Stranger in a Strange Land



“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Saint Augustine

In our family we’ll be voting to Remain next Thursday, for entirely selfish reasons. There was never any doubt in our minds about this, so we could have done without the months of tedious political wrangling (thanks for nothing, Mr Cameron). Both immigration, and emigration, have added immeasurably to our lives. My partner’s dad is from Goa, although he spent his early childhood in Basra. His mum is from Portugal, and both of them are fluent in three languages. They’ve lived all over Europe in their lives. I’ve have been lucky enough to live in Europe with my partner on two separate occasions – once before we had children (when we took the opportunity to party) and the other with children (when we decided to open their minds to what it is like to live overseas). We’ve also travelled around Europe, and across it, for the last three decades. To be honest, I feel more European than English. It’s not for nothing that we took off in our car to do Road School with our kids.

My partner tells me epic stories of travelling from England to Portugal when he was a child. In those days Salazar was in charge, and there were border crossings all the way across Europe. Days and days of travel, and queues that went back for miles as you crossed the border into Portugal. We’ve been driving to Portugal every summer for years, and these days you pass through the borders with barely a backwards glance. The roads have got better and better too – there weren’t any motorways at all in Portugal until the EU got busy spending everyone’s taxes. With an E111 you have access to free healthcare in Europe as well, and we’ve had good experiences in the Portuguese system. We have been able to buy a piece of land with an amazing view, and build a house there. My kid says she wants to live on a houseboat in Amsterdam when she’s older. How lucky are we?

When you live overseas you are a stranger in a strange land. Everything is different: the culture, the language, the food, the weather, the driving, just generally the day-to-day life. You have to learn to deal with bureaucracy in a language other than your own. You become a lot more understanding of immigrants if you go and live somewhere that isn’t home. Something I’ve sensed while living in Europe is that people tend to look outwards more than they do in the UK. They have a strong sense of their own culture, but they love to share other people’s too. If you can get to five countries within a matter of hours, the Euro starts to make a lot more sense. Island nations have a habit of turning inwards. And if you look inwards all the time, you can forget that there’s an amazing big wide world out there. So next Thursday I’m going to look outwards, and I’m going to vote *Remain*.

Edite on Beach

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