Homesick…

I’m just under a week from my annual return to my home town, Minneapolis, MN, for a visit. And I’m absolutely gutted that I don’t make these visits last as long as I should. I always visit MSP in August or September in conjunction with my annual proper beach holiday, in which I laze on the North Carolinian Outer Banks and hope that hurricanes will not come. Perhaps nearly five years abroad has made me miss home that much more.

One of the things I love about going “home” is the food. The foodie culture in Minneapolis is amazing, and it’s been changing so much since I lived there. So my trip will be filled with awesome eating and I have a brief trip filled with restaurant reservations. I’m still saddened by the loss of my favorite local restaurant, the no longer in existance Bayport Cookery, but I have plans to try and see and taste as much as I can in my short not-quite-a-week in town. I spent tonight, yes, a Saturday evening, reading restaurant reviews in City Pages dreaming of my days to be spent in the Mill City and near my old haunts.

I was, as readers of this blog would know, in the US last week for work, at a conference in Maine during which I worked like crazy and basically exhausted myself. I returned to an England that seems to be in the midst of an immigration crisis that I have a difficult time explaining or understanding. America has an immigration crisis, but it’s one to do with illegal immigration. Legal immigration is not something you see much about in the US press, except in the context of the success stories: immigrants who have settled in the states and started companies and succeeded. Britain, on the other hand, seems to be in a legal migration crisis where the idea that anyone from anywhere outside the EU might want to live here on a relatively permanent basis is toxic. This goes back to the unfortunate refrain of “British jobs for British workers” that has tainted the spirit here for the last few years.

Being American, and being only a third generation American (both of my grandmothers were first generation Americans and spoke European languages, Norwegian and Dutch) I find this rhetoric confusing and, well, hostile. UK immigration rules are tightening all of the time, and it’s been a constant worry in my years living here. Although I am subject to the rules that were in place when I arrived in this country nearly 5 years ago, it’s hard not to notice that people in my position would be discouraged from even entering the country for work purposes in the new rules being drafted. If they were allowed to come here, it would be temporary as the guidance is meant to refuse rights of permanent residency to new immigrants in jobs.

I spent the better part of this afternoon today on the phone with my favorite expat friend, the only person I know from the US who is, like me, a single, working, expat with a less-than-clear plan for the future based on the difficulties of living abroad and the lack of clarity surrounding long-term plans when you are in this situation. And here is where I become rather jaded. Had I married a Brit, the path would be clear. But as a single woman who happens to have a job working outside the US, it’s a bit muddled. The immigration people seem to be far more at ease about spouses than about people who have a job and thus contribute to the tax base and the economy in general (and without being a burden on the welfare system by definition). This mystifies me, and makes me slightly crazy at times.

I’m excited to be going “home” to Minneapolis and then to the beach, as I will spend three happy weeks in the US being less worried about my future as if I was in the UK. Several people have joked that I should apply for jobs equivalent to mine in Canada, as they do not seem to have the skilled immigrant situation sorted as a “problem” the way the UK does. But I have a great job here in England, that is on paper a contract for many years (until “the retirement age” which could mean forever) but that is only if the UKBA allows me to stay here by ratifying my immigration paperwork. I head “home” with a big question mark over my head and a lot of confusion in my heart. It’s hard to plan for forever in a country that is spending so much time making it clear that I am not wanted. But I love my job here and I have no desire to make a change when it really comes down to it. I’m homesick because I miss the days when I spent zero time worrying about these sorts of things. Of all the expat surprises I was not expecting when I moved abroad, the amount of time spent both worrying about and doing extra paperwork that locals don’t have to do is certainly the biggest. I still maintain that more people should do this and should get the experience of living abroad, but I increasingly understand why a temporary stint is more appealing than my sort of long-term situation. Here’s hoping that the time in the US will give me strength to continue with this battle when I return, and have to face the immigration paperwork with my full attention.

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19 responses to “Homesick…

  1. …annnnnnnd now I’m depressed.

    Enjoy your trip to Minneapolis!

    *starts looking for a mail-order UK husband*

  2. Vlad the Emailer

    ‘Britain, on the other hand, seems to be in a legal migration crisis where the idea that anyone from anywhere outside the EU might want to live here on a relatively permanent basis is toxic.’
    Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you that the reason British people are hostile to more immigration (even legal immigration) is that we live on a very small island. The USA is **39** times bigger than the UK in area, but has a population only 5 times as big (305 million versus 62 million). Britain has 660 inhabitants per sq mile, as opposed to the USA at 83. We are the recipients of 500,000 legal immigrants a year. The vastly bigger USA takes 1 million. We also have an unemployment rate of 7.7%

    The current immigration numbers has led higher crime rates, demand for more housing, extra strain on the environment, traffic congestion, longer hospital waiting lists, lower educational standards, higher income tax, lower wages, high unemployment, a loss of British identity, a breakdown in community spirit, more restrictive policing, higher council taxes, a shortage of council homes, higher levels of stress and unhappiness and a fragmented community.

