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Sreeram Padmanabhan
How are Indians treated in Britain?

 

Summary

I am an Online Web Development trainer and I have been fortunate to have travelled quite extensively before the age of 30. I have been living in London for over 3 years now. I have travelled to countries UK-like countries like France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. I haven't lived outside London and the results could vary. London being a multi cultural society might be more receptive to foreigners. I shift my house every 6 months just to explore all parts of London. So I have lived in about 10 different places and that has helped me meet and talk to people of all kinds, nationalities, faiths, sexual orientation etc.

Living here has had its ups and downs, but eventually, when I look back, it has been a story of success.

Before setting foot outside India

I was concerned about racism. I did some online research about life of foreigners in London and I remember reading that there are some dodgy areas in London where one shouldn't go. I was concerned about language, I was concerned about my career, I was concerned about money.

Reaching a new country for the first time

The very place I ended up in when I first came here was the place I had read. And it was truly dodgy. Not clean, smelled bad, you can hear police and ambulance sirens all the time and there is always someone creating some ruckus. Not the kind of the metropolitan city one has in mind. I imagined myself to be like Hrithik in ZNMD when he was in London. In reality, I felt like I was in Gotham.

But, I have never faced any kind of open discrimination for being an Indian to an extent that I want to go back to India. But, there is a but statement attached to every statement, isn't there?

Good things

Unlike some of our neighbouring countries known for illegal immigration, India is regarded as a friendly and good nation. Probably because there aren't refugees from India. We have to get a Visa to come here and we have to pay our taxes.

To many people, India = Spicy food. Thats what most people have in mind. Indian food is almost a luxury item here. They are very fond of our curries, festivals, the culture and the colour.

Many of my English friends look forward to visiting India if not been there already. Few of my friends here have travelled to Sri Lanka, Indonesia, but not India which surprised me but that's probably because it's a big nation and it needs big planning and budget.

I was surprised when a colleague of mine told me I'm one of the smartest persons he knows. In India, I was considered average. He was Nigerian.

A friend of mine travelled to India recently and said she had one of the best experiences ever. She was Australian.

One of my colleagues, I was surprised when he talked to me openly and was eager to listen just like he does to any other people. He was South African.

Once during a conversation about Brexit, a friend insisted that I'm a Londoner and not an immigrant. I got the impression that they are more concerned with eastern Europeans pouring in. But most Londoners absolutely oppose Brexit. She was a Brit.

I had a good rapport with people who had a professional relationship with me.

I try to be as polite as possible when I talk to them and they try to be even more polite.

There are people who know that we are there because we have some rare skills.

Bad things

Most ignorant people think of us as people from a poor country, a country where cows roam around on the roads. It may be true but India has come a long way from there and people are just blatantly ignorant of that. They still have the 1947 image of India.

They are aware of poverty and the safety issues in India.

Some people think we stare a lot and it is indeed true to an extent.

But, there was some degree discrimination every time I searched for a place to live.

Most people live in flat shares in London, I try to do the same. You can either find a place yourself or get one through an agency. Below are some occasions where I have felt discriminated.

In 2017, I had to move into a new place with oral consent of a rental agreement with the tenant moving out. But, the landlord asked me to move out when I asked for a rental agreement after a month. Basically he wanted to sublet the room to someone who wouldn't need a rental agreement so he could save tax. Or maybe the previous tenant wanted to move out so badly. So I asked for it after moving in and he refused on the grounds that I didn't have a 12 month tenancy history or previous rental agreements. I was happy to move out. But it felt that me being Indian didnt help!

In 2018, my rental agency tried to scam me of 150£ for basic wear and tear and took me to the Deposit Protection Scheme whereas my British room mate wasn't, even though we both gave them the room in the same condition. I won the dispute but I thought they were making me a soft target because of me being an immigrant.

In 2019, I took a break from work for a month and went back to India. I loved the time there. But when I came back, my friend and I moved in together. He had found a place but the landlord never signed an agreement. After a month of moving in, the guy wanted us to move out citing refurbishments as a reason. We threatened to go the police but some friends said its worthless without an agreement. I wrote to the HMRC for tax evasion. Again, felt taken advantage of based on my situation.

In all these years, I have felt discriminated where available rooms go to local people and friends and rarely to immigrants especially if you are from the sub-continent, even though I agree to provide all proofs or even when I am ready to pay more. This is evident when the current tenants change their decision to give the room without any valid reason. This happened many a times.

I got a bad fever in April 2019. But I was not able to see a doctor even though I pay 600£ a month for National Insurance. The reason was I never registered with a doctor there. I felt why do they take the money then?

Neither good nor bad

They do know of our colonial past. But we have never spoken about it openly. The opinions are mixed. Some people think that the British brought about industrialisation etc, while some think otherwise. But they do share the empathy for the bad things. Aug 15s are strange days.

There was this one occasion when I was at Arthur’s seat in Edinburgh, and an old woman approached me and asked me a few questions and talked about how they were losing jobs. But she was never impolite. I couldn't agree or disagree but thats the way Globalisation works isn't it?

As of 2017

I'm in India right now to renew my visa and in no mood to go back any time soon. But my colleagues want me back there asap. One person even said that it's easy for them when I'm working from there rather than from India.

One of my best friends is a Greek. I have French roommates. I traveled to Belgium with an Australian girl. I have had a mutual crush a German girl which never materialised.

I had the best time of my life there and I am looking forward to going back there next week.

I face more problems with my own people than them!

My English room mate enjoys the food I make and she tried eating them with her hand. She did well for a first timer.

As of 2018

I continue to live here happily and harmoniously. About my cooking, my new German roommate likes it too. :) Apart from that, I am focusing on my career this year. No travels, no outings. Only cooking, coding and cricket on saturdays.

As of 2019

The Australian friend moved to Australia. The German friend moved to Germany, the Greek and the South African friends moved to other companies and I rarely see them. I have one good friend here in London with me and she is Indian.

As of 2020

I am back in India. Its time for my next journey. I have found a new job in Germany and will be moving there next. Read about it here.

Inference

I have come to realise that there is indeed a small degree of discrimination. But would I face it if I moved to a different part in India? Probably yes.

☕ Buy me a coffee maybe?