London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Approximately one third of londoners were born outside the UK. Across the streets of london, over 200 languages are spoken, by as many different races of people. So it’s surely no surprise, that after the election last month, morale in this city, was low.
So far, I’ve refrained from making this blog political. However, post election, in anticipation of brexit, I’ve realised two things 1) there’s little harm it can do now, 2) I don’t really care about the kind of people this is bound to alienate.
The phrase ‘Get Brexit Done’ was used so much in the lead up to the general election, it became a buzzword. How easily, and often people bandy this term around, is conclusive proof to me, as to just how many people view brexit as an abstract, distant concept that won’t really affect them. I see a different truth.
I work in a restaurant in Soho. I am one of three British members of staff, in a restaurant of perhaps 25. If anyone interpreted that last sentence as mere proof that ‘the foreigners are stealing our jobs’ stop reading now. Go for a walk. Evaluate the life choices that made you into such a prick.
In the last few weeks, the majority of my colleagues have been applying for their ‘settled’ and ‘pre-settled’ status. I wasnt born in london either, and it seems uncomfortable and incongruous to me, that some of these people have worked in this job for double the length of time that i have, they’ve lived in london for far longer than me, some of them longer than I’ve been alive, and yet they are the ones having to prove their right to be here. They are the ones subject to scrutiny. It angers me.
Maybe it sounds cheesy, but we are a family. A mismatched family of brothers and sisters that all found our way from completely different places. I cannot tell you how broken hearted I would be if this ever changed. How dull a place it would be, if this were not the case.
There are many who say that brexit will have little to no impact on those already living here. Again. I see a different truth. Already I see prejudice creeping into places where it has no business. To the man who jeered at my Romanian colleague ‘look out, brexit is coming for you’ when he couldn’t give you a discount on that bottle of wine you clearly had enough money to buy. You disgust me. You are everything that is wrong this country. I hope it choked you. If only this were an isolated incident. But it isn’t.
Between 2015/16 and 2017/18 the annual increase in racially motivated hate crimes was 27.5%. Nearly double the average variation of 13.6%. Coincidence? I doubt it.
And as for ‘Getting Brexit Done’. I wonder if the people using this phrase really understand what it entails? I can understand that if you live in a remote area, lacking in diversity, perhaps it isn’t immediately obvious as to how brexit will impact your life. Trust me though, it will. When you live in a city, it becomes painfully obvious only too quickly. What’s worse, is there seems to be some unspoken consensus that however detrimental a no deal brexit might be, at this stage, as long as its done quickly, its probably the better option. I know of no historically significant event that was made better by rushing, and I fail to see how this could possibly be any different.
I’ve often been told, that travel is the best education anyone could receive. I’m sure it’s true. And the reason for this? The people you meet along the way? Meeting these people, in this beautiful behemoth of a city, from so many different places, has been an education. Learning about each others lives. Realising how different and how totally the same we are all at once. Laughing together, getting pissed together, arguing together. During Ramadan, we were all of us counting the minutes until sundown, and those fasting could finally eat again. Slowly, gradually, I have built a repertoire of curses in multiple different languages. I remember one glorious day a few months ago, three of my spanish speaking colleagues translated the Macarena for me. My profound love of the Macarena stems from murky school discos where it was the only song I could muster enough courage to dance to, (you can’t go wrong). Turns out, back in 2002 they were dancing to it as well. These may sound like small things. Because they are. But small things are everything.
When I first moved to London, I fell in love with it in a way I hadnt anticipated. I felt there was a place for me here, a life for me to lead, full of colour and opportunities. I belonged. I can only guess that London is, in part, so multiculturally vast, because so many people share this love.
I feel bound to these people far more than I ever did to people growing up in my hometown. Maybe because unlike where you are born, we all chose to be here. In London, we are where we want to be, where we should be. To echo Derry Girls, being a Londoner isn’t about where you come from or what language your mother tongue is. Being a Londoner, it’s a fucking state of mind. It’s a way of life. A heartbeat. It’s understanding that a minute is a pretty long period of time when there’s a bus to be caught. It’s realising that Winter Wonderland is shit, but going every year anyway. It’s understanding that you never, ever, use district or circle line unless you absolutely have to. We all breathe that polluted air. We all fear bank interchange. We can all do the Macarena.
Let’s keep it this way.
The buzzgirl xxx