Centre for International Education (CIE)

Life story interviews

Working with Migrants to Collect Life Stories

A key feature of the project was the development of skills and learning opportunities among migrant communities. Migrants who expressed an interest in being involved in the project were offered a twenty hour training programme on life history interviewing. The content included discussions around the knowledge about migrant communities they wanted to generate and promote, and how we might collect information.

Participants were keen to promote a positive image of migrants, to counter balance what they often perceived to be the negative portrayal of migrants, and in particular refugees and asylum seekers, in the media. At the same time it was felt important not to hide some of the struggles and difficulties facing migrants as they adapt to a new, and often very different culture and way of life. One participant described the project as ‘a way of saying hello to people who don’t know you’. Ethical issues, insider research and the importance of informed consent in research were all considered in the early sessions. Training was provided in writing an interview guide, posing effective questions and establishing a rapport in interviews.

As many of the participants did not want their identity known it was decided to use audio recordings rather than video recordings for the project. Having practiced using recording equipment and conducting interviews participants were given small audio recorders to go out and conduct interviews with friends, family and members of their community. Once transcribed the interviews were analysed together and the themes which are presented through the exhibition identified. At Brighton Voices in Exile the emerging themes were used with service users to prompt further story-telling and writing. It is hoped that the book accompanying the exhibition and the website will continue to be used in this way to promote further inter-cultural dialogue and learning.

The sixteen interviews presented here represent a selection of the interviews conducted. They were all conducted by migrants, most were conducted in English although one or two were conducted in a first language and then translated. The interviews and exhibition demonstrate the broad range of skills which participants developed during the project. The interviews, the book and exhibition represent the tangible outcomes of a project which, above all else, has been about process. In particular it has been about the process of engaging and working with groups who are often socially excluded to develop innovative and new ways of learning.

Linda Morrice
June 2012

Ahmad

Ahmad is from Afghanistan and came to the UK seeking asylum in 2009.

How long have you been living in Brighton?
Exactly, since November 2009, so 17 months.

Have you lived anywhere else in England?
No.

Can you compare life in Brighton with life where you have come from?
I would say that comparing Afghanistan and a country like the UK is quite difficult. There are no logical points to compare, but well, I would say that here in England the quality of life is better.

I moved to my new house and it is almost 17 months, and neither of my neighbours has asked, hey who are you? Where do you come from? At least to be sociable with you, next door. Life is more individual in England. In Afghanistan is very different, if you come to a new house, the whole block or the whole street come and knock on the door because they want to know you, they want to help you. People bring you food and everything. But I can understand culture differences as well as culture similarities.

But would it be the same in Afghanistan if you moved to a big city?
Well, I would say that at least your closest neighbours, at least they would come and knock on the door to say welcome, to say the mosque is there, the community centre is here, etc. They actually guide you and they try to find out if you are a good person to the community, that you are not damaging.

Have you had to adapt or adjust to Brighton?
Yes, it is probably very important for everyone to adjust. Personally, it was very important to me to make life easy for myself and so I had to adjust. It doesn’t mean that I changed myself to compromise with the society. I’ll give you an example, many times I face lots of drunk people at the bus stop and most of them become harsh and bad, but I have to manage this, I adapted to this. No one could do these things in Afghanistan in public, they would be punished. But here, I just leave it, even if they swear. Other things I have adapted to are, for example, being social with people who have different thoughts, different beliefs. Many people think that as a muslim, I would be offended, but all I think is that we have just different beliefs. Most important to me is to respect and this makes me a good person. Yes, and adapting to thank you very much, please…

Is Brighton as you expected?
Comparing Brighton to other places that I have visited, I find it very suitable for me, it is multicultural, I feel more secure, more connected to the community.

Britain is a good place for people who come from that region like Afghanistan, because the British went there centuries ago. People from that region know more about British culture.

So it wasn’t a shock when you came here?
No, because I worked with foreigners in Afghanistan, but experiencing the real life in the society is different, but not shocking.

Can you tell me about work?
Well, at the moment I am not allowed to work. Probably there are chances for me to work because I can contribute or get job in services such as interpreter or in places where I can help other refugees and migrants. Physical jobs I would do it for living costs.

Can you tell me about your background?
I am from Afghanistan and that is a big back ground [laughs]. I am not married, I don’t have any children. My whole family comes from an educated background and they have been involved in Afghanistan with different regimes. My dad is a medical general practitioner and so are my mother and my younger brother, they all are in Afghanistan.

What kind of work were you doing in Afghanistan?
I was working with policy-making with World Bank projects, to establish new policies, changing the paper work into computers system in Afghanistan. I am now involved with media to serve my people, my country. I am very busy, I have my own radio, so if people are interested they can visit my website. They’ll see what I am doing with my radio. Sometimes, Radio Reverb uses my show. I am doing lots of things, you can find me everywhere in Brighton [laughs].

Can you tell me about your experience of learning English?
Well it is a long story, ah, ah. I went to Pakistan in 1995 because the regime of the Taliban took over and it was difficult for us to stay. I started learning English in Pakistan, but as a little boy it wasn’t really for me at that time because I didn’t even have the full knowledge of my own language. How could I understand other languages? So it was quite difficult, but my mother studied in America, so she pushed me, she said don’t waste your time at least you will learn something, and after two years I started learning. When I returned back to Afghanistan with the new government, in 2002, I stopped going to English classes. I thought it was enough, and in Afghanistan English is not a compulsory language. But then I started working with foreign organization and I had to use it. I started to use a different language that is not the one you learn in classes. And my university was in English, but I still need to improve and I am studying for it.

Would you say that there are differences in accents, slangs, dialects?
Yes there are very big differences, but my intention is not to learn the correct accent, it is to learn the correct English which I can use in formal documents. And the other problem I face, as I studied American English, my pronunciation is probably American, but I try to copy and I ask my British friends how they pronounce certain words.

How many languages do you speak?
Well, two Afghan languages, Pashtu which is the national language and Urdu and Indi and English, so four.

Do you use different languages or accents in different situations?
Well not in the way that if I speak to a British person I put a different accent, but I try to pronounce correctly to make sense, because sometimes when you have someone behind the phone or a desk, they say sorry, it shows that I haven’t said the correct pronunciation and probably it is very difficult for them to understand.

When I talk to friends from my country we mix languages, like half Pashtu, half English, they don’t care. It depends on the situation if there is someone who can’t speak in English or if there is a British or a foreigner, I do what is the best for me and for the others to communicate.

How do you think people in England, in Brighton, see migrants?
It depends, there are categories of people. I think that in Brighton people welcome refugees and migrants. But in England in general we know how the governments, how the politics is. They are using things to oppress the migrants, accusing them to steal jobs. Come on! Migrants do what the British wouldn’t do. Migrants do because they have problems, they feed their families back in their countries. But there are also in Brighton groups who don’t like migrants. Well, let’s hope we don’t face them, [laughs].

How does this make you feel?
It makes me laugh, because when I see such people like the BNP, they can’t even give a logical explanation for why they go against migrants. Come on! Let’s go back to the history of Britain and have a look. Migrants came to this country, to save this country in WW2. Pakistani, Indians came here and fought for this country and died for this country and they are part of this country. They have full rights. Let’s look at good people and ignore the bad ones, they aren’t the majority. And it is difficult to leave your country, we know that the respect and the value that we can have in our country we can’t have anywhere else.

Do you think that speaking English as a second language makes a difference?
Yes, I do. At the moment I am using it as a first language. Yes, it really makes a difference if we understand English. If you don’t know it, it is like you are a blind person, or if you know only a bit you are half blind. If you don’t know it, you will suffer.

How would you like to be seen?
Well, I can’t expect anything. Probably people who know me, they think about me good, people that say that migrants are bad…

I would like them to see me as a human being. That’s the best option for all of us. I won’t limit my opportunities, life, visions just because people see me as a migrant. I am a free man and I can do everything I want.

Is there anything you could do to change these visions/ how could you contribute to the community?
We have to promote ourselves with positive things, we have good things with us. We are part of the solution, we are not part of the problem. We can do lots of things as long as it is safe, campaigns, talks, events, conferences. We have to educate the students, they are the best of the society. They can spread awareness to the society, we can change thoughts about migrants. 

Is religion important to you?
Religion for me is very important. This doesn’t mean that I am a fanatical who always bases the logic on religion. It is very individual for me. I don’t mean to influence society with my own beliefs. Anyone who wants to follow me, to ask me is very welcome, I will answer. It is important to me because it gives me peace. I have been believing in it and it is also the backbone of my culture. I practice my faith at home, sometimes I go to the mosque. My culture has also a big role in my life.

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Anna

Brighton in summerThe transcript begins two minutes into the interview, after initial introductions etc… Anna has explained that she arrived in Brighton 6 months ago, having travelled by coach from Berlin. She came to do a Master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Sussex.

The interview ranges from reflections on initial impressions, prior expectations, differences in social situations, language, clothes, weather, food etc… to considering the benefits or difficulties of living in another culture. In the final section of the interview Anna focuses on differences in higher education compared with Germany and considers her future.

And what were your first impressions when you arrived in Brighton?
Well, my first, really first impression was that it was extremely warm, because it was a lovely sunny day. It felt like summer, like everybody […] it felt like being on holiday somehow because of the sea and the beach and there were lots of people around. I really, really like that and then I somehow had the feeling that in Brighton and in general in England that everything is very small. I can’t really say how, why I have this feeling – somehow it’s like the buildings are very small and the houses are very small, the streets are really small. Maybe it’s just in comparison to Berlin which is a really big city and we have lots of really, really big streets. But here everything feels very tight and very small in a way and this is a feeling that I have all over England not only in Brighton but all over England, I don’t know, it feels small - but I like it. This is why I also moved here not London or something, because I really wanted to live in a smaller place, in a place where you can feel more familiar, where you can feel comfortable, where you don’t get lost so easily. […]I don’t really know what I expected. I didn’t really think so much about what it would be like before coming here. Somehow for me it feels like, it doesn’t really feel like going to another country. At least before I went I didn’t think about I’m going to another country I’d better prepare. [ …] I’m going to think about what life’s going to be like, but then, but then when I was here I actually did feel I was somewhere else. But it is definitely that people are different, that people behave differently in a very subtle way, but I can’t I can’t really say what that is.

Were there specific situations that you can recall thinking ‘This feels different from the way people would have behaved in Berlin?’
Mm… I know one thing that I’m usually well aware of or that I see when I go out, especially when I go out on the week-ends is [laughs] lots of girls in very, very, very short skirts and I would have thought this was pretty much the same around Western Europe but there are a lot more well people - well women and girls are wearing a lot more skirts in England than in Germany. I don’t know why this is really. Yeah, it’s not only when you go out. It’s also when you’re just on the streets or in the University, you see a lot more people wearing skirts and in Germany it is relatively rare: it’s mainly older women wearing skirts but young women do not regularly wear skirts - just for special occasions like marriages or something, you would there. Yeah. And this is something I become aware of every time I switch places and go back to Germany or come back here. Just, it gets my attention. Yeah.

In terms of social situations maybe, like conversation or greeting people or values? Are there any things you’ve noticed are different?
Well, it is interesting that in the English language you don’t have a proper form which is more, I don’t know how to call this, a more distant form. You always say ‘you’ to everybody never mind whether you know them or whether it’s your teacher, which feels strange for me because we have different forms for people whether you know them or whether you do not know them – like forms of respect. […] And this is also that here you usually always talk to everybody with your first name. You will address people yourselves, introduce yourselves only with your first name. Lecturers only introduce themselves with their first name which is very strange for me because we, well people say that we have a sense of hierarchy which is more deeply embedded in German culture, but maybe this is something which also changes how you behave to people whether you call them by their first name or whether you call them by their more distant name as Mr So-and so….

Um can you think of cultural events that are different or things that people do in their daily lives that seem different from when you’re in Berlin? Even small things?
I’m just thinking about this. It’s not really a small thing but I was really surprised by Bonfire Night. I absolutely didn’t really know that it existed. And this is what I meant that when I planned like coming here, I didn’t really think about going to another country, but then when I was here I had the feeling that this is, well it’s actually a different country with a different history and you do not really learn this even if it’s all in Europe; you do not even learn about the history of other European countries in school, so I was absolutely not aware of all this history around Bonfire Night and I found this really surprising, both in the ways of experiencing it and in the ways of, well, experiencing that you were absolutely not aware of this really important tradition.

How did that make you feel, the fact that you realised, once you were in Brighton, that, as you said, it was more like a different country than you’d expected?
Well, I do feel a bit well, not necessarily guilty, but that I didn’t really think about it and I makes me feel strange, because I think I should have thought about it. I’m kind of unprepared. I’m just coming and expecting everything will be all right because they know English. Well, it is, well everything is all right, but there are still differences, you just don’t know…

Are there things that you found that are different that you particularly like, that you enjoy about Brighton or England, compared with Berlin?
I don’t know, it’s probably not a thing about England, but I really like this thing you’ve got, even in situations where you have a certain kind of hierarchy, of respect, that still that you can still be very open, there’s usually a very open or friendly relationship between people. They’re not so distant, but maybe this is not always the case, it’s probably in the university context of course you have very open relationships between people and they’re very friendly. In other contexts people are not very nice.

And are there things that you miss about Berlin that you wish that that was here?
I feel it is a difference in that in Berlin it definitely gets a lot colder in Winter and we have a lot more snow, but then on the other hand I think it’s also supposed to be a lot hotter in Summer, so that here it’s more temperate. In the Winter it’s warmer and in the Summer it’s colder. I find it a lot more comfortable here, because I can’t stand the cold, so this is what I like. But then on he other hand there is something about there being so much rain in England [laughs]. It is indeed raining a lot. But maybe it’s not, maybe it’s just the impression people have, because they have these expectations that it should be raining in England…Or maybe it is sometimes very windy which makes it feel cold even if it is not cold. But in general I’m very pleased with the way, I’m very pleased with the location and with having the seaside, being able to cycle from the university to the beach and all this kind of thing.

Is there anything you like about Brighton life that’s different from Berlin? Has it got a character that is different do you think?
I think in many ways it is very similar because there are so many young people around. There’s so much about art and stuff…There is a general thing that I just, I feel more comfortable when I’m in Berlin, but that’s, it’s just because of the language. It just feels easier here if you can, especially if you’re just, if you’re meeting friends. It’s just easier to talk, it’s easier to make jokes or something, because in English I always think a moment, because even if I understand most things that people say, I can’t react so quickly and that makes a really, really big difference. And even I would say I’m pretty OK with English, but still it is always more difficult to socialise or to just be reactive and be spontaneous. That’s a general issue about language really and it is very, this is definitely something that I did not expect to meet so many foreign students here or so many international people, so I probably have more international people around me than proper English people, not because I’m just I’m not looking for them or something, but because all universities are full of international people.

Would that be the case in Berlin as well?
I think it is not so much the case even if there are many people from other countries, but then they will stick more to themselves, I think, well because everyone is coming here that knows more or less English. English is still easier than German, so, for example, foreign students coming to Germany usually have a lower level of German than foreign students coming to England.

Oh, that is interesting.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that you start learning English earlier. Maybe it’s easier to get to the level of communication, where you can communicate – you’re still maybe making mistakes of grammar and stuff, but you can still communicate.

But do you think there’s any aspect of your cultural life back in Berlin that you feel you keep to, that you want to still keep going while you’re here or isn’t there any difference really?
Well, I don’t know really, Well for example about food. I wouldn’t say I eat specifically German food, but that is just food I’m used to, that I kind of like more sometimes [laughs] ‘cos bread in England tends to be [laughs] different from bread in Germany. We rather have stronger brown bread. The texture is very different from the white bread that we have here which is like. [...] They sell brown bread but then the brown bread still has this, it’s not strong, it’s somehow like fluffy, which I absolutely don’t like. They have this really, really, really dark rye bread, but then again really this is not something you can just eat all day; it’s like a special kind of bread, but like ordinary bread I didn’t really get. They sometimes sell it at farmer’s markets in Brighton, but then it’s really expensive, so I’m not really buying it.

Are there any other foods that you miss or that you’d try to get hold of that are German?
I don’t know. There are some things like, for example where something like cream cheese, but which is not exactly something like cream cheese. Somebody said it was called curd, but then when I tried curd it’s something different [laughs]. It is a kind of cream cheese, but we would use it sometimes for baking or for putting fruits with, well it’s something between cream cheese and yoghurt. For each of these purposes you can use something else. It’s just something I was looking for and I didn’t find it. [Pause] In general I find it’s really easy or relatively easy to get hold of things here, even if I […] Well, I guess most English people don’t have proper English breakfast all day or don’t eat like pies all day. I didn’t have any difficulty finding things that I like, even if there are some things that I don’t like. I think that’s the same for English people. They are not like in the books.

No. No. And is that the same in Germany, in Berlin?
Yes. But I would say we have more the Arab and Turkish influence where here I really became aware and I really came to appreciate Indian cuisine. For example you can buy all this Indian stuff in supermarkets where we would never have that. Maybe, well there are less Indian and Pakistani people in Germany but also people are not so open to what’s Indian in food. And this is something that l really liked here.

So where would you get Indian ingredients in Germany in Berlin if not in supermarkets in Germany?
Well. There are some specialist food stores run by Indians and Pakistanis. There are Asian food markets, but they are relatively rare and then it’s also difficult to buy what you want, because you can’t understand anything because it’s all imported, so it’s not produced for the German food market. Yes. That was something I really liked about here.

Yes. Thinking about why you came here, which presumably was your course that you’re doing at university… Are you glad that you’re doing this course and how does that fit into your life?
Well, in terms of academically speaking, I’m very, very happy about the course. It’s really, really interesting. It’s definitely the best thing that. […] Well, I think you always think that it’s that everything has been good the way that you did it, but I’m really happy with having chosen this course and having come here. Yeah. I think it’s always if you’re somewhere in academia it’s always good to have been to an English-speaking country, just because everything that takes place takes place in English, which can be criticised, but it’s just the way it is. So, it’s always good to have experienced both the language and the way people are. It works.

And do you see yourself as staying here after the course is finished or do you plan to go back?
I think, well, I don’t know. It really depends on what is happening. I’m really looking for just randomly looking for opportunities for what I can do, both looking for a job or looking for some post-graduate thing for study. And if I found something in England I would probably stay here. But if not, I would prefer to go back and continue looking because the cost of living is higher than in Germany, especially in Berlin, because Berlin is (especially apartments) really cheap compared to here. But I would be open to staying if I get the opportunity in some way or the other.

Do you miss family and friends while you’re here or can you go back and see people quite easily?
I think it’s not so much an issue because you can communicate by internet and by phone which is not so expensive and I have been back two times, for Christmas and I’ve been back a few weeks ago for interviews, like a job interview and things like that. It’s only two hours flying or like maybe seven/nine hours by train. It’s not too far. You can easily go back.

And what do you feel are the benefits for you?
Well, I think language is definitely an issue. Also, in general, I don’t know, in general you always say it’s good to have experienced another culture. And in a sense I can’t really say what this culture is or what this thing that I have got to know is, or whether I really have adapted that much. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t really been exposed to British culture that much in here because all the environment seems very international in here and my flatmates are from California, so I sometimes have the feeling I’ve experienced more American culture than English culture and then I can’t really tell it apart because it’s all English speaking, so maybe there are even more issues that I’m not so much aware of or that would have been different if I had immersed more. But I think it is always good to go to other places and learn and like, being new, try to find your way in different contexts and different situations.

Sure. Would you say it’s made a difference to your confidence academically and as a person?
Yeah. Yeah. I think it always does, because you learn you can find your way in some way or the other and that different things work; even if it seems strange, it still works? It has rather opened a way because I did my undergraduate in another field and so I changed my career a bit. It was definitely a change for the better.

