncomfortable with a foreign language being spoken around them.  Perhaps of working in an international environment for the past eighteen years, I have lost any sympathy with such a view.  There are those which equate other speaking in foreign tongue in their presence with whispering in public.  Really?  The chances are that the people are talking about some other subject, as their body language will usually make clear.  If you are the subject of a discussion in front of you, the chances are you will know.  I see little difference between that and talking about somebody behind their back.  If people are going to be rude, it makes little difference what language they are going to be rude in.  In my experience, most people are neither stupid nor rude so being stressed about foreign languages is a matter of personal insecurity.

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