    These are some of the consequences of immigration, a massive financial burden on the taxpayer that should be spend on UK solutions, a broken criminal justice system, prison overcrowding, a broken society with a rapidly eroding sense of national heritage and culture.

    The problem of immigration has nothing to do with race. What it is about is the fact that a migrant now arrives nearly every minute – and there’s no more room for them, except by concreting over our green and pleasant land.
    And finally, residence here is a privilege, not a right.

  3. . UK immigration rules are tightening all of the time, and it’s been a constant worry in my years living here

    With a Tory Government I am hardly surprised. Under New Labour the complaint was that too much immigration was facilitated; the Conservatives have always gone the other way.

    Enjoy your trip home though. One of the best bits of being an expat!

  4. Hate to say it, but the same works in reverse a bit too, especially now AZ, GA and others are passing legislation that sounds awfully intimidating should you have reason to encounter the law and not have your passport with Visa about your person.

    I have a suggestion, one that works for me… there have been a few uncomfortable conversations about immigrants, legal or otherwise, that I’ve found myself cornered in here in FL. That’s where I usually come out in my best British BBC Radio 4 accent with “Bloody Brits! Coming here and taking our jobs! It’s just not right!”… It does rather take the wind out of their sails! πŸ˜‰ – maybe the same works in my country…

    Good luck with UK BA. Common sense and logic should win I hope! The dirty little secret about legal immigration is one you’ve touched on… it actually adds to a country’s economy. It was one of the things that added to Britain’s in the past decade, although poorly managed. Somewhere between the idiots of the left and the right is common-ground and common-sense and hopefully politicians will head back there in both the UK and US!

    Until then, have a cracking holiday!

  5. I hate to agree with Vlad but the immigration “problem” does have a much bigger impact in the UK, not just because of the crowding, but because of the ridiculous amount of money people are given as benefits almost as soon as they set foot on the soil there. The immigration problem in the US, to me, seems to be more based on plain racial issues. Many legal immigrants in certain states are hassled because of their appearance and the assumption that they are illegal. Although I’m an immigrant, I have never once had anything said about me. Indeed, when I hear complaints about immigrants, and remind people that I’m one of them, they all but say “Ahh, but you’re not the same”.
    Anyway, I hope you manage to banish your worries for the time you’re “home” and I hope something works out for you.

  6. “The current immigration numbers has led [to] higher crime rates”

    I solemnly swear that if you let me come live in the UK, I won’t break any laws.

    “demand for more housing”

    I don’t even need new housing, necessarily, if I can get a job in London. I have this UK friend who wants to room with me…

    “extra strain on the environment, traffic congestion”

    Also, I won’t ever buy a car because…WHY? You lot already have fantastic public transit that is under-appreciated by the populace. I currently live in the California desert, where there’s NONE.

    “longer hospital waiting lists, lower educational standards, higher income tax, lower wages”

    Lower wages are more to blame on those willing to exploit new immigrants than on the immigrants themselves. I’m college educated, so I wouldn’t be taking your precious toilet-cleaning job from you; although I might be willing to, just to come to your country. (See, I adore the UK; I’m not always sure whether those who live there do… I know, I know, it’s the fashion for the residents to talk ill of the country while objecting to “outsiders” doing so. πŸ™‚ ) Now, hospital waiting lists and educational standards have to do with a system that needs to be improved; again – not the immigrants directly. (I’ve heard complaints about those two things LONG before the recent rash of anti-immigration sentiment.)

    “a loss of British identity, a breakdown in community spirit”

    …Wait. You get new neighbours and forget who you are? How does that work? That’s as bizarre as the people in this country who claim that Adam & Steve down the street getting married is going to have an adverse effect on their own marriage.

    “a massive financial burden on the taxpayer”

    Did I mention I’d be paying taxes, too? When I’m over there visiting, I pay VAT on all my purchases and don’t claim it back at the end of my holiday, even though I have legal right to do so. I consider it my contribution to the economy and government of a land I greatly enjoy spending time in.

    “a broken society with a rapidly eroding sense of national heritage and culture.”

    Again, this is the fault of the immigrants…how? If the “rightful” citizens are so willing to let go of their heritage and culture……. Or maybe they’re just adapting to a changing world. It happens.

    “The problem of immigration has nothing to do with race.”

    Sounds like a lot of your objections – national identity, national heritage, culture – are linked directly to SOMEONE’S ethnicity.

    “And finally, residence here is a privilege, not a right.”

    Ah, a solution presents itself: kick EVERYONE out and bring them all back on a case-by-case basis. πŸ˜‰

    • Absolutely brilliant. I could not have said it better myself. I work, I pay (lots of) taxes, I don’t own a car, I rent a flat and pay council tax and utilities in full, I was an anglophile child who was ecstatic to be able to move here and have adapted my life and my language to this country… exactly how is it that I am part of the problem?

