29. March 2017

Three Years in the United Kingdom: Need Candles in the Dark

Exactly three years after my arrival in London, the UK Government has triggered article 50. The Brexit drama continues, with decision-making in the dark being a defining part of the play. It is time for a few personal reflections from a “first-row seat”.

It is March 29th, 2014. I say goodbye to Stockholm, and leave my student dorm in Solna with a backpack of clothes to get me through my first month in the UK. Having arrived in my temporary accommodation in London, I sit in the staircase due to the lack of Wi-Fi coverage. I browse for some spare room in a flatshare. London is very expensive when it comes to accommodation. The flatshare I find is nicely located near the train station with most train movements in Europe. It is called Clapham Junction and I did not know it was a place before I came to London. The room is about the same size as my student dorm, so effectively not much changes from that perspective. I am looking forward to starting an exciting job I was offered in London instead of continuing with a PhD at university.

I came to London somewhat by accident. I really wanted to have the job. Also I had some memories from 2007, which was the only time I had visited the UK (including London) prior to 2014. London is huge. Initially, I have some issues because I avoid crowds, prefer open landscapes over concrete, and also like to breathe fresh air. Not much of this can be found in London. But I adapt quickly and discover how to profit during weekdays from the many, many opportunities that London offers: you want to learn X? No problem, there is an active community around X in London. And how to escape on the weekend to see the lush countryside. Pollution aside, the longer I stay, the more I like living in London. The opportunities that I receive are amazing. I am asked by friends in Germany, Sweden, and by others: How long are you going to stay in London? I can’t tell. Three years pass.

It is March 29th, 2017. The UK Government “triggers article 50”. It is exactly three years ago to the day I came to London. I feel like I should celebrate this day. But I feel nauseated instead. I had written about Brexit prior to the referendum in a blog post Europe – Story of a Migrant, and post-referendum in Without Captain, Course, Destination: Sailing Away. A referendum fought so hard on the basis of blaming EU immigrants for the misery of certain things in the UK. The decision making of the government contining to be disheartening. I am not going to celebrate this day, sorry. Am I being negative? Yes, about Brexit. Am I being positive? Yes, but not about Brexit: for my friends & all the people who made my three years worthwile, I shall not forget!