The announcement that Britain was holding a referendum to vote whether to stay in or leave the European Union (EU) came to me as a shock. Not only did I never expect a country wanting to leave the EU as badly as certain media made it seem, I was also worried about what would happen to me if they would actually vote to leave.
Three years ago, I moved to England to study on a Dutch passport; a move made easier because of the EU.
Not only did this idea of “Brexit” scare me, it also upset me. Besides the fact that the UK spends a lot of money to stay in the EU, immigration was one of the main reasons people wanted the UK to leave the union. As an "immigrant" myself, I've always felt very welcome. There haven’t been a lot of moments that I had felt that I was different than all my English-born friends. The way immigrants were portrayed during the months leading up to the referendum did, however, made me feel like the outsider; the bad guy.
After Brexit, I’ve been shouted at in a supermarket because I speak with a foreign accent. I was made fun of by colleagues at my old part-time job. It’s hard to imagine all this hate coming my way after having lived in England for quite a while and hardly having encountered any prejudiced comments.
The way that immigrants were portrayed during the months leading up to the referendum made me feel like the outsider; the bad guy.
It seemed that because of the outcome of the referendum people felt it was somehow acceptable to be openly racist. I was devastated, though. I thought, why would it matter that some people are born on a different piece of Earth? Most immigrants work, speak English, pay their taxes. They help the country, they don’t destroy it.
I flew back to the Netherlands for a few weeks during summer to spend time with friends and family and avoid everything Brexit-related for a little while. Luckily everything had blown over by the time I returned to England. The only comments I get about it now are from people who wonder what will happen to me and my future here when Brexit happens.
I get asked what I’m going to do if the UK leaves the EU a lot by friends, family and my customers at the hotel bar I work at. The options that I will have are simple; get a visa or trade in my Dutch passport for an English one. Right now I'm leaning towards getting a visa, simply because I haven't been in England long enough to decide whether this is the country I want to settle in. Only if and when I decide that England is the country I want to live in permanently, will I consider getting an English passport. But until then a visa will be enough for me. Yes, it’ll cost money and it might influence my chances on getting a job in England, but those are just problems I will have to deal with.
There will be tons of options for foreigners to remain in the UK and live the life they want to live. I’m positive I will be able to keep living here if I want without too much hassle. England has become my home over the last three years and whether Brexit ends up happening or not, nobody is going to bully me out of it.Add this article to your reading list