It was a pleasure to catch up with Anna – and her adorable dog Angel - again after meeting them in August 2016. We took a stroll in her favourite park to chat about Brexit, Catalonian independence and why you should look after your toys properly. Anna's optimism and energy are infectious and probably the reason why she is riding the post-Brexit wave more successfully than most.

One year on I’m still not worried about Brexit and remain optimistic about the future. To me it’s important that the decision was taken in a democratic way. If I compare it to the situation in Catalonia, for example, at least the British were allowed to have a say in a matter that was important to them, which didn’t happen in Catalonia. You have to respect that, irrespective of whether you like the result or not.
The way forward now, in my opinion, is communication and mutual respect between British people and EU nationals - but it has to work both ways. There are a lot of people who come into this country and don’t make any effort to adapt to the culture or the way of life. Some British people have to learn to be more tolerant and accepting towards immigration, it’s true, but by the same token there has to be a willingness to integrate into the community from those coming to live in the country.
I think there is a lot of manipulation in the information that we get [on the possible state of the economy post-Brexit], both from mainstream media and the Government itself. Most of the time we don’t actually get facts, just opinions or worst-case scenarios, which causes a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. We should now work together as a society to improve things whenever we can and, as individuals, we should strive to be resilient and adapt to the new situation that Brexit will bring.
[On the rise of nationalism] Extremes are always a bad idea, but I can perhaps understand why some people here in the UK have this strong patriotic feeling. I compare it to a child having a toy he loves and has to share. He is overly cautious and wants to make sure that other children don’t damage it. I think this is perhaps how some British people feel on the subject of immigration. On the other hand, too many times we [immigrants] get tarred with the same brush. It’s true that there are some people who come here and don’t bother to learn the language or contribute to society, but the immense majority of us do – we definitely look after the toy properly.


After meeting Michele in October 2016, it was a pleasure to catch up with her again in her beautiful London "home from home". Always candid, outspoken and good fun, we chatted about colourful socks, the Empire and how young people are our only hope.

I can’t say that my life has changed very much on a day to day basis, I haven’t had any bad experiences or people being nasty to me. I really haven’t had that kind of negative experience. On the contrary, people have been very supportive.
I feel a bit more relaxed, but I’m still angry. For me [Brexit] it’s an aberration on the same level as the Trump election. I blame the education system for not making young people aware of political choices. I think the way forward is with the kids, we need to encourage diversity in schools and give foreign languages a prominent place again. Send young people abroad on exchange programmes and make them travel a bit. Specially, invest in education.
I think building bridges is going to be hard. Some British people have an island mentality and many of them still consider themselves as part of the Empire, they are still a bit back in time compared to the rest of Europe. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, but there’s definitely a kind of attitude, they think they’ll be fine without Europe because other countries like India are going to help them out, but they are not.
The older generation - I mean, those of that generation who voted Brexit - I really think they are a lost cause. I don’t think you can change their minds. The way forward now is the kids, young people, the Millenials and younger.


After meeting Simona in November 2016, I recently caught up with her again to see how life has changed a year on from the Brexit vote. Now based in north London, we met up at her local park to talk about trees, diversity and the post-referendum hangover.

I used to read the press and worry a lot about Brexit, now that has faded quite a bit. I still follow the news but it doesn’t affect me anymore. I guess it’s because the whole process is so long and monotonous. Nothing has really changed, so there’s still a big question mark in my mind when I think about what it might mean for people like me.
I see myself here long term. Back then there was a part of me that was worried about things getting worse and feeling unwelcome, but that hasn’t happened. I have created a life for myself here, I have many friends and I am building up my career. I am not wiling to lose all that. In fact, Brexit has made me want to stay in this country even more, I am determined to keep what I have gained so far and prove that I am a viable person with a lot to offer.
My partner and I discovered this tree with some friends who live in the area. I come here often on my own as well. The tree is so reassuring, so welcoming, so positive, it makes me feel really safe and protected. It means a lot to us, it’s somewhere we can go to reflect and to ask for the things that we want in life. We actually literally asked the tree to be allowed to stay in this country, it was an instinctive thing to do. We also come to give thanks for the good things that have happened to us. We both come here often for many reasons.
British people around me are very supportive, they are against the idea of division and for the idea of union and inclusion. I think diversity is important for the sake of local communities, and there is a real need for dialogue. I have been listening more to people who are pro-Brexit to find out their reasons and exchange experiences, to try to have an understanding. Now more than ever it is essential for people to come together and keep the lines of communication open.


