Over the last year, 19.000 more Romanians and Bulgarians started to work in the UK. Also, 378.000 new jobs were taken by British nationals. These numbers, which I found in a recent Guardian article, bring some light over the very dark valley lurking with chilling whispers (sometimes sounding more like ghastly screams and shouts) about the Romanian and Bulgarian hordes of 29 millions waiting to invade the British shore, steal jobs from the British, milk the benefit system down, abuse the NHS and live 20 people in a three bedroom house. If it was only for my parents, my nans, their village neighbours and I can assure you some tens of people are NOT going to invade.
The article which I’ve gladly read on the Guardian site manages to shed light on a bigger piece of the puzzle. Nationals of the two countries, one of which is my own home country, took only a small percentage of the jobs available, which in my opinion is not that horrible. Most of the Romanians I know here work in the same industry as me, health and social care, or in construction, they are young and fit people, determined to succeed, to make the most of their own lives. Me and one other Romanian colleague at work have come here to get another qualification which we couldn’t afford back home, as there were no jobs available in the field either. We paid about £2.000 to study for it, we work together with British born and raised colleagues and some other two nationalities, we pay taxes, we are searching for new opportunities to study so we can have better earnings in the future.
My partner as well works in the same field, but with an agency, and I’m telling you they are continuously looking for new employees. He earns even better than me, as he can be paid over £100 a day, but his work is more physically demanding, as well as on the go, today in one residential home, tomorrow in another, which is an option I wouldn’t really be up to. He handles is quite well though, being even fitter than me, very determined, well organised and hard working.
Both me and him chose this field not at random, but because we were always inclined to the social sciences and humanities. I know it sounds a bit pretentious, after all we are both support workers, not the best paid jobs and not necessarily the ones regarded as the most intellectual. But when you go and take your chance in another country you are willing to even start working it from the bottom up, especially if the circumstances force you to change carriers. Back in Romania I used to be a teacher and a journalist, fields which have both been in a lot of trouble during the last 5 years, and he studied Psychology in the University, while being a plumber, trade which he couldn’t practice here so far.
The Guardian article finally gave me the push to get myself to writing what I’ve had in my mind, more or less, over the whole year. At first I was shocked, to an extent, at reading the Daily Fail type of tabloids, which I came to think are more horrible than the Romanian worst quality ones. At least those were filled almost exclusively with cheesy pornographic completely stupid and mind-blocking stuff, such as the X star, who used to be a known singer’s wife, has had another row with her mum after she learnt how to bake, or other such incredible things. I haven’t read much of political dirt, much of racial rant, much of social fear inducing articles, other than the ones about the hurricanes and floods that were to sweep Romania every summer or more-than-heavy snowing we were going to hardly survive. If any articles about Roma people, or Gypsies how they are known even in Britain, they are mostly centred on the successful Roma singers of a popular music style called manele and rooted in the old Ottoman Empire. These singers make lots of money, they display big golden jewellery, outrageously painted expensive cars and have a new secret lover every week. Oh, and they have loads of enemies who either envy them, or try to harm them, or both.
I’m not sure that everybody will see UK tabloids versus Romanian tabloids just the same, but this is my vision of them, compared to each other. And this is what I actually intend to do with this new series of posts on my blog: speak about my Romanian life and my British life, as I wish to share them both with people who would like to find out more than the newspapers can give them, may they be in good will or serving politics and covering the incompetence of today’s leaders.
Going back to the figures, they look more than normal to me. They display the normality of normality in a country which still attracts migrants, in a Europe which is still struggling to come together after two World Wars that ripped it apart and some social revolutions/changes that happened in just a blink of an eye. For the big history of humanity, I’m not even sure that an almost 100 years makes enough for a blink. British people get new jobs every year, some of them in the company where I work (over the last year and a half, four new local British employees, young people, have joined a small service with about 13 support workers all in all). The oldest employees in the company houses here are British locals. We have colleagues of two other nationalities, if I’m not mistaking, and we all try to provide the best service to the clients we support.
Under these circumstances, I feel reactions such as the one I got on Facebook, when posting a link to the Guardian article, might be rooted in lack of information or fears fed by the mainstream that seems to be overflowing with harmful effects. It might not be physical harm, but let’s not forget that the psychological one can be even worse and most of the times precedes the physical stage. Reading articles that describe Romanians as beggars, scroungers, criminals, people who only come here to take advantage on the social system, to get undeserved benefits, to work illegally, avoid taxes and live in hard to picture conditions got to me, but in a positive way. Yes, at first I was irritated, yes, I felt there can’t be such a thing as a crusade against other people just because they are of a certain nationality, yes, I was a little upset that people let themselves so carried away by negativity, fears, even hatred, violence which seeks just a way to leak out so it doesn’t eat on the inside. Then I realised if I keep reading and complaining about it, to myself or to my partner, if I judge the people who allow themselves to be wound up by such media filth, I’m just making myself part of the plan (and I’m not a conspiracy theories fan).
What I can do better is tell my story, tell people about real Romania, about how my life was and is, and maybe how I think we can all do things better for ourselves. A personal touch and commitment has been known to do wonders. And I’ve actually just started doing it.