This migrant arrived in the UK in 1986. On my first short visit I arrived at Dover and panicked at the first roundabout I got to getting off the ferry. Not only had I ever gone round a roundabout only once or twice before in the two years I had been driving, I was now also driving on the “wrong”/left side of the road and with a left hand drive car. Anyway, by the end of the 140 or so miles up to Warwickshire, the driving on the left side of the road was cracked and today I would say I am pretty ambidextrous at driving in Europe or in the UK with or without the steering wheel on the correct side of the road for the country you are in. The key to this success is twofold:
1) If you have the right car for the country you are in, just make sure that you, the driver, is sitting near the middle of the road.
2) If you don’t have the steering wheel on the correct side for the country you are in, make sure you, the driver, are sitting near the edge of the road. If in either case the opposite is true or you can’t remember what country you are in, you are about to die. So there is a further point:
3): PAY ATTENTION! Check what other cars are doing and prey that they also don’t not have a clue!!!
So, roundabouts sorted, two years as a student at Trent poly followed. So far “immigration” wasn’t really on the agenda as a “thing”. After a 12 month absence (military service in Norway), I returned to Britain in late 1989, now as the official fiancé of my wife-to-be. British embassy in Oslo duly visited and paperwork signed sealed and delivered.
At this stage Norway did not have its current arrangements with the EU so the only place we could have lived without getting married was Denmark. Norway had reciprocal arrangements with the Nordics and Denmark was already in the EU. However, the land of hope and glory was to be our home so a wedding was necessary. A jolly nice affair it was too! Once married I was now able to start work and we settled in Leamington.
After nearly two years of marriage I was now able to go to Croydon and queue in the early hours (whilst still dark) at the immigration office. After these two years I guess they would want to know that I had been a good boy, behaved myself and was still married. I turned up as one of literally hundreds on the day of my appointment with some trepidation. There was to be no Green Card style interrogation of my Gerard Depardieu to “my Debbie’s” Andie MacDowell. In fact, the whole event (queuing excluded) was over in a flash and “my Debbie” didn’t even have to be present. Almost disappointingly quickly. Before I knew it I was on my way back to the Midlands. However with the important addition stamped in my passport: “Indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom”. A proud moment indeed.
I have never thought of myself as an immigrant as such. Just someone who happens to live in a different country to where they were born. I was not a political or economical migrant, just a migrant of love for a good woman! Whereas I have learnt to appreciate the country I left behind more and more over the years, it is my adopted country where my heart is. The UK is such a melting pot of promise and hope and possibility and culture and language; I can absolutely see why the majority of migrants across and into Europe head for the English Channel and not setting Strasbourg, Bonn and Gent as the destination on their life’s sat-nav. (No offence to these cities!). THIS is where it’s at. I think the wide-open-door enthusiasts on the one hand and the UKIP’ers on the other wanting to close the borders to all but the very select few both get it wrong. The answer is somewhere in-between. For what my opinion is worth. I think most people expect and accept a reasonable amount of immigrants each year. I think where the debate over immigration goes wrong is that more often than not it is led and stoked by certain newspapers rather than by facts. I wish there were more information available about whether immigrants contribute more than they take, how many British people are not getting a job due to a legal migrant getting it and so forth. Do tell.
So how does this immigrant really feel? Wherever I have been or wherever I land, be it London or Birmingham, I feel a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction in being back home in “Blighty”. I feel I am definitely a net contributor and despite having used (the mostly brilliant) NHS on two occasions for surgery I have more than paid my dues in tax and National Insurance over 24 years so far of working here. I don’t look or behave very differently to the locals, I speak the language fluently and I am white, “skandinav” and as my Daily Express reading grandmother-in-law would say when she was still alive “you’re ok, you were an ally during the war!” I don’t think I am exactly who Nigel Farrage has in his sights when he starts his chummy “jolly bloke down the pub” rhetoric. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with everything our Nigel has to say and celebrate that he has managed to make the vile Nick Griffin pretty much irrelevant almost single handedly. But rather than attack UKIP we should perhaps examine why we have UKIP and Nigel Farrage in the first place. Successive Labour governments have failed to stand up to Europe and the Tories equally need to sort out the EU and themselves once and for all. As long as these issues are not sorted, Nigel or someone like him will always have oxygen to breath and devoted column inches and sound bites in the media. How ironic, “Nige” could win Labour the next election!
So, are there any downsides to being a “lifer” in Britain? Sure. I am not British and cannot vote. I have NO influence over how my taxes are spent, be it on a national or a local level. In fact I am not on the electoral roll (not British and not an EU citizen) and that actually costs me money. I will never be able to have a top top credit rating for example as I will always be deducted some points for not being a registered voter. The cost to me takes the form of a possible higher APR on a credit agreement for example. This REALLY annoys me.
I occasionally get told off by my British passport holding children when I say “we” as in “we British” or “we English”. Apparently I’m foreign they say and have I checked my passport recently?!
So what other downsides are there to being a “lifer” in Britain?
For this Scandinavian country boy, none whatsoever, because Britain’s great and we love it.
Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves, Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.