What was the field?
I did politics before and I’m doing anthropology now which I find much more interesting because it’s centred more on what people actually do and not so much on theories on like how states interact or something like this, which is fine, I mean it’s always important to be aware of legal circumstances, of growth and political context, but it’s also important to ask people about what they do or how they experience something and look at the micro level and see how people make their world or how people experience their world. I think it’s much more interesting. It’s maybe not the best thing for finding employment, but I think I’m relatively confident that I will find something that will interest me. I would like to continue studies. This is another thing that, I don’t know, I sometimes think that university in general in England or in Britain is more specific in directing you to something where you can work. It is rather, you do your course and then you work. […] We’re just the same in Germany, because people study in university to get a certificate for getting employment, but at the same time there is the pretension that it is about, I don’t know, that it’s about academic things, about research, about…

In Berlin?
Yes. So, for example, in Germany it usually takes longer because you have more space. You don’t usually have more space. It’s more about this academic way of life, or this academic way of looking at the world which is more detached maybe, so, yeah, for example my Master’s here is really fast. You really have the feeling that it’s about doing some courses and then getting a certificate so that you know you have done the Master’s, and then you probably have a better chance of employment.

Does that seem entirely beneficial?
Well, I think it’s different for different people. I think that many people who study at university do not want to stay in academia and that is perfectly fine, so it’s more about preparing them for getting a job in different ways or for doing the things they want to do in their life. Which is perfectly fine, I think. But on the other hand I think it’s a bit rushed or a bit more about having done something than about doing something, more about that you can put it on your CV, so I definitely feel a bit rushed in doing a Master’s degree in only one year. I’m, yeah, I’m pretty much done with my Master’s already. I feel I’ve just begun. I’d rather go deeper and spend more time.

Mm… and if not, what kinds of jobs do you think you might….?
Mm… I’m really interested in education, adult education, but, I don’t know, outside school, like additional things, not necessarily in the context of the school, like additional things like work camps, like thing like that where young people can meet and where young people can experience different things and learn in a more relaxed and a more free context than in the restriction of school.

Well…. Good luck!
[Laughs] Thank you.

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Domenico

Domenico is Italian.

DomenicoCould you tell me about your background?
I was born in Italy, south of Italy, in a small but very nice small town. I used to live with my family and have many friends there. After I finished my studies in the University of Florence in Tuscany, I came to Brighton just for a holiday. One of my friends was living in Brighton, which was a nice place to live in, so I decided to settle there. Currently I am working on a voluntary basis. Previously I worked different capacities and did many jobs in Brighton. I am looking for a new job. I am single, have no children. In Italy, before going to the university, at the age of nineteen or twenty, I used to live with my family.  Since the university was in another town, during study period, I used to live separately from my family, but not lonely, always sharing apartments with someone else, mainly other students. On holidays I always used to go back and live with my family.

How many brothers and/or sisters do you have? Briefly tell me about them.
I have one brother and one sister. My brother is married and has a small baby. He does many things. He have and is doing more than one jobs. He also has a small shop, kind of pharmacy. My sister is single and younger than me. Currently she is studying psychology and is working as a waitress, to cover her expenses. At weekends she is with the family. For the rest of the week, she is in a nearby town approximately 3 hours from ours, where she studies at university.

Compare life in Brighton with life where you have come from, what are the differences and similarities?
There are many differences; one of them is the weather, which is much colder than in Italy. It changes so often and is difficult to get used to, or even predict. Another is the food. Britain is more cosmopolitan than Italy. Many different people and cultures lives in Britain eg variety of different kinds of food are expected to be found.

What about fish and chips, potatoes and puddings, which are traditional dishes here, are they popular in Italy?
Neither of these I would call a dish, but then I wouldn’t call pizza a dish either. I tried fish and chips once when I came here but I didn’t like it. Such food I call junk.

Could you tell me about your experience of learning English? How many languages do you speak? Your experience of accents, slang, dialects. Are there any differences with your own country?
I speak three languages, Italian which is my mother tongue, Spanish and English. Although my Spanish is not as good as my English, nevertheless I understand conversations, but I can’t properly speak in Spanish cos I haven’t practised speaking it. I am looking forward to learn new language, cos I like language and think they are very important for having/getting a good job, especially in a place like Brighton where there are many cultures. I studied English at school and the university in Italy, but my experience in learning, listening and speaking English in Italy is limited to Italian people who speaks English and not to native speakers eg English native speakers. Actually the problem is in the accent. You may know the grammar and the vocabulary but still don’t understand what is said in conversation. To learn, understand and speak English properly you must practise learning and speaking with native tongues. To me English is one of the most difficult languages, cos of the accent and the pronunciation. You can learn the grammar and vocabulary but then there are many other things that you have to learn. Contrary to Italian language English is not a phonetic language. Understanding, speaking and writing English properly, fluently is not so easy as it seems. Its needs a lot of time. That is what I try to explain to fellow mates back there in Italy, every time I go.

When you are with your friends or somebody else, eg at work etc, do you use different languages or accents in different situations?
Yes I do. I have many Italian friends here so when we are together we usually speak in Italian or in dialects depending on, according to the time, place and also the people present. Sometimes in our conversation we use a mixture of languages and not one particular language. It is not proper English, Spanish or Italian just in order to understand what is said and to be understood by others, for example to understand each other. When there are English people with us or others (not Italians), we speak in English. When I am with my friends, especially friends I have known for many years, I prefer to speak in Italian. Using and speaking English is an everyday task and practice. Thinking translating and then speaking what I want or what I have to say causes me a stress. So when I am with my friends I want to feel relaxed to speak fast and fluently, accordingly I speak in Italian. That is why sometimes we start a conversation in English, (with English friends and other internationals present) and after a while we create small group of native Italians and I start speaking Italian. So yes I use and mix different languages and accents in different situations. The accent in which I used to speak to my Spanish and Italian friends or even people from other countries, is different from that I use to speak to English people. In speaking to English people, I try to imitate the accent and be more precise about pronunciation, otherwise they wouldn’t understand me – while others, for example non English – more clearly can.

How do you think people see immigrants? How does this make you feel?  How do you want others to see you?
This is a difficult question ‘cos people see immigrants in different ways, according to the countries where they are coming from, the purpose for which they came, their education standard and background regarding culture and beliefs. For example, students coming to study in the UK are seldom called, referred to or called immigrants, ‘cos the English society is benefiting from them economically, they are here for a while and they are going back to their countries and ‘cos on completing their studies (even though they stayed here) they will be of high skills needed to contribute to economy. Nobody is going to complain about too much students, but everyone is going to complain about low skilled immigrants especially those with different cultures and beliefs. These are deemed to be taking the jobs, problem makers or even ‘milking the system’. People and countries have to deal and come to terms with such issues as immigration, cos globalisation means the influx of foreign people, cultures and beliefs. And their mixture with resident native cultures, beliefs and systems, whether socially, politically or economically migrants, whatever their background or skills are, should contribute to community, for example volunteering. Try to adjust to community/society by adjusting, approaching and embracing society values and beliefs. It is simple as that, when in Brighton, do as Brightonions do. It is fair ‘cos here is not anywhere you came from, it is Brighton. Common sense and understanding is needed from both sides, then appreciation and integration will be mutual. It is the same everywhere, not in UK only. 

Is religion important to you? What is the role of religion in your life?
This is a fundamental question. In spite of the fact that I am a Catholic, however, religion has no important role in my life as spirituality has. While spirituality is of genuine importance to everyone life, religions are fake, empty, man-made schemes of hypothetical systems arising from, or because of, the weaknesses of mankind and their need for a creator and protector to be worshipped. Nevertheless, I like to read about different religions and cultures, to study them as an information and knowledge. When I came here, to UK, I was recognised as a Catholic, but then at that time, I didn’t know much about other contemporary Christian faiths like Protestantism or the differences between them. In Italy we usually call ourselves Christians but not Catholics. When I came here it was quite funny and striking to know and recognise that giving or saying you are Christian as an answer for a question about your religion is not enough. It seems to be always have to be followed by the additional necessary differentiating information as whether you are Catholic or Protestant. People will always react by saying ‘so you believe in this or this.’ Pre-historic struggles and confrontations between UK Catholics and Protestants as well as internationally worldwide gave rise to all these differentiations. English Catholics are stricter in their beliefs and more committed ‘cos they were under constant threat and had many fights (faith fights as well as physical fights) against Protestants. Religion’s role and importance in my life arises from the fact that I was brought up in a Christian family and a Christian country, Italy. Christianity is my background culture, my values, my beliefs, attitude and behaviour are affected and derived from it.

Do you practise?
To be honest in Brighton I never did, I never go to church but in Italy I go on occasions ie. weddings or funerals. Back in Italy I have some friends who are priests. Sometimes I visit them, stay with them and go with them to the church. Religions, faiths and beliefs have various differences ‘cos they are affected by different and various cultures, places, social, political and economical factors but they are all the same in their essence and objectives. Since they are all man made, eventually man is responsible for any differences and misunderstandings. Religion is man’s created link or connection with the invisible world. I would like to see American Indians before the European colonisation and how was their religion, I think it was very interesting.

Flexibility of religion – should it be flexible with, or in dealing with other religions, faiths, cultures, value, beliefs and people?
I don’t like doctrines. Man was born free. Free to choose whatever he believes or likes or wants to do as long as it doesn’t hurt others or effects their interests. Fanatics are the ones who create problems. Radicals and hard, strict line religious believers are always behind or the cause of nowadays as well as historic struggles and confrontations. Wars, differences, confrontations and struggles between religions and cultures has nothing to do with spirituality. Globalisation necessitate that religions and cultures should adjust, change and be more flexible, otherwise they should have to go. Remember, UK is now almost completely a secular society but this is another story.

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Eva

Eva is in her thirties and is from the Czech Republic.

SpicesHow long have you lived in Brighton?
Since August 2008.

Have you lived anywhere else?
Yes I have lived in Southampton for four years and before Southampton I lived in the Czech Republic.

Can you compare life in Brighton with life where you come from?
Oh yes I can, first of all because we don’t have the sea because the Czech Republic is a continent and is in the middle of Europe, so we don’t have the sea and that has changed life a lot because it influences everything if you live by the sea. The weather in the Czech Republic is different because in the winter it is cold freezing and can be minus 30 degrees and in summer it gets to really, really hot sometimes about 40 degrees. In Brighton the weather is all the time the same so that’s actually good, so I can cycle in the winter and any time. Yeah I can compare it in that way, I think the weather is really important to life.

Was Brighton the way you expected?
I didn’t expect that Brighton was going to be so multicultural. I expected there would be many tourists, but I didn’t expect there to be so many people who live here who are not from Brighton and come from all over the world.

What do you like about Brighton?
I like the sea, and I like the multicultural society here in Brighton. I like the food here as well; that you can taste other things here as well, not just English food. That’s important.

What sort of food do you eat at home?
The Czech food is really, really boring. It’s very boring food because there are all the countries in the middle of Europe like Polish, Slovakia, Czech and also Germans, they cook similar kinds of dishes but they are boring because they don’t use so many spices. We use mainly paprika that is it. So when we cook it’s just potato and meat, that is it, there is no vegetable, it is just so boring; the taste is always the same. Czech food is not very interesting at all and it’s really boring.

Do you have any access to your country’s food?
Yes I do because there are so many Polish people living in the UK they have their own shops so time to time when I eat something that is special, for example, we have different sort of flour for baking, so I go there and buy in the Polish shop as the food is very similar to Czech food. But I don’t go there often because the food there is very expensive, so you spend quite a lot, so I can maybe go there four times a year.

Can you get it in Brighton or do you go somewhere else?
I live in Hove and the nearest polish shop is in Seven Dials, and then in Kemptown there are two Polish shops.

And do you get the bus there?
I cycle there, and usually I get the flour and maybe meat, meat as well because they have our own sausages.

How do you eat your food and how do you cook it?
As I said it’s really boring and simple to cook. So it’s quite quick, and we have mainly based on meat. The food has to have meat, if it doesn’t have meat it is not a main dish, so therefore there is not so many vegetarians or vegans in central Europe as they do not have the chance to get anything [laughs]. So usually we eat pork and beef, which is the main. How we cook it is with paprika and when we eat there is not many vegetable in our dish so what we eat is we mainly cook cabbage for a long time and then add a tiny bit of flour to make it thick, sometimes with potatoes or dumplings and meat. So it’s really boring isn’t it?

Are there any similarities between your home foods and say English food?
No I don’t think there is anything similar, probably we might have similar Sunday roast, you know when English eat roast chicken, roast beef and so on; we do that similar dish as well at home, yeah, but nothing else can be similar.

If you can’t get your food do you settle for something else or do you travel to find it?
My mum sends sometimes parcel of food but last time when I got the last parcel and she sent something in a glass and it was completely broken, so she decided not to send me anything now. Well, I told her not to send me anything because it was disgusting; she sent me some marmalade or something and it broke inside and everything was like yellow and because it was apricot marmalade everything was yellow and completely damaged so not anymore! But when I go home, I tend to bring luggage full of food and that’s funny because sometimes I have things that I really don’t know that I have packed because my mum tends to put everything in my luggage and gives it to me. So each time that I fly there is a person who asks you ‘Have you packed it all yourself?’ and I have to say ‘Yes’, but I have no idea what is in the luggage because my mum packs everything! So I have to lie [laughs]. Yes, I bring it from home.

When you cook your food can you use original food or?
To be honest I don’t really cook traditional Czech food that often because I try to eat something different and learning different dishes from different countries here. So I cook my traditional food only when my friends come to see me and I want to show them something from my culture. So I cook only for example for my partner, because I want to introduce him to my dishes before he moves to my country and complains! So I have to teach him what we eat and then I do it only when I want to show people what is our food, but I don’t cook it for myself like every day.

Is your food expensive?
When I buy it here it is expensive, it is always expensive

What do the shops look like?
I actually notice the Polish shops they kind of have the same way that the shops have in my country, I think it’s the way we have the shops divided. So some of the shops have a deli and that is very typical in my country; when you have the deli, you serve yourself with food and put it in your basket what you want but then you go to the deli and they serve you with cheese and sausages and so on.

Is there something like a flag to show you where it is from?
No, because all the food is actually from Poland, … but the shop is only for Polish so everything is written in Polish language. So for me sometimes it is very difficult to find what I really want because its written in polish which I can translate a bit but not everything I can understand.

Do you like English food?
No, I don’t know I think it’s the same, I find it boring like Czech food it doesn’t have that many spices in it. And there’s one thing, what is the English food? Is it the shepherd’s pie? I used to work in the restaurant a lot so I was introduced to British food but most of the time the food has completely changed and you know adapted to people, so it’s more influenced by other cultures so it is not actually English at the end.

Can you tell me something funny about your food from your country?
I don’t know what I would have from my country, but I have kind of story from here. Because as I said I work as a waitress in a restaurant and at the beginning … I didn’t speak English very well, so at times I would have to ask the customers a hundred times, you know, what did they say because I didn’t understand. And also I didn’t know the food very well and how the food is served here as well. So I learnt at the beginning and then people used to laugh at me because I remember one customer asked me about parsnip, but I didn’t know what a parsnip is, I know in my language but not in English and so I brought a bunch of parsley for the customer because I thought he had said parsley and not parsnip! That was confusing at the beginning. And another thing was one customer didn’t finish his food and he asked me for a doggy bag or something like this, and so I went to the kitchen and brought some plastic box and gave it to him, and then asked him, what sort of dog do you have and he was laughing at me! … I didn’t understand and he said well we call it doggy bag but it’s not for a dog it’s actually for me, for my dinner tonight! So I was like why do English say doggy bag if it does not go to the dog? So you know, this is a thing I struggle with in the culture, the language and you have to get used to it, you know? [laughs].

Okay can you please tell me more about the family life?
The family life in the UK, I think it’s more what I found sad is that old people tend to live on their own without their family. And we used to live at home with my grandmother and my grandparents lived in a house a couple of metres from ours, so we were kind of all together whereas here because I used to work at a care home for old people and I found it sad to see lots of old people being left on their own, so that I found very sad in this country. But I think it is because the UK is a very large country and people tend to move for jobs somewhere else and can’t stay with their parents because they have to move from, let’s say, from north to south because of their jobs so I think it’s just because of that, I am not sure.

Could you please tell me more about your experience of learning English?
Well there was the restaurant I learnt quite a lot [laughs]. I think I learnt more about the language of other countries because working in a restaurant, I was working in a Indian restaurant, in a Turkish restaurant and I had to learn actually the names of food from different countries, so yeah, but for English I am a person who learns by practising with people. Like practising vocabulary and being more practical I have to touch it, so I remember the word. So it took me a really long time to learn English and I came here a really long time ago, but I had zero English and I couldn’t communicate with anyone.

Okay how do they see migrants?
There are different sorts of people. Some of them see migrants as people who enrich their lives and bring something with them ….especially when we talk about food, you know, when we talk about food this country’s got so much influence from other country’s food and I think this is one plus. You know, people see migrants bring something for them. But there are some people who think that migrants steal something from their own culture, so you have two sides of people. I think in Brighton we are lucky here because it is so multi-cultural and people kind of see us positively and that is really good.

How does that make you feel?
I came across both types of people in the UK and especially because I work in a restaurant. So I have to deal with people quite a lot and I find it very positive, you know? I’ve never had any people who would feel like threatened by me, so it was kind of nice. But as I said it is Brighton, you go to different parts of the UK and you might feel you were not very welcomed.

What do you do for the community?
Well that’s the thing you know I would like to be seen as bringing something for the country and this community, and what we do at the moment is we cook with other people and try to show food from different cultures. So I would like to show practically in this way, so people in the UK could see us as someone who cares about them as well and brings something new to share, because I think sharing is very important.

And what about gender, are females and males equal?
Well I come from a country where equality with gender is happening but slowly and is still imbalanced. But yeah, there is a male dominance probably more than here in the UK because it is more balanced here. So for me it was difficult to adapt to it, but I think I’m learning quite a lot because each time I go home I’m a bit stricter with my father and he doesn’t like it! He says like six years ago when I came home I was able to go and give him a spoon when he needed it for eating, but now when I come home and he asks me to pass him a spoon I said well you have legs you can do it on your own, and he’s not used to that! So I think I'm learning quite a lot from this country!

Is religion important to you?
Yeah I think it is, I was brought up in a catholic family and it is still an important role in my life and yeah, I’m lucky as well I can practise my faith in this country.

Okay is there anything else you would like to add to your life here?
Less rain and I don’t know, I find living in Brighton is a really good experience.

What about social life, where do you socialise?
I don’t have very much time to socialise to be honest. But if I do, it would be yeah ,sharing food with my friends so I would bring my friends to my house and socialise with them in this way, but there is not very much time.

Is it because of work or because of people are busy?
I think it is more that everyone is busy and we don’t manage to get time for all of us like in one day, to decide we will do it that day because everyone is working or studying at a different time. But you know Brighton is small, but people tend to live in different places like Peacehaven and Saltdean and it is very hard to organise something.

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Jessica

Jessica is studying for a Masters qualification at the University of Sussex and is staying in the UK for one year. She is in her early twenties and comes from Taiwan.

JessicaI wonder if you could tell me a little bit about your first impressions when you arrived in Brighton.
When I first arrived in Brighton my first impression was a lot of huge seagulls! Brighton has lots of seagulls and on campus where I live there were lots of seagulls, eating rubbish [laughs]. They fly down and take the rubbish from the bins and sometimes the food from people’s hands. I felt a little bit scared because in my hometown I rarely see seagulls. But here, it’s quite common and they are around us all the time. Brighton is a city, with a beach and a sea, which is like my hometown. My hometown is called Kaohsiung, it’s in the south of Taiwan. Brighton is nice, but, compared to my hometown, it is a little bit small.

