149. Expats

Precisely at some unconfirmed moment last year I wrote a blog about the hypocrisy in the UAE. In order to really get the gist of it you had to read between the lines. There were many reasons for my subterfuge, chiefly related to words like “jail”, “blogger” and “cavity search.” Today, however, there is no such masquerade and the views expressed will be as obvious as Kim Jong-Uns’ feelings towards NATO.

Since moving to the UAE I have learnt to control and align my thoughts, and really, it has been very difficult. I have had to change my views on this world to suit the reality of it, and that has been most inspiring. Let us look at British immigration as a case study. These days it is very easy to be racist. Well, it’s not; a joke can be joke to one man, but an insult to another. But the fact that immigration has run riot over the last decade causes a lot of fist thumping and inspired debate in the Fox & Socialist every Friday evening.

I'll tell you why you have no idea what you're talking about...

I’ll tell you why you have no idea what you’re talking about…

You see, when Britain first decided that it wanted to rule a quarter of the globe, it was always inevitable that those whom we civilised/conquered – delete as applicable – were going to join our family. Of course the Indian community in the UK is huge, and that is due in part to the Mau Mau Uprisings in Kenya in the late 50’s. I’ll let Jeremy Paxman give you the details, but in essence the British, together with the Indians who were there under the imperial banner, were expelled from Kenya. Since generations of Indians had grown up in the African nation, they were effectively made homeless and where better to move to than the country that had sworn to protect them, and who took them to Africa in the first place? (Historical correction: It was in fact nothing to do with the Mau Mau lot and all to do with some guy call Idi Amin from Uganda, who basically had the bollock-ache and sent everyone packing.)

Of course over time more and more people wanted to move to the UK and that, really, should be taken as a compliment. I despise the Labour Party and most of their policies, but even I find it laughable that “immigration” (in the out-of-control sense) can be attributed to Blair’s Barmy Army between 1997 and 2010. Maggie filled a labour gap, so to did Wilson and Heath. How many times have you been sat in the Fox & Socialist and heard mad Jim the taxi driver talk to equally mad Bob the plumber about “all these foreigners comin’ over ‘ere takin’ all our jobs!”? Plenty, I’d imagine. But to whom are they referring, the British born Indian who has worked hard and led an honest life as a Doctor or the hard working Lithuanian who would happily work seven days a week cleaning up your shit?

I am forever reading about people on benefits who purposely have 28 children just so they don’t have to work. Then there are those of an “I’d rather stay in bed” disposition who enjoy telling everyone on Facebook what they think the government could be doing better. But tell them to go and get a job and the retort is “there isn’t any work.” Nonsense, there is work out there, just not as a TV star. Would Anatolij the plucky ex-solider from Lithuania do that? Or would he be of the mindset of “if I don’t go to work today then I won’t have a bed from which to get out of.”?

Oh don’t get me wrong, there are crazed lunatics from Birmingham with fetching beards and who want to blow people up and there are Romanian gypsies who want to eat your dog, but there are also Mick Philpotts and Jimmy Savilles.

But returning to my point, if there was one, I can’t remember. If I sat here saying that British immigration was out of control (in reference to legal immigration, not the Albanians who cling to the landing gear of EasyJets) then I would be a massive hypocrite. Because here I am, in the heart of the Middle East, living in a foreign country, earning a salary in Dirhams and ordering beef bacon and labneh for breakfast. I am employed by an Emirati company therefore I am an immigrant. I’ve never fully understood the difference between an “immigrant” and an “expatriate.” As far as I can tell, it is a terminology used solely to make me feel more important than those who wear blue jump suits and who are ferried to and fro in un-air-conditioned death traps.

Back home in Surbiton, I can walk up the high street and the last language I will hear will likely be English. If I want to buy an Arabic newspaper from a Romanian in an Indian shop then I’m sorted. What, really, makes the UAE any different? Why is immigration a problem in the UK but not in the UAE? The Emiratis’ only make up 10% of the population; that’s 800,000.

If I go to a petrol station in London and the man behind counter can only speak Urdu then I tut, wag my finger and say “Ah! English!” But the other day I went to a shop in Al Ain to buy some hardware and discovered much to my chagrin that I couldn’t speak Arabic.

The rubbish that some of my fellow expats – or “immigrants” – come out with is nonsensical. They sit there in a hotel bar criticising the UK’s immigration policies when there they are; an immigrant in the UAE who can’t speak Arabic.

Just like me. Damn.

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