A German EU Citizen’s Story (1)

We have not experienced xenophobia or discrimination yet. We even have been offered a mortgage despite me being non-UK-citizen. I don’t think our case is very dramatic or worth being published in a book, nevertheless Brexit has turned our lives ‘upside down’ and this gives me the opportunity to summarise everything that has gone through my head, particularly since the 13th of March 2017.

In my eyes, on this day, the UK decided to take the biggest step in the direction of becoming an inhumane, totalitarian and undemocratic regime as Parliament voted against the Lords’ amendments on the Brexit bill to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK and also disempowered itself by giving all the power about the future of the country to the government.

I was born in the seventies in one of so called Eastern Bloc States to German parents. I grew up knowing that I was not welcome in the country where I was born, knowing that I was ‘different’ and did not belong there. I was permanently reminded of this fact and I was bullied at Kindergarten and school, even by teachers and sometimes by friends, because of my German nationality. Later on I was refused the chance to study despite my very good performance at school. And the list goes on. In those hard times I read a lot and was fascinated by English and French books and culture, English culture in particular. I loved Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes. I loved to look at pictures of London and the British countryside, and I could read the encyclopaedia about these two countries for hours!

When I was in my late teens, our family decided to go back to Germany. We settled very quickly and I started university. But to be honest, I never managed to feel at home there either. After nine years there I met my wonderful husband who shares my interests, is like-minded and is British. We spent a lot of our holidays in Britain and I got to know the country very well ‘from the inside’. And do you know what? It made me love it even more.

After our daughter was born, we decided Britain was the country we wanted her to grow up in. And I couldn’t think of a better place for a child. Nowhere else were people friendlier, more open-minded and more tolerant. Nowhere else were history and nature so diverse and extensive. And, most importantly, there was nowhere else we could feel more at home.

I started to watch the BBC as much as I could to learn British English. I learned the history, the law, the system, the customs etc. etc. etc. I even cooked almost every English recipe I could find. I didn’t want to be ‘foreign’. I wanted to ‘fit in’ from the moment we moved to the UK. Not because I was told to or forced to do so, but because I wanted to.

So we saved our cash and got everything we had together for a deposit to buy a home in the UK. We travelled four times from Germany to the UK to view houses, which was a logistic challenge particularly with a toddler. We went from Northern England to the South, to get the feel of what was right for us and of where we wanted to spend the next years of our lives. The house had to tick many boxes: being not too far from an airport, being in the countryside and offering space for our little family and our few hobbies. We found one, but unexpectedly new EU regulations came out and we had to put a bigger deposit down because we had no credit history in the UK. Again we thought, so what? To live our dream, we rented a house and eventually moved to the most beautiful countryside in the world when we settled in England. And do you know what? I loved it even more!

Just within a few weeks we found plenty of opportunities for our little one to make friends, and I found many lovely people who I can call friends, who offered an ‘open ear’ if I wanted to talk and who were genuinely interested in us and our story. I have to say, in more than twenty years in Germany I didn’t find a single person who was really interested, asked me questions or offered to help like the people I met in England did. I am so happy I know these people here: thank you very much for being so open-hearted!

So we were almost totally settled when the feeling of being foreign came back again. I can’t describe, even slightly, how it feels not being able to have a place anywhere in the world where you can feel at home. There is not one day since the 13th of March that I haven’t cried (this is also true for my husband who, although a Brit, now also feels ‘homeless’). Not only because Brexit makes me feel foreign again, but mostly because it hurts so much to see the country I love being hurt, being damaged by a minority of people who claim this country for themselves and in fact have no idea what it represents and what its values are.

Although I think in the end it will turn out ‘ok’ and the rights of EU nationals in the UK will be guaranteed, which means we will be able to live here, this will be only formally. The most important thing for us about England, this feeling of being home here, will be lost forever. This is not the country I want to live in anymore, nor do I want my child to grow up in a country which calls itself ‘global’ whilst trying to shut itself out from the rest of the world.

Good Bye England, take care!

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