By Hannah Silverman
As I began moving into London life at the beginning of 2013 it wasn’t long before my fellow Aussie Londoners began moving out. Well, that says a lot about our friendship, doesn’t it? No, actually, it says a lot about The System. The system of immigration that grabbed my dear friends and their London lives by the scruff, leaving them kicking and screaming all the way home.
Meanwhile as the newbie Londoner, two years seemed like a long time and to me, my friends were just being ungrateful. Or lazy. Or were they? Many of my friends repeatedly told me the same thing, that they weren’t ready to go and that they hadn’t ticked enough boxes. Yet amongst it all they had found some contentment in accepting the inevitable and the excitement of coming home to family and Tim Tams was their consolation prize. I guess they had to embrace it, you can’t exactly fight immigration. My gosh I was smug, but not so much anymore.
Then there was me. I stood at the sidelines sad to lose another friend but gripping my maroon passport with pride knowing that this little booklet entitled me to dual citizenship forever – and that’s a long time. It was also then that I started to realise I needed to let more English into my social circle. They’d never leave me, right? But of course I would have time to do and see everything I wanted. Two years? Please, give me one and a half.
On January 22, I would have been in London for two years and if my father wasn’t British, I’d be heading home with some seriously un-ticked boxes. But why? Considering two-year-younger Hannah thought a two-year visaship was plenty of time to learn a culture, why do I now realise how much unfinished business remains? If I was going home now, I’d be haunted by the ghosts of travelling past, yet I’ve seen and done so many wonderful things at the same time. Ungrateful, lazy… who me?
Sure, I’ve done an enviable amount of travel and achieved a snapshot of the goals I set out to, but there is so much more for me to do before I’m at that place of satisfaction. Perhaps I’ll never get there, or, perhaps when I do, that’s when I know it’s time to head on home. For now, London is where I feel I need to be and until I feel otherwise – or they invent a duplication process so I can be in two places at the same time – I’m not budging. After all, I’ve got a lot of work to do and optimistic ambition aside, it’s going to take a lot longer than two years to get there.
Without a strong understanding of the way immigration actually works behind the scenes (I’ve never had to fill out the paper work, after all), it seems senseless to me that travellers who contribute so much into a country don’t easily have the opportunity to state their case to remain longer. Sure, there are sponsorships and marriage and tricks like that, but why should someone who has a grandparent they’ve perhaps never met, be entitled to a lifestyle closed to other perfectly hard working foreigners if they aren’t going to embrace the opportunity in the same way? (I did know my grandparents, by the way, and this part is not about me – it’s a for instance).
This is the part where I state in bold letters just how grateful I am that I can stay indefinitely, but I’d love to have seen some of my equally determined friends continue to tick their boxes, too. My suggestion (devoid of logistic rationality) would be to have a points system where immigrants prove their right to remain. In a very elementary sense, 20 points if you have a letter of recommendation from your employer, 10 points if you had paid your bills on time, 80 points if you know the lyrics to every Beatles songs or if you’ve graduated from Hogwarts. Kind of like the maths you need when presenting credit card statements and passports to quality for official documents.
Now I’m faced with what would be the day England boots me out of the country that for the past two years has shown me so much vibrancy and offered me so many opportunities, laughs and lessons. If that was being taken from me now, I would be greedily unsatisfied and as potentially ungrateful as I jovially assumed my friends had been.
This year I’m going to focus more on domestic travel because while it’s fantastic to be able to be a hop, skip and a Eurostar away from Europe, I chose to live in London and I want to get to know my country better. Hey, I’ve already been here for two years.
To all my friends who I have shared London life with, I have no doubt this fabulous city has a special place in your heart and that your new chapters are as satisfying as they are exciting.
To all my friends who I will share London life with, I have no doubt this fabulous city will have a special place in your heart, too. I hope you find a way to stay longer than two years, if that’s what you want, but if that’s enough, I hope you make the most of it as soon as you land in Heathrow. Two years is a short amount of time, after all. Besides, the Tims Tams will be waiting for you when you get back and until then there’s always Australia Post.