Our latest Face of Europe will soon be celebrating 40 years of living in the UK. From au pair to life coach, Annette Shaw’s journey covers almost the entire period that the UK was part of the EU. Here is her story.
Whereabouts are you from? I was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and grew up near Hamburg.
How long have you been here?
I have been in the UK since 1981
What made you come originally?
I came to the UK as an Au Pair to study English. I was only meant to spend one year in England, but I met someone, fell in love and got married. We are not together now but I have built my life in this country and have friends here.
What is the thing you like most about the UK?
In the beginning I felt very welcome and found the British very open and inclusive. People were always curious when I told them I was from Germany and I had many people tell me what regions they visited in Germany, some had spent time living and working in Germany. They all said how much they enjoyed their visits and their time living in Germany. I love the British sense of humour. I love the British countryside and the British way of life.
What made you want to stay?
I felt the British had a relaxed outlook on life how they use their sense of humour.
What do you like about the Oxfordshire area?
I love the social life in Oxford and the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside.
How have things changed for you since Brexit?
I feel the country has become very divided. Many people do not like it if your opinion differs from theirs, you get accused of being undemocratic among other things. Luckily, I associate more with people who are still word open and committed to having close co-operation with Europe. I have acquired British citizenship and I was involved in campaigns for a second referendum.
I can see myself joining campaigns to maintain a close relationship with Europe and to re-join the European Union.
How do you see your future?
I intend to move to Scotland because of their commitment to the European Union. I believe that they will have another referendum for independence and it is likely that they will win this time and I will offer my support.
Apart from its decision to leave the EU (!), what is the strangest thing you have found about the British people or living in the UK?
I have become more aware of racism and have been on the receiving end of it myself because of my slight German accent. I have also become aware of how people have been mass hypnotised by the right-wing tabloids. What has been most obvious to me is how divided the country is on the subject of Europe.