My initial reaction [to the referendum result] was quite raw and quite strong. I remember saying to my husband ‘That’s it. I’m officially not welcome in this country.’

Gabriela comes from Romania. She met Tim - and Englishman and her now husband - in the Czech Republic in 2012 when they were both working for the same company. After a couple of years they decided to move away from the Czech Republic as the language barrier meant that Tim found it difficult to adapt and integrate.

At the time Gabriela would have needed a work permit to come and work in the UK, so they moved to Ireland temporarily instead. When the immigration restrictions were lifted, they both moved to the UK, where they have lived and worked since 2014. 

Gabriela is a Modern Languages graduate and has a PhD in Contemporary British Literature. She works as a team leader in the finance department of a global company dealing in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories.


To me, Brexit feels like a bad break-up and I still can’t understand why. To date I haven’t heard one single argument that convinces me that this is a good idea. Britain had very favourable terms. I think it all comes down to free movement, which personally I find insulting.

Anette comes from Germany and met her British partner while on holiday in Bali. She moved to the UK to be with him in 2011.

Her background is in Sociology and Politics but in Germany she worked as a travel editor for the online version of a German national newspaper. Anette continued writing for German websites and magazines once in the UK.

Anette also has a keen interest in photography. She has experience photographing wildlife and nature, and has also dabbled in fine art photography. She would like to develop this further in the future and establish herself as a photographer.


I am a very open person. This country is beautiful and the people over here are beautiful. I have learnt so much and I feel like no matter what’s happening if people unite we can all just live here happily. If I ever feel like I wan to leave I’ll leave, but not because of Brexit.

Rimante arrived in the UK from Lithuania in 2014 looking to further her education and find better opportunities for herself. She studied Multimedia at her local University for two years and then completed a course on alternative therapies.

For the last nine months she has worked for the buying department of a builders' merchant and home improvement retailer, a role she has found exciting and challenging and that has allowed her to develop and learn new skills.


I was at work when the result of the referendum was announced and I wasn’t expecting it at all. The difference was very slim, just 2%, and this poses a big problem because to honour what half of the population want you are going to have to upset and disregard the other half.

Ramon came to the UK from the Catalonia region of Spain in 2003 after qualifying as a flight attendant.

For the first year he worked in a fast food chain in order to settle into the country and improve his English. In 2004 he went back to Spain to undergo the selection process for a flight attendant position with a major airline. Ramon was successful and stayed in Spain for a month to receive his training. 

After completing this, he returned to the UK and started working at London airports. He was soon promoted to a more senior role and moved to a Midlands regional airport, where he currently works.


The whole situation is a roller-coaster of emotions. You are OK for a while and getting on with your life and then something comes up in the news and suddenly things become very real and the worry and anxiety start all over again.

Begoña came to the UK from Spain in 2004. She initially worked as a waitress but, thanks to her background in Economics and her knowledge of Spanish and English, was soon able to find a position in the international finance sector.  

A few years later she married an Englishman and in 2012 she gave birth to her daughter.

Begoña has worked for the same company, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories, for over a decade, first on a customer service role for the Spanish market and now in a management position within the Finance department of one of the company's major brands.


I think the EU is there for a good reason, specially in times like now when we have problems with terrorism on one side and then Trump and Russia. The EU is really important and if you look around in England there are a lot of EU projects going on, so I don’t understand where the rejection comes from.