      • *high fives fellow Anglophile who’s living the dream*

        I will grudgingly yield that being an island nation raises “space” issues for the UK, but even here in America, I don’t understand the objection to immigration. There are records showing that immigrants (even “illegal” ones) are actually quite good – possibly better than “native” Americans – at paying their taxes. And as for the objections raised about “illegals taking American jobs”….well, it may be different in the current economic climate, but overall, I don’t see those complaining Americans rushing around trying to land those jobs as housekeepers, gardeners, car washers, etc. (Not to uphold a stereotype of Mexican immigrants, but this IS a reality.)

        It’s all so very silly.

  7. Vlad the Emailer

    ButMadNNW – perhaps you would “room” (sounds very cosy, hope you are close friends) with your London chum forever, but in any other circumstance you would need accommodation which would then not be available to someone else.
    You promise you would travel by under-used public transport – have you never squashed onto a bus or tube in the London rush-hour, which now stretches from 3.30 to 6.30 at night? London didn’t introduce a congestion charge because it sounded like a fun thing to do – it was because the press of people is causing the city to grind to a halt.
    I certainly wouldn’t want a toilet cleaning job, but my son and niece, both unemployed graduates DO want a graduate entry job and are increasingly unlikely to get one while the job pool shrinks and immigration increases.
    Hospital waiting lists and educational standards are not affected by the numbers using them only in the Cloud Cuckoo Land of people living in the middle of the California Desert, who presume to lecture those who deal with the problems of overcrowding on a daily basis. My 7 year old niece is in a class where 16 languages are spoken – not surpisingly, reading and writing come very low on the teacher’s list of priorities. Anyone waiting for a hip replacement or similar operation will tell you what the National Health Service is like. Improvements cost money (well, they do in this country, I cant speak for the Californian desert, where they may have suspended the laws of economics, as well as those of common sense), and the more people you have to provide for, the more it costs.
    And finally, a very poor argument is often bolstered by playing the race card, as you have. You have no idea of my race or ethnicity, but insinuate that I am racist. My extended family is multi-ethnic, multi-coloured and includes 3 major religions. We argue about many things, but immigration is not one of them. We ALL agree that BRITAIN IS FULL. We live here, we cope with the consequences of overcrowding on a daily basis – you don’t.
    And please do not dare to compare me to ‘Adam and Steve’ bigots – why should you imagine that disagreeing with more immigration equates with being anti equal marriage for all; had I the power I would introduce gay marriage tomorrow.

    • Y’know, Vlad, I typed out a whole point-by-point response to your comment, then decided that I’m not interested in continuing a conversation with someone who directly insulted me and my intelligence at least twice in the same post. I tried to have a lighthearted, snarky tone to my initial comment without resorting to ad hominem attacks.

      Furthermore, you insist that I don’t know what I’m talking about, that I don’t know anything about what it’s like to live in the UK or suffer how you’ve suffered when you don’t know anything of my history or where I’ve lived. You accidentally or intentionally misread my comments a few times, then reacted to your erroneous interpretation. For instance, I never implied or directly stated that you were not in favour of marriage equality; you completely misunderstood my point there.

      Anyway. It’s nearly 1am here in Cloud Cuckoo Land, so I’m going to wish you the best, wash my hands of this, and sign off.

  8. Hello, this is my first post here I’ve been lurking before, so forgive me if don’t follow convention. This has been an interesting subject.
    I didn’t agree with all Vlad the Email said in his original post, but it was reasoned and well researched (I checked his stats and they were pretty accurate) I thought the tone of ButMadNNW’s response was unnecessarily snarky in reply to a well meant post. I picked up on the Adam and Steve remark and wondered why it was used? And saying the post was linked to ethnicity did not seem to be based on anything in Vad’s original post

    • I think this is one of those cases where it’s tough to convey “tone of voice” perfectly in writing, as I thought ButMadNNW’s comments were fine but I also know ButMadNNW in real life. I did consider censoring Vlad’s original message, as I do not always publish comments of the “go home” variety…

      I do think that anyone who thinks England is crowded should spend some time in Shanghai or Beijing…

  9. Vlad the Emailer

    Um, I’ve re-read my original post – where is the comment of the ‘go home’ variety?

  10. “The problem of immigration has nothing to do with race.”
    You were doing all right till you said that. Or perhaps you would agree that cultural differences can make matters much worse? Europeans and people from the Anglosphere fit in far more easily than a lot of the others.

  11. Vlad the Emailer

    LBS – I agree wholeheartedly that cultural differences, especially when combined with a willful refusal to integrate or adopt the mores of the host society, can lead to conflict and societal breakdown.

  12. Ok Im going to be really crazy here and highlight another point: homesickness. Me too! I dearly love the UK and I do feel very lucky to have lived here the past 20 years… but I do miss ‘home’ even if today it is very unlike the home I left. Fortunately my British husband loves the States so we get to visit as often as we can afford to! Enjoy your time ‘back home.’

  13. This thoughtful and thought-provoking essay by Theodore Dalrymple is worth a read (and relevant to the issue of immigration being discussed):
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_3_oh_to_be.html

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