Thursday, 14 January 2010

London plans ‘USA Day'?? I'm out of here!

Well it’s been up in the air for awhile now but today it became official: my company is moving me to Brussels. I will be heading over there 1 March.

In the past year of doing this job covering the EU I’ve been living in London (where the company is based) and just going into Brussels when required. But someone in our Brussels office is leaving, so I need to be over there full-time now. I’m looking forward to it actually. Covering the EU from London has been a bit like trying to cover the US Congress from New York. You can do it (people do) but you can’t do it very well. Sure, you can hop on a Eurostar or Amtrak train to attend the key hearings, press conferences and events. But if you’re not immersed in the EU or DC bubble, you’re just not fully connected

It’s funny, this time a year ago when I was job-hunting I said the ideal job I could find would be something covering the EU that would let me live in London. Somehow I was lucky enough to find that rare creature. But in the course of the past year I’ve found that maybe London isn’t so great that I should handicap my career to stay here. Brussels is only 90 minutes away by train, and I plan on coming into London at least once a month (hopefully twice) to see my boyfriend here. So really it’s not such a dramatic move, and I have lived In Brussels before (even if it was for just two months last year).

I thought it was fitting that on the day I signed in blood my commitment to move to Brussels in a month, this story breaks about London Mayor Boris Johnson planning a ‘USA Day’ in the British capital later this year. Shucks, and I’ll be across the channel. The price tag for this absurd celebration of all things American is a whopping £75,000, a pretty shocking expenditure considering Johnson has already cut the budgets for the city’s Pride and St. Patricks Day celebrations and cancelled the Rise festival. Those cuts were all supposedly a fulfilment of his promise to cut the huge number of ‘cultural celebration days’ that previous mayor Ken Livingstone initiated. But apparently Johnson is using the money saved from those programs to launch a new celebration of the culture that already dominates this country every day.

Perhaps Johnson just didn’t understand the concept of these culture-celebrating days. They’re supposed to gain attention for a normally invisible minority culture. Let’s be honest, every day in the UK is already “USA Day”. As the Londonist blog sarcastically quipped this morning:
Though details of what the day will provide in the way of entertainment are sketchy, we're envisioning a troupe of cheerleaders serenading the Queen, liberal servings of buffalo wings and blueberry pancakes, and Sarah Palin being feted on a ticker-tape parade down the Mall. Or maybe the fruits of American cultural imperialism will run a 'shock and awe' campaign on our native industries. Just imagine it: cinemas filled with Hollywood hits, American music blaring across the airwaves, the schedules a-shlock with Stateside television shows. One can barely imagine what such a world would look like.
The timing is funny to me because this kind of obsequious obsession with America is probably the thing that irritates me the most about this country. They don’t’ call it the “51st state” for nothing. There are so many amazing things about the UK, and in my opinion it’s a much better place to live than the US. But so many times when I meet a new British person here and say where I’m from they react with the same response. “You’re from New York? And you moved here?? God, why would anyone move here from New York?” This of course is interspersed with questions about whether I know how they can get a green card. It gets a little tiresome (and I rarely get this reaction on the continent).

I understand that this kind of self-deprecation is part of the British character, but I can’t imagine someone reacting that way if I said I just moved here from France or Germany. The fact is many Brits seem to have this grovelling, starry-eyed attitude toward the US, while they reserve a contempt or ambivalence toward the rest of Europe. It frustrates me that the Brits don’t consider themselves European, and I think in terms of foreign policy they make a fundamental mistake when they prefer to be a vassal state of the US rather than a powerful player within the EU. Can you imagine Johnson launching a ‘Europe Day’ for the British capital? Neither can I.

So, I’ll leave these daily frustrations behind for the moment I suppose. I do think I will move back here eventually, I’m just not sure when. Maybe I’ll fall in love with life in Brussels and never leave. Or maybe I’ll become bored with EU politics and come back here to do something else. Or maybe I’ll get to a high enough level in my career that a company would pay for me to commute back and forth to Brussels from London. Only time will tell.

Right now I’ve got to work on getting an apartment. Anyone have any suggestions on where to live?

1 comment:

newropeans-magazine - the blog said...

Hi, this post is excellent with a nice touch of humor. We would like to post it on Newropeans-Magazine website (, would this be possible?
Marianne Ranke-Cormier