Yvonne came to the UK from Germany in 2010 to study Economics as part of the Erasmus exchange programme.

After completing her studies in the UK she went back to Germany to finish her degree and then returned to the UK to take up an internship working for a start-up company as a sporting and social events organiser for international students.

Since 2015 Yvonne has been working for a builders' merchant and home improvement retailer in the international sales department. Unsure about what the situation in this country will be in the coming years, Yvonne is hoping to train as a teacher and move to Spain with her partner in the future.


It [Brexit] was like a slap in the face, it was so surreal I didn’t really believe it. I sensed the effects overnight, the situation totally flipped, like before people had to respect you but now they have invisible permission to victimise you. It’s awful.

Jadwiga came to the UK from Poland in 2010. She soon found employment as a warehouse worker, which she combined with a part-time teaching position at a Polish school.

She then worked for a leading international infrastructure company as an office administrator, and later on in the probation sector as part of a learning and development team, coordinating training for probation officers.

Jadwiga is currently working as a personal development coordinator for an organisation that helps individuals struggling with homelessness, offending, substance misuse and mental health problems. She is also keen to explore her creative side and is furthering her skills as a photographer, hoping that she will be able to combine her passion for helping people with her passion for photography.


I think the idea of controlling people’s movement between countries is quite unnatural and unnecessary. Sometimes we forget how much we are all part of the same land, and I actually do really admire people who are brave enough to start a new life in a different cultural surrounding.

Simona moved to the UK from Italy in 2009. She holds a Diploma in Business and International Studies, however, after taking cello lessons in her hometown she realised that her true calling was pursuing a career in music.

She worked in a pub for a few years, joined a folk band and immersed herself in the local music scene, collaborating with musicians and singer-songwriters and performing with orchestras in a wide variety of festivals across the country.

In 2014 she received a scholarship to purchase a new musical instrument and enrolled to study a BA in Music Performance in one of the country's leading conservatoires. After completing her studies, Simona would like to carry on working in the music industry, either in a performing or teaching role.


I am more involved in politics now. I want to know what the opposition are doing, I travel to London regularly to attend conferences and events. There are many of us in this situation, we have to get organised and take action to highlight the contribution we make to this country.

Amaya grew up in a German-Spanish household. Originally from La Paz, she was adopted by a German mother and a Spanish father and lived in various countries throughout her childhood.

She moved to the UK in 2006 to start a Degree in Economics and, after completing her studies, spent the following year and a half doing volunteering work with refugees and local organisations helping the most vulnerable in society.

She then moved to the Netherlands for a year to study European politics at postgraduate level. However, Amaya found the country unwelcoming and struggled to fit in, so she decided to return to England and shortly after found a job at the Citizens Advice Bureau, where she still works today.


I would love to be able to be part of British society and not be looked upon as a foreign person who shouldn’t be here, or who is exploiting the system. There are people out there who are much worse for society, and they don’t come from Eastern Europe.

Alzbeta came to the UK in 2014 from Slovakia to pursue her passion for music. She applied to University in the UK and was accepted into a BA in Music (Jazz) course, which she will complete in May 2017.

With no previous training in jazz music, Alzbeta came to the UK not knowing what to expect. Here she found a welcoming multicultural community and a thriving jazz music scene, where she regularly performs. She regards her decision to move to this country as the best decision she has made in her life.

After completing her Degree, Alzbeta would like to continue her studies in Music and is currently applying to Masters Programmes both here and in other European countries.


I was very sad when it [Brexit] happened. For the first time in 20 years I felt like I wasn’t welcome. I have been working and paying my taxes, I am teaching difficult groups that nobody else wants to teach, it’s not like I am stealing work from anybody.

Michèle arrived in the UK from the Vendée region of France in 1997 to take a position as a Language Assistant at a British university, a job she held for two years.

After this, she started a Postgraduate Degree in Education to train as a French teacher in the secondary education sector. After completing her studies Michèle worked in various schools across the East Midlands for a period of 10 years.

