A British Expat’s Reaction To Brexit

Well… f**k!

Since I am a British Expat living in The Netherlands a few people have asked me my thoughts on the Brexit vote and that about sums it up. F**k!

The Brexit is a much more serious subject than I would ever normally write about so this is going to be a step out of my comfort zone. I’m usually the guy that writes the (hopefully) funny stories about life in the Netherlands as an accident prone Englishman. However, there is nothing funny about the results of the Brexit referendum. It’s also too big a subject to ignore (even though I have been desperately trying to for the last few days).

I have lived in The Netherlands for fifteen years. I moved here in 2001 to start working for a computer games company. I’ve never really thought about how easy it was for me to do that. Now I am starting to realize how much I took free movement within Europe for granted. The EU has existed my entire life. To me it was normal. The thought that my country is no longer a part of it is hard to understand. A union that was formed to stop another incident like World War II from happening and allowed for free trade and cooperation, surely that’s a good thing (even if it was a little flawed).

Effects of The Brexit

The days following the announcement that Britain had voted to leave the EU left me with a profound feeling that my country was suddenly broken. This feeling was not because the value of the pound suddenly dropped to the lowest it has been in 31 years, nor was it because European companies had already started taking their business elsewhere. Those were just side effects. The country suddenly felt broken because of one simple fact. A large part of the British population had made the choice that they had made. A choice, not to work with others and try to improve a flawed system but a choice to send a message to the world that the British are not the friendly people they were once believed to be.

Even more horrifying are the openly racist and xenophobic incidents that are now being reported up and down the country. It’s as if a percentage of the British people think it is suddenly ok to throw slurs and abuse at someone simply for being different… It is not. It fills me with anger that my fellow Englishmen are capable of such horrible things. The stereotype of the polite Englishman is gone forever. He has been replaced by his much uglier and often not talked about brother.

Every time I read a story of a child bursting in to tears because he thinks his international Mother or Father will be forced to leave the country my heart breaks. After all I am a father living in a country that is not originally his own. What if the Dutch were to suddenly demand that I leave or start throwing abuse at me? I don’t know what I would do but I know that I would be very afraid.

Expat Worries

Ultimately I know I will be fine. I’m married to a Dutch lady and if that is not enough I could and I would take up Dutch citizenship. I am not leaving this country. However, there are a lot of British expats living in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe who suddenly don’t know if everything will be alright. Will we all need work permits? Visas? We all took EU membership for granted. It probably won’t get as serious as us all having to leave. However, staying is not going to be as easy as it once was.

What makes all of this worse is that it happened because of miss information, manipulation of people’s fears and the vote being used to, “stick it to the man,” without any real thought about what a leave result actually meant. I know there will be a lot of people that disagree with everything I have just said. However, if you are reading a blog about an Englishman living in The Netherlands (a European country) you are probably not one of those people.

I could not vote in the Brexit referendum because I have lived in The Netherlands for more than 15 years. My amazing life here has been made possible by the kindness, openness and friendliness of the Dutch. If I could have voted I would have voted to stay. I hope that if The Netherlands is ever given the option to vote you will too.

26 responses to “A British Expat’s Reaction To Brexit”

  1. Marie says:

    We cried and cried last weekend when the results came out.maroe After 4 years of flying back and forth between NL and UK I finally moved and now half of the country made me feel incredibly unwelcome. Like you, I think that eventually things will turn out fine, but we are seriously considering going to Germany, where I am originally from, and where visas etc for him to stay wouldn’t be so difficult to get. It makes me so sad that I don’t feel like we can build our future here together anymore :(

    • Invader_Stu says:

      That’s terrible. I am so sorry that my (so called) fellow Englishman have made you feel unwelcome, especially after Holland has made me feel so welcome.

  2. I write a post about Brexit the day the results were made known – and I still feel the same way. This referendum has brought out the worst in everybody, on all sides and it is shocking to see. People I thought I knew! Society is broken, and it will take decades to fix.

    I am horrified that I have to consider whether my Dutch family will feel comfortable in my birth country when we go to visit during the summer. Horrified that many in my networks are saying they have been the subject of verbal abuse because they talk to their children in their mother tongue which is not English because they choose to give the gift of bilingualism to their children. Horrified that my children could be the subject of verbal abuse because they are talking Dutch to each other. I hope that if the same situation occurs in the Netherlands (which I don’t believe it will) I hope the Dutch opt for a different, more accepting and kinder path to change.

    • Invader_Stu says:

      I know how you feel. I’m actually a little nervous what it will be like during our next visit and particularly reactions to my daughter (and later my son) speaking Dutch. I’m not worried about anything happening to them (because I will kick the ass of anyone who tries anything despite the fact that I am a pacifist) but I don’t want them to witness how cruel people can be.

  3. Joris de Man says:

    Hey Stu, I’m experiencing a lot of similar feelings from the opposite side of the pond. A spell has definitely been broken, and it’s made me really quite upset. I’m lucky that I don’t look ‘foreign’, and my accent is such that on first glance people don’t notice, but the fact that that’s even a boon right now is despicable.

    I really hope something will shift, and that the voices that speak of togetherness, acceptance and reason will prevail; but it’s sometimes difficult to believe that even prospective PM candidates are happy to bandy around EU repatriation rhetoric to score political points (and in the process, legitimize some of these horrible racists).

