I was warned before coming back to the UK, by acquaintances, forum users and media, that the UK has been overrun with ‘damned foreigners’. You couldn’t turn 180 degrees without bumping into one of them, apparently. Taking over our jobs, the health service, the housing….and by golly if you didn’t watch out your own wife would have a foreign infestation growing in her belly. It seems to me that these warnings were a little….exaggerated?
Having said that, there are a lot more non-British folk in the UK. Noticeably more. Many of them east and central Europeans. Many of them, Poles. It is, quite frankly, a blessing. I have grown to appreciate their hard work, good customer service and general friendliness to the point that I will actively choose to shop in stores with Poles working in them, and to sometimes even avoid stores with Brits behind the counter. Great Britian has not, sadly, been ‘overrun’ enough for my liking. A little more would only be a good thing.
In London there are more Asians. Some of them are even, and I say this with a virtual whisper, are Muslim. Actually, a lot are Muslim. It makes me giggle a little bit when Little Englanders go on about how the ‘Indians are an alright bunch’ based on their experiences in Indian restaurants, seemingly oblivious to the fact that most Indian restaurants in the UK are run by Muslims.
There’s another thing I’ve found that’s noticeable. Especially when compared with the 70’s, but this also applies to the 80’s and 90’s. There’s more tolerance. Which goes very much against the claims of those who say too much mixing breeds intolerance. Heavens….even the recent rioters joined together, black and white, to go on a multicultural looting spree. I would put some of this down to a national campaign that has been work in progress for decades. Some would call this campaign ‘political correctness’. I would call it ‘good manners’.
Another noticeable difference is that there’s far more of Latin America here. Mexico in particular. I was often asked when I lived in Mexico, what made me go there in the first place. Accident and happenstance was the answer. Mexico had never really been on the British radar. There were very few Mexican restaurants to be found and just as few Mexicans. Mexico is definitely on the British radar now, and food is leading the assault. We’ve been watching a new weekly TV series, Mexican Food Made Simple.
However, there was a much earlier pioneer of immigration to the UK from Latin America. A famous Peruvian. Who won a place in the hearts of all Englanders, be they of the Little or Big variety. He was unashamedly an illegal immigrant. Who sent home money to his family. And generally caused culutral mayhem. He was one of my childhood heroes, and was so fondly remembered by my generation that he made it back onto our screens just a few years ago. Paddington, everyone’s favourite stowaway.