Gabriela

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.

Anette

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.

Rimante

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.

After finishing her studies, Rimante worked in various sectors holding positions in retail, hospitality and customer service. 

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.

However, Rimante's true passion is bettering herself and helping others do the same so she is currently focusing on a career as a Life Coach, which she describes as her "heart's calling".  

I was very surprised to hear the result of the referendum. Then all the negativity poured in, everyone around me seemed so distressed and negative about it.

I personally felt confused because everyone who campaigned to get that result then disappeared and took no responsibility. I don’t think there was enough information in general, on either side, and the press just weren’t helping at all.

It all seemed to be about Polish people taking jobs, it was ridiculous. I still don’t know what Brexit is all about. Is it just about leaving the European Union? Is it about getting rid of foreigners coming over? Is it about the country becoming independent? I’m still not sure.

Personally I haven’t felt any bad effects. Everyone at work was very supportive and they felt disappointed with the result. It’s important to remember that this is not just affecting EU nationals, it’s affecting a good number of British people and businesses as well.

The company I was working for at the time had to juggle a lot of pricing, it caused a lot of distress for them, as the dollar rate dropped, we had to increase our prices twice since the result.

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.

Ramon

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.

I am not worried about Brexit affecting my job. The only possible repercussion is that prices for passengers to fly with us into and out of the UK will likely increase. London is a great city but so are Berlin or Dublin, so I think people might look to other European countries for city breaks if the prices increase.

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.

I don’t agree with the claim that we are taking jobs from British people. To give you an example, when I arrived in the UK the NHS were advertising to recruit foreign doctors and nurses to staff their hospitals and surgeries. They were so desperate for foreign professionals that they were even paying for their accommodation. At a less specialised level, Europeans usually take the low paid jobs that nobody else wants to do.

I haven’t had any problems with discrimination or hate crime myself. And I feel very reassured that soon after the referendum I received a letter from the police to say I shouldn’t hesitate to talk to them if I had any problems, as they weren’t going to tolerate any racist or xenophobic attacks.

At work, I have noticed a negative attitude towards Europeans from some passengers but my work colleagues are from all over Europe and the atmosphere within the staff is good.

Begoña

Begoña came to the UK from the Asturias region of Spain 12 years ago to improve her command of English.

She worked as a waitress whilst perfecting the language and, 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.  

Her plan was to use this experience to build up her CV and return to Spain with a better chance of finding a job there. However, she soon met the man she would eventually marry, decided to stay in the country, and gave birth to a daughter four years ago.

Begoña has worked for the same company, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories, for the past 11 years, 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 was surprised when l learnt the result of the referendum, neither of us were expecting it. We couldn’t believe it.

At first I felt rejected, the society I have known for years has always been respectful and inclusive, and that appeared to have changed overnight. Later on I felt a lot of uncertainty, both for me and for my English friends who live in Europe, you begin to realise that this is going to affect a lot of people.

I get the feeling that the UK was never fully involved in the EU, their heart just wasn’t in it. I think the result was partly due to do with lack of employment. When there is an economic recession people start thinking that others are taking their jobs away from them, when in fact a lot of immigrants who come here do the jobs that no one else wants to do.

I have a young daughter and I am worried for her, she was born in England but she has both her Dad’s and my surname [as is the Spanish tradition]. I’m worried about how people might perceive her because of that, and because she has a Spanish Mum, I worry that perhaps she won’t fit in when she is older.

The other day we asked her whether she felt English or Spanish. She wouldn’t say at first but this morning she proudly declared “I am English, Mummy!”. I can’t help but worry though, as a parent you worry about a lot of things.

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, you hear about the March deadline for triggering Article 50, and suddenly things become very real and the worry and anxiety start all over again.

I don’t know… For a very long time I have felt that this is my home, but things have changed, I don’t feel that way anymore, I could leave tomorrow.

Yvonne

Yvonne came to the UK from Germany in 2010 to study Economics at a London university 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.

She then took up a position with the British Medical Association as an events organiser for a period of four years. After meeting her current partner they both moved to a different part of the country, where he had been offered a place to study Medicine.

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.

When I read the news I laughed, it was so unexpected, I just couldn’t believe it. Some of the people at my work were really happy, they didn’t seem to sympathise with me at all.

No one came to me the whole day to say I am so sorry for you, not even my manager. My colleague and I are both European and we bring a lot of money into the company, yet no one came to us to reassure us that we were still welcome.

It was really upsetting that no one asked how I was feeling. One of my colleagues told me that it was their choice who they wanted to include as a country, that it was up to them and that I had to accept that. I was shocked and upset.

