What is the future for the traditional ex-pat Brit? | T. AYUGA

You really don’t need me to tell you - “The times they are a changing” when it comes to the political certainties of the future and beyond. As populist nationalism and outright military aggression in all its forms takes hold in countries that in the past would count themselves as ‘liberal’ societies, I wonder about the future for the traditional ex-pat Brit?

With citizens of modern European nations very much aware of the challenges of immigration from all parts of the world - I ask myself, within this modern context what is the point of us, yes us? By ‘Us,’ I mean those British nationals who in the past arrived here in the Balearics to live, work or retire, with the sun on our backs and a certain lifestyle to enjoy to the full, now I wonder if the golden era of the traditional Brit abroad is coming to an end.

Indeed, much has changed since I arrived more than two decades ago. At that time, it was very rare indeed to meet any semi-permanent ex-pat under the age of 60 and equally rare for young families to seek to settle here and engage with local people. In observing the phenomenon of the British ex-pat in all his or her glory, maybe we have slowly become an irrelevance and time is running out on us and soon we will become a victim of our own insularity and well mannered indifference?

I do wonder if the whole concept of a British citizen living abroad, not because of a career choice - but that of lifestyle, has morphed into a somewhat old fashioned concept given the changing mood of modern society. Indeed, aren’t we all hopelessly misplaced in the new reality of mass immigration that some would say threatens our continent?

I have this notion that for those of us Brits who live in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal - are living out a sort of post-colonial dream in developing, energetic countries who don’t quite know what to do with us as we tip-toe around the edges of society. When you consider the figures, such as the fact that over 300,000 British nationals live their lives in Spain, I wonder just how much we contribute to the overall scheme of things?

Yes, we mostly pride ourselves upon the fact that very few cynically take advantage of the Spanish welfare system, pay taxes (I hope!) and yet, if we are honest both individually and collectively bring very little ‘to the table’ in terms of social interaction, cultural input and perhaps just belonging - that’s it, belonging. The truth is we ex-pat Brits have always lived in a ‘bubble’ of our own making, mostly polite, never rude or dismissive of our hosts; just not particularly interested in them either.

Many of us self-consciously joke about our inability to speak Spanish very well and groan in faux shame when challenged about it - but that’s all it is “fake” shame, because we know full-well that if we tried we could speak the language properly, but we don’t; is it because we don’t really care? Indeed, perhaps we are a little more like the much maligned, southern Asian women, based in northern English towns who seem to have the same problem - but without the same hostile finger pointing.

So then, has our own particular version of Brits Abroad reached its sell by date? Probably not just yet, but the certainties of the past are fading and there could come a disconnect between our hosts and ourselves which will only grow wider as we Brits continue on the path of departing the EU and past social and economic certainties here in Spain are challenged. I wonder then, if the whole concept of the expatriate British citizen living out their lives in southern Europe is to eventually lose its appeal? In essence, I don’t think this is that much to do with Brexit - or anything else as politically definable as that, just a slow move away from living patterns and lifestyle aspirations of the past.

You may have also noticed the rather suspicious way that people based in the UK converse with you when they know that you live your life mainly here in Mallorca. At one time, a certain envy might enter an acquaintances tone of voice, there would be the inevitable questions about the weather and what you did to make a living, but generally there was a passive, but warm interest in your chosen lifestyle.

Recently, I’ve noticed that this reaction has coarsened to one of weary cynicism; in fact on more than one occasion I have had to defend myself against indiscriminate charges from a sort of low grade, non specific disapproval, to that of “why would you want to live there?” Rather than imagine this sort of reaction to be a purely anti Spanish type of reaction to your chosen place of abode, it seems to me to be a rather widespread and insular feeling of almost manic, national self defence, as if to move to a different country (for whatever reason) was a sort of denial of your own birthright.

Indeed, in recent years the whole concept of home, patriotism, and perceived national loyalty has undergone a rather populist and uncomfortable transformation into a sort of crude flag waving. Anyway, one thing is for sure and that is in ten years time I predict that the profile of ex-patriate British citizens living in Mallorca will be very different from what exists at the moment. At an educated guess; not better nor worse - just very different indeed.