Thursday, July 5, 2012

Under German Beds: Polish Cleaning Woman Reveals All

Polonia will not reach maturity until it devotes as much energy to positively acknowledging Polish cleaning women as it devotes to celebrating Chopin, Kosciuszko and Pilsudski. Polish cleaning women are a big part of who we are, and they deserve our attention, respect, and care.

The local free paper lists ads for local companies, contractors, and workers. There are at least five ads that specify that the cleaning woman who placed the ad is a POLISH cleaning woman. The other mechanics, garbage haulers, dog-sitters, roofers, etc, do not specify their ethnicity. Who cares if a dog walker is Irish or not? But people in my area, not at all one of remarkable Polish settlement -- not Chicago, not the black dirt / onion country of Pine Island -- care that their  cleaning women be POLISH.

Meanwhile, one Polish cleaning woman has published a tell-all book.

'Devious, tight-fisted and dirty': A Polish cleaning lady reveals the filthy little secrets of her German clientele


UPDATED: 12:07 EST, 11 January 2011

Germans are squirming over a tell-all book by a Polish cleaning lady which exposes her employers as tight-fisted, filthy homeowners who set traps to check work is completed.

‘Under German Beds; A Cleaning Lady Reveals All,’ by Justyna Polanska, is climbing the non-fiction charts after its release this month as Polanska reveals the dirty little secrets of the hypocrites she worked for.

She tells of the judge who kept cannabis plants confiscated by the police that she had to dust.

Or there is the policeman who stormed a building site to arrest moonlighting workers and insisted she work for him on the black market.

And numerous other employers - every one of whom did not want her to declare her earnings.

For 11 years she kept her silence, but now Germany’s dirty laundry is being well and truly aired in public.

Justyna - a pseudonym - came to Germany to earn money and was shocked by what she saw. 'I thought everything was above board and so orderly, but nothing could be further from the truth when you look under peoples’ beds,' she said.

The things she saw included the mummified remains of a missing hamster, half a roast chicken, dog mess, two freshly pulled teeth and rotting milk cartons a year old.

One woman rubbed the lenses of her glasses regularly with excrement to check up on whether or not she cleaned them. A judge stuck single strands of human hair across his desk drawers to find out whether or not she nosed around in them.

Germany, which has taken on the role of Europe‘s headmaster of late to tell Greeks to pay their taxes and the Irish to live within their means, has the reputation of being above board in most things.

But all of her employers told her to keep mum about what they were paying her because to declare it would mean they would be hit with contributions towards her medical and social security expenses.

'No-one but no-one employed me legally,' she said. 'I picked up around two grand a month in the hand, a sum I could never have got in Poland.'

If anyone saw her cleaning she was always told to say she was a friend helping out.

She said single men were the tidiest clients and single females 'by far the most chaotic'.

She went on: 'The best people to work for were those who had worked hard themselves and had achieved their goals. The worst were the new rich; no words of hello, no glass of water on a boiling hot day.

'One such family sat down on their sofa with glasses of chilled lemonade on a hot day to watch me washing their windows as if I was some fascinating animal in the zoo.'

Some people tried to give her Christmas presents of food was past its sell-by date - or of stolen bathroom mats, napkins and toiletries from old hotel stays.

Kinky men were another job hazard. 'Do you wear red underwear and possess a large bosom?" enquired one who offered her 30 euros for five minutes cleaning in high heels, stockings and a red basque. Others sent her naked pictures of themselves.

She added: 'I thought Germans would show me more respect. But I was truly amazed at the things I saw and experienced.'

The full text of this article is here.


  1. I dunno, it seems that cleaners, like clergy, doctors, therapists, reporters, and lawyers, should have to maintain the confidentiality of their confessors/patients/sources/clients. Very intimate, and incriminating, stuff goes on there!

    Top-Secret Poster

  2. Hmm, thats a tough one,confidentiality...well,it is confidential,no names are in it.There are more debunking books like that and why not? I am still waiting for one that will show how hard working Poles and Greeks are and how lazy Germans (in comparison) :-D

    1. I agree :-) I am also looking forward to reading such book!
      "The hardest working nation" is the biggest stereotype of Germans. Their statistical efficiency does not come from hard working. HOw did it happen that Germany have so many positive stereotypes? I guess it had really good PR for last 50 years. Unfortunately party at the expense of Poland.
      It is example how economical success may change old stereotypes and create new ones.

  3. Yes, I'm glad she hasn't named names. I think just as employers should treat their employees with respect, so employees should treat their employers with respect. I don't think any of us, German or otherwise, might come out of it too well if we had staff and they chose to tell all. We did employ gardeners when we were expats, and while we did try to be good employers, if they were to write their story... I don't know. Maybe I would see a very different perspective and feel that i hadn't been a good enough employer after all. And of course I always said hello - we did try to communicate, even though we didn't speak each others languages. They used to bring me the wedding videos of the latest family wedding to watch, and I could see that the money from all their hard work in difficult conditions was being used to improve the lot of their extended family in the sub-continent. They were good husbands and fathers - their hard-earned money was clearly going back home. So they were good employees, definitely. And I can only hope that we were good enough employers.

  4. It is a funny and easy book to read. Some of her employers stopped using her service, some still continue and changed their attitude (into better).

    Personally I am glad she has written this book. It sales well in Germany. Most of German families have cleaning service - mostly Polish or Turkish. It is not a real need, it is a symbol of status. Most of cleaning women work unregistered, without insurance and often being under-paid. It is changing thanks to such books. Those ladies get smarter!
    I got more questions from Germans how to translate "could you please next time clean windows in the house" into Polish than how to say in Polish "Thank you". Polanska wrote also about highly educated, well-paid people. This book shows that those "with high status" also keep house dirty, make dirty tricks, abuse, overuse and sometimes do not pay because they had extra expenses related to holiday in Majorca or elsewhere. They treated her as service only, while German cleaning lady would be a “kind of“ family member and could eat dinner with them. The book shows clearly that "always clean and honest" Germans and "always dirty Polish thieves" are only stereotypes.
    This book is written in a very simple, direct language and it has already made a small positive change. I know Polanska's second book has just been published in Germany.

    I agree though, that announcements with ethnic content are very strange. I expect people who offer cleaning service think it adds value: Polish brand = good cleaning. But still - is it a real good brand or rather next stereotype?



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