Following this, she decided to take a break from teaching and completed a Diploma in Environmental Conservation, trained as a Park ranger and did volunteering work for the National Trust. Michèle hopes she can one day combine her love of teaching with her love for the environment.


I think the country is going to go through some difficulties now, unless people are really flexible and resourceful. They will have to be more creative about how to be outside the EU and still be a very vibrant and robust country, both financially and culturally. How they go about it is the big unknown now.

Alexandra came to the UK from Greece in 2003 to further her education. Shortly after arriving, she started a Postgraduate course in Drama Therapy, combining her studies with a job as a supply teacher.

She then started a family and began working as a therapist for the NHS CAMS Service, supporting children with mental health issues.

Having been made redundant from this role in 2013, she decided to focus again on her education, enrolling in a Postgraduate course in Psychoanalytical Observational Studies at the University of Leeds.

At the moment, Alexandra is focusing on her family and is also supporting her local community as a volunteer therapist for a local Mother and Baby support group. In the future, she hopes to be able to resume her studies in order to set up her own private practice as a Psychotherapist. 

Maria and Simon

I [Maria] have experienced a lot of sadness and anxiety. I felt left out at a time when I was working hard to fit in and adapt to British culture. I am not sure where I will end up, I’m young and there’s a whole world out there to explore.”

”Some people say that the Leave vote was a vote of punishment against Cameron and the Tories, but I think the voters are only punishing themselves. I [Simon] see no positives at all in this situation. Things seem to have calmed down but you can already see some repercussions.

Maria came to the UK from Madrid in 2014. She holds a Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the Universidad Complutense.

Maria holds a position as a Spanish teacher at her local University and is also currently enrolled in a Masters Programme to further her skills in the education sector. 

In the future, Maria would like to develop her own Spanish-teaching business, using her passion for cooking as a medium for teaching the language.

Simon was born in the UK to an English father and a Spanish mother. Although British by birth, he identifies more with his Spanish side. 

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from Oxford University and a PhD in Spanish Theatre from Queen Mary University of London. 

Simon has travelled between the two countries his whole life. In 2008 he moved to Spain and began working for a theatre company in Madrid. In 2013 he returned to the UK to work as a University lecturer, a position he still holds today.


Brexit hasn’t particularly affected my life so far. I think there is a lot of confusion at the moment, no one really knows how it’s going to turn out. In fact, since the referendum I have felt more support and kindness from English people than ever before.

Anna comes from Barcelona and has lived in the country since 2008. She has a young son who started school in 2016.

With a background in human resources and customer services, Anna has mainly worked in sales and the hospitality sector for various UK companies.

In 2015 she retrained as a personal coach and now runs her own business helping people work through their emotions to lead happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives.

Inma and Andres

It was sad to see how most of the Leave campaign was focused on immigration, blaming people like us for some of the biggest problems of this country. We felt it was very irresponsible of politicians to pit one section of the population against another for their own interests, not valuing foreign workers like us for the contribution we make to the development of this country.
— Inma

Inma and Andres come from Andalucía in Spain and have lived in the UK since 2011. They are married with a young son, who was born in England in 2013.

Andres works as a pharmacist and has also set up "El Cuervo" - his own bilingual English-Spanish theatre company.

Inma has worked as a researcher in Microbiology in the higher education sector and is now part of the scientific team of a British natural nitrogen technology company.


I believe in a world without borders and think this [Brexit] is a step backwards from that. I am not concerned about my situation as an EU National in the UK, perhaps because I have been here for longer than the London Eye and I am both practical and resourceful, or it could be that I am still a bit in denial, I wouldn’t know.

Monica comes from northern Spain and has lived in the UK since 1998. She is married with two young sons.

Through the years she has worked as a special needs teaching assistant, carer in an old people's home, and shop manager.

After completing an MSc in Environmental Water Management in 1999, she started working as a Hydrologist, and later on in Integrated Environment Planning, a position that she still holds today.