Our field research is done! Feelings of relief are mixed with regret. After all anthropologists live for fieldwork! At the same time, we are happy we conducted interviews with some 130 Polish women who are living or have lived in different cities in Norway. Our team traveled to Oslo, Bergen, and Kristiansund to talk to women who have spent anyway between just a few months and several years in Norway.
As we embark on the next phase of our project–data analysis–we are also reflecting on the ease—and a few challenges—of conducting field research with Polish female migrants in Norway. Most women we approached were eager to share their experiences. The challenge was to find time in their busy schedules. Even those who did not work outside the home, had packed schedules caring for their children, studying, or learning Norwegian. Most conversations started with issues of individual mobility or the when, why, and how the women found themselves in Norway. We also talked about their everyday lives, the advantages and disadvantages of being a transnational migrant, and plans for the future. Recurring themes included: job hunting; “work-life balance” (virtually every single woman talked about the Norwegian attitude to work and life); relations with native Norwegians (not very easy for most of our interviewees) and other Poles (mixed feelings about fellow Poles); and differences in male and female experiences with finding work (some women argued that female migrants have more difficulties in finding work than men since women are not easily employable in construction, the industry where the demand for workers continues to be the highest).
The one group of women who seemed to be less visible and therefore more difficult to recruit for our study were married women who came to Norway to join their husbands or partners. We managed to talk to a few of them, but generally speaking they were hard to find. The prevailing opinion was that these women do not work outside the home, do not learn Norwegian, and live relatively isolated lives staying home and caring for their children. And finally, many conversations center on Barnevernet or the Norwegian Child Protection Services. Some respondents are genuinely afraid of the agency, others talk about the “myths” that surround the child protection system. These conversations prompt us to read Maciej Czarnecki’s book Dzieci Norwegii. O Państwie (Nad)Opiekuńczym.
By Marek Pawlak