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 know where the rejection comes from.

When I arrived in London I was really surprised to see so many foreign people on the bus, but then I thought “Well, actually, this is England”, it’s so international and it was so nice to be in such an open and inclusive country. You don’t have that kind of integration in many other EU countries.

I think the whole immigration issue is just a tool of distraction to deflect from the country’s own issues regarding cuts and privatisation. It’s so transparent, I am surprised some people can’t see it.

Jadwiga

Jadwiga came to the UK from Poland in 2010. She soon found employment as a warehouse worker, a job she did for the first year and a half, combining it with a part-time teaching position at a Polish school.

She was then able to move on to office work, temping for a leading international infrastructure company as an office administrator. Following this, she worked 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. In her role, she works in a team to support people, coordinating projects and referring those in need to the services and resources that can help them. 

While she credits this job as her dream job, Jadwiga would also like to explore her creative side and is currently furthering her skills as a photographer, hoping that one day she will be able to combine her passion for helping people with her passion for photography.

I try not to worry about things I have no control over, and I feel pretty secure here because of my job and my house. 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.

My friend who works closely with the Polish community is telling me horror stories about how they are now being victimised not just by some people in this country, but by other nationalities as well. I am hearing a lot of stories about Polish people not being served well at stores, cashiers being unpleasant to them, and things like that make you feel not so welcome here.

I am very worried that this wave of hate will continue and that it will get worse when we actually leave the EU. I will affect innocent people, who work hard, and that is really unfair.

On the other hand, the day after the referendum my manager went out and bought all Polish workers flowers to show his appreciation and that we are welcome. That was amazing, and this is what I hold on to, more than the prejudice that might be out there.

Simona

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.

Once in England 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, which she will finish next year. After completing her studies, Simona would like to carry on working in the music industry, either in a performing or teaching role.

I cried when I found out about the result of the referendum, for me it was a sign of regression more than progression. I thought the idea of controlling people’s movement between countries was 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 live in a different cultural surrounding.

I have lived in London and love the idea of multiculturalism and having the diversity of many different communities. Being positive I don’t think it [Brexit] will seriously threaten that, and even if life in the UK is going to be slightly more difficult for Europeans from now on, multiculturalism is still too strong to actually stop it or harm it in a serious way, there’s too much going on. It wouldn’t even be convenient, I presume, for the country itself to lose so many workers and students as these people coming along make many different contributions that need to be taken into account as well.

I have friends who supported Leave and their reasons were more financial than related to immigration. Irrespective of how people voted, I think we have to see past our differences and try to work together somehow.

I do also believe we all wish for the same things, to have a good, balanced life and be happy. It’s not right blaming those who don’t share your same thoughts, on the contrary, it’s important to establish a dialogue and try to understand different points of view.

I’m aware that those in support of Britain leaving the EU are hoping for a beneficial change to come from it and even if personally I still cannot see the advantages of such a choice that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Ultimately, I like to believe that things will work out in respect of everyone’s needs and in the less divisible way possible.

Amaya

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 before finally settling in Brussels, where she completed her International Baccalaureate.

She then moved to Madrid to study at Universidad Carlos III, where - being from a different background - she encountered an unwelcoming atmosphere and found it challenging to fit in. She stayed in Madrid for a year and then moved to the UK in 2006 in search of a more tolerant and inclusive experience, which, happily, she found.

Soon after arriving in the country, Amaya started 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, after encountering much of the same atmosphere she endured in Madrid, Amaya decided to return to England and shortly after found a job at the Citizens Advice Bureau, where she still works today.

To me it [the referendum result] was traumatic, like a car crash. You don’t experience the full range of emotions right away, they come later, like a delayed reaction. I am now more involved in politics, 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.

I think the Remain camp didn’t do a good job explaining the many benefits of being in the EU. They didn’t include us EU nationals in their narrative during the campaign either. Where were the first hand accounts of people like myself who have lived here for years? Of EU nationals who have started their businesses here and are generating employment and revenue for this country?

The day after the referendum I felt like a guest who had overstayed their welcome. Some of my European friends feel anxious about speaking in English with an accent, they are worried about giving themselves away as foreign. This isn’t a feeling that’s just going to go away, like flicking a switch, it is traumatic and it will take years.

Alzbeta

Alzbeta came to the UK in 2014 from Slovakia to pursue her passion for music. After completing her A-levels in one of Slovakia’s most prestigious bilingual grammar schools, she applied to University in the UK through UCAS 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. However, she is open-minded about her future and is also considering taking a gap year to explore another one of her passions – studying to become a Yoga instructor in India.