Transportation here is very different. The price of the transportation is quite expensive. Like the bus, it costs £3.00 or £4.00. It is quite expensive. In Kaohsiung one bus journey costs about 30p, no matter how far you travel in the city centre. We also have an underground which is a bit more expensive, but it is air conditioned. And in my hometown people also drive cars or ride motorcycles. We rarely have bicycles on our roads. But here, maybe because of the weather more people ride bikes. Kaohsiung is a tropical area so it can be very hot and wet.

Why did you choose Brighton?
I think the weather is one of the reasons. And another reason is Global Studies is a famous school in Sussex. So, that is the reason why I choose here. I major in Globalisation, Ethnicity and Culture. To find the course I googled ‘ethnicity, culture and race’ and I found 5 suitable courses in the UK. I chose Sussex because it is ranked highly, but it is not well known in Taiwan.

How did you come to Brighton then, from the airport?
We booked a taxi from Heathrow to University of Sussex, because it was already 9pm, it’s night, so we did not want to take coach or trains, because we also had so many luggage, so booking a taxi would be convenient to us. And also because we eight people shared the fees, so it was not expensive, around 15, £15 each, so it was still reasonable.

And can you remember what your first impressions were when you arrive on campus?
I think, our university is not a classic, British university [laughs]. Because I went to Northern Ireland, so the university there is like around 100 years old. So, the buildings, the style is quite different. But here is like a modern building, modern architecture. I thought our campus was quite near the highway, the A 27! Yeah, before I came here I googled a map to check where our university is and I saw there is a highway, the A 27 just next to it. I was wondering: “Oh my God, if it is a rural area it’s not convenient for me.” But I did not worry about it, but, when I arrived here I though “Oh OK, it is quite convenient”, because we just need to take a bus 25 to the city centre and it just takes 20 minutes or half an hour, so it’s convenient.

Campus life
I live in accommodation on campus and there are many international students living together. So I had to get used to living with people who come from different countries. Some of the students they have different living styles. Like, they prefer to mess up the kitchen, they don’t want to clean [laughs] the kitchen. So sometimes we had to have a conversation with the student - ‘Please keep clean’ or something like that. But it is a good experience for me to communicate with students who come from different countries. It meant we all had to speak English. Just one Taiwanese girl lives in my flat. And in all we are six people, two Taiwanese, one Japanese, one Thai, one Turkish, one Indian [laughs], so all from Asian countries. We are all postgraduate students and we don’t have parties every Wednesday like some of the undergraduate flats!

We usually eat dinner at the same time and we are curious about each others food. So, sometimes when we cook dinner we all have our own, traditional cuisine. So we will say “Ah this is Turkish cuisine, can I try it” (laugh). Yeah, so we share our own foods and our cultures. The kitchen is a very important place for recognising different cultures. For example my Turkish flatmate was Muslim, so he didn’t eat pork. At first I was nervous of eating pork in front of him and keeping pork in the fridge. Taiwanese and Japanese people eat pork quite often. But he said ‘No don’t worry! I don’t mind seeing pork in our fridge, it’s not a problem for me’. My flatmate from India was very young and hadn’t lived away from home before. She was really homesick and felt lonely, she said she had no friends here. We tried to talk with her about life in India and encouraged her to talk about herself and her studies. She spoke English well, but she was quite shy to make new friends. We used to take the shuttle bus to Asda and we invited her to come with us.

Life here in Brighton
For me, I just study, and sleep [laughs] and sometimes I hang out with my friends in the city centre. We window shop and we watch English girls to see what they are wearing and what is fashionable in the UK. It is much cheaper to buy clothes in Taiwan, but some brands, like H & M and Zara are more expensive in Taiwan. And that’s it. Because I think I don’t have much time to go other places. I need to focus on my studies. In the first term I was quite nervous because I didn’t think my English was good enough and also the style of studying is very different. We don’t have seminars in Taiwan, just lectures. For seminars you have to read a lot, but I read slowly in English and I wasn’t sure how many books I should read.

To be honest, it was quite stressful to study here, especially the first term. But that’s the reason why I choose to study abroad. It’s a good challenge, for me. So, although it is very tiring for me I still feel happy to be here. The students in my flat were all international so we would share our experiences and encourage each other. So most of us found it hard to speak in seminars, even though we studied hard we felt disappointed if we didn’t manage to speak in our seminars. Most Asian students will wait for other students to finish their comments before trying to speak and we won’t interrupt; but here you don’t need to wait and people do interrupt. We want to say something but we have to wait and then the topic has finished.

How long was your Bachelor’s degree?
Five years, because I enrolled two degrees. Yeah, Usually an undergraduate degree is four years in university. But I enrolled on two degrees – ethnology and education so five years for me.

Are there things which you miss about your life in Taiwan?
Sometimes I miss Taiwan because in Taiwan we have lots of delicious traditional foods. It is very hard to find here. I especially miss my mum’s homemade dumplings. You can find dumplings in the UK, but they are usually frozen and not freshly made. I liked watching my mum cook and I learnt to cook when I was young. So I can cook the foods which I want to eat here in the UK. I usually go to Chinese food shops to buy ingredients for Eastern food.

Although I miss my hometown I still like it here. I like the different life style and different cultures. I am a person who adapts easily to different environments, different cultures. So, hm, yeah, so far so good [laughs].

Sometimes I go out with my British friends and they will recommend me which kinds of food is the traditional British food. British food usually has potatoes and there are many different nationality restaurants here, so many different kinds of choice for me.

Do you have contact to the Taiwanese Community living in Brighton? Or, just to the students here on campus?
I have been to contact one owner, who is owner of a Chinese shop. And she told me there are a lots of people, lots of Chinese communities in Brighton. But people are from Hong Kong or China. But for Taiwanese, only students I think. And I contact my family in Taiwan quite often, maybe one or twice a week, we use skype, MSN. Usually I share my feelings about my study, about my friends. And yeah, I usually talk to my family about a lots of things around me. So although I am studying here, not in Taiwan, I still keep in touch with my family and share things happening around me. Everything, almost everything.

When it is one of my Taiwanese friend’s birthday we will get together to celebrate and to cook traditional foods together. But everyone has their own social activity and we don’t want to stay together everyday; the aim is to come here to practice our English, and if we stay together, we will talk in Chinese. So, it is not useful for me or my friends. But it depends. As I know, most of the Taiwanese choose to study school of business and maybe half of their classmates are Chinese [laughs] So they usually talk in Chinese. So if you want them to speak English all day, they will feel annoyed [laughs]. But for me, I feel it is okay to speak English all day.

So what do you do when you are not studying for example?
In my case, I usually go to the sport centre with my friends, some of my friends who like to play badminton or squash, so maybe three times or twice a week, to just do exercise together. It’s important to do exercise here because we are under stress with our studies so we need to relax. So I think, study and exercise are two important things about life at university.

After the interview, Jessica wrote a short piece about her experiences of travelling with a Taiwanese passport.

Chinese passport Chinese passport

Taiwanese passportLeft:New Taiwanese passport with ‘Taiwan’ on the cover. Right:Old Taiwanese passport

Taiwan’s status as an independent country has been a controversial issue since 1949. As a Taiwanese person, I see Taiwan as an independent country. Since January of 2011, Taiwanese people do not need a Schengen Visa to visit some European countries. It means that Taiwan has been regarded as a country, therefore Taiwanese people can travel through EU countries without a permit. For those people from China, a Schengen Visa is essential for them. Nevertheless, the People's Republic of China (China) still regards Taiwan as part of China. As result of this, we are not allowed to use the name TAIWAN and we are not, for example allowed to use our flag at the Olympic Games. Instead, we have to use the name Chinese Taipei and a different flag. The political issue between China and Taiwan is complicated, but it also makes travelling complicated for ordinary Taiwanese people.

I took a coach with my old Taiwanese passport from Belfast, Northern Ireland to Dublin, Republic of Ireland in August of 2009. When I just crossed the border of the two countries, the coach stopped and police got on the coach to check each one’s passport. I was not afraid as from July of 2009 Taiwanese people do not need to have a Visa to visit the Republic of Ireland. Nevertheless, thing did not go as well as I thought. The police saw ‘Republic of China’ on the cover of my passport and he considered that I am from China (People's Republic of China). I was required to show my Visa otherwise I would not be allowed to enter the Republic of Ireland.

I felt innocent at that moment and I was trying to explain that the Republic of China indicates Taiwan, yet, I was told to “shut up”. The police took away my passport and wanted me to get off the coach. I was taken to the police station nearby with two Turkish passengers who took the same coach with me. Suddenly, I felt as if I was as a criminal in the place.

Taiwanese flagThe Taiwanese flag

The police checked the two Turkish people’s identity first then mine, but it had taken an hour already. It was really unbearable for me to stay in the police station. One thing came to my mind was why the police could not distinguish between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (China). It is obvious to see my Taiwanese passport is deep green colour whereas Chinese passports are deep red. The Taiwanese passport has Republic of China written on the cover; therefore, it could be the reason why the police found it confusing.

Taiwanese Olympic flagThe Taiwanese flag for the Olympic games

When a person is outside their own country, their passport is often the only one evidence to show who they are. After more than one hour waiting in the police station, the police finally realised I am from Taiwan. He took me back to the coach station and told the coach driver my destination was Dublin. Even though I eventually arrived in Dublin it was by then midday and I only had a few hours before returning to Belfast.

I try can understand how the country name on my passport might lead to some confusion. However, one thing I cannot let go was the police did not show any apology to me. I was a tourist in Ireland and the police should at least show respect toward Taiwanese people.

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John

John is from Yemen and has lived in the UK since 2001.

JohnI come from Yemen and I have been here for eleven years. England is like my second country and I got British citizenship in 2007. I came here with my sister in 2001 and I still live with her and her three children. My parents are both dead. I was fourteen when I arrived so I went to school. It was really difficult because my English language was bad. I’d learnt it at school in Yemen but it wasn’t very good. They put me in a French class and I didn’t even know English. I was bullied at school because I didn’t speak English; it was very bad, they were very rude and hitting me. I left and went to college where I studied English, IT and Business.

Yemen is quite different – the people, the food, the culture. There are a few Mosques here but in my country there are lots. I don’t like the weather here; it’s terrible, freezing cold! I love English food – fish and chips – they’re wicked! Yorkshire pudding, roast dinners…. The food from Yemen is quite different from this country because there is things such as halal, everywhere is halal. In Brighton we eat halal food, there are lots of places to buy it from, like Taj. I don’t cook much, my sister is a much better cook and she cooks food from Yemen. My favourite is rice and chicken mixed with herbs. And honey cake, that’s like a cake with honey on the top. I can cook risotto; risotto with rice and beans and onions.

My favourite place is Churchill Square. There are lots of people there and you can meet your friends. I have lots of friends from different countries all around the world. We walk around Brighton, maybe go to West Street where you can find Turkish food, Arabic, Iranian food, everything.

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Mr. Framroze

Tehmtan Framroze came from Zanzibar to the UK in the 1960’s. He is a former Labour Councillor and Mayor of Brighton.

Mr FramroseHow did you come to live in the UK?
We had a revolution in Zanzibar in 1964 and at that time I was studying at Makerere University College in Kampala. I did not feel that I would be safe travelling to Zanzibar and so I decided to remain in Uganda. I got a job at the University of Makerere and accommodation as well and I worked in the University Library. After about two years’ work as a librarian I decided to go and study for librarianship and information science in London - that’s where I came to Britain. I did a course in Librarianship and Archives and when the course was finished I was invited by the Librarian of the University of Sussex to come and assist him and his colleagues to establish a research centre for African and Asian Studies. And my expertise resulted in my not only involved me in getting a job but quite a lot of promotions at the University of Sussex.

The promotions and the job within a 12 months period made me feel that Brighton was a nice place after all and I could stay longer.

What was it about Brighton that you particularly liked?
Zanzibar was an island and we were used to living on an island with the sea surrounding an island and so it resembled some of the East African coast views. And the University itself was considered to be a left wing university and that was attractive - up to a point. And I got involved in the politics of the University when I was elected President of the Association of University Teachers in 1981/82. And I found Brighton charming with its neighbour Hove, actually. And there was a buzz about Brighton. Things were happening. And it was marvellous.

Do you find that Brighton represents anything about British Culture that you like, or maybe don’t like?
I have always admired and understood - up to a point - the culture of the British islanders. Because in Zanzibar we used to play a game called Monopoly, and if you know how the game is played you move in squares and you end up in jail if you are unlucky. This was a very British game and when I came to London I saw names of streets which reminded me of the names of streets of the Monopoly game that I played in Africa.

And I was a great believer in democracy and social justice and there was social justice and democracy in Britain and I felt that it was very acceptable to live here.

Did you expect to remain here for 44 years?
Yes. Because I decided that I didn’t want to go and live in Zanzibar and this was my second home and has now become my first home.

As far as your Zanzibar and Parsee heritage goes, are there any aspects that are particularly important to you that you sustain?
My heritage goes back thousands of years and Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions and I grew up in a household where my Father and Mother were very religious minded and prayed every day and my father went to the Agiary (fire temple). And it was good that we had an Agiary in Zanzibar because since I left Zanzibar I have not been able to live in a town near where there is an Agiary and that is very important to me and it was to my parents and my family.

Are there any other aspects of your culture and heritage that you have managed to sustain whilst living here?
I think one of the driving forces which drove me to enter public service was the concept of doing good for humanity and mankind and it describes itself in 3 wordGood Thoughts; Good Words and Good Deeds and that is my cultural heritage which teaches me to be honest, helpful, kind and go out of your way to help others.

When you lived in Brighton did you find any particular challenges about living in the UK?
Yes, everybody talked about discrimination and there was discrimination against people of ethnic minorities and other minorities as well. And the difficulty was that the Police themselves were unintentionally behaving in a way that caused friction and I was instrumental in organising a public meeting and invited senior police officers to meet with the public of African, Asian and Ethnic minorities and the first meeting was productive because the police began to say that ‘oh, that is useful information, we didn’t know this’ and then it was to expect the police to change.

But that was the real challenge - to be able to sail through it without any harm done to you and to racial hatred. That was a real challenge in the 60’s and 70’s. And then there were other prejudices of people who were not being reasonable or welcoming to the country. People who were seeking asylum and refugee status.

Is there a way that someone of Parsee heritage would socialise that is very particular and perhaps quite different to a British person?
The Church of England also has some events to celebrate. In the Zoroastrian vocabulary we call it Mukhtad which is the ceremony relating to those who have passed away and the Church of England has a similar concept of All Souls’ Day and there are many similarities with other religions which has caused me to reinforce my view of other religions and I maintain that all the religions are telling mankind to do good and that it is unfortunate that in Britain today there are so many tensions between different religions that may create problems for us in the future.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am very pleased that the efforts of my fellow religionists, in London in particular, have resulted in a wonderful Zoroastrian Centre in London and I am impressed by the progress that the centre has made so far and is continuing to make and I am also glad that the bickering and back biting has decreased and I hope that long may it continue.

The impact (of Zoroastrians) on the community is out of all proportion to its size.

I was chair of the Interfaith contact group here until my illness. We met Prince Charles - he came down to Brighton - and he asked me what faith I was and I said ‘Zoroastrian’ and he said ‘Ah, the people coming from Persia?’ And he knew quite a bit. Because the Archdeacon who had arranged the meeting - he was the host of Prince Charles - he had taken the opportunity of arranging the meeting when the Prince was there and me met him in Church. It was very good. He knew about Zoroastrians. And there was a Baha’i there, standing near me and he said that he was a Baha’i and he (Prince Charles) looked at me and winked. Because he had been told that the Muslims didn’t always like the Baha’i’s and that was a polite way of saying it. And I was very pleased when the Duke of Edinburgh came to Zoroastrian House in October (2011) and before that it was Prince Edward.

In your family did you feel that the children were brought up equally and that the expectations for the boys and girls were the same?
Well, my Father was very religious, but scientifically. He didn’t believe in superstition and all of that and he paid for my sister to go to the Convent School. She is the eldest. She was sent to a fee paying school whilst the brothers were sent to a government school (laughs), so there was the beginnings of equality there. And she wasn’t kept back. And she then wanted to work after passing Cambridge Certificate Level which is A Level. She wanted to be a stenographer and she was a very good stenographer. And my Grandmother was also very near her because Father used to go to work and it would be back late in the evening because he used to go for a walk every day and go for prayers five times a month. And he used to walk to the Agiary and so my sister was almost brought up my Grandmother who was staying with us after my Grandfather died. So it’s early signs of education.

I didn’t make Parsee friends here. I have continued the same tradition as I have all these years of going out into the community. That’s why I stood as a councillor, because I wanted to put back into the community something that was coming out. The main reason why I went into politics was to improve things and at that time the Labour Party was in opposition so I did not feel that I would achieve much whilst being in opposition. I wanted to have the responsibility of doing something and we used to have a large budget for the housing authority that I was chair of and we had 14,000 properties. It was an excellent opportunity of doing something for the community and the Council rewarded me by electing me to be the Mayor of the City. But the whole basis was service.

I was particularly concerned that when I came to Britain there was an atmosphere in Britain of anti-immigrants and racial discrimination and I wanted to step out of all that and show because the electorate that elected me was made up of 95% white people. I wasn’t elected by an ethnic vote. So I was quite proud of offering my services and I remember at that time one politician saying in public that the ethnic minorities were taking out of Britain not putting back and I wanted to be one of those who was doing that. That’s what drove me to go into politics and when I looked at going into Parliament or local government I decided local government because you were in power. You were the administration. You could do things. In opposition you could protest only. And I was a councillor for 21 years.

Did you expect to live in the UK this long?
No. My father and mother were surprised but they were not sad about it because they had suspected. My father, I remember having a conversation with him when he said that in his experience Parsee Zoroastrians who have left East Africa have gone to London ‘for a short time’ but never come back. So he was not surprised but he would have liked me to have been with the family. Because my father very much believed in family life and to him keeping the 4 children together was a major achievement, but in the circumstances I then came to Britain.

How does it feel to grow old in the UK?
The UK has far better services than would be available in my youth in Zanzibar or East Africa. But East Africa is coming up and I don’t know what services are available nowadays. But as you get older you begin to need medical attention and Britain was very good for that and the climate suited me because I didn’t feel cold in the winter months and the summer months were quite pleasant even though English people always believed that England didn’t have a good climate and weather conditions were usually rain. I didn’t feel that at all.

But I was aware of racialism and discrimination so I joined voluntary organisations, joined a faith organisation and I joined an organisation which was campaigning to obtain a grant to develop community organisations’ accommodation which they were renting before at very high rates - unsatisfactory accommodation. So we decided to buy a building and let out rooms to voluntary organisations who could all be in the one building. We were something like 15 or 17 groups. It was for Community Base and I was the first Chair of the Executive Committee and as soon as we got our final payment of grant from the Government I resigned because I didn’t want to continue because it was taking up a lot of my time and I had accomplished my mission. And it is a thriving organisation at the moment, even with the cuts.

And I repeated this a second time round when I became the the first Chair of the Black and Ethnic Minority Council - BMECP. And after ten years of struggling finally we made it two years ago and we have our own brand new building called BMECP Centre. And that is made up also of leaders of communities - ethnic communities - who live in Brighton & Hove. So I have done it twice and on both occasions brought it to a successful end because a lot of people who had heard about us had humoured us, by saying, ‘Oh, yes, yes, yes’ but privately they had said ‘you are never going to make it because it is impossible for you to run such a huge outfit without financial support’. Because once we had raised the capital sum we had struggled to find the monies for other things. But today it is a thriving community centre. And I did all this when I was a councillor. Which means a full-time job. I retired because of ill health.

