The last holidays of the academic year are coming to an end. I will soon find again the rush and harrying that so much characterize my every day life in Paris.
What I will finally remember of these two weeks spent in the place I finally consider my home is above all, all the friends who following the normal course of their lives are now all settling down in Britain.
Last week Abdel khalim, a French convert to Islam also got a baby boy from his Senegalese wife. I was invited to the restaurant in Birmingham to celebrate the good news. It was an opportunity as well for me to see the small community of French expat who after living in different cities in Britain had all decided to make a living in Birmingham where they found they could practice their Muslim religion best.
Funny story for those French Citizens who just like me some few years ago have finally decided to make Britain their home.
The choice is however easy to understand. Britain is really a strange country. It is geographically very close to France but at the same time so different.
While I am writing these few lines in the main Library of the city of Coventry, for example, the man sitting on my left; a man over sixty years old is playing video games with his own laptop without it shocking anyone: a scene hard to imagine in France indeed.
But let’s have a look at what precisely in Britain attracts the French ethnic minorities born in France.
It is amazing to see how many well highly educated people from African and Asian backgrounds one can meet in the UK. People from those two communities who did well at school in most cases get very decent jobs while in France delinquency and unemployment often seems to be the only fate for the sons of immigrants and more surprisingly no matter if they did well at school or not.
Among the people of my own community living in France- I dare use the term community here for the reason that I am at the moment in Britain and unlike what is the case in France, over here communities officially exist, and are recognized and even more valued as such- very few, for some reasons, have access to higher education.
I will always remember Marie a mother of four kids I met on a coach heading for London. The lady who was in
her forties was meticulously studying her law lessons on the coach. In the short conversation we had I was also to learn that she had recently come from Nigeria to join her husband living in Coventry. Back home, Marie used to work as a teacher but now in Britain she had decided to become a lawyer. Her husband also from Nigeria was a practicing doctor.
On my return from the same trip I happened to be sitting next to Abubakar; a solicitor born in Britain from Nigerian parents. Here again in the conversation we had, I was to I learn more about this passenger. His Mum who was now a retired teacher had come from Nigeria in the sixties. I will never forget this sentence of his: « I have visited many countries in Europe but what I like about this country …..» I so wished I could just have said the same thing about the country in which I was born.
The best example illustrating the difference there is between France and Britain when it comes to ethnic minorities and immigration appeared to me earlier this week. Indeed, to answer the worries of an elderly lady he afterward qualified as « begoted » Prime Minister Gordon Brown was able to use the argument that most doctors today in Britain are immigrants from Asia and Africa saving the lives of many British; in France things are rather otherwise. Immigrants are just seen as pariahs the society has to get rid of.
Most people in Britain do recognize that if the country has been doing so well in the last three decades it is partly due to immigration that acted as a plus; while in the country of Arthur de Gobineau and the French République discrimination and racism did not only handicapped the new comers but the society as a whole.