18 October 2016
About a thousand years ago, when I was a kid at summer camp in Maine, my fellow cabinmates announced a game in which everyone had to ignore someone whose name began with an H and ended with a Y. Naturally I was quite hurt by this, and a little confused. Hadn’t we all been friends yesterday? Two of them had already said they wanted to be my pen pals for life! I couldn’t understand it. It turned out they didn’t mean me, they meant a different 11-year-old girl, one called Holly. (I can’t remember why they didn’t like Holly.) I was still bruised, and never really felt the same way about my cabinmates again. The following week, I switched cabins.
Which brings me to what it’s like being a foreigner in Brexit Britain or, to put it more accurately, if less alliteratively, Brexit England. Now, when politicians bang on about immigrants stealing British jobs, and suggest all foreign workers should be on some kind of list – maybe not a “name and shame” list, but at least a private list (because this is somehow better) – I know they’re not thinking of me, exactly. I am a white Jewish American lady who speaks the language, pays her taxes, understands the cultural significance of Phillip Schofield, and manages to do all those other things foreigners allegedly don’t.
But I also know they’re not not thinking of me, either. After all, I am a foreigner who works for a British company, so I am in the general neighbourhood. (But could a native Brit make as many jokes as I have done over the years about Karl Lagerfeld on this newspaper’s fashion pages? I don’t think so. Don’t forsake us skilled immigrants, Britain!)