Is that frustrating?
Very. Because I am not able to do things that I would like to do. But just as I said about the Community Base and BMECP centre, I had other things as well such as the Interfaith Contact Group which I served. And we had representatives of other religious groups. So I have been always out in the Community. I was the Mayor and before that I was a Councillor.

Two interviews by Philippa Vafadari (BandBazi) in August 2011and March 2012.

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Neena

Neena is British by nationality, but her father was Indian and her mother white English. The interviewer begins by inviting Neena to explain what it means to her to have a mixed heritage. Neena reflects on how important this is to her sense of identity and how it shifts (and continues to do so) in complex ways, in relation to family, social attitudes, politics, education, culture, class and place.

NeenaI’m actually British by nationality but of mixed heritage, so it’s having had an Indian father who came over and immigrated that is behind my interest in the project.

I would like to start at this point, if you say you have a mixed heritage but at the same time you are British; what does it mean to have a mixed heritage? In your case or in general, why is it important, or what is it?
Well, I mean in terms of just the facts, my father was Indian and came over in the 1930s to practise as a GP, as a doctor, and came from Assam in Northeast India, and met my mum who was white working class and he was from Brahmin background, so they were very different ends of the spectrum if you like, completely different backgrounds. Being of mixed heritage has been hugely important even though actually he died when I was nine and I am an only child but the contact with the family in India was very strong and also I think because they were very open to his marriage, most of them. They were very open-minded at that time. So when my parents went back they actually celebrated with another marriage and that obviously strengthened the connection between that family and my parents and me. And I didn’t actually grow up learning Assamese, we spoke English at home, and that was also, partly, I suppose, because of attitudes then towards other languages and keeping another language. Perhaps I would have learned Assamese if he had lived, I don’t know, but I was always conscious of seeing myself as being part-Indian. And even after he died I felt that, although it was different because then being the child of a white mum it felt as though that Indian side was submerged. And then at different times it’s been important to be able to relax and to see that that side can be reaffirmed, and you know, a girls’ public school in the sixties, in England, although it had some international students there, it was predominantly white, and given the time as well, in the sixties, attitudes to difference and, I suppose, the heritage of colonialism, even though it was London, meant that there was perhaps more of a sense of being an ‘honorary white’. And the actual category of being mixed heritage didn’t even come into existence until after I’d moved as a mother, with our family, to Brighton; and in fact on the censuses the categories would say ‘other’ so you would actually categorize yourself as ‘other’ which I always disliked. And so being, when you say what does it mean, the actual category itself didn’t exist, and so how you define your identity is partly dependent on the categories that you’re provided with as a state, and also the ways in which you’ve actually been brought up, and the ways that aspects of difference about yourself have been sustained within the family but also outside. But when I first came to Brighton, I found that difficult, actually.

In what way?
Partly that we moved to Brighton from Coventry, when the children were all at school and so I was leaving friends that I’d built up, so you know, making new friends. But, I’d always lived either in London, or when I went to university Oxford, or Coventry, where there had been, I was... at home in a very diverse town, and when I first came to Brighton in 1989 it felt predominantly white. Very different from now, well of course it was always more diverse, many places are more diverse than you at first realise, but anybody who has lived in Brighton would agree that over the last twenty years the population has become more diverse. And for me that’s been great, I’ve felt much more at home, really, and that’s made the place more interesting. And also attitudes have changed because of that. So when we first took our children to school, when I asked about the multicultural policy, that was, I was told ‘We don’t have that problem here.’ And now that would not be the answer, one hopes.

But it’s really been, as one has grown older, and as, I suppose, issues of equality and race have always been, I’ve always felt strongly about that. But they’ve become part of my work and that’s been part of my identity so they kind of merged.

You said that at different stages of your life you’ve reaffirmed your identity in terms of your Indian side. How did that happen or why, or what parts of identity?
Well, I do not want to overstate that, it’s not that there were kind of epiphanies, but obvious things like for example members of the family coming over and staying with us would do that, and would also reaffirm that within the family, within, you know, my husband and our children. So contact with the family, actually seeing them, letters, were very important in both ways. Sometimes it would be a moment, it would be a visit, say, when I was like a Brownie, a Girl Scout when I was a child, and a visit from a speaker who was talking about a visit to India, and that would trigger, ‘ah, I have that connection, I can allow that’. So it is like there were moments where people could connect, even if they were not aware of it, and that makes a bridge. Living in London always gives that feeling of openness and, I suppose, other people who might ask or include that part of one’s background as well. But I guess it’s also the way that Britain has changed and that there are possibilities for fuller aspects of one’s identity, for one to experience that. So it’s, sometimes it’s moments, sometimes it’s, when I was in Coventry, working on language across the curriculum, one of the schools was a white Roman-Catholic school, and the other school was in the North of Coventry where there’s a very big Asian population, and the children related to me very differently in each of the schools. In the more diverse school they were very interested in my being part-Asian; that wasn’t voiced or I didn’t sense that in the white school. And their interest and my interest in them was something I enjoyed. So that would be an example. So it’s as though the way you kind of see yourself or the way you are perceived just does differ according to context and associations, and that would apply to cultural and racial identity, ethnicity, as well. Sometimes you’re given permission or stigma is avoided, I mean obviously racism is a very big issue. Not that I’ve experienced that much but, you would perhaps keep certain things hidden or you wouldn’t reveal certain things, unless you felt people were, with some people rather than others, you know.

What kind of things?
I think as a child, at school, there was almost an assumption that, and sometimes it was expressed, I can remember someone saying to me, another child ‘oh, you’re okay, because you could look Mediterranean or Italian’, and so you’d think, what does that mean, really, as if one could ‘pass’. And it was not intentional but it was like a kind of, what one might call institutionalised racism of the time, which has an effect, so you know there were decisions about whether you challenge that, whether you just think about that, and so that’s an example.

But are there for example practices within your family, or things that you, set you apart somehow when you were a child from other children, where you became aware of that you’re somehow, not necessarily from a different culture but that you know different things, or that you do things differently in your family, than others?

Definitely, even though my father was very at that time very kind of in many ways wanting to lead a very British kind of life; nevertheless very proud of Assamese background but not religious at all, the family, some of them had fought against the British so there was a sense of pride, but also formality, so he was actually much stricter than a lot of white parents and expectations about how you did your school work were much stricter, and I know I couldn’t possibly get away with talking to my father in ways that some people might, much stricter, so I was conscious of a difference there. Although we didn’t actually have sort of Hindu religious structures to adhere at all because we weren’t religious and he was very sort of Europeanised, I suppose it was in more subtle ways, so short skirts, I know, not only something he would’ve found impossible to accept I think, but I think actually that even though he died when I was nine I imbibed or it became embedded in me, a sort of maybe more conservative approach to that I think. So that would be one example. And respect, just to do with respecting parents and elders, and I think ways of speaking, so those would be examples of ways in which I felt a bit different.

So somehow subtle attitudes more about how to live, or how to lead your life?
Hm.

And are there other things that you want to give on to your children, or that you gave on to your children when you raised them, in terms of how they should be aware of this heritage?
I think some of them were those almost identical things, but then there were tensions because, and actually when I was young I did wear short skirts and also I was rebellious, so it was not as though I always lived according to those attitudes myself, but at a deeper level I think they’re sort of present in a way, as a kind of touchstone. And I think they’re there in my kids, respect for difference and interest in other cultures, that was something that I was brought up with that was just lived and that’s very important to me and I think it is for them, I think they do have, they have that.

The photo above was taken to commemorate their marriage. Although Neena’s parents had married five years earlier in London, with a Hindu ceremony, the Indian family wanted to celebrate their marriage in Guwahati, Assamese style (one month after Independence in 1947). Neena’s mother had persuaded her husband to return to India to visit his family, but she had dreaded the experience, fearing an Indian Brahmin family would not accept her, especially her mother-in-law, a Brahmin widow, above all at the time of Indian Independence. In fact the family, and particularly her mother-in-law, embraced her and the marriage. The Raj had just ended and some members of the family had been involved in the struggle against the British, in non-violent resistance. Feelings about the Raj were complex and strong, yet many in the family also felt proud of what this marriage represented.

Neena's mother is in the second row, fourth from the left, and Neena's father is standing behind her, in the back row, third from the left. Neena was born in London three years later.

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Parvin

Parvin is from Iran.

ParvinCould you tell me about your background? And how long have you been here?
I come from Iran and I’ve been here for about three years and four months. I used to live in Durham for two and a half years. I’m graduated and I’ve got Associate’s degree in Nursing. I’m a single Mum and my only son is 2 years old.

Can you compare life in Brighton & Hove with life where you have come from?
I like this city. It is near the sea and warmer than Durham. I think Brighton has most of facilities found in big cities like London. It has two universities and it is near the airport. It is more alive and happier. Here I feel safe and more comfortable. I love democracy and freedom that I feel here. I found this city an international city. People are open-minded. I feel free, happy and more relax to express myself and my opinions or to practice the role of my religion. I hope my son will have a delightful future for his education, health, entertainment and so on.

My culture is so different from here. I cannot completely adjust to this culture though I try to get good things and leave the ones that are opposite of my values and beliefs. However, I do not force my son to do the same; instead I’ll explain our culture and values to him and let him to choose his own way.

Could you tell me about your experience of learning English?
It is very difficult for me. I think language is the first and the most important barrier for me to adjust myself with the society. Because of the language I cannot communicate properly and I feel less confident. However, I can understand people’s accent here in Brighton better than in Durham.

How is your family life different here?
In some aspects it is very different. I think people prefer to live alone. Families are not as close to each other as they are in my country and also children get independent very soon. In my country families are very important and they co-operate, help and support each other financially and emotionally as much as they can. Relatives have a very close relationship with each other and do not leave any family alone. They try to solve each other’s problems and help each other to be able to pass difficult stages of their lives. By contrast, I think here it is the government that is involved to resolve families’ issues rather than families and relatives themselves.

How do you think people see migrants?
Obviously, I can feel that some people are not happy that foreigners come to their country and stay there. The amounts of people, who do not like foreigners, are different from city to city. I really don’t like to be a burden on the society. I want to have a suitable job and I try my best for this.

How would you like to be seen?
I’d like to be respected. I think if my English was better, I could express myself and my abilities, so I could adapt with the society better, therefore people had better sight about me. For this, I like to do volunteering jobs and be a member of different communities. I like work with children and also old people. I think with volunteering I can learn more about language, culture values and beliefs.

Is religion important to you? What is the role of religion in your life?
Here majority of people are open-minded. Democracy and freedom caused people feel free to have different religions, beliefs and their own values. All nations and religions have equal opportunities to express themselves. I also feel free to express my opinions and practice the role of my religion. I always do it in my home. I didn’t know that there are places in Brighton where I could do my practice. Here whatever you believe or whoever you are makes no difference, just respect other people’s rights and values and do not break the law.

Anything else you would like to add...
The interesting thing that attracts my attention is that, there is so concern about diversity and equality. I can see that women have nearly achieved equality with men.

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Paul

Paul is a post-graduate student at the University of Sussex. He is from Berlin, Germany and is in his early twenties.

Cycling in BrightonSo could you tell me something about your background?
I’m from Germany. I have done my BA in Germany and then I came to study my Master here, I’m doing right now the master’s course in Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation at the School of Global Studies. It’s a one year Master so I will leave Brighton at the end of this year unfortunately.

Could you tell me why you choose to study Anthropology in Brighton?
It was basically about the focus on development and on social transformation and there are not really such courses about development in Germany, so I have a look online where I can study anthropology with a focus on development, and Brighton is quite renowned for it, so I choose to come to Brighton. I also applied at SOAS in London and here, but then, I decided to go to Brighton. I knew about London being a very big city and as I come from Berlin I’m used to quite big cities; the most, I think the most important fact was the ocean. Because I have never lived so close to the ocean, so I decided it would be quite nice to spend at least one year next to the ocean. Yeah, that’s, that’s why I came to Brighton and it’s quite a small city and it’s a very open-minded city, green city, it’s famous for it’s multicultural background, so that’s why I came to Brighton.

Except for the environment in Brighton, what else do you prefer?
Before I came to Brighton, I mean, there was nothing but the ocean what made me to choose Brighton as a place to study . But right now, there are a lot of things I really appreciate in Brighton. For example, that it is quite small so you can go all over the city with your bike, you don’t need a car anymore and you’re even faster with your bike, especially in the summer when all the streets are full of cars and of tourists. So I can go in the morning on campus to university and can go in the afternoon to the ocean, which is quite great. And then I can do in the evening to do my shopping by bike, it’s quite nice and I think I have never done so much biking ever before. Before I came to Brighton because, in Berlin it was just more stressful to be on a bike and I guess it was even more dangerous. And Brighton is very…hm…a very nice city for biking because there have special biking lanes, as you know, on Lewes Road, so you don’t share the road with the cars, it’s very comfortable. I don’t like that we are surrounded by so many hills; that makes biking stressful, but nevertheless, yeah, it’s a very, very nice city to explore by bike.

So compare to your city and here …
I was quite, yes, more or less surprised that you can get all kind of food here in Brighton due to the, yeah, the colonial history. So you have a lot of Indian shops and you can get all the, especially Indian food you can get very easily. You can’t get that easy African food unfortunately, was a bit easier to get in Berlin. You can get Turkish food and you have all kinds of international food markets, so, yeah, you can get everything. And, I am really, really surprised about the British food, because everybody was saying, I mean back in Germany, everybody was saying that British food is not very nice and that you won’t enjoy it. But there are so many things which I really appreciate, for example crumpets, I mean I love crumpets, you know crumpets? I can’t describe it, but I love crumpets, it’s very nice. Crumpets is one thing I really love. I don’t like the beer, the ale, it is not very like beer, it’s very fizzy, and very watery, I don’t know, I don’t like the beer here. But I like the stouts, it’s also a kind of beer, but it’s a stronger beer with a milky taste, it’s very nice. There are so many British things, especially during the Christmas time, we have had so many very nice puddings and, how is it called, I can’t even remember the name. […] But there are so many nice things, like the mulled wine, or the Yorkshire puddings, there are so many things I really like here when it comes to food. I don’t like the cider, what is obviously very British, you can get it all over the place. But it does not taste like French Cider I have known before. But altogether, I am quite satisfied with the food here.

Ok…so do you miss the foods in your hometown?
I’m more or less a vegetarian, I don’t eat pork or sausage at all, and that’s why I don’t miss German sausage at all. […] and because of the international food markets here it is not a problem to have the same diet as in Germany or anywhere else, so you can get basically everything what you want and you can’t get all the things. For example things like in Tanzania, but if you want, you can get it, it’s a bit more expensive, of cause, but I don’t miss anything, I am really happy with the food here.

And even, I thought it’s going to be very expensive, but it’s not really, even if you get the organic food and high quality stuff, even then, there is no big price difference. We are quote spoilt from Berlin, because Berlin is one of the cheapest cities in Germany, so everything is quite cheap. The living expenses, for food, for living, for accommodation, it’s very cheap. I’m quite surprised that here, it’s not very cheap, you don’t have to go to Lidl or Aldi to get the cheapest stuffs, you can go to Sainsbury’s and you can get very good food for not a lot of money and especially a lot of imports from the former colonies.

Do you live in campus?
No. I live in, I live close to Lewes Road, behind the University of Brighton, in a shared accommodation, so I live together with two Americans and with my friend from Germany. So we are four.[…] but what is very interesting and what I realised here is that most of the Americans are not very, they don’t know a lot of foreign languages. Due to the fact that they are growing up with English and you can travel all over the world with knowing only, basically all over the world, with knowing only English, so you don’t have to know another language. The academic language is English, even in Germany the academic language or literature is basically in English so you can get around with it and you don’t have to learn another language. But in all other places, people know at least English as a foreign language. Yes, that was very interesting, so they have no other language at all. Maybe it doesn’t tell a lot, but it has a lot of influences on your personality. If you know only this one language, and if you don’t open yourself. Of course, a lot of Americans learn foreign languages and a lot of British people as well, but I think, more people in Europe have to learn other foreign languages. For example as in the qualification, you have to know English or you have to know French or whatever, it’s just nice to have it on your CV for other career things. Well and here, they have basically only English. That was quite interesting to know.

So when you stay in Brighton, did you find any different culture or different habit between German and British people?
Hm, yes. The most positive difference is that everybody is, I mean in Germany you differentiate between let’s say formal and informal language. You cannot address, you cannot talk to somebody unknown with the first name, but here, in the UK, everybody is addressing you with your first name and even introducing him or herself with the first name. So you don’t have this differentiation. And for me, because I know the difference from German, it helps a lot and it makes a situation always much more informal. I’m not sure if this informality is only felt by me or if it is the same for the British people who don’t know about the other formal language, but for me, it feels very more informal. I mean the people are much more open, so they are very welcoming and they are talking much more to each other and they are greeting you even if you don’t know them. And for example, in Germany, you would never ever say to bus driver “thank you” because, .it’s not because he is a bus driver, it is just because he is offering a service, you are paying for the service so you don’t say thank you. He is driving, you are the passenger, you don’t say “thank you”, but here, it’s very normal to say “thank you” when you leave the bus. And it’s a very nice thing to do. When I would do it back in Germany everybody would stare at me and would think “what an idiot, why is he saying “thank you” to the bus driver, he must be somehow crazy”. But here it’s a very normal thing to say “thank you”. And I think, in Brighton, maybe it is also because in Brighton, the people are using the word “thank you” much more often than in Germany, or “you’re welcome” or “no problem” or such things. They communicate more and maybe, I don’t know whether it is polite or honest, but they communicate in a more positive way I think. It’s very nice.

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Samir

Samir came to the UK as a refugee from Sudan. He is now a British citizen.

SamirFirst of all, can you compare life in Brighton with life where you have come from?
Life is very different, I mean in both places; where I come from is Africa actually and here is Europe. The first thing is the weather, the weather is very hot there and here is always a little bit cold if it is not too cold. And the other thing is people’s interests and people’s attitudes are different in both places and it’s something just cultural. I mean it could be a reason of the place that you live in: you have certain rules, you have certain things that you do, certain things that you want to do, certain things that you dream of doing. And it’s also that you come back to the amount of freedom. Where I lived, I mean, things are still primitive –not I mean, not primitive primitive, but I mean regarding freedom; people are still looking for their freedom and they can’t find it.

Okay, are there any connections or similar between here and there?
Of course yes, there are similarities, there are connections. I mean in both places the people who live are human beings so there are connections and similarities in humanity. In both places people look, or they are looking for a better life, so yes.

So, was Brighton as you expected or not?
Yes, it was as I expected before - actually it has been because I knew a lot of people who lived here and also a lot of people told me about Brighton, so it’s the same thing I think; the same idea I have had in my mind I found it in reality, the same thing.

Okay, could you tell me about your background; I mean family life and how many children you’ve got here and your work?
Yes, I work part time because I am a student at the same time; I’m doing English Language, Literature and English Language Teaching at SussexUniversity. And I have a part time job in a care home, so I work when I’m free - when I don’t have any commitment at university. I am married and I have two children, I mean two daughters. Um, that’s it.

Okay, and how is family life different here? I mean relationships between children and parents. Is your in the family different between here and there?
Yes it is different because – the problem is if you don’t have a few relatives in any place it is difficult for you. If I answer your question about the relationship between parents and kids, yes it is different here. Where I come from it is not accepted if a child speaks up but here (laughs) kids speak up. I don’t mean that there is not, there is no respect, but kids here they have a lot of freedom, also parents know that they have to bring them, or bring them up in a very good way, they don’t have to abuse them, and if anybody just starts abusing kids, or his kids, is going to y’know to be prosecuted – so y’know it is different. I mean the difference in life there concerning family, yes, as I said, wherever you go and you don’t have relatives, it is difficult for you if you have kids because, for example, my wife and I we both study, so we find it really difficult when we put our two daughters in with the childminder or with the nursery, or just ask someone to pick them up and things like this. If we, if we were doing this back in my country, a lot of people will just offer help and I think our parents, I mean my parents - I mean my mother as my father has died - my mother would also help us, my aunts and uncles, also my wife’s family would help. But the problem is wherever you go and you have kids and you don’t have relatives, it’s going to be difficult; you are going to be really committed to your family and you are going to do more than usual if you are working or studying.