I always used to think of myself as Central European, not Eastern European, at least that’s what we were taught at school, but everyone here thinks I’m from Eastern Europe. I do understand that it is because I come from a Slavic background.

I think some British people are not aware of what’s happening in the East or in other parts of Europe. I do understand why this kind of discrimination came to be - because they don’t understand what these people [Eastern European immigrants] are going through, why they move to this country and why they choose to stay here.

I think it [their coming here] is to do with the economic crisis, and in my country it’s mainly to do with my Government being corrupt. The middle class is diminishing, the lower class is getting bigger and then you just have 1% of people who own much of everything.

I can see the frustration also coming from my parents because they both are very educated people. My mother, for example, has two Masters Degrees, she is a lawyer and an engineer, and she can’t find a job in my country.

I’d love to be able to be a 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.
_L4A0893_edited.jpg

Michele

Michèle arrived in the UK from the Vendée region of France in 1997. While studying for a Postgraduate Degree in English Literature in Nantes, she obtained a position as a Language Assistant at a British university, a job she held for two years.

After this, she remained in England and started a Postgraduate Degree in Education to become a French teacher in the secondary education sector. After completing her studies she 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. 

However, finding paid work in the environmental sector proved difficult, so Michèle went back to the teaching profession and started working in Special Needs schools and then in a Pupil Referral Unit as a teacher for vulnerable children. She hopes she can one day combine her love of teaching with her love for the environment.

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.

I go online and I see all those young people, the Millennials, who are so open-minded, and so well educated. Most of them are so accepting of other people’s differences, be it their nationality or their sexual identity.

They are eager to see increased minorities representation in cinema and TV. They want to see and interact with more people of colour, more LGBT, more people with different religion or beliefs than their own, more people with disabilities on their screens.

They are all so friendly. And then out there, you have people blaming Europeans for stealing jobs, you have this rampant nationalism that seems so out of place in a century where we’ve all “gone global”. I don’t understand where that’s coming from.

Alexandra

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 - a course that she had to put on hold after giving birth to her third child.

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. 

It [Brexit] shattered my illusions about the UK being a sort of Utopia. I left Greece because I realised it had a lot of work to do on Women’s rights, Gay rights, Human rights, immigrant rights, etc and I felt like this [UK] was the green and happy land and that people were more open-minded, but what I suspected all these years was that it wasn’t that they had more tolerance here about immigrants, I think it was more indifference than tolerance.

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.

Maria and Simon

Maria came to the UK from Madrid and holds a Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the Universidad Complutense. She arrived in the country in 2014 and since then has taught Spanish in the higher education sector. She is currently enrolled in a Masters Programme to further her skills as a Spanish language teacher. 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 now. 

On the day of the referendum, I [Simon] was working at a theatre workshop in London with people from all over the world. We were all devastated. Then out came the stories in the press about people telling European waiters to go home. It was disgraceful. 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 see no positives at all in this situation. Things seem to have calmed down but you can already see some repercussions.
I [Maria] experienced a lot of sadness and anxiety at the beginning. It [Brexit] made me question whether this was really the place for me in the long term. I felt left out at a time when I was working hard to fit in and adapt to British culture. However, I have had a lot of support from some sectors of society, like work colleagues and my own students. This has made me feel a bit better. I am not sure where I will end up, I’m young and there’s a whole world out there to explore.

Anna

Anna comes from Barcelona and has lived in the country since 2008. She got married in 2009 and has a young son who has just started school.

Since arriving, Anna has worked in the hospitality sector and later on in human resources and sales for various companies. In 2015 she retrained as a nutritional coach and now runs her own fitness and nutrition business, which focuses on the emotional aspects of weight gain.

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.

I am happy and content in this country and I always try to focus on the positive. I am not worried about it, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Inma and Andres

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 worked as a locum pharmacist and is now setting up "El Cuervo" - his own bilingual Theatre Company. Inma has worked as a Researcher in Microbiology in the higher education sector and is now working as part of the scientific team of a British natural nitrogen technology company.

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.

After the referendum we experienced a mixture of emotions – fear, frustration, anger, a strong feeling of being unwanted.

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.

We are worried that this could greatly affect the peaceful coexistence between nationalities in this diverse and multicultural society.
_L4A0378_edited.jpg

Monica

Monica was born in 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 before completing an MSc in Environmental Water Management in 1999 and starting working as a Hydrologist in the year 2000 and in Integrated Environment Planning later on, a position that she still holds now.

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.

As Murakami says in one of my favourite books, sometimes “you have to wait until tomorrow to find out what tomorrow will bring”.