Some Nice Thoughts

As England appears to be having something of a mad moment right now, with riots in London, Manchester, Birmingham and other hell-holes (including my home city…) – it’s nice that today I had a really good experience. With foreigners.

I have always been a proud Europhile. I love the EU. I love the idea of us all pulling together in the same direction. Sadly, it hardly ever works like that, but the concept is good. The idea that thanks to the EU I could work anywhere in the 27 member bloc is extremely liberating. Or, should I be a rich and powerful businessman, that I could build and sell my products anywhere in that group is extremely good.

Brits tend to forget that the reason why we can just stroll around Europe without question, holidaying where we like without having to bother with visas or other such bureaucracy is thanks entirely to a thriving EU.

It works the other way too. People from all over the EU come to the UK. Many of them visit as tourists. Others come here to work.

Today it was an encounter with a Portuguese couple that struck me as impressive. They’re very nice people. Not much older than me. They moved here, to the same town I’m in, five years ago when they were keen to get out of their country. Keen to find work and start a new life.

England provided that opportunity. They both arrived independently of one another, found each other here in the UK, now are married and are settled here. They work hard. They pay taxes. They take part in society. They take part in our culture. We get a lot in return from that – and on top we get the benefit of mixing a little different perspective, a little bit of an alternative culture, into our society. It is all the better for that.

As I talked to them I really enjoyed hearing their story. They had taken advantage of the opportunity available to them. They are here doing manual and somewhat menial jobs that us lazy English will not do. But they get rewarded well for it, and have built themselves a nice life. They seemed happy and keen to stay as long as they could. They imagined one day they might return to Portugal, but even so they weren’t sure it would be worth staying for.

I’m biased, to a certain extent. After all, they paid my bill. But through a long and tedious process, they gave me a very generous tip, because they totally appreciated how honest I’d been with them. Not that I’m never anything other than honest, you understand, but most people aren’t clever or grateful enough to realise just how honest I am. If I had been dishonest, I would have charged them £200. But I’m not – and I never could be – and charged them £40.

I’d go so far as to say that out of the hundreds of customers I’ve served, the number who have understood and valued my honesty (because us IT techs have a bad reputation) must be countable on one hand. People who know I’m being honest look after me properly and will always tip. Others look surprised, in a bad way, when I tell them the bill is £20 after I’ve worked my arse off giving them professional fixes and advice for an hour. I always know when I’m being ushered out the door as the clock approaches 60 minutes…

It was nice to feel appreciated and valued for a change.

And all it took was for two Portugeuse people to migrate to England to do so.