The guiding principle behind Dispatches Europe is creating the digital mechanisms to connect English-speaking expats across Europe.
Having a news and entertainment website is only the start. Toward that end, we’re working away on new curated platforms. But the big question for us has always been, “Can we catalyze an audience?”
Do expats even see themselves as expats or techpats, or does national identity persist after we cross borders? Do we see ourselves as Brits, Americans, Indians, Turks, Poles or Romanians simply working outside our home countries? Or are we global citizens, defined and united by the ambition and adventurousness unique to expats?
As I stated earlier today, Nina Avramovic Trninic’s post “Dear Brits: Here’s what it’s like to be a non-EU citizen” was – as our friend and digital pioneer Tom Cottingham says – an inflection point. To our minds, the 200,000 page views “Dear Brits” has generated so far proves there are elemental issues that affect all expats, such as the European Union alliance guaranteeing citizens of the 28 members states freedom of movement in Europe.
Let me make one thing clear: It wasn’t the sheer volume of traffic that “Dear Brits” generated. It was the fact readers took time to respond and respond thoughtfully, and in depth. Our biggest revelations were 1) how many people express themselves really, really well and 2) just how many readers come to us via smartphones, which accounts for the free-form punctuation and spelling shortcuts. (According to our analytics, 66 percent of people who engaged with “Dear Brits” did so from smartphones and wireless devices.)
(Editor’s note: Some of these comments have been edited for clarity and length.)
When we went back and read the comments – all 100-plus – the dominant sentiment among Remain supporters was regret:
I was born in England and I live in the Netherlands.
To me it doesn’t seem right, U.K. belongs in Europe…..!!!
Please don’t tar us all with the same brush. The vote was very close 51.9 percent over 48.1 percent, and this was founded on a campaign of lies by the Brexiters. Since these lies have come out, tens of thousands have stated they would have voted differently if they had known the truth. Most of the population below 50 voted to stay. Scotland voted stay. Once again we have a situation where a huge swath of the UK is been dragged along against its wishes. Please don’t think we are all anti-EU or anti -haring our little corner of Europe, because in truth more than half of us are happy to.
Though Nina never defended the EU or even discussed EU policy per se, readers used her post to express their dissatisfaction and frustrations with, or defend, the economic and political alliance:
The main problem is that most people do not know what Brexit actually means. We will find out soon enough when our Clown in chief of the Foreign Office circles the globe and tries to paint a favourite picture of the country based on lies? And Dr Fox? He will miraculously deliver trade deals instantly? He his good getting deals from the Saudis? And the new Dept .for Brexit (where are they based? In the Shard?) bogged down for years to get a favourable deal for the UK? I am very curious how all this will unravel.
Barnet and Southgate College
I’ve lived in Germany since before the EU. And have seen my standard of living fall steadily and my cost of living rise steadily since the EEC became the EU. EU citizens do not have the great life you think they do. The laws governing/restricting everyday life far outweigh the few advantages. The EU has no money, it produces nothing except rules and when it gives a country 1/2 of that countries own money back it expects that country to be grateful ! It’s no wonder the EU Bureaucrats have such a lavish lifestyle. The waste is rife, Look at the Strasbourg fiasco: 1.34 billion pounds per year for the approximately 48 days (it meets) each year. Add to that that the Euro is a failing currency. The EUSSR is a failed project. Time to wrap it up.
Look. Get This. We Brits do NOT want to pay into a club that gives us a portion back, then tells us how to spend it. Not only that, the EU tells us to put us signs saying that it was paid for by the EU; it was our money, not theirs. We also have no say in the election of the top officials of the EU. They are unaccountable to the people. The EU’s accounts have not been signed off for years because millions of Euros have gone missing. There is widespread corruption in the Upper circles. The EU Forces Britain to take immigrants, some of whom have criminal records. The main thing is that we want to run our own country and we have voted to leave so my advice to you is DEAL WITH IT. There is more, but that will do for a start.
