I cannot tell you how many times people have said to me upon finding out that I am a Kiwi, “why on earth would you live here, you must be mad?” Those are British people talking about their own country, that’s very sad. Most of the people who say that haven’t even been to New Zealand, they just feel their own country has gone to the dogs, is not as good as it once was, was never any good, or all of those. A quick glance at the substantial British expatriate communities abroad will tell you that there are many people fleeing Britain for a better life overseas. Well I have a view on that.
I am from the best alternative to Britain if you don’t like it here but don’t want too much ‘foreign’ and I choose to live here instead. I could go home tomorrow but I may never return to New Zealand because here in Great Britain is better, for me, for now. Who know’s what the future holds.
Before we look at why here is better, let’s have a look at where a Brit might move to if they don’t fancy learning another language. You have New Zealand, Australia, Canada or the USA. All are unsatisfactory. If you are happy to learn another language and all that entails you have a number of options open to you. Spain if you are a retired taxi driver or France if you have more money and sense than people who move to Spain. I’m not going to do a global examination of expat options because you will fall asleep. This is about Britain, eventually
I am at a complete loss as to why so many Brits head for Australia. Australia is mocked across the world for being a cultural desert and devoid of any sort of civilisation. There is good reason for this. Their best known exports are a tiny pop singer, a cross dressing comedian, a suburban soap series, some poor quality lager and Crocodile Dundee. This is before we even start on the fact that everything that walks, crawls, flies, slithers or swims in Australia, bites you. They are almost all venomous or even deadly. Australia has a lot of sunshine though which is actually its only redeeming feature.
If you are British, the Aussies actually do not like you very much. They think you are soft and also they think your grandads killed their grandads in the First World War by being pommy Generals who sent the ‘diggers’ to their deaths through poor decision making. They will remind you of this often. I’m not making this up. You will never encounter a more widely embraced national chip on each shoulder than the ones the Australians carry. You could not pay me to live in Australia.
Canada is nice but very large and mostly flat. Despite being enormous you can only use a little bit of it given so much is covered in ice in the winter. Also when you walk your dog you will probably be eaten by a bear. There is nothing on TV except Ice Hockey. Canada never features in any news story overseas for a reason. There is nothing happening there.
The USA is somewhere you could live if you like things American. This novelty wears off most Brits very quickly though. It’s just all too much after a while as will you be after being served five times the food you need at every meal. The British and the Americans are different on a fundamental level.
New Zealand? Well yes it’s very beautiful and the people are mostly very nice. The climate is agreeable and everything works in a way familiar to the Brits. There is no getting away from the fact that it is the other side of the world and none of your friends or family will ever come and see you. You will find out when you are there that coming back to the UK is a massive investment in time and treasure. So stay here instead
The chap who bemoaned the no longer Great Britain is wishing for something impossible. Time has marched on. Once upon a time Great Britain ruled the greatest Empire the world has ever known. We don’t live in those sorts of times anymore. So we have to live a different way. People in former colonies want, quite rightly, to run their own affairs. So they must be allowed to do so regardless of how good a fist they make of it. But look at the Infrastructure the British have left them!
I watched a presenter chap on TV recently in a program called ‘Empire’ or something. I got so angry as I watched it as this chap clearly hates his country and his heritage. He travelled the world interviewing some local people in former British colonies, you know, countries like India, Australia, Kenya and so on. I was angry because as this man collared some local, often in front of some magnificent Colonial building, he would demand that they agreed they were ‘furious’ at how the Empire had exploited their ancestors. It was an embarrassment. He was far more furious than they who seemed quite happy to be talking to a British television show. Yes those in charge of running the British Empire had a lot to answer for in many respects and some rum characters made some fortunes off the back of the local labour force and populace. But that was what happened in history. We don’t do that sort of thing or live that way anymore. The locals in the former colonies now just do it to each other instead. What the days of Empire left was a legacy of massive infrastructure, rule of law, justice and enterprise. I don’t hear many Indians saying they won’t watch or play cricket because it smacks of colonial injustice and exploitation. I could use a number of similar examples but you get my drift.
Britain has many faults as does every other country, the problems here are far less than most nations face. The people decrying things like uncontrolled immigration should just stop reading the Daily Mail. We have moderate taxes, a free health service. A huge transport network. Easy access to everywhere else in the world from the huge number of airports, rail stations and ferry terminals. In Britain you can easily get anything you want and you’ll see anything you need to. The Government are chumps, of course but since when and where in the world are they not?
There are socialists in the country who wish Great Britain to become a republic and to have the Monarch removed as the Head of State. They would have in the Queens place a President or some such thing. I know of few tourists who would save up or bother to travel across the world to see the trappings of a President of Great Britain. Her Majesty the Queen and the British Royal family though, is quite another story. That’s what people want to come and see. They want to see pomp and circumstance in action. A president wears a suit, a King or Queen wears stuff that will get put in a museum when they have finished with it. A President has to spend millions denouncing other people who wish to be elected President. The most ruthless and power-hungry rogue will win and become President. The Monarch is born to the role of Head of State and spends a lifetime learning how to go about it. Also no Prince Charming of any fairy tale ever fought against all the odds to save a Presidents daughter. Moving on.
The other day I got off a Red bus at Tottenham Court Road and decided to walk to my train station to get home from my meetings in London as it was a nice day. My walk went like this. Through Soho which is about the coolest place and community in any city in the world. I emerged at Shaftesbury Avenue, in the ‘Theatre District’ One of the greatest collections of show venues in the world. From here I walked to Piccadilly Circus which needs no introduction. Down Haymarket, to Trafalgar Square. From there I could see Admiralty Arch and the Mall leading down to Buckingham Palace. I headed down Northumberland Avenue to the Victoria Embankment. Here I could see Big Ben. I crossed the River Thames using the Millennium Footbridge and enjoyed the views up and down the river. I could see the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye. On the other side of the river I walked down the South Bank, past the Royal Festival Hall to London Waterloo Station. I challenge anyone to come up with a more interesting, varied and historically rich yet also safe short walk in any city, anywhere. At any point on that walk I could have quickly popped to any number of excellent pubs, bars or restaurants for pretty much anything I chose to eat or drink to suit any budget.
There may be economies in other countries overtaking Britain’s. That doesn’t actually matter. The general public in most countries with access to learning would love to visit Britain and many millions do, and they love it. The worlds new wealthy are falling over themselves to get their kids into British Schools and Universities. To buy British things in British shops. The British ‘do things properly’ The British sense of fair play is respected and emulated the world over. Britain punches far above her weight on the world stage, not because of some historic empire but because of what she contributes now. London is one of the world’s greatest financial centres, because of all the things London offers over and above the silly money stuff. The British are still a world power because they wrote the rules people have to play by. The British are still who the worlds newly moneyed people look to when they have to learn how to behave in polite society. The British are the ones who wrote the rule book on decorum and manners. Even if there are a big bunch of the young who have forgotten what that is about.
You as the British person in the street might think. “But what has all this to do with me? I don’t live in London and I don’t have any money”. Well neither do I and I’m not even British. You should be immensely proud of your country, not castigate it for the minor flaws. Look around you. Not far from where you are now is something amazing and historic. Or even just a lovely vista of a green and pleasant land. I drive around the UK an awful lot and I don’t have to go far before I encounter another scene from a chocolate box or a fairy tale or a slice of great historical significance It’s great here and remember I don’t come from some third world country looking for a better life. I’m from the greatest little country on earth and I would still rather live here, in Great Britain, for now.
Finally, if you want to know why I like living here rather than New Zealand. Here is why
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