Based on a large-scale research project conducted in a northern English city, this paper focuses on the attitudes towards, and experienced by, Polish migrants as a result of increased immigration following the 2004 enlargement of the European Union. We pay attention to the ways in which people justify their negative attitudes towards this migrant group through competition for resources, particularly in terms of job security and the receipt of benefit payments. However, we also consider meaningful encounters between these migrants and the ‘local’ population, and how through these encounters attitudes can sometimes be transformed from negative to positive. Crucially, we demonstrate how Polish migrants themselves respond to these attitudes. In doing so, we show that by drawing upon the very same discourses of job security and social benefits they develop complex understandings of the ‘local’ population. Through its attention to immigration, the paper contributes to debates about the relationships between different social groups and processes of exclusion, highlighting the importance of encounters on the process of attitude formation. By giving voice to representatives of both the ‘local’ population and migrants, it further provides a rare perspective on social responses to immigration-driven diversity in European societies.