30 April 2017

Expats

To Italians, Italy is no doubt the best country on Earth. I guess it's the same with Canadians, Nigerians, Sri Lankans and Bolivians. But me? I am English. I have been around the world, worked in other countries and holidayed in many different places - but I have always come back to England. And just like those Italians, I say that England is most certainly the best country on Earth.

The general evidence for my argument is clear. There's our beautiful countryside, our rich history, our amazing English language, our temperate maritime climate, our creativity and our industry, our sense of humour, our fairness and of course our Yorkshire puddings. 

There's also more personal evidence. This is where my ancestors lived and died. This is where I went to school and raised a family. This is where I walked a thousand miles and saw a thousand vistas. The sun setting over the Yorkshire Wolds, canal boats on The Grand Union, the view to Wasdale from Scafell Pike and our great capital city London viewed from Waterloo Bridge. This is England, land of my heart. The place where I was born.

Of course, many English people have left these shores to live in other countries. For example, my brother Robin lives in a French farmhouse close to the Pyrenees. There are English retirees on the Spanish "Costas" and countless English immigrants in Australia and New Zealand. With our adventurous spirit many of us have gone out and settled elsewhere.

And that's okay. It's okay to be an "ex-pat" - which means an emigrant. It's okay to live abroad. I came close to doing so myself a couple of times. I could have easily been an "ex-pat" but there are a couple of things I would request of all "ex-pats".

When you have gone away, please do not slag off England. Please don't say there's nothing for you here. Please don't look for the bad in England to justify your self-imposed exile. I find that sort of denigration most offensive. After all, this is my home. I never really left. You have gone so if you can't say anything nice about England then please keep your mouth securely  zipped up. 

England is what made you. It's in your bones. It's the land of your mothers and fathers and it's in the very words you speak. In a round about way knocking England is knocking yourself. You may have chosen to leave but the vast majority of us stayed here. We are patriots. Please respect that fact as you tootle to your Tuscan marketplace or tell Manuel to bring another cuba libre to your sunbed.

Being an immigrant in another land does not mean you have to deride the country you left behind. It is very possible to retain genuine affection for and great appreciation of the homeland you left behind while still embracing the differences you see in your new country.

21 comments:

  1. Not being an Englishman I'm hesitant to comment, but I would say there's constructive criticism (which can actually be quite patriotic) and then there's out-and-out derision. The latter isn't all that helpful no matter what's being discussed.

    Personally, I wish we'd all just erase our national boundaries and focus on cooperative survival as human beings, on our single planet of incredible beauty and precious resources.

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    1. Constructive is fine Steve - as long as it is balanced with positive observation. I have encountered - in real life and on the TV - far too many ex-pats who feel they have licence to knock.

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  2. I'm with Steve - we need to think as a planet, not as separate nations. Not that I see it happening soon, but we are increasingly one world in so many ways due to technology and travel. And it's the only way we will learn to work together, if that's even possible.

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    1. You remind me of what a guy at a music festival once said to me when I asked him where he was "from". He said "I am an earthling".

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  3. We have many English expats. My grandparents were English. Many teachers came from England after the war as we wee very short of teachers. Very few of them continued teaching. However, I cannot remember anybody criticizing their homeland. Most spoke of missing all the things you list.

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    1. You just reminded me that when I was a little boy my father investigated a possible move to Canada. He was a village primary school headteacher. But in the end nothing came of it. I think my mother was the stumbling block.

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  4. ExPats aka new migrants to Canada are some of the worst. They miss England. The beer isn't good. There isn't a Marks and Spensers. The bacon is lousy. The list goes on and on.

    I've bit my tongue a few times to stop myself from asking why did you leave England.

    It wasn't like this 50 years ago when my family left Scotland. But then there was no internet, mail took weeks, and phone calls were expensive. My parents generation had no choice but to adopt the ways of the country they had moved to.

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    1. It's all an attitude of mind. People want happiness and contentment and when they haven't got those things they will look for something to blame.

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  5. I love my country and have never harboured a desire to live elsewhere. I'm a proud Aussie who is proud to be an Aussie and who loves Australia. I can't imagine leaving here to go and live in another country. It's just not who I am....it's a simple as that.

    If someone makes the choice to live in another country, they should assimilate and stop whingeing. If they don't like their new surrounds, the culture, the people, they should pack their bags and return from whence they came!

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    1. I agree that they should strive hard to assimilate and embrace their new home but equally they should not justify their move by constantly knocking the land they left behind.

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  6. I'm with Lee on this one. Come, but be nice. If you don't like it here (in my case, the good ole USA), please feel free to return to whence you came. I love it here in my country, but I 'feel' my ancestors in England & Germany deep inside my soul.

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    1. As you suggest Hillary, if someone chooses to emigrate they should strive hard to embrace the new. Recognising where you have come from is important but you don't have to knock it.

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  7. I assume that you've based your comments on watching TV programmes where British ex-pats have given vitriolic vent to their feelings about the UK? As you well know, the media don't want to know about people who have no axe to grind. Good news rarely sells TV programmes (or newspapers) - the more discontentment they can drum up, the better.
    There is good and bad in any country and Britain isn't perfect, but then neither is anywhere else.

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    1. As I said in the post CG, my reflections are based partly on real people I know such as my brother and his girlfriend, friends who moved to Australia, my late brother Paul who lived in Ireland and asides by English folk in those "Escape" or "Relocate" programmes.

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    2. Presume your brother and his girlfriend and other friends who moved to Oz, have all voiced discontent with England? What a shame if they have.
      I don't watch those Escape or Relocate programmes so wouldn't know what's been said. The mere fact that they wish to move somewhere abroad may be seen, in some people's eyes, as dissatisfaction with England - but please, don't tar everyone with the same brush.

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    3. No I won't. I am sure that lots of ex-pats have healthy attitudes to their homelands.

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  8. I agree wholeheartedly.

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    1. You may be the only one who has understood the nub of what I had to say about ex-pats.

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  9. And when you return "home" because things were different in your adopted country....or the food was funny.....or you didn't understand their sense of humour ....or you missed the seasons / rain/ your family, don't slag off that country that allowed you in . Just say "There's no place like home " and realise you now appreciate all that you have and the grass isn't always greener. Of course there are many who move and love it and never want to go back. I rather fancy living in two places but , besides the cost, would find it very hard to choose just where to go ? England or France ??? If I could just win the lottery......

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    1. England or France? That's like choosing between a Rolls Royce and a Holden Spark!

      I like your point about difference. Different doesn't have to mean better or worse...it can just be different.

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  10. I don't see myself as an expat. That seems to imply that you a Brit in temporary residence abroad. Prefer to think of myself as an English-Australian. I do slag off Britain from time to time but my criticism is generally directed at the government and its actions, not the place itself. There seems to be a certain type of Brit (not the whingeing pom) who comes out to Australia and is very negative about Britain. It's almost as if they are trying to justify their move here. There's a lot of things I like and miss about England but sadly (slagging off alert?) many of these things are dying out. Proper pubs. Trains that reliably take you from A to B. Concerts that you can afford to go to. Independent shops instead of chains. Unspoiled parks and countryside. I'm afraid England has become a foreign country for me.

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