Today is the day I am leaving the UK for good.
My bags are packed, passport ready, boarding pass in my pocket and by the end of the day I will be back in Europe, and yes, it is because of Brexit.
I won’t go into a long political explanation, because the politics are only secondary. I am leaving because of the way life in the UK has changed for me since the vote.
I moved to the UK seven years ago for university. Originally, it was only to study and I wasn’t planning on staying. I just wanted to improve my English.
But within the first six months I realised I loved the country. I loved the people and the fact that there is no formal and informal addresses for people, just ‘you’, I loved the fact that people call each other ‘love’, whether they know me or not. I loved life, and the language, and I even put up with the non mixer taps.
This farewell article originally appeared on SomersetLive, where Claire Violette Herbaux had been working as a reporter.
Even though I only lived in the UK on and off after uni, I always planned on coming back. This is where I felt at home and where I was going to spend my life.
But then I came back after the vote and things had changed.
Now I hear people talk about foreigners and how they are ‘waiting for March 2019 for them to leave’.
Using the word Brexit in the conversation seems to have made it acceptable to say such things.
This isn’t a one-time occurrence. A sentence like this is uttered about once a week.
Because I don’t have a French or German accent (though am regularly told I sound South African), they don’t realise they are talking about me.
And they are probably generalising and thinking of Eastern Europeans or even refugees, not me, but nevertheless I am part of this group of people they would prefer to leave their country.
And this is what it boils down to. For the first time in my life, I am part of a group of people who are ‘different’ and possibly ‘don’t belong’. And let me tell you, it doesn’t feel good.
But there is of course also an element of uncertainty of how Brexit will unfold in 2019 and how it will affect EU residents like me. I feel like I contribute in the same way as anyone else and I would want to be treated that way.
Not a single day goes by without someone mentioning Brexit, the news reporting on it, or a meme showing up on Facebook.
Every time it does, it reminds me that the country I live in has decided to turn against everything I believe in.
The EU isn’t perfect, but I am proud to be European and I have grown up seeing the borders slowly disappear between countries and travel between my two homes in France and Germany becoming easier each year. No more numerous wallets for the currencies, no more stopping for border control.
Every time I hear ‘Brexit’ I remember the country is trying to distance itself from the this concept which I hold very dear.
So while life is never perfect, I will go back to Europe. We have our own issues and politics to deal with, but at least I belong, I am a resident like any other, and I don’t have to worry about my status changing because I am not a citizen.
I will have the same rights as anybody else and enjoy the upsides of EU – which I have learned to appreciate even more since the Brexit talks began.