So, you mean there is a big difference between your family life here - between here and there?
Yes. First of all, because I was not married when I was in my country; I was not married when I was there I was just a member of a family, but now I have a family, I have my own family – I mean I’m the father, I’m the parent; it is different, I have a different role, it was not my role when I was in Sudan – I mean in my country - although I was the eldest son, it was not, it was not as it is now. I mean, I used to take care of my siblings but not like when you take care of your own kids.

Could you tell me about your experience of learning English here? Are there any difference with your own country? Also your experience of accents, slang, dialects there – if you find any difference here I mean? And how many languages do you speak?
First of all I speak Arabic and English and I speak a local tongue or a local language - Sudanese local language. The thing is, when I was in Sudan - I mean, when I was in my country - I was teaching English, but I first started learning English with the help of my father who used to speak English fluently, and he taught me throughout until I became, a teacher, an English language teacher. He knew a lot of words of the slang and things like that. He used to speak cockney language, sorry cockney slang...It is not London accent, it part of London accent and it’s called cockney rhyming slang; he used to sometimes to speak, but I don’t know it. 

And the other thing is, when I started learning I met a lot of British people, when I was either in Sudan or where I moved to. I met them and I used to speak. They were from the north of England, y’know Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester and Scotland. So I had an experience of y’know, knowing where the person is from. I mean I was well aware of some of the accents and when I started at University two years ago, I also met a lot of people from different parts of England and Britain, so I have a good experience.

The difference in learning English - for example here and learning English in another country – the first thing is if you learn English here you learn it as a second language, but if you learn it in any other country it is going to be a foreign language because you are not going to practise it more than your own language. So the difference will be in the way of teaching - how to teach English. And, if there is a difference in the way of teaching, the way of language acquisition will be also different. So there is a difference, they’re different in how to use the language, because in my country they – they use it just for y’know written things, sometimes for, communication a little bit – not in everyday life.

Okay. How do you think people see migrants, I mean um ... how does this - and how does this make you feel?
I think it’s not the people who see them -the people who come to live in their country –different. I believe it’s the media; there is a lot of negative media towards migrants and this affects the people.

You mean the newspapers and magazines?
Yes, yes the newspapers yeah - certain newspapers - everybody knows what I’m talking about, and this affects people’s way of thinking because when everyday you start your day by looking at a headline and it’s about migrant‘migrants come here to do so-and-so’; ‘migrants are bad’, things like that, it affects people. But honestly, people here they are, I think, divided; most of them are alright, but some of them, you can feel that there is something wrong, the way they treat you, the way they talk to you, or even the way they look at you. Yeah, there is a difference.

Okay and does speaking English as a second language make differences here with you or no
Um...yes, it makes difference, when you know the language; if you live in a country and don’t know the language it’s very difficult to communicate with people, so if you speak the language well your life will be easier.

How do you like to be seen here, in Brighton and Hove? Do you like to be seen as volunteering or contributing to community or how would you like to be seen?
I just would like to be seen as a human being, everything else is just ... It shouldn’t affect peoples’ judgements, I mean if you look at every person as a human being, that’s enough. But I have done volunteering and I have contributed to the community here, I mean I work in a care home and I’ve done a lot of work with refugees and asylum seekers. I have – I work with Money Advice and Community Support as an outreach worker or – obviously it was just translating ...Sometimes I get invitations to participate in Refugee Week. I go and read sometimes – poetry and short stories or just recite poetry.

Okay, lastly do you have anything else you like to add about your life in Brighton and Hove?
Brighton is a very nice city, very good and I love living in Brighton. It is a very good  – there are very good views and there are very good scenes here in Brighton and yes, I love living here and I  hope that I will participate more in the community and I will do something which benefit all the people.

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San

San comes from Sudan. He came to the UK in 2006 seeking asylum. He lives with his wife and daughter.

SanCan you compare life in Brighton with life where you have come from?
There are differences. Sudan is a big country, big houses with courtyards and gardens. The competition for work is much easier and since I was born there, it was easy for me to work. Both here and in Sudan people are hospitable and friendly. In Sudan, and this is a difference, most people are illiterate but at the same time they are influenced and motivated by direct propaganda, whether religious or political. Here people are more educated, they think before they act and they have more common knowledge. They are not easily motivated by propaganda. Here people are more busy with work and don’t have so much time for social relations. In Sudan people have more time to socialise; they know each other, all the neighbourhood. People have more time for themselves.

Do you think you had to adjust to the English society?
Yes, a little bit, but the most important thing is that since I came here in the UK, I haven’t worked because I am not allowed to work, by law. I am doing a voluntary work teaching Arabic, I am the headmaster of the school linked to the Sudanese Coptic Association. I am teaching Arabic mainly to Coptic kids, but there are other nationalities. This is the only work I am doing. I am afraid my options are limited; I don’t have enough income to do the things I want to.

From 1978 to 2006 I always worked as an accountant and auditor in many companies, then the revolution came… Now here it is just reading books, newspapers, watching television.

I like many things, I like to read about weird and strange phenomena, history, religion and rituals and I like the concept of accuracy and exactness that is why I like math. I like to draw, I used to paint, do sculpture. I used to play football and chess, I used to swim. I am fascinated by beauty whether in nature or reflected in people, paintings, poetry…

Was Brighton as you expected?
Yes, more or less. But I was expecting to find more English culture, but Brighton is a cosmopolitan city. Here you find many cultures. I think here Spanish and Polish cultures dominate and then come the Coptic, ah ah…

Has your relation in your family changed since you arrived here?
Yes, of course! Well at least financially, I was the responsible one. Since I am not working, of course it hurts when you don’t have money to spend with your family.

Here they have become more independent. Here the general atmosphere around…there is more freedom. Here you can go on the streets in the day or at night…

Can you tell me about your experience of learning English?
Yes, since I was at the primary school I was taught by Italian Christian missionaries, they taught us in English, all subjects in English. Then when I came here I studied at the friends centre for two years, but unfortunately I couldn’t continue because I couldn’t afford it.

Do you think that your experience of learning English in your country and here is different?
Mainly the accent, I couldn’t get the word straight because the accent is difficult to me. Then gradually I started to understand.

How many languages do you speak?
Well, mainly two. My mother tongue is Arabic and then English.

Do you use different languages in different situations?
Yes, when I am with my family I use Arabic. Those who came here earlier tend to speak in English, like for example my brother and my sister. I speak to them in Arabic and in English, it depends. But to my wife and my daughter I speak in Arabic, they are more used to Arabic. They were also studying at the friends centre but they didn’t complete.

How do you think people in Brighton see migrants?
Well, literate people have an understanding of immigrants, but illiterate people or people who are not doing well in their lives financially, they see migrants as people coming here taking their jobs, picking in their pockets ah ah. But educated people have more understanding, they know that we contribute to the economy, most of the immigrants are likely to take low graded jobs, jobs that English people wouldn’t do.

How would you like to be seen?
I would like to be seen as a responsible person, contributing to the economy. I haven’t come here to steal or to live on benefits. I want a job. I want to work.

How could you contribute to the community?
In many ways, I can do many works.

Do you think that speaking English as a second language makes a difference?
Yes, of course as a second language when it is not completely fluent, maybe they don’t understand us, also because of your accent, or maybe some people think just because you are not fluent in English you are an idiot or not intelligent.

Is religion important to you?
Well, religion itself is very important. It is not just religion. It is the dignity of a person. It is the culture of a person, all your traditions, rituals come from religion and what you believe influence how you live your life, behave with people. I come from a religious back ground; one of my cousins is a bishop in Sudan.

Do you practice your religion, here?
Yes, sometimes I go to the church, sometimes I go to other places.

Would you like to add anything else?
I am afraid my options are limited; I don’t have enough income to do the things I want to. From 1978 to 2006 I always worked as an accountant and auditor in many companies, then the revolution came… Now here it is just reading books, newspapers, watching television. My parents came here before me. My father is 87 years of age and he’s nearly lost his sight. Besides caring for my disabled father who was completely dependent on my late mother (whom we lost in 2010) for help and supervision. He needs continuous care and assistance in his daily life. My brother is working all the time. I go to the supermarket to buy things. I try to be with him to help him as much as I can.

But the most important thing is that since I came here in the UK, I haven’t worked because I am not allowed to work, by law. I am doing voluntary work teaching Arabic, I am the headmaster of the school linked to the Sudanese Coptic Association.

The Arabic language classes at Hove Park School are one of the most valuable and important activities of the Sudanese Coptic Association. When I first joined the school, I volunteered as a practicing teacher. My role in school now is an administrative one as a Headmaster and as an accountant. Whenever there is a teacher absent for some reason I take his place and cover for him. By the end of this year -July 2012 – I will have completed more than four years at the school. People who help and teach in the school work on a voluntary basis… The school was established in 1992. Classes are conducted on Saturdays for eleven months of the year, from September to July. New students complete the admissions form and their level of Arabic language is assessed and they are allocated a class…In the beginning the classes were mainly dedicated to Coptic children who were born in the UK, or those who came to the UK when they were still young. It enables them to maintain a link with their country of origin and also in order not to forget their mother tongue language. However, now the classes are available to anyone who would like to join. We adopt and follow secular policies and students in our school are of different races, nationalities and ages.

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Sibulele

Sibulele is in her thirties. She came to the UK from South Africa in 2008.

SibuleleSo maybe you can tell me about your life here in Brighton and how it compares with your life at home, is there anything different or similar?
At home the weather is always nice. It’s not too cold but of course there’s lots of rain sometimes in summer, but we don’t have the snow

Have you ever seen snow in your life?
No.

Not even in UK? There was once some snowing.
Yes I think I saw last year the snow that was here in the UK

How did you find it?
It’s nice when it’s falling. It’s difficult when it’s frozen - you can’t go anywhere you can’t do anything.

Yes that’s true. So you wouldn’t have liked to have the snow at home.
No, I would like to have it when it’s fresh, not when its old

What about the family life at home and here?
There is no family life here. There, you know, at home, we’ve got that bond like for instance at my house I live at my mammas house where there are lots of cousins, my aunties and my mum and everyone is here under that one roof. You know that everyone is here. It’s easy and you love each other. Here there is nothing like that. You don’t have even, even if you have your mother here, your mother will live somewhere else. You have to hire someone to look after the babies, but back home you don’t have to hire someone. If someone is not working in your family you take your baby there and she will look after it. She won’t ask you about money and everything and your mum helps. Yes, and what else? In Africa you know at home we are poor, our home is poor, so if someone is working, the eldest is working, the eldest is going to be the one who is supporting the family, even aunties and everyone. The one who is working is going to be the head who will support everyone. She doesn’t have a life or he doesn’t have a life because he’s responsible for everyone, to look after them if they eat, if they do this and that. And the others, even though they have money they take a bit say someone else will do it but here you can’t take a back seat. You are on your own. You have to fend and do things for yourself.  That is difficult. And also here people don’t have time. Family don’t have time for each other, it’s either one is working day shift so the other is working night shift, so you don’t meet too much. At home about weekends you can meet the family or you just visit. It’s easy to go and visit. The houses here are small so you can’t go and visit someone and stay for a long time they will tell you about the electricity and everything is expensive, Here everything is catered for a small family not for extended family, for your family only. You can’t go and stay at someone else house. She will tell you ‘my electricity make this and that.’ When it’s at home it’s come when you want, brings so many friends. And at home, you know what? Whether it’s families or your friends are allowed them to come here you cook and eat their food. When you cook food you leave some for a visitor. You know at home they believe that you can’t finish the pot and dish up all the food in case someone comes in wanting food, so you must always leave some in case.

What I find in this country is just the people waste so much. We used to eat everything we had left over, but here people don’t eat their left-overs. I wanted to ask you about learning English but I think you learnt already at home didn’t you? So it was not very difficult to understand here.
Yes. English was not very difficult here ‘cos it was learnt in South Africa because we were colonised by English. So at home we were forced to speak English as a medium of communication. I can’t speak my own language if you are looking for some work or to do everything. I will speak my language only at my house and with my friends. When I'm somewhere else and want to express myself I will talk English.

So did you find any differences with English at home and here?
Mm here a little bit of accent, but sometimes you can’t hear the English person talking, they talk too fast. As we talk like slowly and low.

How do you think people see migrants?
First of all if you are a migrant they see you like a nobody, this one is nobody and they don’t get it. Someone who doesn’t know what she wants or someone who comes to steal something from them. I used to think like that when we had people at home coming from other countries to my country. We say, ‘Oh this one came to steal our jobs and do that and everything’. And we call them names like amakwerekwere [1]. They are not one of us because they are not from our country and they steal everything from us. But we forget that if you are from that country you are too lazy to do something. People from other countries are not lazy, they can do everything. You forget that about migrants; they say those names that’s what they say. There are some people who see migrants as human beings, there are some.

So have you experienced nice people as well as people who don’t…
Yes, you meet some people who don’t care about migrants.

How do you feel about it sometimes? You tend to walk away if somebody…?
Sometimes when somebody looks at you like nobody, or looks down at you, you feel like I'm small, I don’t know what I'm doing in this country.

How would you like to be seen then? I know you volunteer quite a lot and you do lots for the community.
I want to be seen as somebody who can do something, not a threat, as somebody who was a community member who can contribute to the community not after getting something, but giving something.

Is religion important to you and are you able to practise it here?
Yes my religion is simple because I'm Christian and there are lots of Christians.

Yeah, so it’s very easy to practise your religion here?
Yes I can go to any church if I want.

Do you feel kind of, you know ‘cos church is there to support people, do you feel safe there or do you have more friends in church?
You feel safe when you are at church with others and you have friends and everything.

What about your social life in Brighton, we already heard about your family at home and here, I guess that is a part of social life as well?
When it’s hot you can call your families and do a BBQ, or go to clubbing. That’s the only social life you have, every weekend you go to clubbing.

But you don’t do you?
No

And do you go sometimes to the beach and walk?
Yes when it’s hot I can go and walk to the beach. The beach is similar, but we have sand at home and here it is pebbles; I don’t like pebbles.

Well I have some question about food for you because I would like to ask about what sorts of food you eat at home?
We have a lot of food. We eat, we eat something like samp [2] and beans. It’s a corn which is crushed and they mix it with beans. You cook it with beans. I can show you the samp if you would like?

Yes I would like to, so you do it with beans?
Yes sugar beans.

Ah I see OK. I know that what do you call it?
Samp.

OK I see and you mix it with this beans as well?
So you cook it, put them to boil, you can soak if you want to make it quicker. But it takes a long time sometimes maybe 3 hours it depends..

I see so you have to be organised and plan as well. So you have beans at home and spices and do you eat meat? What else at home?
Yes we do eat, we have lots of pork and everything. And another thing aside from beans we’ve got mielie-meal [3] when you crush it up you get flour.

Ah right yeah I see.
It’s like a flour but it’s okay, let me show you.

Ah right yeah I think. So you use it as a flour?
No it’s not a flour.

It’s not a flour? Oh so it’s just crushed basically and you make a soup from it or..?
No you boil some water in and make something like porridge

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, okay.
Must not be runny, must be thick.

OK so you eat beans, you eat meat...
Yes and that one when you eat you can make it like er, do with sour cream. It’s okay.

Ah, that sounds really good, yeah.
Sour cream or sour milk or you can put in milk

Okay. Do you eat also some sweets? Lots of sweets, fruit, vegetable?
Yes quite a lot

Which sort of fruit do you have in South Africa?
Oh all of the fruit. We have, we have kiwi, bananas, oranges, everything, we have lychee fruit.

Okay, do you have any access to your country’s food?
Yes, you can go to Brighton Pier you will find it. It is a small shop and it doesn’t sell everything.

Oh I think I know, it is South African isn’t it?
Yes.

They have this sort of cured meat that is really dry, how do you call it?
Biltong? [4]

Ah I know. I’ve been in that shop; it’s on the Pier on the corner isn’t it?
Yes and in Newhaven, it’s a corner you can…

Yes, yes I see. I know what you mean and is it expensive?
Yes it is expensive.

Yeah I kind of find it ‘cos I buy this dry meat or whatever you call it, I’ve forgotten the name and it was expensive.
Yeah it’s biltong. And yeah, a sausage here doesn’t have enough meat

No? Do you eat biltong here, or don’t you like it?
Yes we eat it.

Oh yeah it’s kind of chewy isn’t it, like a chewing gum?
Yes it’s nice when its chewy, I like it when its chew.

So do you get all of what you need in that shop, or you get something from normal shops, like you know any shops or go to Taj or…?
You can get from Taj, you’ll get mielie-meal. From when you go to London or Newhaven you can get mielie-meal and it’s there.

Good, that’s good then. You already told me already where you can buy it. Do you need also to travel to go and get some food? Or is someone sending you food from home here?
No they don’t send food from home. I travel, go to London to buy this that.

Yeah, how do you eat and how do you cook? Is it part of socialising as well with your family, or do you have habits to eat as well?
Sometimes we cook it and other people cook it when they have party. Here we cook it now and then, and when you think about it you just cook it.

Okay do you have any habits? Do you tend to eat together or it depends?
No, no, not here. At home you eat together, you cook and eat together.

Why do you cook your traditional food here?
It’s nice to have a taste of your home country. You know, when you make samp [5] and beans, it warms your kitchen. It reminds me of my grandma who used to cook it for us. You know, when it’s winter here, it warms you, like at home. Sometimes you would like to get the taste of your country so you remember your roots and not forget where you come from. It’s nice to have your own taste when you are with your friends, but you know, in Africa, you eat cow’s intestines, they are nice. I liked them so much. When you cook it, it smells like cow’s pooh, so I can’t cook it for my friends because it would smell to them.

So you cook it for yourself to remind you of your home. That’s interesting. Do you always cook? Because your sister has a child,  do you cook with her? Do you show her what is traditional food or does she even like it?
The child?

Yes the child
She like pap [6]. Yes she likes it when you cook it sometimes because she doesn’t know she will eat it but when you give it to her more often she goes ‘No I don’t like this one’!

Does she like more English food then?
Yes she like pizza.

She like pizza. Because it’s easy and its colourful and there’s lots of things on it isn’t it?
She likes the meat one.

Oh the pepperoni one, yeah.
She doesn’t eat anything.

Do you cook other food that’s not from your country, cook sometimes something which is simpler maybe?
We cook English food because it’s not that different.

No because there was a colony wasn’t it?
Yes.

So you kind of already know about English food?
Yes and here when you cook sheep’s insides, at home we call it offal but you go buy it, sheep tripe, and when you cook it it smells.

Okay so it’s different here isn’t it?
It’s different here.

What about fish and chips?
The fish here and at home are not the same.  There are lots of mackerel, we’ve got mackerel, we’ve got cod, but we call it hage, it’s nice and we call it hage, the others are the same. The fish here, even though we have fish and chips, is too wet.

Here it is too wet?
Here. Yeah. More water. At home it is oilier. Yeah and if you cook it you can see inside it’s dry and nice

So you already know English food from home and you were not kind of shocked when you came here and saw the food? When you talk about the shops where you buy your foods um what do they look like? I mean are they something similar to your home or… 
They are small shops at home.

They are small. If you go to the shop here on the Pier do you operate in your language or is everything English?
Everything is in English.

Yeah and do you find foods which you would find at home, or is there anything different in those shops?
Ah somethings, things like nuts, nuts and spices.

