In Birmingham I learned to hate capitalism and to love cultural diversity. I meet the friendliest, kindest people but I was also struck by the great cultural differences.

I still remember vividly the astonishment I felt on my arrival in Birmingham. Just out of Digbeth Coach Station, after a long and tiring bus journey from London Luton, the surroundings are not exactly what one wishes to see. Particularly, because, like all Eastern Europeans, I knew I was coming to a better world.
Four years later I am still not sure if it is indeed a better world. But I do not hate Birmingham anymore. I learned to love it. I got used to its bad parts and I truly enjoy the good ones. Like most of the foreigners coming to England’s second biggest city, I knew nothing about it. I even had very different expectations, thinking I am going to a sort of bigger Cambridge: cobble-stone alleys, bordered by old, tall trees and red-brick buildings, pedestrian streets with cyclist, students and families going quietly out and about. But of course, the shopping-centred, car-reliant, architectural jumbled Birmingham is not an exception in this country.
The best advice I would give to an Eastern European coming to the UK is to forget everything about everything. To learn life from scratch and in this way nothing will be surprising anymore.
On a more positive note, Birmingham is a thriving, prosperous city, which anyone feels welcomed to call it home. In Birmingham I meet the friendliest, kindest people. I saw the most beautiful parks. I studied at a wonderful university. The sense of community is great, the can-do attitude is inspiring and the way the city is developing and improving is energising. I also had my bike stolen, my phone stolen, I was harassed in traffic, and there are areas I would not walk alone in the evenings. But indeed, there is no garden without its weeds.
In Birmingham I learned to hate capitalism (a similar thing could have happened to Marx when he wrote Das Kapital in London?) and to love cultural diversity. I am also much more attentive with the idea of cultural differences. One might not feel it in the Global Anglo-Saxon bubble, but it is a real, sometimes painful thing. In this respect, Eastern Europeans probably feel the best the cultural differences. They are the biggest ethnic community in the UK, outside the Anglo-Saxon world (I know it is problematic to see Eastern Europe as a common ethnic group but for the sake of clarity…) and in this respect they are the link between this country and the wider world. Albeit harder said than done, increasing engagement with Eastern European from the UK communities will be of immense benefit to everyone. The locals will make steps to break the Anglo-Saxon cultural bubble. The Eastern Europeans will contribute even more to the British society.

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Created: 2 May 2019, 4:48 p.m.