Recently many Europeans living in the United Kingdom have complained about a change in how they are treated and how comfortable they feel living there. Most complaints have been of the abstract sort. There are few, very few, direct instances of hostilities shown – merely a perceived difference. This leads me to believe that it’s a matter of perception, not an actual change and that that perception is rooted not in reality, but in a challenge to supposition pre-disposed.
Most Europeans who moved to Britain did not do so because they cared about Britain or with the desire to become part of British society. They came because Britain was, and remains, easily accessed and because economic conditions are far more favourable than is the case on much of the continent. So long as the United Kingdom was an EU member state and would be for the foreseeable future, the lot hid behind the “logic” of making the most out of their respective countries’ EU membership. They were, after all, citizens of the same union. The British, much to their discredit, took advantage of this as well. Pensioners in Italy, France, Portugal and some ghastly, dodgy country between the latter two, I forget the name, young artists in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam or Stockholm; people of working age facing existential crises and seeking an extended holiday to avoid facing their personal daemons at home. There was little actual desire to try to become part of Swedish society or integrate into Danish society. It was a matter of convenience. There are, of course, exceptions but the point largely holds.
This situation reminds me of the one that faced Britons in Hong Kong starting in the last years of the 1980s through the middle years of the 1990s. In years past, Hong Kong was a choice of convenience. The move was fairly simple and straight-forward. For many, bankers especially, Hong Kong was a place to go in order to escape their short-comings in London. They were FILTH – failed in London, try Hong Kong. As the retrocession approached more and more chose to return to the United Kingdom or to try their luck in new countries. They had the option of remaining in Hong Kong, of course. However, most chose not to take it. The world they belonged to in Hong Kong was coming to an end and they chose to leave with its passing. Those who loved Hong Kong and believed that they were a part of it, that it was their home and their world often remained or at very least kept close contact with it. This was very similar to what happened in India.
4 thoughts on “Changes”
I had never heard the mnemonic ‘FILTH’ before but it is true, for instance, that every capital of a South Sea nation, Port Moresby, Honiara, Port Vila, etc. and all the other ‘big’ towns in those countries and elsewhere have more than their fair share of unwashed, broke, aggressive, drunk, unshaven, desperate Ockers et al. on the chance who could not hack it back home.
Likewise Africa with failed Europeans and the last dregs of colonialism. “You there, whatever your name is, bring me a beer right now. Chop chop!”
You have touched a raw nerve here which I had hoped was buried forever and don’t even get me started on the tawdry, self serving remnants of French colonialism in Polynesia and New Caledonia. Can we somehow blame Alex Salmond for this? I do hope so.
Oz: My first real experience with the “colonial mentality” was in Germany. Trier is close to a major US military base and the city often suffers gravely under that strain. Yanks pour into the city and overwhelmingly show absolutely no respect to the Huns around them. Once can hear herds of Americans coming from miles away. It’s almost painfully amusing that they, on one hand, demand that Huns communicate with them in English but are shocked when they actually understand them when they make disparaging comments about Germans. I once found an apparently expensive water bottle and had the temerity to ask two Septics in Hunnish if it belonged to either one of them. They gave me filthy looks and proceeded to malign me in English assuming that I wouldn’t understand them. In Dodgydagoland I had a few interesting experiences with Britons and Americans. Once, I was lectured on the “true meaning” of being “European” by a group of expat Yanks. The Britons were no better — self-loathing almost to a person, they overwhelmingly led vapid lives devoid of any meaning or purpose and seemed to grasp this, but still hid behind a mask of self-righteous pseudo-superiority. I almost pitied them. When prodded, they tacitly admitted that they were unhappy with their lives. In fact, hardly a single Briton actually was content with life in Spain and even many long-term residents grudgingly acknowledged that they were increasingly frustrated and annoyed. Yet, they could not admit that they had perhaps been mistaken. They could not, for whatever reason, return to Britain. I much preferred the Dutch who, having grown annoyed and disgusted, returned home — in the same way that I took my leave after learning that it was fruitless. Yet, there are so many others who refuse to leave. They’re married to the notion that they need to stay in Spain.
The like you mention in the Pacific… Thank you for reminding me of what I risk facing. I was faced with the choice of going to China or Indonesia and chose China. Less chance of the locals screaming “Ally’s Act Barn” before spreading themselves out everywhere in a violent fit of rage. There, I will face economic opportunists seeking the “good life” on the cheap — Saffas, Poms, Aussies, Canucks, etc.
Yes, Mrs J and I met some notable representatives of colonial arrogance in Cyprus, both Brits and Danes. It was before the EU called the economic and social shots, when the banana republic rules applied. Many expats ’employed’ house maids from the Philipines, as in Hong Kong. It could only be termed slave labour, bolstering their abusers’ delusions of adequacy.
Janus: That is unfortunately the case. In Hunland many middle and upper-middle class men with all the charm of a banana slug with the clap buy Filipino brides 30 years their junior in order to feel more virile. Absolutely horrid. But back to the original topic — one could argue that the British haven’t grown more hostile to Europeans, well, the overwhelming majority at least — just that the former imperial connexion is drawing to a close and people are starting to wonder if it’s still their world.