Okay. You already said it’s kind of expensive. Do you look for any alternatives? Like maybe you cook your own dish, but with different ingredients you buy from the shops or have you tried to like modify your foods?
Most of the time if you can go there you search for everything; if you don’t have it here you will try whatever you have.

Well do you like English food?
A bit.

Okay can you tell me about any experience you have, could be funny experience you have about foods, could be in your country or here, whatever comes to your head.
Did you ever taste food that made you come from fire?

Fire? You mean like a BBQ?
No. There is a three legged pot you cook at home you use to cook like that at home.

Oh at home?
Yes back home, you cook with a pot and put it on fire. You let the fire cook it and then sometimes the fire is going out and you have to go there and blow and everything. But it’s nice and it’s quicker.

Is it outside or can you cook it inside of the house?
You can cook inside. Put some soil underneath and then you put a layer to hold the sticks, and you do the fire. And then you have to go and ‘woooosh’ and blow it.

That’s interesting, it would be nice to see in a restaurant somewhere in Brighton, you know, cooking with the fire.
Yes.

That would be nice to see.
Go and blow the air.

So you have to basically make a fire in some way?
Yes and sometimes your eyes will be, have some, because sometimes you are blowing the smoke and if you are cooking here in the house, inside the house you must cover because the smoke will leave the house smelling like smoke.

I see. So it’s different isn’t it? Well do you have anything else to tell me?
Something funny about food? Well, you know when you don’t have sour milk you add some water so that the sour milk will be, if you don’t have too much, like if your sour milk is like this and there are more people to cater you add some little bit of water.

And it’s still the same to taste?
No.

What is the taste?
The taste is like water in milk and cream or something like that.

Have you tried it then?
Yes.

Did you serve some to your friends or…?
No

Nobody found out?
No, we try it at our home when you are, oh what is that?

Yes, that is the computer.

You know you send my brothers to go buy some sour milk they will go and buy, if you send them to go and buy three pints they will go and buy two and then they will pass by the taps and fill it with water! And then you will see the water is down there, floating there and the cream is on top! They used to do that, the naughty kids go and fill it up to here.

Oh I like to drink sour cream.
At home the flour here is so nice we have white flour but we don’t tend to use white flour. White flour is sometimes mixed with brown and darker in colour so we use a little white flour, but it’s more expensive to make bread.

Do you make bread on your own here?
Yes sometimes. At home you don’t buy bread cos at our home you don’t have time to go and buy bread if you want bread you must make it at home. Where I come from if you want bread you must make it, you will find that there are slim chances to go and buy bread. Every now and then you have bread and go and buy bread.

When you cook at home is it usually a female role? Or I mean is there a gender divide between cooking and household?
Yes, at home they believe that the woman belongs to the kitchen.

Oh I see. Oh well the kitchen belongs to the woman.
And you can cook and wash dishes and do everything the boys can go out around and do whatever they want to do.

Oh really, how do you feel about it here? Because this is very different isn’t it?
It’s good here because equality you know your rights. You know that you don’t have to do it. At home if you didn’t cook you wouldn’t eat because the boys would go and come back later, and if you don’t wash dishes it will be you who is left with dirty dishes and everything.

Anything else you would like to share?
And at home we don’t cook breakfast.

You don’t cook breakfast?
Yes.

But you eat breakfast in the morning but you have no cooking?
In the morning some bring coffee or tea. You wake up in the morning and make a tea for everyone who is here. Yes, if you have grannies and everyone you make a tea for everyone who was here and then wait for them to finish. So at home you have to make tea for everyone and then wash dishes and then after that there is no specific what you can eat. You can eat whatever, or make whatever you want to eat, or you can eat your leftovers. And then you cook during the day. You know the cabbage? Yes its nice green vegetable, you take chopped cabbage or sometimes if you have spinach, you boil the cabbage and if you have rice while it is boiling you put a cup of rice there and then boil it for a while then drain the water and put in meat on top and then mix it like this. If you have a spinach you can put it when it’s about to be cooked ready and put in a little bit of spinach and you do like this.

That sounds really yummy.
Yes it’s yummy. And then when it’s ready thirty five minutes after you take that and then it’s nice, it’s vegetables.So you cook at home and you have the responsibility to cook and cleaning.

So it’s different here isn’t it?
Yes it’s different here. Here everyone is busy you don’t have to cook for anyone you can eat whatever you.

Yes you have ready meals here.
Yes there are some ready meals where we live in the village but the ready meals are far away you have to go a long way.

Yes it’s different ‘cos you don’t have shops around.
Yeah

Okay. Thank you very much for your interview and I’ll see you soon.

[1] Amakwerekwere is a perjorative term used by some Black South Africans to describe Black people from other African countries who came to South Africa after apartheid in 1994 and stayed on, many of them illegally.

[2] Samp and beans is a typical dish of the Xhosa people in South Africa made from slowly cooked sugar beans and samp which is crushed corn kernels.

[3] Mielie-meal is ground maize.

[4] Biltong is raw meat, cut into strips and cured. It originates in South Africa and can be made from a range of beet from beef through to game.

[5] Samp and beans is a typical dish of the Xhosa people in South Africa made from slowly cooked sugar beans and samp which is crushed corn kernels.

[6] Pap is a traditional porridge made from meilie-meal

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Simba

Simba is from Somalia. He has been in the UK for four and a half years. For three years he lived in a hostel in Manchester supported by the National Asylum Support Service. He moved to Brighton to be with his brother in 2010. His asylum case was refused but because Somalia is not considered safe, he cannot return.

SimbaBefore we start, you’ve chosen a name that you’d like to be known as?
Yes Simba, it means ‘lion’ in Swahili.

OK and can you tell me a little about yourself?
My name is Simba, I am 23 years old from Somalia, which is in East Africa . I’ve been living in the United Kingdom for four and a half years, in different cities. I lived in Liverpool, I lived in Manchester, which is in Salford, and for the last year and a half I’ve been living in Brighton. Today I am going to talk about life as an asylum seeker. It’s not easy because I think you don’t get recognition like anyone else in this society.  Most of the time you feel left alone by everything, because you don’t get any rights as anyone else who is British or who has status in this country. I lived in Manchester for three years and it was really hard because I didn’t have anyone there so I was living in NASS accommodation, which was on Section 4. Section four is accommodation and voucher. So I’ve been living on that for two years and a half years in Manchester. I was studying, attending college and have three years studying English. I finished that and I went to IT Practitioner course. So it has never been easy because most of the time I get evicted and I have to sleep on carpet, I have to ask from my friends who I was living with to let me sleep in the living room because I didn’t have anywhere to go. The only option I had was to move to come to Brighton to live with my older brother. But most of the time I was engaged in education so I didn’t want to leave what I have started, so I was determined to sleep even on the streets just to get my qualification. So most of the time it’s not easy because you haven’t got friends to talk to, you haven’t got money to go anywhere with your friends. Even if you have friends who are local, who were born here, most of them they have a certain income they go to the cinema or bowling or anything just to entertain themselves. But in my case, I can’t afford to do anything like that. So it is really, really difficult because I was 18 when I came here, so I think at 18 years old I would like to do like any teenager at that age. You want to go to the cinema, you want to go bowling, you want to go to any kind of entertainment, you want to go eat outside McDonalds, you know? But it makes you realise that it’s really hard but you have no choice you have to live according to the standard which you can afford.

Can you say a little bit more about being evicted?
Yes, so you only get support when you have an ongoing case. So if you get refused they straight away send you a letter to say you‘ve got only two weeks to leave the accommodation. So, you can imagine how difficult it is for such people like us. We don’t have anything, we have nothing, we have no one, we have no family. Where will you go? You have to go any place you can go. It’s either to sleep on the street, or a friend, and not every friend is generous to let you sleep, even if they will let you sleep they will let you sleep for a day or two.

And when you were on Section Four, what was that like? What support did you get?
Er they gave me a room which I share kitchen, bathroom and living room with another four people, so including me we were five. And weekly I got vouchers and the vouchers are £35; so I go and buy with that my food, my toiletries. At the same time I have to save enough money so I can get a bus to go to college, because there was no college near where I lived. I have to go through town and it’s a different kind of bus company so I have to get another bus to get to college. So I was taking two buses, which are two different companies, so its two different tickets, or you have to buy one which is expensive. So it was really hard. So I had to save from my food money to buy bus pass to go to college.

And how often were you going to college?
I was going college 3 days a week to 4 days, yes. When I was doing English classes, my ESOL classes, I was going three days, then when I started IT I was going four days, and obviously I leave home about seven in the morning until in the evening so I must eat at college which is something I couldn’t afford, you know?

So you lived like that for three years?
For three years. And my brother used to tell me to leave everything and come to Brighton. But I want to get educated ‘cos I don’t want to live here and not be educated. This is opportunity so I can educate and get some qualifications then work and you know I want to work, to look after myself and I can give back  something, back to the community and to the government, I can pay taxes. So the whole point of me being educated is to have a good job, good life at the same time to help the community, you know? I pay back for people who are not working, they get their benefit because the opportunity is there for me to study. But since I moved here I am not allowed to study. Since I left Manchester last year in July I haven’t received any payment or anything from government: no accommodation, no voucher. So for one year and a half  I’ve not a single penny or help. I did apply for permission to work but they refused me.  I did apply so at least I can study or something instead of me staying at home with no chance to do anything. So you can imagine how difficult it is and most of the time I get frustrated, I get stressed and depressed but I don’t like to tell the world what I’m going through. But sometimes it’s good to take things off your chest, you know? ‘Cos I live in a studio flat with my brother, there is no freedom. He is partially blind and I am looking after him so you can imagine he sleeps there and I sleep on the sofa. For a year and a half. Even he sometimes wants some space and wants to be on his own, and sometimes, most of the time I can’t sleep because I have a lot of things in my mind. So I wake up in the middle of the night 2 sometime 1 o’ clock at night. I get dressed and I walk to the beach, and that’s where at least I take my anger out. I collect some stones and start throwing them on the water until I calm down. Then I walk back home and try to get some sleep. But it is really hard, because it is hard for people who have everything, so what about us? It is harder. It is so difficult you know? You can’t do anything. I am a young guy, I am healthy, I can work, I can do something with my life. Why am I not allowed to work? I am stranded. I’m not allowed to study, I’m not allowed to work, I’m not receiving anything, how can I survive? So before you even get your status I think the system makes sure you are corrupted in a way. The system makes you depressed, stressed so even if tomorrow you get your status, you are not capable, you are not capable. You might be capable physically, but mentally you are not because what you are going through. I have been going through this for 4 years and half and I don’t even know when I will get my status, I don’t even know. So at least you have hope, okay you have been told to wait for ten years, so ok you have choices. So either you wait 10 years or you don’t, if you can’t then you go back home.

And what do they tell you when you go to Croydon?
Yeah, I go to Croydon to sign, I’ve been signing for 4 years and a half. I’ve never missed even one time. Even last I went on 2nd December this year which is about 2 weeks ago, I went to sign; today I received a letter saying you didn’t come to sign so we will come to arrest you at any time. So can you believe what’s going on? How would you feel if someone was sending you, like threatening you? I did my duty. They asked me to sign and I was there. I have got evidence, I have a ticket which is printed with my name that I attended and my ticket for next time. I even asked them ‘Can you take me back?’ The sad thing, okay you not giving me any papers, you are not giving me permission to work, I asked them, ‘Can you take me back? And they say ‘No we can’t take you back’.

Why do they say that?
They say because under UN law you not allowed to take anyone back to Somalia. So there you go, you can’t take me back, why don’t you make it easy for me, at least you make my life easy. Okay don’t give me status give me permission to work, or allow me to study, or help me with something. I’ve got no choice you know? That’s why asylum seekers end up in trouble. Because okay, I have a brother - whatever he has we cook together and eat. But most asylum seekers they have no one you know? That’s where they end up committing, you know, they go against the law because you’ve been left without a choice you have no any other alternative. The only alternative is to do something against the law which I’m not willing to do that.

How often do you have to go up to East Croydon?
Um I sign once in three months, which is not bad. But back in Manchester you used to sign once in every week, every Friday I sign for a period of two years every Friday. So imagine you are out, but more like you are in prison. Because you can do whatever you want, but on Fridays you must be there to sign.

When my appeal was refused they sent me a letter saying you have to leave. At that time they had already moved me to different places for accommodation. Already I lived in Salford, they moved me to another city another town near to Manchester.They sent me to Bolton, then I left Bolton. They sent me to another place near Manchester city stadium somewhere then another place. So they don’t even let you get to know the community, the people around you, so wherever you go you are always stranger. You don’t feel okay. You know what? Now I will be living here in Brighton. This is my home. They are trying to make it harder and harder, why? Because they want you to give up. Okay, I’ve given up, take me back home. No you can’t take me back home. What choice have I got? No I’m stuck, I’m stuck. I’m 23 but my brain, my mental state is tired like someone who is retired. I am only a young person because of what the system is putting us through. You really want things to get better, but I don’t see anything getting better to be honest.

How do you feel about being in Brighton?
I love Brighton. To be honest compared to the places I’ve been; I’ve been living in Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton, Brighton is much better because you feel safe. It’s quiet compared to the places I lived before and there is nothing more important in life than feeling secure. They say you feel safe, because what made us come here was security, security. We didn’t come here because we wanted to, we came here because of the situation back home, that’s what made us come here. If tomorrow my country is safe, if it has a government, tomorrow I will go. I’m looking forward to going back, because who wants to live in a strange place where you have no family, no friends. We have friends like any other kids, we grew up with friends you know? We had friends which we went to school together, to the Madrasah. No one wants to come and live in England, or anywhere and to leave everything behind. But we have no choice. Like now in Brighton I’m enjoying it in a way, because I feel safe. I can walk any time, I can walk no one will ask me what I am doing, where you are going. So even if it’s dark, that’s why I told you sometimes 1 or 2 in the morning I walk to the beach you know? No one ever says anything to me. Compared to Manchester where when it’s dark it’s a bit scary!

So is the beach one of your favourite places?
Yes it is because that’s where I get freedom and peace of mind you know? I go there, I sit down and reflect what I have been doing for the last 3 years since I’ve been here you know? Bringing back the memories. I’ve made a lot of friends in Manchester because I’ve been going to college where you can make friends. But in Brighton in another way it is difficult for me ‘cos I have no friends. The only place to make friends is either you go to school, college, university or work place basically. Which since I’ve been here I haven’t been to such places. I haven’t been to college, I have no friends it’s just me and my brother.  I only know a few friends and I hardly see them. I hardly go anywhere with them. So security wise it’s good and its beautiful; the beach is my favourite part because I was born near beaches.

And you go there at night? Is that the best time to go to the beach?
Er yes, because when you go in the day you get that feeling of being left out because you see people there are enjoying themselves. Someone with his friends or someone with his family, you know? I don’t know such thing. I don’t have any social life you know? So the only time for me, so I like to go at night because I don’t see anyone. It is just me and the beach. But when I go during the day, I feel ok, they’re having ice cream, I want some but I can’t afford it so it gives me more pain. So I’d rather, I’d prefer not to go during the day ‘cos the only thing I can do is just go and look at people which is not nice.

Mm so socialising and making friends you need money
Of course. You make friends and okay what you doing this weekend? They will tell you ‘Oh we are going to the cinema, we are going for a meal’. All that needs money you know? No income for four years and half, no source of income. How can I afford to do that you know? It is really difficult.  I will love for the people who make decisions on behalf of us, I will love one day for them to be in our shoes so they will understand what we are going through you know? You just sit on the desk and just make decision on someone’s life, but you don’t know what kind of effect you are making on that person’s life. You just sit there and read on the paper ‘Oh he says this, he says this, we think he’s lying or he has done this’. But you don’t know what kind of human being he is, he wants to live like anyone else. I’m depressed, I’m frustrated, I’m stressed but I try to smile and I try to not show people what I’m going through.

Yes you always have a happy disposition.
Yes, yes. I try to express myself to people like I’m okay and I’m happy, but deep down I’m dying, you know? Deep down I’m dying. My case, I don’t understand what’s going on in my case. My brother who was an asylum seeker like me, he came from Somalia and from asylum seeker he became a citizen. He’s been a citizen for the last 15-18 years. How come I’m not? My brother is; you agree and accept that he is my brother, he’s Somalian, but I’m not?

He came over here before you?
Yeah he came here 1994-5

And he got refugee status?
Yes, yes. He got refugee status, they accept him. He’s Somalian, he got leave to remain, British passport and everything, but I’m not. How can we be brothers and he’s from Somalia and I’m not? How is that possible? The system makes you feel unwanted. It makes you feel like that you’re not part of this community, you’re not part of this world. Okay, I’m not part of it, okay make a decision. Okay I’m not part of it, take me home. You can’t take me home.

It’s a bit of a mess isn’t it?
It is, it is. Because you know, someone sits there and they make decisions on your behalf and he doesn’t know what effect it has on your life. There are people with families, they left everything they had because of the situation and security, and ran they for their safety and they came here and they sleep on the street. You take one day of your life just take one week, don’t work, don’t get any money, just live without money for a week. No food, or someone gives you food, okay we giving you £5 for a week. Then understand what we’re going through.

Mm, and what  qualifications did you study for when you went to college?
Yes I’ve done ESOL level one, numeracy level 2 qualification, literacy level 2, level 2 in IT  essential and I’ve got level 2 IT practitioner.

Wow, yes. So you worked hard at college to get your qualifications.
Of course I did, I never missed. My attendance was 98% and about the only days I missed is when I’m going to sign, which my teachers knew about, or if I was ill. I couldn’t make it sometimes if I didn’t have a bus pass to go there and I couldn’t walk. It’s a one hour walk, Manchester in winter time even here, how can you walk for one hour? But now I’m stranded. I want to carry on with my studies, no chance.

It’s interesting that you could do it in Manchester but you can’t in Brighton
Yes I’m telling you life as an asylum seeker is not easy.

No
It’s not easy. Someone who hasn’t got much patience might easily go and do something stupid, I’ve seen a lot of people who have lost their lives because of this.

Okay, that’s a powerful story.
It’s something I go through everyday of my life you know? Nothing to do.  You wake up there is nothing to do, you have breakfast, nothing to do, you sit down, where will you go? You walk in this cold? No you can’t walk in this cold. Will you be going out every day? No you can’t. You are stuck at home. Four walls; I always talk with the four walls. I only live in a studio flat. Sometime even me I want privacy you know? We’re human beings we want some time just to be by yourself. But you can’t get that. I can’t ask my older brother, who is partially blind, ‘Oh leave I want privacy’. It is not my place and even if it is I wouldn’t tell my brother to leave.

So I would love to ask the people who are making decisions on my behalf to consider what they would do. Or someone who has a son or daughter, how will you feel? Your daughter is, for example, she went abroad and she is going through what we are going through, how will you feel as a human being? Then you will understand, because you can’t just sit down and make decisions on people’s lives without consideration.

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Son

Son is from Sudan, she came here with her husband in 1991.

SonCan you compare life in Brighton with life where you have come from?
Life in Brighton is completely different to where I came from, in many cases it is the complete opposite. Although I am Christian, I was born and grew up in an Islamic country until the age of 28. Living in an Islamic society differs from living in a Western society; especially a place like Brighton and being a woman only highlights this. Therefore my past experience will be a mixture of both cultures; my own and that of the Islamic.

The most prominent things that I've noticed since immigrating to Brighton is the differences in lifestyle compared to where I used to live. For example, the night life and the culture associated with it. The clubs, bars, pubs, discotheques, loud music, alcohol, people sick on the streets, loud noise late at night in the weekends, ladies smoking, ladies wearing revealing clothes, people on the beach naked, vulgar swearing, couples kissing and promiscuous sex.