There were a few readers who see Brexit as a pox on both your houses:
Interesting article and myself I have spent more time overseas than in the UK (Still a UK citizen). I can see (the issues) from both sides. The first thing I want to say about the immigration issues is if the UK was that concerned about “benefits,” it should simply adapt its own system internally. If the rights are the same for locals as migrants, then it doesn’t matter. For example if we made it an 8-year period minimum as resident in the UK before rights to benefits and must have health insurance the problem is pretty much covered. As a “child” of a British national would automatically still be covered but a migrant worker would receive nothing for an 8-year period even if they wanted to. What I find is the EU, immigrants, migrants and everyone but the right people are blamed for the state of the UK. The people who run the UK and represent us in the EU and UK are our MPs. Yet they constantly blame everyone but themselves and get away with it. It’s the EU’s fault we supplied arms and money to Syria and now blame Syrian refugees for coming to Europe.. Its been ongoing for a stupid amount of time and people just need to wake up to the fact your treated like sheep. The almost 50/50 split between in and out vote is a typical example everyone is bickering. Yet did anyone look at why things are crap? Did anyone ask why there was no plan for leaving or staying in the EU with a drawn out projection? Of course not. People are too busy arguing with each other over trivial matters “like sheep”. Wake up to the fact it was a lose/lose and if anyone thinks staying in or leaving is going to fix the UK’s debt, think again. As the UK simply spends more than it NEEDS. But can’t even cover its interest payments.
There are those who are nuanced thinkers:
In regard to the story above, the thing is, I suspect the sort of people who voted Brexit often don’t want to work abroad, let alone live in another country. The very idea is an anathema to them. ‘Abroad’ is where ‘foreigners’ live, who speak a ‘foreign language’. It’s alright for a holiday in the sun for a week or two, maybe to see the football, but live abroad? No thanks! Even the successful corporate business types, who may get a foreign posting, will have all the details sorted out by their company. No visa or moving costs for them. They do it to further their career. It’s a personal sacrifice, to be bourne, rather than celebrated. This is the mindset of the typical Brexiter. There are, of course, always a few exceptions: hypocrites who happily live outside the UK, yet bemoan the fact that non-UK people have the temerity to return the favour – perhaps they would like a one-in, one-out rule? So this article is irrelevant to the Brexiters. Their life plans might include plenty of foreign travel, but tourism is where it ends.
There were lots of back-and-forths:
Obviously you are entitled to your own opinion. Brexit is about more than what benefits an individual. Personal inconveniences are not as important as the future of a nation. Britain’s hospitals, schools, social services can not cope with the massive influx of EU nationals.
Sorry but this isn’t true, the EU nationals have bought more to the UK then they have taken, this is stated in endless reports. Leaving the EU will not see these people leaving the country either, thankfully. Some immigrant controls need fixing yes, like benefits to children who don’t live in the UK and not being able to claim benefits for so many years when moving to the UK, but that is a UK government issue to sort, not the EU and I’m pretty sure Cameron already fixed that? Or started to just before he resigned.
Proofreader/Editor at Parlement européen au Luxembourg
David Wright, Turkey will never be part of the EU, they have been negotiating for years, have done nothing that the EU expects before integration and France would veto their entry anyway. As for the strained state bodies, that’s down to chronic underinvestment from successive governments. All EU countries work under the same rules… if the one I live in can implement “you can move here for three months – if you can support yourself, your benefits will be payed by your previous country of residence, if you don’t find work in three months you’re out” so can the UK.
Seems to me that any viewpoint from any source is going to be labeled ‘alarmist’, ‘scaremongering’ or ‘propaganda’ by leavers who have their heads firmly buried in the sand and simply don’t want to know – much less accept – the mayhem they have unleashed. Only time will perhaps convince them but then again I’m pretty sure they’ll have found another scapegoat to blame for their change in circumstances.
Fiona Thompson yes – absolutely… in time of austerity it helped contribute to the negative national mood. It’s amazing how different things are in France… in England Google gets away with paying no tax for 10 years – the chancellor (of the Exchequer) and an executive go into a closed door meeting, no doubt smoke some expensive cigars, drink some expensive gin … and Google comes out paying 10 percent of what they should (and keep making billions in profit). In France the police raid Google HQ and they pay what they owe. Yet people in England wonder why there’s no money for public services
Please remember austerity in the UK, post 2008, has two source: 1) the bankers messing up the economy and 2) the Tories reaction to the bankers messing up the economy. Neither had their origin in the EU per se, not with immigrants. Those who write ‘get over it’ would not have been so keen had they been on the losing side. UKIP would just have gone on and on. I notice those critical of this piece do not address ANY of the substantive points made.
Says a lot that, IMHO.
This has been fun, but now, it’s back to our regular programming of Expat Essentials, business trends and global adventures.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.