what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bulgarians and Romanians teach the English manners!

The Guardian has today a piece about the scale of offence the British Government has caused here in Bulgaria by the restrictive attitude it is apparently taking to the lifting in a year of the current restrictions to the entry of Bulgarian and Romanian workers.
Quite rightly people here are saying it was apparently OK for Brits to come in their thousands a few years back and snap up houses in Bulgarian villages for 6,000 euros or so - so why is the reverse movement not acceptable?
Romanians have also reacted very strongly with a lot of the energy being poured into a campaign to produce posters advertising the positive aspects of Romania – many of them with a gentle mocking tone eg one which simply says “Charles bought a house here in 2005 and Harry has never been photographed once naked”. Nice one!! See the last half of this post for more on this....

Little wonder that the author of the link I’ve just given suggests that the ineptness of the British Government has, remarkably, managed to produce a positive sense of national pride amongst Romanians – probably the first since the Romanian football team was playing well some 17 years or so back in the World Cup Final.

But it all makes life a bit difficult for people like me who live in the two countries (little wonder that the old lady selling wine from the Karlove and Rila areas in the shop on Rakovski street frostily told me yesterday to speak Bulgarian yesterday!!) I will have to resort (as I generally do!) to my Scottish identity...
And Scotland does generally have a good record of greeting its immigrants who have, admittedly, never come on the scale of West Indians in the 1950s to England, for example. It is the Scottish weather which discourages - rather than its people!
The only immigrant group which has complained recently about experiencing prejudice in Scotland is.......the English! For most of the 20th Century it was the Irish who experienced great discrimination....the urban poor (at least in the West of Scotland) was a synonym for the Irish immigrant and their descendants who experienced great religious (and political) intolerance.... 

It will be interesting to see how the UK Ambassadors in the 2 countries will handle the affair. The UK Ambassador in Romania must be particularly angry and embarrassed. He had recently gone on the charm offensive and issued a video about the beauties of the UK!! The UK government has been caught on the hop on this one (the info about the negative campaign was, I understand, leaked) so has not so far even had the time or decency to apologise.
But of course this government of upper-class twits would never entertain a second thought about offending foreigners! Indeed it revels in it - imagining that the more Europeans it offends, the greater their popularity amongst the electorate!!
And it's interesting that an article in today's Independent UK newspaper about the Romanian campaign has already attracted 850 comments - although a lot of them seem to be about the last war! And most of the others moaning about the quality of life in the UK. The (Scottish!) writer Alex Massie has a sensible article in (right-wing) Spectator pointing out how illogical, indeed "contemptible", the arguments are for discrimination against Bulgarian and Romanian workers.   

Reasoned discussion is difficult in such an environment - but the Bulgarians and Romanians are teaching us a lesson (in both tone and smartness) on how to deal with prejudice. The civilised and generous terms in which the Editor of Gandul ("The Thought"), the Romanian newspaper which spearheaded the campaign, has explained their approach should embarrass British populists -
We invaded Britain two years ago as a tourist, leaving many pounds and my soul. London seemed to me one of the most cosmopolitan, multicultural and tolerant cities that we visited. Everywhere people were attentive and eager to help, especially when they saw us confused standing in the street with map in hand. I beat London on foot, from Clapham Common to Kensington Gardens, and everywhere I had a comfortable feeling of "home". A feeling I discovered in Barcelona, ​​New York, Paris or Amsterdam, a feeling that I am on the streets in the centre of Bucharest, Brasov or Sibiu, but leaves me when I get in the neighbourhood Pipera or villages swimming through mud.
 People who are "everywhere at home" feel part of Western civilization and act accordingly. I know many Romanian who went to learn, work and live honestly in the UK. I never heard anyone complaining of discrimination. On the contrary, they are appreciated, successful and obviously did not have any cultural complex. Of course, exceptions can always rely on, but my impression is that the general atmosphere among British to Romanian is significantly different from what some newspapers anti-immigration and some conservative politicians tries to portray. Therefore, as the news about the "hordes" of Romanian and Bulgarian will invade the United Kingdom after lifting labour market restrictions should be treated with leniency. Who wanted to leave in the last 10-15 years has already left.
Also, a campaign like the one that the British government would like to discourage Romanians and Bulgarians from coming for work cannot be done without humour. The best way to fight stereotypes is to laugh at them.
 Hence our "Why do not you come over?" campaign aimed at the Brits- as a possible answer to the fears of the British and the frustrations of Romanian who feel that they get an injustice. We are not barbarians. We invite you to discover and see the reality with your own eyes - this is the message of the campaign which soon hit the international press.
Romania has unsuspected resources of talent and intelligence, and when they are channelled into worthwhile projects foreign reaction is initially surprise, then admiration. Intelligent ideas and humour have come to the newspaper thought the comments box on our Facebook page and discussion forums at The Guardian and The Huffington Post shows if needed, they are the most valuable country brand.
 As for me: London, here I come!
(Google translation)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post - and the words of Gandul's editor sums it all up in a nutshell.

    Thanks, Ron