Is this ‘Britishness’? More colourful and proactive life in the UK

“British people love tea and tradition”, “English gentleman”, “British people don’t take a bath”, “British people learn how to boil eggs at cooking lessons”, “Jumping the queue is the most offensive manner in the UK”… There are many expressions describing sort of Britishness which I had heard before settling here in the UK. A generalisation is not the right way to look at individuals, and I fully agree with this. However, if I continued to work and living in Japan, I would be unquestionably having a different type of life, in other words, predictable and stable, yet a lack of originality. My life has been shaping my behaviour and way of thinking to be more proactive and more colourful, since being surrounded by more numbers of British people, in particular, in the academic environment. Many British people I spoke to say “Britain can do better”; and I judge this forward-looking and critical attitude is a proof of the existence of democracy in the UK.

I met my husband when I was working as a volunteering position in Dakar, Senegal. We still believe that our first meeting at a karaoke & sushi restaurant was a ‘fate’ rather than a destiny. My husband sang ‘Englishman in New York’, which I could not recognise the song at the beginning even though I knew the song pretty well. I chose to sing ‘Dancing Queen’, in which ‘Friday’ often appears in its lyrics but had no idea that I would marry Mr Friday. Our son was born in Warsaw, Poland, three years later since our fate. We tied the knot in 2017 at a registry office in Kent, England, on the same date of the first time we met in Senegal.

By meeting with various people in different countries, I noticed one fact about myself, which is, it is hard for other people to tell my nationality. One Senegalese taxi driver once asked me, ‘Est toi fransaise?’, which is exceptional because the majority of people considered me as a Chinoise. People thought me as a Ghurkha (in Nepal and Canterbury, England), Korean-American (in South Korea), Chinese, Philopena, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, etc.  In many places including my hometown, Nagasaki, where I visited this year after ten years. I found this is remarkably interesting because there seems to be a specific image for ‘Japanese woman’, for which I seem not to be qualified.

‘Multinationalism’ has started to be heard more regularly, in particular, at a virtual meeting, seminar and conference, which the Covid-19 pandemic has given me more opportunities to participate. Instead, the usage of globalisation has been shrinking, at least, in my view. From my viewpoint and experience, British people will work well with multinationalism. I am confident with it, and here is why. With various reasons and causes, I returned to education five years ago. How likely a mother in 40s can choose to return to full-time education while a husband works full-time, and a child needs to go to primary school? My lifetime decision was incredibly positive; I met many proactive and colourful people at the university where more than half of the students are mature students. Moreover, higher education in the UK shows the country’s nature of multinationalism. For instance, I would not read criminology with a Surinamese or a Croatian, and I would not discuss anti-corruption policy and integrity with Tajik, Mexican or Sri Lankan if I chose to study in Japan or any other countries. My life-style may show the unlikeness of a Japanese female in middle-age, but I am not odd in the UK.

Sadly, hate crime occurs, and some degree of racism exists in the UK, likewise other nation-states. The important thing is; more people here can see and recognise hate crime and the harmful discrimination, and many people raise their voice to do something against it. Fewer reports do not mean that unjust incidents do not exist. The reality is that powerless people are not in the environment that it is all right to obtain the power to raise their voices.

We may argue that the UK’s equipped multinationalism has constructed upon the historical fact of colonialism. Nonetheless, the ideology at that time is different from the vision we have now for the multinationalism. There is no place to ‘conquer’ for the UK. Instead, sharing ideas with other nation-states to bring more justice and sustainable policies alongside widening the true-sense of democracy and equality around the globe must be the fundamental ideology of multinationalism.

As it is often said that patriotism does not equal to nationalism. In the UK, it is possible to be a patriot of Britishness by holding a different or multinational identity, like I do. I believe that many readers of Carousel do understand what it means. This writing is my well-wishing for the start of the FCDO. And most importantly, it is not only me who hopes that we will continue to be proud of holding the spirit of  Britishness and multinationalism throughout the next decades and centuries.

Author: Yuriko T Friday in Canterbury, Kent (September 2020)

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