An American in Brexit

The world has been shaken!  Everybody’s talking about it.  I’m waking up every morning, dreaming about traveling far away.  I’m reminded every time a car exhibits road rage.  I’m reassured by the promise of a new adventure.  Things have changed big time, my beloved co-blogger Savvy, because…drum roll please… you got your license!  Clouds part, angels sing – pack your bags, Sav, this calls for a road trip.  I’m thinking south of France, what do you say?

Oh yes.  There’s that too.  I don’t know what it’s like over there in Norwich but here in Cardiff, Brexit has caused a stir.  Would you believe majority voted Leave in Wales?  No, me neither, but probably just because I’m in the city.  Venture into the southern valleys and the hillsides are littered with Leave signs.  (Interesting article of why here.)

But Cardiff voted Remain.  When I visited the city center last Tuesday, there was a march gathered with signs saying, “Pembrokeshire voted in!” and “Scotland, can we be your Gibraltar?” It was an energized rally, persevering through cold rain showers, and I would have stayed longer if I hadn’t forgotten my coat.

A few participants also had signs that read, “The UK welcomes everyone!”  I wish I could say that my first reaction was “Yes!” with an inner raised fist.  Wales certainly welcomed me.  My colleagues buy me drinks and ask about my life – one of them is actually letting me stay at her house for the weekend!  When we’re out of the office for work, my mentor makes pit stops to beaches, historical sites, and museums just to show me around.  The man who repaired my bike gave me lemonade and homemade biscotti, and then talked to me about God and morality.  England welcomed me too with a golden university experience, shopkeepers who remember my name and are always open to chat, and English scones.  (Just to add, the few times I’ve visited Scotland have been fab.)

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The UK has been good to me so I wish I could say that my first reaction to “the UK welcomes everyone!” was a firm “heck, yes.”

But Savvy, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t in my best moods that day, it was a focusing-on-the-negatives day, not a pretty sight – so my first millisecond of a reaction was a scoff.  It was a little chortle, the kind that happens during offering time at a megachurch when the pastor assures you that your money goes to a great cause while strobe lights flash and the worship team adjusts their 100-dollar equipment.

Truth is, I haven’t always felt welcome in this foreign country and I wonder if you could testify for that too.  Back when it was still instinct for me to call rubbish ‘trash’ and yoghurt ‘yogurt,’ I had people say to me:

“If you’re going to live in this country, you have to talk like us.”

I’ve had English friends express how much they care for each other and then say to me:

“Rachel, you’re different because you’re American.  There’s only so close we can get to you.”

Within the first hour of meeting a guy, he told me to go back to America.  I thought he was joking and then he flipped me off in front of everyone.

I know I shouldn’t talk as I hail from a culture known for its xenophobia and racism (I’m going to avoid the T-word).  But it was an interesting feeling for me when Remain voters shouted, “the UK welcomes you!” and my first instinct was to feel doubtful.

But the more I think about it, the more I notice my hypocrisy.  I’m generalizing the UK by a few experiences I’ve had but I hate when people generalize America.  I hate when people see how it’s represented in the media (again, avoiding the T-word) and think, “That’s America.”  I just want to take a megaphone and shout, “That’s not all America is!”

In turn, I’ve been reminding myself whenever I reflect on the memory of British people giving me cold shoulders:

“That’s not all the UK is.”

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Thank you to the rest of the UK for being so welcoming.  I am truly blessed.

-Rachel

Photo Credit: Lukas Gibbs

 

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