As the world knows, Britain voted out of the EU last week and it’s had a profound effect on the country in hundreds of ways, many of which are still unknown. A lot of people back home have been asking me what my life in London has been like post-Brexit and I must admit that it’s been an incredibly emotional & frustrating time for me – in a way that’s more intense than I had ever expected – and a lot of people who I talk to are feeling the same way.
The majority of London voted to stay in. 75% of my local area voted in, 62-73% of people my age voted in, my entire Facebook newsfeed voted in and 95% of the people that I’m in contact with daily voted in. In a way I find it really comforting knowing I’ve got people around me who are all on the same page, but on the other hand I’m completely bewildered, furious and distraught that 17 million people have such opposing views. It’s something I still can’t wrap my head around and to be honest, I’m not sure that I ever will.
Friday morning last week when we all awoke to the news I decided to walk into work to try and pull myself together. Walking through London I saw what was by far the most deflated, emotional, eery city that I’ve ever seen in my life. All of London was trying to process the result and a lot of us were just in complete shock. It’s been a lot like going through a grieving process – first the shock, then disbelief and denial, sadness, anger and back to denial again. I’m not sure when the acceptance will come around, if at all.
I’ve been finding it really hard to articulate the million thoughts and feelings running through my mind over the last week and a half, let alone enough to put into cohesive writing. So I’m sorry if this rambles on a bit. But how I’m feeling just goes so much beyond disappointment. I feel empty, sad, hurt, emotional, homesick.
Those who have read my blog for a while will know I’ve always been London’s biggest fan, yet the last few months have felt different. I used to walk over London bridge and look out onto the Thames and feel exhilarated, lucky and dare I say it (yes I will)… blessed.
Lately, amongst the propaganda and casual racism portrayed through the media, that feeling has all but disappeared. I don’t get excited anymore. I don’t feel lucky to be here. And last Friday walking to work the morning of the referendum announcement, I felt sick to my stomach with grief. Mostly I’m just grieving what I thought this country always was. In many ways London still is, but it just feels different.
So four years on since first moving to London from the other side of the world, maybe my time has come?
London has brought about the biggest changes of my life – a new career, new friendships, new travels. It has seen me through total heartbreak, serious illness, loneliness, financial struggles but that’s also what’s led me to new love, self discovery, amazing people and an independence and confidence that I’d never have imagined. I’ve worked on things in my career that I’m incredibly proud of. Lived with extraordinary friends. Rediscovered a passion for life that I never want to let go of. No other time in my life have I ever gone through so much change and I don’t know if I will again, but now after all’s said and done, I’m left wondering if that’s it? Has London now completely exhausted and expired me?
This is a city where you get out what you put in and my next decision will need to be whether I want to keep putting more and more in. Can I continue this passion for life in a country that sided with a man like Nigel Farage, fuelling such appalling, disgusting xenophobic behaviour? While that’s not what a lot of Leave voters wanted, it’s something they helped legitimise through their vote and it’s something I’m struggling to come to terms with. It completely broke my heart reading about the racist attacks on Poles the following day, that was the ultimate emotional low point for me.
My parents both emigrated to Australia and as a first generation Pole in Melbourne, I’ve grown up with an idea of what it’s like to be disadvantaged because of where you’re from. My mum experienced all forms of subtle racism for a really long time, just for sounding a little different to everyone else. It’s something I’ve had to tackle since moving to London too, particularly in the past 6 months. It just has a way of slowly grinding you down until you’ve had enough.
So to those who have asked how London life has been since Brexit, the truth is that it hasn’t been great for me. It has taken me over 2 weeks to come to grips with how I’m feeling and while I probably haven’t done it any justice in this post, it’s the best I can do for now. Anyone in London during this momentous time will understand that emotions are running high and now more than ever the divide between London and the rest of the U.K. is so very clear. While I’ll continue to go through this grieving process or sorts, and consider my next steps, I’m grateful that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by such amazing, likeminded and supportive people both at home and work.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Brexit and how it has affected you, wherever in the world you’re based.
9 thoughts on “Brexit Blues – Life in London after the referendum”
I’m a Canadian and just received notice that my tier 5 youth mobility visa went through today. I have been reading all about London and came across your blog and have really enjoyed reading your posts so far! That is until I came to this post lol because it completely terrifies me. I have been following Brexit a bit but I’m so lost on what it actually means for London. Everybody has different opinions on the economy and everything else but I’m really worried about heading over. I live in Toronto and have a pretty good job and am happy here but there is a part of me that needs this adventure and to challenge myself with something new. I’ve also never set foot in Europe so I plan to travel like a mad man when I’m there. Have any of your friends been laid off? How hard is to find a job right now? I work in health care so it’s a pretty safe field but all of this Brexit stuff is freaking me out. It’s really upsetting I didn’t get to experience London before Brexit but I’m just wondering how much a massive city like London can really change from this. Thanks!
I just wanted to leave a very quick message to say that the content of this article is exactly how I have been feeling, and thinking this past month over the Brexit decision. It has been very surreal and I was in shock, still am a bit. Thank you.
Thanks Laura, I’m so happy you and others can relate, it definitely makes me feel a little less isolated knowing so many people are in the same boat. Let’s see what happense! x
Dear me that’s an awful lot of sole searching for someone who is essentially a visitor to our country. Not that you are not welcome, of course you are, as well as all the other people/cultures that have come to the UK. The vast majority of Brits love the multicultural society we have become. Brexit doesn’t change that. But you will be back home in Australia before the benefits of this massive change will be felt. Sure it’s created an enormous bump in the road , but so have many events in our history. But we are the cradle of democracy and Middle England has spoken, with our children in mind not-with respect-the transient population of Aussies who come and go. If you decide to go home, you can be assured that after hundreds of years of history England will still be here. And you will always be welcome back.
Simon I used to imagine my entire life in London and I saw this as my forever city. Brexit has changed that for me and for a lot of people I know – both immigrants and natives (not that it should matter). I will never be sorry nor should I be put down for being emotionally invested enough in this country to have a point of view on the matter, even if it obviously vastly varies from your own. I had no intentions to return to Australia so stereotyping me, or anyone on this blog, as a ‘transient’ Aussie is pretty unfair and whilst I enjoy hearing from people with all points of view on the matter, I’m afraid you’ve only managed to confirm what I’ve put into writing on this blog post.
They say that 5 years in London is the tipping point. I’m not at 2 yet and I feel totally spent. It’s comforting to know that another Aussie expat has been through the same trials and tribulations I’m going through now. I worry about the state of Australia too, given what’s happening with our election and the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson. I mean…what is going on with the world!?
Honestly never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see the return of Pauline Hanson. What a nightmare. People are scared and uncertain in this current climate and so many politicians around the world are exploiting that for their own benefit with appalling scaremongering tactics. Trump would be the nail in the coffin.
London is not an easy ride but I guess it hardens us up & only makes us stronger. Let’s hope it improves for us both!
I made the decision to move to London from Canada a couple months back (currently I’m just saving up some extra money to do so). Brexit has definitely put an immense damper on my mindset. I still planning on moving, as it’s been a lifelong dream of mine but I definitely feel that London has lost a sparkle from this. I hope the anti-Brexit movement that is occurring will help so that London will remain a multicultural hub.
I hope so too. On the bright side I think the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been doing an amazing job through all of this and is definitely on our side. Check out his Facebook page for some examples, it may cheer you up a bit. Also… it’s not all over just yet! Fingers crossed it never goes through.