[The Balance Point]
I Live In Andalucía [How I Hate English Exceptionalism!]
The British, or more particularly the English, seem to treat the world as theirs. They invade and occupy without any concern for the locals living there. This is as true in modern day Spain as much as it was true for India or Ireland hundreds of years ago.
I am descended from an Irish occupier family that shrugged off its background by becoming Scottish. I have deliberately let go of all that by settling in Spain. I am happy here and love to live among the Spanish/Andalucían people with their varied cultural backgrounds.
I am a permanent resident of Spain and the more I look at the UK the happier I am with that. Seeing the continued existence of British exceptionalism wears me down and continues to support my desire to remain in Spain for the rest of my life. I am embarrassed to be British and do what I can, here in Spain, to avoid what is called the British 'expat' community. The term 'expat' used to mean a British person moving to another country for a period of time before returning 'home'. For an 'expat' home is always Britain—usually England. I, like many others here in Spain, am an immigrant because Spain has become my home.
As an immigrant I do what I can to integrate into Spanish society and genuinely make Spain my home. I have my residency card, my Spanish driving licence, I pay taxes in Spain, and I have no economic ties to the UK other than it being the source of my pensions. Many of the 'expats' here do all they can to duck under the radar and avoid these necessities—until now.
Brexit has put paid to all of that and forced people to either integrate as residents or go back 'home' and only visit Spain for limited periods as tourists. They are complaining, or at least the Daily Express and The Daily Mail are complaining on their behalf. I, again like many others, will be glad to see the back of them.
The British Empire
British exceptionalism has existed for many hundreds of years and came to its peak during the height of 'The British Empire' during the reign of Queen Victoria. Probably its most extraordinary expression was the British Raj in India. The extraordinary contrast between the ignorance and poverty of Indians and the arrogant wealth of the British has been a stain on the reputation of the British ever since. They suppressed, dominated and exploited Indians in brutal ways that cannot be ignored. They ignored Indians and expected them to fall in line with how the British saw the world. The effective civil war that led to the Partition of India in Independence was a direct result of hundreds of years of British rule.
That same British rule also led to the Partition of Ireland a hundred years ago. This was a result of a movement that started way back in the 16th century with the Plantation of Ireland. In particular the Plantation of Ulster from 1606 directly lead to todays division of Ireland into North and South. A division that has come to dominate Brexit, with no satisfactory result other than the re-unification of Ireland.
I am a descendent of Protestant occupiers in the North, and I feel ashamed of that fact. My ancestor left Ireland in 1841 and settled in Glasgow, leading to my family becoming Scottish. This, of course, was a sham but it successfully obscured our Irish occupier background.
Part of my disdain for British 'expats' here in Spain is the extent to which they try to turn parts of Spain into Little Englands, to the derision of many.
When I compare the English (and I have reverted to the term English rather than British because they are at the root of all this) attitude to immigrants with their attitude to occupying countries not their own, I can only feel revulsion. The British attitude to accepting immigrants fleeing genocide in Ukraine—that is not accepting them—the British attitude to sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for 'processing' and settlement can only fill an outside observer with disgust, it certain does me.
I find Andalucía a comfortable place to settle. The weather is generally very agreeable, although we are in a period of rain that has become extended and appears to be continuing, but best of all is the happy mix of backgrounds of people here. Andalucía was an Arabic/ Muslim Kingdom from the 8th to the 15th centuries. The region retains much of its Arabic flavour in place names, vocabulary, architecture, agriculture and its residents. It does not have the exceptionalism that is apparent in other regions of Spain, such as Catalunya. It celebrates its past and accepts what it has been.
This is where I have settled and where I intend to remain.
Originally published on The Balance Point on Substack.