Boris Johnson has given me the opening of this blog with his headline that ‘EU migrants come here and treat it as their own’. Wouldn’t that be fantastic if that was the case? That you can migrate to the UK and immediately feel a sense of belonging? We know from our research that people coming to the UK face many challenges and where you come from and where you live in the UK makes a difference to where you feel most comfortable.
We have heard from people who are first or second generation migrants, living in the capital city that they identify as Londoners. This seems to be preferable for some people than identifying with a country so we decided to explore what this means with 3 different voices.
The first is from our research report, Moving Matters: the Challenges and Solutions to living in the UK,
“I think that it just feels intimidating when you first come here you’re like, “Oh, London!” And then you have this crazy idea about what it is, you know like a big city, big opportunities, big things happening, you know, and it’s expensive and there’s so many things to do and you feel like you have to be that person that embraces everything about London and you need to experience everything and know everything and I don’t know, like, grab everything that London offers straight away and ride with it.” Interviewee
Our next voice is from a recent interview, someone who has lived here for 20 years and originally from South Africa,
When I arrived in London, the things that made me feel at home were the weather, the green. I feel part of such an amazing, cosmopolitan city. I embrace everything it has to offer e.g. one of the first trips I made when I came here (20 years ago_) was to the British Museum and I was in awe to actually see the Gates of Babylon.
I don’t know what it means to be British but I do know what it means to be a Londoner. I love the sounds, I love the fact that there are 4 distinct seasons and the beauty of each season including all the things that make for Christmas – the lights etc and the celebration.
I love the mix of people and its proximity to Europe, I love that I meet people from all over the world. I feel people treat each other with respect. I come from a country where difference is accentuated and I feel that here people are valued for who they are and that there are opportunities here for a huge amount of people.
Our third voice is from Kosta, from TGIUK
It is safe to say that living in London and the people you get to interact with cannot be compared to any other city in the UK. From the people that you meet that live in this city to the tourists that come in all year round you, there is a unique opportunity to interact with different cultures and opinions every day in this hub of multiculturalism .
There is also a sense of unity between the people living here as there is a Londoner culture and similar reference points that are shared between people who live in London whether it’s 3 , 5 years or all their life.
However even if it’s a melting pot with so many different people that you can interact with, some might stick more with their own (people for the same country) which might make them feel alien and not like they belong .
So, we can see from these three voices, that London is a place where people can feel they belong: because of its diversity, its green spaces and that it has so much to offer.