Week 50. Krista from Austria
"I first met my British husband in Germany at a conference where he was working for a big pharmaceutical company. I worked for the same company, but in Austria. Soon after our relationship started he was asked to return to the UK, and for one year we flew backwards and forwards between London and Vienna at weekends. This of cause was not a sustainable lifestyle and after a while I had a decision to make. It wasn’t an easy decision. I had a well-established career, friends and family in Austria and everybody thought I was mad to start all over in a new country. I could not transfer my job to the UK and my spoken English then was good enough for a casual conversation, but not at a level at which I felt comfortable enough to work in a customer facing job. Also what would I do if it all went wrong? Going back would not have been easy and the social provisions in the UK are not as good as in my own country. So for the first six months after moving to the UK I used the time to settle in, improve my English, see practice in the UK and look for jobs. That was thirteen years ago.
My husband had been overseas from the UK for 10 years but, because of his work location, was now moving to an area of the UK where he had no family or friends; so we had to start from scratch. I am a veterinarian, but I found it quite hard to find a job. In those days there were still a lot of Australian and South-African vets coming to work in the UK and an employer is generally going to choose an employee who’s a native English speaker. But I have worked hard and now I have my own company with plenty of work, am heavily engaged with such organisations as BSAVA and FECAVA and feel my contribution to the UK veterinary community is genuinely valued.
My husband and I have always felt ourselves to be part of Europe and after a while I felt well integrated in the UK, I had a good job, we had a nice circle of friends and life was good.
Initially, I experienced no hostility from the general public. Most people have a positive perception of Austria, if they recognise it at all. Then, 1-2 years before the referendum, I noticed a change in the mood of people towards Europe and Europeans. At work, I noticed more and more people were interested where I came from. My English is not accent free, but I did not feel in anyway offended when people asked “May I ask where do you come from?” This however changed the closer the date of the referendum came and the more heated the discussion around Brexit became in the news. There were occasions where the question was a blunt “Are you Polish?” This changed again after the vote. For the first 6 months after the referendum, nobody at work made any comment to me about Brexit or asked where I was from.
When the Brexit result came out, both my husband and I were angry, shocked and saddened. Our future had suddenly become a lot more uncertain. I have taken steps to safeguard my right to stay as much as possible and applied successful for permanent residency. I don’t know what will happen long term. I don’t really want to start all over again in yet another country at this stage in my life but if it becomes bad… at least I’m in a more secure position jobwise than other European veterinary surgeons who work for government departments. Once Britain leaves the EU, those jobs will no longer be open to members from the European Union. The problem for us as a married couple is that moving back to Europe would just reverse the situation as my husband has only British citizenship."