I still haven’t worked it out. Is it sorrow or anger I am feeling?
Maybe it is because I am so hopelessly in love with this country and its people – but that this relationship now feels increasingly harmful and abusive? And knowing that a separation might be quite healing for me, I cling on to the hope that things might change for the better.
And I have given it my best and my all – truly I have.
Since God told me to move to the UK, I have done my best to be a good citizen.
I have stuck to the laws (well – except this one ticket for speeding on the highway…). I have been paying my taxes, I speak the language well, I have many British friends and I do all I can to enable my students to get to know young people from around the world.
I have integrated to the extent that I understand British humour.
I have played an active part in my local church for years and I have paid back the student loan I received.
Most importantly I love this country as if it was my own.
Despite all of this I was declared “unwanted” on June 23rd, 2016
‘Not personally’ as I am re-assured by many friends, neighbors and colleagues.
But how is it not personal when as a result my world is turned upside down with such personal consequences?
On the morning of June 24th I felt sorrow and loss. That somehow “my Great Britain”, a colorful and friendly cultural melting pot had decided that it wanted to be “little England” again. That it was better off without all the compromises needed when collaborating and working together with others.
I did not feel rejected as much as I felt “left behind” by a friend who was walking back into the past for reasons that seem unreasonable and frankly selfish.
Since then my life is filled with stressful questions;
- Is our entire existence here safe when nobody will provide my family with an insurance that we can stay?
- What will become of this nation?
- Will I have a place in the new UK? Do I actually want it?
- Will I be stuck here in case house prices fall and I can’t sell my property in a way that allows me to pay off my mortgage and go?
- Why can’t so many people understand all the good that comes from the EU – when they actually can see it reflected in my presence?
- Why were British politicians for decades allowed to sell any good coming from the EU as their own achievement but blame everything that was not according to British taste on the “bad EU”?
- Why did so many people believe lies without independent research?
- Why can’t people see that we need to tackle the problems in today’s world together as a family of nations?
- When will people find the courage to bury nationalism for the common good of all?
- When will peace replace the agenda of personal profit?
- Why is there now such a huge silence from the 48%?
And importantly: how big is the God my church is serving?
- Is GOD big enough to provide for us when we open the doors to refugees and help the poor?
- Is GOD big enough to be the bond between our church here and others abroad?
- Are we happy to acknowledge that GOD is their God as much as ours and that God entrusted us with responsibilities for others?
- Why is Christianity and Mission still defined as Westerners “saving others” – shouldn’t it rather be “others saving us” from our egocentric and abusive ways, from our ignorant silence caused by a comfortable living standard?
- Shouldn’t this world be ours – including all – to share and to keep?
- And doesn’t this mean that we all have to be willing to do our part and give a little more, open up towards others more?
The longer this process lasts, the more I get the feeling that “pride and prejudice” is not only a British novel.
Instead of facing the past in an honest and humble way, I hear people on TV talking about the “wonderful way this nation has lead the world for thousands of years”.
Do people seriously know nothing about all the atrocities committed in Kenya, China, India and many other countries? Do people really not understand that the word “commonwealth” tastes quite bitter for countries like South Africa or Guyana? Why is there so little understanding of how, in the past, Great Britain has exploited the world and it’s people; that many of nowadays conflicts originate from those times?
I want to question and ask…. But I have to be careful because EU expatriates are now experiencing racist abuse quite quickly:
“What does it bother you? This is not your country! Go home!”
And yes, my family and I really have had this asked and so did other European friends living and working here, whilst doing our jobs and caring for locals.
On top, I am getting the impression that many “remain” voters, against their better judgement, and despite all the obvious facts predicting a negative outcome for all, have given in and by now follow the “Oh, don’t worry – all will be fine in the end” agenda. Why? Because the longer this process is taking shape, the more everyone seems to get trapped in a situation and mindset that interprets any negative comment as “unpatriotic”. This, we know from the past, is highly dangerous ground.
So please forgive me if I am getting increasingly sad, worried, annoyed and tired.
And yet, there are many well educated and open-minded friends around me who do understand.
In church many friends know that God is not a native English speaker. Neighbors apologized to us for the outcome of the referendum. I even saw 6th form students in my school in tears and despair on June 24th.
Knowing them, I suddenly feel part of this nation and British again – the “British” I thought was the true one: open-minded, internationally orientated, humble before our GOD and at the same time quirky and proud in a way that allows others to be proud about their culture, too. Willing to engage with the world in fairness and honesty. Ready to take one’s share when tackling today’s conflicts and problems.
So here I am.
Loving this country – and struggling with the beliefs and attitude of half the population.
Wanting to help change things for the better – yet denied a voice.
Torn between applying for citizenship (which, after more than 10 years here wouldn’t be a big deal) – and not really wanting it.
Feeling horrible when thinking that the taxes I pay will support a government that I experience as cruel, cold, backwards facing and unreasonable – yet wanting to support this nation and help it to keep its good reputation and place amongst nations.
Feeling utterly shaken and unsure about the future of it all – yet safe in God’s hands and in his love.
Wanting to be a peace maker in this part of the world – and at the same time knowing that the basis for peace is honesty and justice and that the process towards peace at times needs protest, needs refusal to comply and needs loud voices shouting the truth.
So please forgive me when the question: “How do you as a Christian EU immigrant feel in the UK these days?” makes me hesitate……It is not an easy one……
Susanne Hauser-Braun was born and raised in Germany, but has also lived & worked in Austria and Tanzania. She holds a Masters in Education and has lived in the UK since 2006, where she works as MFL teacher in one of Gloucestershire’s grammar schools. Susanne is married, has two children and is an active member of St.Mark’s church in Cheltenham.