28. November 2015

Europe – Story of a Migrant

No, this is not a story about a refugee even though certainly many could be written. Instead, it is a story about a migrant within the European Union. A story that should make UK citizens think twice. A story against reactionary and nationalistic tendencies.

If you have only read the first paragraph of this blog post, you might have wondered who this migrant is I was talking about. Well, you might or might not be surprised, but I’m talking about myself. And this post explains how the European Union made many things possible that would likely been very hard to do otherwise. Let me tell you.

For those who don’t know me, I grew up in Germany where I also spent most of my time as a student. In my fourth year however, I moved to Stockholm as part of a double-degree program. Staying for more than a year, I applied for a personnummer, which was relatively easy with my status and turned out to be quite convenient. There were very few other formalities to sort out, apart from unregistering myself in Germany. Migrated to Sweden. Magic. That easy. I understand it’s not for everyone.

Now, the European Union made more things possible for me. There was the Erasmus program (now turned into Erasmus+). The Erasmus program helped me sort out some of my finances during my studies in Sweden. It is straight-forward to apply for this program, and a great number of students use the opportunity to stay abroad. What better chance is there to stop believing that the horizon is just a few dozen kilometers from the place you grew up? What better chance to pick up a foreign language (apart from the ubiquitous and quasi mandatory English) than going abroad? It is easier than ever before and I highly recommend at least doing half a year in another European country.

As my master studies were slowly approaching the end, I was obviously wondering what to do next. As a citizen of the European Union, I would not need to ask anyone before starting to work in Sweden (see this) – no permit needed, no hassle, no uncertainty. It is “just” about finding a job and off I go. The whole of the European Union open!

Originally, I was planning to stay in Stockholm, and I was putting a lot of efforts into that plan. I enjoyed the city, and the wonderful nature in Sweden, as my many posts on the topics certainly bring across. But it came differently and I moved to London to work. The UK being a member of the European Union, how much time and efforts did I have to waste for applying for a work permit? You guess correctly – zero. It is as smooth as it can get, unregister in Sweden, fill out a few forms for registering in the UK and that’s it (except for the question on how to get a bank account, rent a place, or get a phone contract, but this story does not belong here). Migrated to the UK. Magic. That easy. Do I feel entitled for such treatment? No, extremely grateful. Thank you, this is awesome.

Okay, let us take a small segway into history. There is, I believe, no magic but decades of hard work that turned Europe from where it was to where it is now. It used to be a set of rivalling, arms-racing warmongering colonial powers battling each other every now and then, peaking in the disastrous World War I. A League of Nations that failed, fascism on the rise everywhere in Europe with its darkest and most cruel form in Nazi Germany, then World War II. And then decades of unpredecented peace even though Europe was split by the Iron Curtain.

Now I have been living in the UK for over 1.5 years. Welcome to the European Union. Still in the European Union. No Iron Curtains for me within the European Union. I can study, work, travel. I can move and interact with my neighbors – there are huge cultural differences, which makes this even more interesting. I hope stories like this can be written in future, too. Let’s not just narrow our minds and believe that we’re better off by ourselves. Sail away. A thought abroad.