To Stay Or To Go?
My partner says he never heard the word ‘inside’ used to mean at home before he came to the UK. It’s true, we grew up thinking of us as being at home and everyone else as foreign. I blame the Victorians.
I arrived back in Barcelona feeling virus-filled and exhausted, but after watching people in the park it was impossible not to become freshly inspired.
Outside I found: 30 very old ladies on bicycles. Another gaggle performing pilates and yoga. A medieval parade. A tap-dancing troupe in the bandstand. Two excitable children, obviously not on Ritalin, fascinated by spinning tops. Parents feeding their children octopi in the sun. Drummers, acrobats (see picture), readers, play-rehearsers, a choir, and and one very touching moment when a large group of unchaperoned kids stood before the park’s memorial to gay concentration camp victims to read the inscription.
At this point I decided that the Happiness Index was rubbish. How can anyone be truly happy in the cold? I grew up not with pursuits but with ‘pastimes’ – things to do while you waited for the rain to stop. Living in the Northern hemisphere is a challenge, and I can see why many opt out. Almost 3,000 Britons move abroad each week, with around five million now living outside the UK.
However, Dr David Bartram, of the University of Leicester, said that migrants from the UK and five other northern European countries who went to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus were less happy than people who stayed behind. He says ‘Migration itself can be disruptive to other dimensions of people’s lives – social ties, sense of belonging – possibly with consequences for their happiness.’
But writers have a much higher rate of migration, perhaps borne of a desire to observe more of the world. In America, New Zealand, Canada and Australia the question of whether you stay or leave regularly arises. In the UK, it’s always assumed you’ll stay.
Apart from family ties, I’m held back from leaving by the thought of becoming proficient in another language. This was not a problem when I lived in France (My French doesn’t run to advanced intellectual levels but is good enough) but here you have Catalan and Spanish to deal with.
There’s one other decisive factor; London is becoming obscenely expensive. Fine for the business account executive, but a no-go zone for normal people. With the most expensive property in the world now in London, more people will be forced out than ever before.