  4. Mielie says:

    I was born in South Africa to German parents. I recently moved to the UK as I could no longer bare the racism and xenophobia that runs rife in South Africa thinking that this behaviour is simply not acceptable in first world countries. I was shattered when I learned that this was in fact not the case. I am now in the process of moving to Germany as I know what this can do to a country and it’s people. I really hope that it is stopped before it consumes society and ruins years of progress. I love the UK, but I fear for it’s future

  5. Dave says:

    Having worked in the Netherlands since the mid 70’s, I find it a shame that Brits will now be deprived of the freedom to travel and work in Europe. The egotistical politicians who wanted and allowed the ridiculous referendum will be reviled for years to come; their cowardice and irresponsibility are irrefutable. It is now impossible for me to reconcile my attitude with the current British attitude to the EU; I will be applying for Dutch nationality.

    • Invader_Stu says:

      It’s beyond belief how main people responsible for this happening are stepping down. It feels like they are running and hiding because they know they messed up.

  6. Likahike says:

    Your absolutely right. I can not understand why some would choose to seperate themselves from Europe, instead of working together to make it better. With all the threats the wold faces today, I do not think it a good idea for countries to withdraw from their allies. No country is an island, really. We are always going to need each other. I am also surprised that the politicians who advocated the Brexit, do not seem to have planned for it, beyond their usual rhetoric. Not one of them will take responsebility for the outcome of the referendum. Very strange.

    • Invader_Stu says:

      It’s like none of them really believed it was going to happen and now they are all running away from the mess they have made. Very sad and very annoying.

  7. dmhz says:

    It seems to me that UK will get back to EU someday.

  8. dragonlady says:

    The dragon keeper and I were in Peterborough at the weekend and there were people speaking in different languages wherever we went and no one bated an eyelid. There may be quite a few people in this country who do not like “foreign” people and are using the result of the referendum as an excuse for violence or just being obnoxious but most of us have grown up with different nationalities around us and whether we are in or out will not make any difference to us.Though as dmhz said hopefully we will rejoin someday (if our politicians can stop the in fighting) and sort themselves out.
    It came as quite a shock to us when we heard the result.
    Maybe we should get a “We voted to stay in badge” for our next visit.

    • Invader_Stu says:

      You have nothing to worry about. The Dutch are all very friendly about it. When ever they ask hear my accent they simply ask my thoughts on the whole thing.

  9. CaptainKirt says:

    I published a post on the xenophobia being displayed by a minority of my countrypersons blog.kirt.me.uk/2016/07/160704-post-hate.html

    I was one of the 48% who are now being forced out of the EU. The whole referendum was sold to the ‘great unwashed’ as a vote on immigration and funding the NHS. All exposed as lies since. You are one of the lucky ones, you are outside with options to pursue citizenship of your adopted home. The future is a scary prospect for our once great island.

  10. Mal says:

    Brexit is the best news ever for the UK. Britain has never been European and never will be. The EU is a quagmire of corruption and sleaze and the sooner it breaks up the better the world will be.

  11. You haven’t looked at a map of Europe lately, have you? The United Kingdom is CLEARLY in Europe. And considering the “quagmire of corruption and sleaze,” the British politicians à la Farage, Cameron, Johnson and their ilk are no better at the moment…

  12. Well said, Stu.

    We still have to see if this Article 50 will be invoked in the first place (hopefully not).

    • Invader_Stu says:

      Yeah. I’m starting to wonder if they really will. I think every politician is suddenly very nervous about actually going through with it. Hence all the resignations and stepping down. They know it is going to be a disaster. But on the other hand, if they don’t do it there are likely to be riots and no one will ever trust the word of the British government again. It’s basically a lose/lose situation for them now.

  13. Mal says:

    The sooner Article 50 is enacted the better. The only people who voted to remain are the brainwashed products of an education system that was ordered to only teach positive things about EU membership. These people have never experienced life outside of the EU and so have no knowledge of democracy or what it means.

  14. inge says:

    What hogwash! Most people voting for Brexit also never lived outside the EU. The EU is far from perfect and in many ways a Moloch with feet of clay. Doesn’t mean it will always be so, not if we, the people of Europe want change for the better. And even if a lot of Britons always r name Britain as opposed to “the Continent” , you ARE part of Europe, wether you like it or not.

  15. I have been following your blog on and off from almost when you first started it and this post sums up my thoughts exactly. I am heart broken and angry in the same quantities that the politicians a)allowed this to happen and b) blatantly lied to the voters as witnessed on the morning of the results. I have always felt European and am just old enough to remember my parents voting to join the EU if I was younger I would seriously think about relocating to Europe but that ship has sailed for me. I just hope that something can be salvaged from the wreak created by ego-maniacs and right wing old men who won’t live out the see the repercussion of their self centred selfish actions.. I need to have a lie down and a cup of tea!!

  16. Loved this post.
    As a Brit in the Netherlands for the last decade I burst into tears when the news hit. I took a break from social media and sat in my bedroom for days, horrified at the situation I found myself in. What would happen to my Dutch children? Would I be forced back to the UK? Nothing seemed secure any more.

  17. terrystynes1 says:

    I love the fact we’re no longer in the dreaded EU and I would’ve called for a 2 no referendum had we been forced to remain (I’m a bad loser).

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