I have worked both in France and Spain on short term contracts. I have never had any issues in any of these countries, but perhaps that is because I am passionate about languages and culture, desperate to learn about history and the area I live in. I am a curious person and I have always left a place with more friends than I started out with.
Scotland does not seem to be particularly xenophobic – we have always had Italian and Asian communities and our Polish community dates from the end of the Second World War – it is a point of pride for many here that many of the first wave of new Polish citizens came to Edinburgh first, to look up distant family. Yes, occasionally there are issues, but they are not many. But that is my experience.
I first encountered the kind of xenophobic attitude some British people exhibit when working as a holiday rep in Spain: if I had a pound for every time I was asked why the Spanish did not speak more English or drive on the other side of the road (in Spain), or someone complained about the food (because it wasn’t what they were used to), why the sun wasn’t shining that day (because, Spain) and so on and so forth, I would be a very rich woman. It was at this point I realised how different I was from these people. And I very much understood the frustration from locals. Most of them did not frequent tourist bars (most run by expats) – neither did I unless I was working. I would be horrified at the complaints from tourists about men being kicked off buses because they were only wearing sandals and swim shorts, because that isn’t acceptable anywhere, let alone when you are on holiday abroad.
More recently, I have been trying to comfort a friend of mine who is French, who has been putting up with the most horrendous bullying purely based, as far as we can tell, on the fact she is French. The day after Article 50 was triggered, she arrived at work to find her office chair had been hidden and several people refused to talk to her. She was told this was a ‘Brexit Present’.
More distressing for me is my young nephew, who only holds an EU passport, displaying visible anxiety about this fact. He is old enough to understand what is going on. His mother, who is part of my support network, has said that she will relocate if the terms of Brexit are not favourable to EU citizens, in which case I will have to go too (although remaining in the U.K. after Brexit is not what I want anyway).
I have always been proud of my identity as a European Scot and modestly pleased with my language skills (one well, two passable, a fourth in basics and a few words of another). I am enraged that my identity is being stolen by people who were lied to, but are also the same kinds of people who claimed not to be able to understand me (note: the messages about failure to understand and sponging off the English are also targeted at Scots). I am desperately worried I will lose members of my own family to emigration.