In real terms, I’m more of a Polish plumber than a Costa Brit. I came to Germany sixteen years ago, pay my taxes here, haven’t claimed a penny in unemployment benefit and speak German so well that I sound like a spy from a bad war film. I own my property here, but that’s the only property I own and it’s in Herne.
You don’t come to Herne for the sunshine and sangria, although during the city fair in August the supermarkets sell out of the pre-mixed stuff in two-litre cartons. We have a beach bar by the canal, but actually that side of the waterway is in Recklinghausen, the next town over.
But it’s near where I work and, as I have two jobs, I work a lot. More importantly, like most places in the Ruhr area of Germany, its people are open-minded, down-to-earth and ready to lend a helping hand. If you’d told me twenty years ago that I’d be teaching English in Herne, I’d probably have shaken my head in disbelief. But my life is here, and I’m happy.
It’s not all work of course, although I love what I do. If you like football, beer and hiking then Germany is the country for you and I do. I have a season ticket for one of the country’s finest football teams, Borussia Dortmund. More importantly, I have many friends from all walks of life. I love the country, the region and the people who live here.
None of this comes overnight. You have to work hard to learn the language, get used to the different mentality and different way of doing, well, everything. And when you move to a new place then it’s hard to make new friends wherever you are. It’s about hard work and patience. It took me ten years to get my season ticket for example.
In two days’ time, Theresa May will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. So far, neither she nor her European counterparts has been kind enough as to guarantee that British citizens in the EU or EU citizens in the UK will not have their lives destroyed in the political free-for-all which will follow. If we are mentioned at all in the press, it is normally immediately next to the phrase “bargaining power”.
It took me fifteen years to get to where I am and I would hate to see it ruined by a lady who’s only been in her current job for nine months. I’m a student of history and I know that these things can happen and so will do whatever is necessary to stop the politicians taking my life away. Exactly what is going to happen, nobody knows. I’m writing this blog to record the process from the point of view of somebody who will be directly affected, somebody who will live with the consequences on a day-to-day basis. You’re welcome to join me on the journey.