On the positive side I have noticed the respect for the other no matter how people disagree on opinions they still respect each other, everyone is equal and everyone has the same rights. People are tolerant and accepting to other cultures, people are polite and they always use “please”, “thank you” and “sorry”. Women can go out on their own in their daily life without being harassed and they have full equal rights.

People can worship what they choose without being oppressed or their lives and livelihoods threatened. Anyone and everyone has a chance to learn and better themselves even if they are old or disabled. I also noticed how everything is organised and planned meticulously over here, for example, traffic lights and zebra crossings, and how everyone respects this order; people also take a great care in time keeping. This is just a small list but I must say the good outweighs the bad.

I have had to adapt on many levels. Firstly, I had to learn the language and get to know the people and their culture, what pleases them and what offends them, how they communicate with each other, how they express themselves, what etiquettes they follow. I have tried to understand life from their perspective and how they view it. To be able to deal successfully with one culture you first have to know as much as you can about that culture.

Then I had to catch up with technological changes between here and my home country and I had further my skills to make them relevant to this society. I learned how to use computers and studied a few City & Guilds courses in Interior Design and Soft Furnishing to enable me to work. I also learned a few skills to help me perform jobs around the house, like painting, decorating and fixing minor problems.

To make life easier with my growing responsibility it was also important to learn to drive. I had to adjust to the rainy cold climate as well, to go out no matter the weather, which was a big shock to the system. Mentally, I have had to adapt in the way I think to match the culture I am living in and also the way I talk and behave, to survive you need to blend in to be accepted.

I cannot find many similarities between Brighton and where I lived before, other than sharing Earth as their location they each exist in their own little microcosms. Each has unique system and each is a different way of life. I think that both societies are searching for ultimate happiness by following their own convictions and they both want to live in peace and just get by.

My social network is not large; it is divided between family, the church community and few relatives and friends.

Can you tell me about your background?
I am Christian, my denomination is the Coptic Orthodox Church; I see my ethnicity as Coptic Egyptian. My grandfathers moved south from Egypt to Sudan over a century ago to escape religious persecution in Ottoman Egypt. I was born in Khartoum and attended a Catholic convent school and then studied Philosophy at Cairo University. I got married at the age of 21 to my husband who worked as a Paediatrician in Sudan. We came to England in 1991 for my husband to attain his MRCP and other modern medical qualifications and for the opportunity to work here.

I have four young adult children; two sons and two daughters. A 25 years old son who has recently graduated in Medicine and will start working as a doctor soon. I have another son aged 24 who studied Computer Science and currently works as a Computer Engineer. I have two daughters; the first is 23 years old and about to graduate this year with a Psychology degree and the youngest is 19 years old and will go to university later this year to study Fine Arts.

I do soft furnishing and interior design on occasion for family and friends.

How is your family life different here?
Family life is different here, where I came from family is the centre of life. Family members and relatives see and communicate with each other on a daily basis; they are there in every situation: in weddings, births or funerals. Everyone knows what everyone is up to. Work does not take most of the day and people are more relaxed. Over here I feel that work takes up most of a person's time, everybody is always stressed and family members have no time for each other and everybody lives in their own little world.

Where I came from there is no doubt there is a greater respect for ones parents and ones elders, they are loved and honoured. Over here I see children grow up without enough respect for their parents or their surroundings. This growing disrespect is certainly on the rise compared to two decades ago when I first arrived. I do not blame the parents as much as I blame the media for exploiting children and exposing them to all sorts of bad role models. There is not enough emphasis on trying to raise a well-rounded generation.

My role as wife and a mother has changed as well; my responsibilities have become more varied and more loaded. Whereas before I was responsible only for looking after my children and the cooking, now on top of that I have to take the children to and from school, do all the house chores, get the shopping, coordinate my children diaries and their dentist and doctors appointments, etc., and then because of my husband’s long working hours I take over some of his duties such as bookkeeping, banking and taking care of the household finances and so on. I even have had to do most of the gardening and decorating around the house.

Whereas it wouldn't cost much in Sudan to hire people to do these jobs for you or assist you in doing them, it is unaffordable to do that here.

I worked for some time in soft furnishing and interior design, one of the places I have worked at recently is C&H Fabrics in Eastbourne.

Could you tell me about your experience of learning English?
I learned English early on in school up until high school. I was always better at reading and writing than at speaking as we did not really practice the language. When I came here at first I felt as if I had learned nothing. Firstly, because the accent is totally different from what I had learned at my Catholic convent school run by Italian nuns. Secondly, people here seemed to speak faster and shortened the end of their words. Things improved a bit after I started watching TV and reading any newspapers and magazines that I could get hold of.

Going out and actually speaking to others in everyday life was the best way to learn for me, it was so hard and embarrassing at times but it was the only way to learn speaking English properly. I must say that I have found all the people here understanding and encouraging and it made me feel more confident and enthusiastic about learning the language. I also enrolled myself in several ESOL courses and obtained several certificates which enabled me to feel confident in handling my everyday tasks like talking to others on the phone, writing letters and so on.

My husband’s job has taken us around the UK where I experienced different accents and dialects and I used them with the locals. I used to hear all kinds of slang when my kids were in schools.

I speak Arabic which is my first language, although the language of my people (the Copts) is Coptic, which was used by the Egyptians before the introduction of Arabic, the Arabs and Islam in to Egypt. As well as learning English at school I also learned some French.

I use different languages for different situation. I use Arabic to communicate with people from my community and at home. Sometimes I use the opposite language as a secret code to communicate freely when I need privacy.

How do you think people see Migrants?
Unfortunately, a lot of people here are influenced by the tabloids and their ignorant propaganda and misinformation. They see all immigrants as financial burdens who come to the UK only to leech off the welfare system and undermine British society.

They do not take time to consider or differentiate between each immigrant's circumstances and they do not appreciate the contributions and benefits they give to society. Generally, I have found the more educated a person is, the more they appreciate other cultures and the more aware they are of the role immigrants provide in society. This ignorant approach makes me feel unappreciated and unwelcome even though I am participating fully in society as any native born Briton is.

How would you like to be seen?
I would like to be appreciated for what I offer to society. I given my children a good upbringing and raised them with good values. They have all been successful in their academic life: three of them have finished their higher degrees; Medicine, Computer Science and Psychology with the youngest yet to go to university and graduate in Fine Arts. My husband is a Consultant Paediatrician specialising in Neonatal care. He is also very active and prominent within the Coptic community and current issues and events within the community.

Is religion important to you? What is the role of religion in your life?
Religion did not take a centre stage in my life until recently but nevertheless I still kept all the good teachings of Christianity with me: treat others as you would like to be treated; be kind and loving; help who ever needs help, etc. I was not so deeply absorbed in religion though and took a more secular approach to things. A couple of years back I started to rethink my situation and then it became more apparent to me that secular society has many faults and it did not fulfil my spiritual needs. I came to the conclusion that the only way to have inner peace and harmony in my life is by knowing and trusting in God. Christianity is a faith and a way of life for me and by accepting Jesus Christ as my Saviour and the Holy Spirit as my guide; I’ll find hope and happiness in this life and in the afterlife as He promised. Without God in my life, I think life crisis or breakdown would have overcome me by now, but I do not have to face it alone therefore I feel confident and stronger with Him. Now I try to put Jesus' teachings and His will for me before anything else.

I attend Kings Church in Eastbourne and the Church of Christ the King in Brighton sometimes, as well as my Coptic Orthodox Church in Brighton.

As a Christian living in an Islamic society, we were looked at as second class citizens and were constantly pressured to submit to Islam. There is no religious flexibility in Islamic countries especially those with Sharia Law, such as Sudan. We were treated differently and were made to pay higher taxes. Alcohol was banned and females were not allowed to leave the house without a chaperone or without very modest clothing, even if you weren't Muslim; the punishment for not doing so was 50 lashes with a whip.

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Teferi

Teferi is from Ethiopia. He came to Brighton in September 2006 under the Gateway Protection Programme. Under this programme 79 Ethiopians who had been living in Kenyan refugee camps, often for many years, were re-settled in the City.

In this interview, Teferi begins by stating when he first came to Brighton and why. He considers the experience of the Gateway Community in coming to Brighton as refugees and settling here. He then reflects on his own experience as part of that community in arriving and settling here.

TeferiSo, when did you first come to Brighton?
September the fourth, 2006.

And how did you come?
We came as part of the new Gateway Refugee Re-settlement Programme. Refugees were coming who were living in the most vulnerable areas, like where the camps are. It is a human re-settlement programme which is initiated by DFID (The Department for International Development) and the Justice Ministry which is European Union, to avoid human catastrophe in the refugee camp areas near the Darfur region.

It is like a package and they focused on re-settling those who have stayed a long period in the refugee camp, to have any future and a second life somewhere. It is part of a project which has been, still it is going on. They’re taking from different ethnic groups, from different regions, from Rwanda, Congo. That is part of the group which I am included in. I am the beneficiary of that re-settlement programme. That’s why I came here.

Right. I’d like to invite you to consider the experience of the Gateway Community as a community in coming to Britain. You might want to think about how the community was prepared and the first impressions coming to Brighton, things that were surprising or unusual for people when they arrived?
Starting from the time when we just boarded the plane for a long trip?

Or even how you were prepared before coming to Britain.
I mean some of us have experience of just boarding a plane, but still, taking like eight, ten hours, without landing, it is a first experience for all of us, so, well, there was really excitement, a sort of excitement to know the area.

Then coming, there is like a 21 days induction programme before we came just to tell us what to expect, but when we arrived here, for most of the community it is a new experience. For some of the community members, just using a toilet, like a more sophisticated kind of toilet. Getting in and out of escalators like these moving escalators; it is, a total, everything was new when we came here, including the cooking materials, because most of us doesn’t have that kind of experience; we were used to have just cooking by wood, by firewood. When we came here, the people were just giving us support officers. We were having problems. Some of them were just forced to stay with one of, with the community members the whole night, because they were afraid that some of them might just burn down their house, because they don’t know how to open the gas bulbs (taps?) So, we have a great appreciation for their resilience. To keep up with our, because it is a really hard task each day, it is a daily challenge, and so they did their best, everyone, to make our life really smooth.

That was the support?
But still we were fascinated to see the bus journey. When you come from London, the first area you see, because the bus came by the main London Road, is Preston Park. That is the main, the first impression you see of Brighton. And so the flowers, people were joking and everything saying ‘Oh. it’s beautiful! Why do they waste such land without any farming and everything?’ That was their main impression, because most of us come from a farming area. We just plan everything according to the farming tradition when it is a barren land we leave it. But like just leaving such a big land for a public amusement and everything; it is like a waste. Yes. ‘Why do they waste it? It is green. There is rain and everything. Why do they waste it?’

Now the system also, the most, the biggest thing in, where you get big fascination is the people are orderly, you know? It is not crowded. Everyone is just focused and arriving at certain point, so you see that thing. In Africa there is no such thing. Time is plenty, you know? Everywhere you see, you see people gathered around something, just having shisha or just having coffee talking and everything. Here you don’t see nothing, just people are just walking or using bus and everything.

Then each day, the hospitality is really tremendous. Everything was really organised. You do really appreciate it. After living like five years, you know how everything is in and out, so you would see how much you had to have done for us to see, within that certain short period. Just because we tell them that we haven’t seen like a sea, a seafront, which is a new, a new experience for us, so they just arranged for us to take a ship. Everyone was excited, we were shouting! Then we were given mentors, volunteers from the community who were willing to sacrifice their time to stay with us for a day. So I just happened to have a good mentor. For my wife, she does have one mentor. She just came in and prepared British food, you know British cuisine, in our home. For me she is really a good woman working at City Hall. She gave me the opportunity to experience a train ride, because in our country there is only one train which runs from Dire Dawa to Djibouti, which is slow, crowded and so many. But this one, when you see the bus system, train system, they are keeping on time and everything, and you think, ‘Oh! How are they managing to do this?’ Because in our area there is no such thing as timing. If a person gives you, ‘Let us meet at five.’ It means, let us meet at five or six, but here you should have to be there before 30 minutes, no? Or the person just go! Because we don’t, in our area the culture is, ‘No, he doesn’t have, he doesn’t want to go anywhere, you know?’ I give him an appointment. ‘I will be there at five’, it means around five, it can come from four thirty to six. But here there is nothing like that thing. If you just say that, you should have to be there.

So that was a surprise?
Everything was a surprise. I’m just telling you, from inside the home, outside the home. And you know just every aspect, you don’t have like, when you go to any country there are three cycles which everyone experiences. The first is expectation, excitement. Then, after reaching here, the second phase is, you see so many cultural shocks. The biggest shock is, we have been warned, and also we have seen it here, because most of the community were given accommodation around the city where these similar sex people are living, you know? So it is like a taboo and whenever we come we just raise it and say, ‘Oh! It’s horrible! How do they do this?’

Oh you mean like gay culture and the gay community?
Yes and lesbians. I mean most of them were given accommodation around Brighton seafront area where there are gay bars and everything, so everyone when they just, because it is a period of excitement, everything is a cultural shock. And where you just pass anyone, you just say, ‘Hi! How are you? Good morning. How is your family? Depending upon your life or what, like if you are a farmer you just start talking about the weather, farming and everything. If you are a nomad and you are herding cattle, you just talk about the cattle, then come back home and just talk about your wife, children. Here everyone is individual, you don’t have, it is like a sharing in our area. Even if you just drink a tea, you should have called, you never.

Really. Even small?
Anything. Because it is like a culture where, just for the benefit of both for the one who is invited, also for the one who is giving. It is like ‘God will bless it and it makes plenty.’ So it like a cultural thing. You don’t have to eat alone, just share it. Even if it is a bread, you should have to share it. But here it’s, no. People are tempted just to call your neighbour to say, just call, ‘We are having coffee, it isn’t ceremony, just come in,’ But no, we have been told not to intrude on your neighbours. So that is the main cultural shock when you. Now in the settled stage now you have just settled in with the community. That is how we have managed to go with the cycles.

Yes. So you feel you’re in the third stage of?
Yes.

You’ve talked about some of the positive experiences arriving and some of the difficulties. What helped? You talked about the mentoring. Were there things that were particularly difficult apart from what you’ve mentioned? What helped at the time or would still be of help to the community, thinking about matters such as employment, education, benefits and information that you were given? You’ve mentioned the resilience of the community in being able to cope each day with new experiences.
Not the community, I mean those who are interested with helping us. The resilience is for them, because for most of the community, to reach them, to explain to them, they usually need an interpreter and everything, and they come for the same issue again and again and again and again. Even for minor things. You know what I mean?

You mean the people who are supporting, the mentors or people from the community need to ask the same thing?
You know the first two years we were supported by professionals, you know like Migrant Helpline? They have vast experience. They have done it so many times, so I just appreciate their resilience, because they have gone through it. They know what the problem is. You know they are not frustrated if I just came again and again and again on the same issue.

I see, yes, so they were very patient.
Yes. They were patient and they just help you out, even for a certain person, when you go to public service, the health centre and everything, they just go beforehand to explain to the doctors to other benefit officers and everything, so when they go with you.

So that was a very positive experience and one that you appreciated and that was very supportive for the community.
They were understanding. For me and my family, we were left because they just understood that I can handle everything; but when I needed them, I just called them and just explained to them I am having these problems. First they couldn’t understand me. Just help me out, what should I have to do? Just go, like when I just needed university access, they just went to Brighton University, Sussex University, so they did the groundwork for me just to access it. For that they have made a good attempt; they have tried everything. It doesn’t mean they were perfect in every aspect. The most problem area was access to employability. It is an all around problem which still lingers on. I have tried with Sussex University. I have tried to establish a steering group for the others to just manage to engage local employers to accept us as a community. Despite our language barrier, some of our community can work, but still they can’t do it. We have achieved something because, irrespective of their language ability, some are still working, and they are developing their language skill by working and earning their income. That is what they are doing. That is really… It should have been done. My regret is it should have been done within five or six months. It would have made a change.

So it would have made a difference if the ground had been prepared with employers earlier?
Yes, earlier.

Maybe before you arrived even or anyway earlier?
I mean the process, the system, is already set. I think the problem is with the Work and Pensions minister, because they are the one who set that thing…You should have to be dependent on benefits, so that the work and pensions and other local authorities can intervene, make an approach to make contact work link. They just try to outsource job opportunity for you. But it is the system, because the work and pensions have already established that thing. To get on those working links, those who make contact with employers, to reach to them, you should have to stay on the benefit for 18 or more months.

So there’s an actual time that you have to remain..?
On the benefit. So that is when the government gets fed up, like after you received a payment(?) which means after 18 months the government will get fed up then they will send you, refer you to the priority or agents. There are agents, like work link, and they will just go, take you in person to the employers, explain your situation and then you manage. So most of them have work now, but it should have been done. You know in our culture you lose your self-respect, even within your family, once you end up just getting benefits. So most of the community members were getting frustrated and one ended up making a suicide. He died. He hanged himself at home, because he stays daily at home getting depressed, and at last he hanged himself in the bathroom which is a horror for his children. And so, with that trigger point, I just started to talk with the communities, and in Brighton it is known that there is a problem in getting work, because there is big competition with university students and college students. Everyone is seeking for the same job, but still there is long experience in this area accommodating those with poor English skills from Caribbean countries and Spanish areas. They usually do this catering service, bed-making, cleaning and everything. They use it like a buddy system. You know buddy system? So they could have used that buddy system with our community.

And that could have been helpful as a bridge to employment…
Yes. To employment. And they would have achieved, rather than wasting so much money on language courses and everything. Once you start working you just would be forced to use it. You know when

So the language comes through working…
That is the best way, rather than just giving them three days a week, like you should have to stay under sixteen hours of language study.Beyond 16 hours you lose your benefit. So our community just started to study 3 days. After one hour’s study they go back home; they start to talk their language, sliding back, because they don’t have anywhere to practise it. You know if it had been that they were staying for almost 8-10 hours in their workplace with different people, with their boss, they would be forced to talk it. And so you can see it, because most of them have already started a job and they are perfect when you look at them, despite they have a problem just writing, they are able to communicate and speak.

Through talking?
Yes.

So is there still a problem with members of the community searching for work?
Almost everyone has a job now. Now the second problem is getting the housing. The other thing is cultural. You know, after we arrived here, most families who came with their children, their children started to attend the mainstream class in the school system, so they became perfect in adapting their language skill and they are proficient and everything, so when they come back home there is still a problem of communicating with their own families, because are losing touch with their culture and everything.

Are they losing touch with their actual mother tongue?
Yes, because there is not any opportunity so far, except for those studying Koran; they study Arabic in mosque which gives them a free language, but in terms of learning their local language and also they are losing.

So are they losing Oromiffa?
And also the culture. No. The culture by itself, just respecting their families. So some of the community families have already re-located to Norwich. The main reason is that the girls are growing up fast, so they can’t control them which is hard for us as a community, because there is a cultural gap as a community. So they don’t want to lose them properly, so they selected Norwich, really more because the immigrants are more organised. They have a cultural school, a language school.

Were there people from your community already in Norwich?
They have already re-located the community.

But were there people already there who were from the same community that they could relate to?
Yes. I mean, as I started the interview I have mentioned that. It was like a batch, the first batch came to Sheffield.

Yes. Yes. From the Gateway Protection Programme.
Yes. From Kenya, we were the first one, the first batch. Then the next batch came into Bolton, then Sheffield. Now it is like five or six trips. Each batch is like 80 community members and different. So, depending on the area and local concerns, some have a better opportunity of getting a settled life; like Bolton, most of the community are black, have the council house, a well-established community. They are given good access to develop their culture and everything, and they have a chance of getting an employment as there is a car factory and everything. But, even with that condition, they are complaining the community there is not tolerant like Brighton. Brighton is a tolerant society.

Is that what you’ve found?
Yes. It is multi-ethnic, because everywhere you go you see different colours, skin, language. Even on the bus, we just hear different languages when people are speaking with their telephone. You can hear, you know? You don’t feel insecure.

