Ever since the morning of June 24, 2016, I’ve kind of felt a little bit like I am on acid – or possibly magic mushrooms. In a bad way. You know how times stretches when you’ve taken magic mushrooms – 20 minutes seems like three days, three hours seems like your entire life, but kind of inside out – well, sometimes I watch the German news and I feel like the past three years have just been a terrible, horrific, gutwrenchingly awful trip.
Germans have been nice to me, though. German Berliners have been nice. They’ve gazed at me with this mixture of solidarity and sadness and murmured, sympathetically: “So what are you going to do now? Are you going to become German?”
Even – get this – even the Ausländerbehörde people were nice. They sent me an e-mail, inviting me in. The people at the front didn’t know about my special “British Berliner” Gute Ausländerin staus and still barked orders at me like disappointed concentration camp guards who think you could, and should, do better. But there was this kind of Backstagebereich for British people – I think they’d even got some red carpet out and those tiny bits of rope that they have outside Wetherspoons pubs in Britain for people to smoke and glass each other on. Here, in the British section, the Ausländerbehörde people didn’t talk to us like we were criminals and/or Ausländer. They spoke to us gently, and softly – think Richard Madely on This Morning with Richard and Judy the morning after Princess Diana had died. “You must be feeling very sad this morning, Frau Nandi,” my guy said, ushering me into room 42A respectfully and deferentially and politely and just plain fucking LOVINGLY – more respectfully than I have ever been ushered in everywhere, including by a Groupon masseur into a crazy-posh massage room in a crazy-posh spa. “I’m, er, very sad.” “Do you have any, er, proof of income?” He asked respectfully. “Actually, no,” I said sadly. “Because I basically don’t have any income worth talking about at the moment. I mean, I get Kindergeld. But I couldn’t find the Bescheid when I left the house this morning. So sorry.” “Do you have a Steuerbescheid at all?” He asked. He sounded like he was ashamed at having to ask me this. “I actually don’t, but here is a letter from the Finanzamt nagging me to do my taxes more quickly?” “That’s so wonderful,” he whispered at me. “Well done for bringing this in. Would you like to wait outside while I just finish up your permanent residency status for you?”
Honestly, there are Vietnamese eyebrow women who sound rude compared to how he was talking to me. He was being so polite, it was almost turning me on.
And the truth is, even though I am grateful for the solidarity and sadness Germans have treated us with since Brexit – I still get homesick sometimes. And I still feel like I hate Germany every now and then. When a builder shouts at me for taking up too much space on the pavement, because my two-year-old boy is just bursting with excitement at the sight of the digger. You know what I think when that happens? I think: “God, I fucking hate this country sometimes. I hate Germany. I hate these people.”
And this is the reason why I won’t judge any Europeans who have become British in time for the election and are planning on voting LibDem. A lot of left-wing people in the UK act like Brexit is a superficial, abstract, even, idea. They post things about austerity and disabled people, or people with cancer, being forced to go to fitness for work interviews or have their benefits cut. And then they write, mockingly, sneeringly: “But tell us how important Brexit is again! Tell us again how much Brexit matters! While people are DYING!”
I do think the LibDems are Tory enablers – and I do absolutely think the Tories kill people. But in a parallel universe, I am not a British woman who has given up her home, given up her identity, given up her family, given up her life for Germany. There’s a parallel universe where I am a German woman living in Britain. Or Polish even, maybe. No, German. I’m a German. The parallel universe Jacinta Nandi, let’s call her Jana Nandimann, has actually contributed slightly more to Britain than the real Jacinta Nandi has contributed to Germany, I reckon. She’s paid more tax and also cost them less in terms of childcare. She really fucking hates David Cameron and she really fucking hates Theresa May and she really really really fucking hates Johnson.
And Corbyn? Yeah, she feels betrayed. We all know what the Tories will do to the poor and the weak, the sick and the disabled, if they get the chance and I hope to fuck they don’t get one. But Corbyn at any point in the past three years owed it to Jana Nandimann to say that the referendum result was totally invalid because EU citizens didn’t get the chance to vote and it affected them so badly. That was literally ALL he had to fucking say. I know people are all gonna start lecturing me about voters in the Labour heartlands hate Belgian translators so much that they would’ve joined the Tory party (or possibly UKIP/Brexit party) had he said that and zwar für immer. But you know what? Maybe they would’ve seen sense. Or I dunno. Maybe they would’ve seen solidarity.
I walked out the Ausländerbehörde, past all the real Ausländer, the ones who were being spoken to like dirt, into the fresh May sunshine, and I felt guilty and unsolidarisch. What had just happened was unfair. I didn’t deserve the Niederlassungserlaubnis they’d just stamped into my passport, just like I never deserved my British passport itself. An accident of birth. It’s dishonest of left-wingers in the UK – Lexiters but also those on the left who say they don’t personally want Brexit but just believe that Corbyn can’t win without the Brexit vote – to claim (I guess imply is a better word) that because the whole concept of EU citizenship is itself a privilege, the EU citizens living in the UK, fearing for their future, scared for their children, deserve no solidarity. I have a VPN now – I watch British TV every night, that’s how unintegriert I am. I see all the jokes, all the funny, ironic jokes about Spanish people and Polish people and French people being deported. I see the indifference. I see the acceptance of Brexit as a concept, of the pain that Brexit will bring as a necessity. I don’t see any sadness, and I certainly don’t see any solidarity. I am a horrendously badly integrated Gute Ausländerin in Germany. And sometimes, when I watch British TV, I think: “God, I really fucking hate that country sometimes.”