You don’t feel insecure?
You don’t feel insecure, because if you just get a telephone call, if you think that everyone is British and ethnic one it would be hard to pick out and start talking with your language, but here you can see in the bus different languages: Italian, Czech, Arabic. Everyone is talking a different language. It is a freedom, but when you hear in Bolton our community just call us and tell us, ‘Everything is OK but still we are not secure ourselves to send our children after dark to go to local shop and convenience store and everything, because they just have a problem with the community.

Sorry, they have experienced racism more in Bolton than they would have here, you think?
There is no race incident here, so far. We haven’t experienced anything. No-one has complained. I know they have put some snippets on me, but it doesn’t go far. Everyone just started to block it, because you don’t expect, wherever you go in the world, you don’t expect like every community would accept you at all. There are some incidents; the number is like one out of ten, one person, one would have his own personality on immigrants, the rest is happy. Even if he is not happy, he doesn’t disturb your life, he doesn’t show you up? You just face it. Out of all the buses you see in the city there are some bus drivers where you see the driver who is really reluctant even to talk at all or for you to board the bus. You can face it. If you are alone you don’t have to complain because there are some. It doesn’t have to mean they all are the same.

What about you? You’ve talked about the community as a whole, and about things that were very helpful on arrival and maybe before, in the induction time, and then the things that were difficult and that maybe could have been slightly changed in relation to employment, and you’ve touched on culture as well. You’ve spoken about that. I’d like to invite you to consider your own experience as part of the community in coming here, and whether there are aspects of that that you found particularly positive for you or whether there are things that are difficult, that have not been so easy?
I mean you just do your research and just read so many things. For me, when I arrive here, the first thing I do is just research about the community and communicate with the community. In the context of our arrival and around the area, so I just committed myself to prove that every immigrant is not just coming to pretend, just to grab an economic opportunity and everything. People are coming due to political instability in their homeland. Their life is unbearable in their homeland, that’s why some people are coming here. And still, we can contribute to the community, just give your time. You should have to prove yourself, not talking, I mean by work, give to the community. On the first day of my arrival which is held in the Brighthelm Centre. That is where we just arrived, the Reception Committee was there. You can just access it from BBC and the archives. I mean there was so much media coverage - it was the first incident. So from that day on I just learnt that the community around here is new to the experience of getting like a community, 80 families, refugees yes. They don’t know about us. They just might have, although they don’t express it, there is a fear inside them. They might think different things about us, and when you just go to the Job Centre, if you just see 80 community members waiting for benefits, they think that, ‘Oh they’re getting the taxpayer’s money.’ That’s what everyone might think. That is the main aim of my life just to prove that we are not what people expect us to be. So I just started here. I arrived here in September. I just started work here on October, November, the same year, 2006.

Within two months?
Two months, yes. I just came here [Cornerstone Community Centre] because this was the centre our community was given as a sort of meeting place. We were given accommodation in different areas. One family member is at Patcham, the other is at Hangleton, some are at Mile Oak.

Not only different members of the community, but different family members even?
Different family members were given different accommodation so we were spread out. We were used to living together as a refugee camp and everything, all the kids. Here we were spread out, so, each day, each family has its own experience daily, it doesn’t mean we don’t have any communication by telephone, but still each life, each community, each family’s daily life is, this is home, so the council hired this centre. I think the community centre gives them a free access to the meeting room..

Was this in Brighthelm Centre?
Here, here, at Cornerstone, here at the top floor. So we just usually come every 15 days like a community gathering, just talk, just come in and so we learned. We just talked about every daily life, everything, what is new, every accident. If someone had a problem, just switching on the light or not knowing something is funny, because it doesn’t mean. It is not a joke, but it is a practical thing that happened to us. You just usually miss it, not knowing that the siren would shout at you if you just smoke inside the house..

Oh yes, the smoke alarm!
Yes, so she just broke it because she tried to switch it, ‘I can’t switch it off!’ so she broke it [Laughs]. And when the warden heard the fire alarms they just called the police. So there is so much incident you know? And like an incident where the child, while she was running, she just broke her arm, so it blow out of proportion. It is out of control, because we are just coming here and we don’t have buggies or anything. She ran away from her father and she slipped and broke her wrist.

She was a little child who was running?
Yes. So they called the police and the police came in a group and started to just take a note and everything and so until our case officers were called from their home in the middle of the night. They just explained, ‘Oh, they are new arrivals.’ You know, it is a way of learning just through our mistakes.

Yes, and being able to communicate as well.
Yes, so each time I came here, down here, I just asked, can I do this thing? Because I have experience, so many qualifications, so many skills. I have tried to get a job but they say you have to do this voluntary thing, so I thought I would start again. After working here for two weeks or three weeks, I wrote an application for the British Red Cross. They called me in and called me to start work right away, as an administrative assistant. I started working there.

Interruption – a visitor enters.

You were saying, after two weeks, you got a job.
I just started working here as a volunteer just one day in a week, which is a Saturday. The first thing that I respected and appreciated from this Centre is their loyalty and everything. They just gave me a feeling, because I am new, they don’t know my past record, anything. They just take my word and gave me every opportunity to prove myself, so I just started to work here. So, I thought, ok one day is done, because I have now Saturday, a full day. You know, you just plan it, because the rest of the week I didn’t have anywhere to go, from Monday to Saturday. So I just applied to British Red Cross. They told me to start. I started that and at the same time my case worker, because he doesn’t usually come here, they just left me out, because they know that I can handle it. I am just writing an application. I couldn’t sleep.

So who was leaving you out? Was it the support worker because they felt you could manage?
Yes, because I told them I can manage. I don’t want.

So this was actually some time ago? This was not recently?
I am just going back for four years. It is the time when I arrived here.

So you were actually given work by the British Red Cross.
Yes. I started work there for almost 8 months.

And where was that based?
Hove. And they were really helpful, because at that time you know we were having a problem. The other things that were given to us, that was supposed to be given to us, like child benefits, child tax credits and everything. It took them like 8 months to process it and give us. So we were living with my Jobseeker’s Allowance. Each fifteen days it was hard for us to feed ourselves, you know. I can’t, sometimes I will just, we were having a fortnight, without any food. Because you can’t go anywhere. We were far away from each other. You can’t just loan sugar or bread from anyone, so the community from here, they raised some items, like food items and everything, and they just give us. Also, some people just give us from their pocket money, because it was hard to stretch it. Because I have two daughters. My wife is there. The Jobseeker’s Allowance doesn’t count the children. It’s calculated on me and my wife, that is the Jobseeker’s Allowance. So everywhere you go they tell you, when I just shout and complain and everything, ‘Why do you have to worry? It will come like a bulk payment.’ Because it is saved. It comes like a bulk money. No! That is a British way of saying because how do you expect a person with no other income, without any savings, who came from Kenya, ‘Oh, let it stay. I’ll get it at the end of the day!’ This is like a saving. But, how can I live today, without any support? Because there is no-one who can lend me, like I can’t take a credit from my convenience store, from my community and everything. Everyone was having problems. So, I think there was a problem here within the communities, because everyone was desperate, so the council just took out a certain amount of money and just gave it to one of our youngsters to distribute it with our community to buy and everything. Because they are teenagers, they spent it. They should have done it properly because they have a car and everything and they have the address. It should have been done. I am not complaining, but there are some misgivings which happened as a way of living in Brighton. My neighbours didn’t know that I am starving. You know what I mean? Because they don’t know we are refugees, we are awaiting child benefit, our income is Jobseeker Allowance. We are forced to pay electricity from that money, water. So it was hard, so I just go straight to the council official’s office and they get from their pocket. They just pull out their wallet and just give me. ‘We’re sorry. We don’t want you to have such a problem. No we have planned it we have given a certain amount of money.’ I know I have heard it. It is not an excuse, because that person, that child, is a teenager. He is not a responsible one. He just got an easy money.

So you never got that money?
No. But you don’t blame them, because they thought ‘Oh that community. They respect each other. They help each other out.’ But it didn’t happen. Of all places me, I was most remote area, because my living area was Mile Oak.

Oh, that’s far.
Far away and even when I got sick and was in a coma. The community did find it hard to just visit me, because we just visit. Even now we just visit each other.

Yes. Where were you when you were sick?
I went to Worthing.

Worthing. Oh I see.
Because it is nearer to Worthing from Mile Oak. The ambulance took the shortest because I am near to Shoreham rather than Brighton, Sussex, Hospital. So I stayed for 10 days in Worthing. I was in coma because I didn’t know that I have diabetes

Oh, so you were diagnosed with diabetes and you didn’t know?
I didn’t know. Something triggered it you know, because I knew at that time I was really frustrated. It was really, yeah, I was under pressure, because it is really hard to keep your children without food.

Terrible.
Yes. Terrible. It doesn’t mean that people weren’t helping because everyone, I just kept coming here for last four years as volunteer, because of that incident where, their, help, their loyalty.

Yes, because, yeah, it had been extended to you.
Yes. I just kept coming here and just working for five years without pay, to this centre. Also, I do work like MACS you know, money advice? Money Advice and Community Support. They are the ones who arrange for mentoring. They just distributed the fliers for the community in Brighton and Hove to give like their time as a mentor for new arrivals, so they just train them with induction courses so they just matched us.

What was the name of that organisation?
Mentoring. The Take Part Project. I think it is like a duplicate. It started in Birmingham or something. That is the first.

So was it people from the local community here who were doing the mentoring and was it mentoring for people within your community that actually helped you to make bridges and gain support in order to actually get work or?
Their main focus is, since they are giving their free time, it is a programme. Some of them just go beyond that, because it has like restrictions, boundaries working between mentoring and them. But some of them they go a long stretch, they give them everything. They just share their properties. Yeah. They are supposed to meet once in a week; they just go each day, because now they are like friends. Still now they are friends. My mentor is now in– she changed her job. She became a manager for Age Concern, but still we have contact.

So that mentoring is really important.
It is the best, it is the most productive activity which I have seen so far.

Really?
Yes. Because they are giving you everything. Because they are a part of the community.

And it’s a bridge.
Yes. It is a bridge into the community

You were highly qualified doing - I don’t know if you want to say the work you were doing - before you came?
Mm. No, No.

As I understand it, you have been doing very different work here recently, as a traffic warden?
Yes. Yes.

And I wondered how that has felt and what that daily experience feels like, whether there is any daily frustration in that or not or whether you feel satisfied by that or if there’s anything we can learn?
Yeah. I mean, the best thing in that is hitting at the benefit cycle you know. The benefit cycle. There are a few community members who are still getting the benefit with one excuse, another excuse. With my diabetes there is a condition. I am eligible to get the disability allowance and stay at home and do it, but for me my wish and my ambition is to contribute with the law aspect of the community and immigration and everything.

The law aspect?
So I am just getting a training. I just have finished my course at the university.

A legal training?
Yes. At the university. I’ve just finished. I am doing a second degree there. I am doing my LLM and I am doing my dissertation now. So, in the meantime, you do want to have a sort of income, which I believe is the fruit of my labour. I don’t want to stay on the benefit. That’s why I’m doing it. Someone has to do it, although I resent it, having to do it. The public resent it, but still it is a job to do. For me it is like just saving expenses, you know. As a diabetic, and with a health problem, I am required to have like physical training, exercise, yoga and everything which needs an extra expense. You know what I mean? I can’t get just a job and just do it and I wish I would do it. The most frustrating thing now is getting a solicitorship, a barrister job, any legal security job. There is a barrier which says that you should have to procure a five year stay in UK, you know? You should have to get clearance, a criminal record clearance.

You have to be resident in the UK for five years before you can actually get.
Yes. Residence. It doesn’t have to be in UK, but it can even be in Europe, but still what it is, is a criminal record for the last five years, which, if you just take it from last year, it would mean I should have to go to Kenya to clear out my name. That is a barrier. Everywhere you go there is a barrier, so to mete out this time I have started applying for citizenship now. So now it is a gateway and at the same time I just gained experience. It gave me opportunity to know the bad side of British, as a personality you know. You see different community members, from good respectable persons to the worst.

As a part of your daily work, this is your experience do you mean?
Yes. Everywhere, including here. I am just now a member of this community, like this area, like Palmeira area. The community just understand what I am doing here, you know the Hove Police Station, everyone knows who I am. You know I am just contributing to this community. And each day you just meet different people and you just get with them explain to them the problem is this. You can’t go and just talk to every person. British is a good country, but still, the system is not good, because the system is blocking everything. No, if you just have a limit, like 5 year, even if you’re proving that you’re doing good work, like community service, volunteering.

You still have to wait that five years.
If not, the police wouldn’t give your criminal CRB check.

Yeah, You can’t get that Criminal Record Bureau clearance.
For five years. So, I am starting like a community policing.

Community Policing?
Yes, because of the incident with that Tottenham case, with, you know, the recent riot in London. The tension where there is that pressure and everything. So with that incident, I just apply, wrote report on how to improve relations between the black and ethnic minorities and the local communities relations. So, with that intention in mind, I just proposed some mechanisms just to press on. You shouldn’t have to wait until it is burst open like Tottenham. You should have to build a certain, a bridge now, in case something happens in the future. You should have to communicate with the black community and ethnic minority. That is what we are doing.

You have been really, really generous with your time. I just wondered also whether, in addition to talking about your own experience as part of the community in arriving and settling, if, you know, how you feel you would like the community to be represented?
I wish them to be represented as a productive part of the community, not like a burden who are imposed on the local community by the Home Office. I want the society, the local, the natives to understand us, that, although we have a different background, a different ethnic culture and everything, we are still part of the community. We want to contribute, because the local community have given us every opportunity. I am just happy my children have achieved so much within a short period. Now they are at university. One is at Westminster and she has succeeded in being one of 20 students from the local Oromo youth here to get a chance to be eligible to be able to attend classes in Westminster. She is at Westminster. The other one is at Greenwich University. And my wife is now a childminder, a qualified one, and now she is studying for Supervisor. I know that Brighton, the Council, is doing so many things for the community, but it applies to the Oromo Community, not for us.

When you say, ‘not for us?’
Even though we are part of the Gateway Community there are like 14 communities, 14 who are not Oromo. We came in on humanitarian grounds. So because of their number, because they can be defined as a community, because their number is more than 40, they were just registered as a charity organisation. Because our number is small, it doesn’t mean we are excluded. We have been given an invitation, because I am participating in everything. I am a member of the Refugee Forum; that is where you just have a chair to represent your community. The Oromo community have a Chair and I have my own.

So, although you are not part of the, strictly, Oromo Community, are you saying that you don’t feel excluded because you have the chance to represent yourself in the Refugee Forum?
Yes, if there is a problem I just go straight to Brighton and Hove City Council Refugee and Asylum’s Bureau.

Yes. The problem is with us we are not organised as a charity, with a Treasurer and a Chairman, with a full-time commitment to it. But still, the problem is I can’t do it because I have so many things, so whenever there is an event, if there is an invitation, one goes to the Oromo Community chairman, the other comes to me. So I would attend any event, like Refugee Action. I participate in Student Action for Refugees, that is the Sussex Refugee Student Action. There is a group there, Sussex University, Brighton University. I am a member with them and participate with their activities and. like today, I participated in the black minority ethnic health issue, which is like original consultation committee because the NHS, National Health Service, wants, as part of the Strategy Plan, they need to know about the black minorities groups’ issues, their aspirations, their suggestions, their input, so I just, (Pause) I don’t complain. They have given us everything. The community is really tolerant. You don’t expect more than that from this community. I know I have done some research with Brighton and Hove City Council and Sussex University in relation to refugees’ employability in Brighton and Hove and the barriers to employability and accessing employability here in this area and I have seen different areas’ experiences: in Australia, Canada. Brighton is really a good example. They are a good model and they have succeeded in doing it because there is no such big incidents in Brighton and Hove.

Compared with?
Others. It is a success if you come here, despite the shortcomings of getting housing problem. Just the access to employability, but still they have managed, the community, to integrate with the (local) community. All the community is now stable. You see something, but still the children are in the mainstream classes. You don’t complain at that. So people are growing up, there’s newcomers, new child numbers. Some of the community members have married local people.

So there’s been some integration in that respect as well?
There was a marriage. Yes, two, four? Two marriages, three marriages. And almost, so many child births, like eight. Eight family members have brought a new, and some of them have been twins. So it shows there’s stability and acceptance.

Is there anything that you would like to add to what you’ve said? I’m aware that there are other things I could ask, like aspects of culture that as a community you like to celebrate or sustain, and ways that you try to do that or aspects of culture that you might feel are being lost or not valued. I know that is another area.
I mean when you define culture, in terms of food or in terms of art, like dancing, music and everything?

Everything really.
Yes. In that case, still the community still is attached to our local cuisine. We just use our national food in our home and at the same time if there is a venue like People’s Day, like Christmas, (had I known that you were the one who was doing the interview I would have invited you) there was a big ceremony, because Brighton and Hove City Council have given them a fund that celebrates Christmas, so they did a big celebration with free dinner, dancing at Friends’ Centre. I wish I had called you. Maybe they would hold it in February? That is the most known Oromo celebration. That’s New Year or something, so I will invite you there so you can see our cuisine.

Thank you.
There is also, I will try to invite you when there is local, still we just keep it. People are now just getting used to hot meal, chilli, so if there is any celebration in some areas they give us a stall to display it. I think it’s BMECP. Do you know their office, behind the Jury Inn. Do you know the Jury Inn? When you go to the Jury Inn, behind the Jury Inn there is the Black Minority Ethnic Community Partnership. I think they have a day for European cuisine. I think there is an Iranian day, an Indian Day. They just put as a sort of menu for each day, giving them to Iran. If they have from the community coming in and sell their food, then they share the money. So it is a good opportunity for you to see and you could take a photograph. If you have a good photograph camera you could come.

That would be nice. That reminds me. As part of the project, I’m sure you know, Linda is trying to put together visual, you know, pictures or photographs for the exhibition. I wondered if you had any idea of ways in which your culture could be represented visually. I mean that’s one example you’ve just given, which is food.

Yes. Just be an opportunity to get it like on loan just for a short display period from each house for every house has its own, for a display for a short definite period. It would be a way to show it for a day, just put it on display on a stall so that people could, just to explain that this is an item that is used for this and this occasion and they can take a picture.

Oh yes. That would be good. I’m going to stop there, but thank you so much.
OK.

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Tofail

Tofail is from Bangladesh. He has been in the UK for 11 years. He does not have a permit to work and sees a very uncertain future for himself in the UK, but an even more difficult future in Bangladesh.

PassportTell me something about your experience of life in Brighton.
I am Tofail and I am 11 years in Sussex, Brighton. I have been living here a long time. Brighton is a very beautiful city, a large city and lots of beautiful buildings. I love it so much; so that’s why I come here to the Sussex, Brighton. I have been coming to Brighton Voices in Exile for one month and they are very hospitable to me, to take care of me because I am homeless. I am homeless so I have lots of problems, but they help with things and they help me try to make my life better, because I am blind for my future. I am here 11 years but I could not get a job, no work for me, no nothing.  I am homeless, so I have a lot of problems. I have family in Bangladesh, I cannot give any money to my family and to them for their studies so my life is floating on air or water; I don’t know what’s happening…I would like to make my life in UK. Brighton Voice in Exile help me and give me vouchers to live, food and they help me with my political cases and contact with the Home Office. Everything they are trying to do for me, my life and other help etc. So I am happy that Brighton Voices in Exile will help me in my future life and I will be very happy. Thank you very much

Can you tell me a little bit about your life in Brighton?
My homeland, my country is Bangladesh. I tour all the countries – London, America, Germany. At first I came to England in 1980 when I was a ship’s helmsman. I was working for 20 years with the shipping companies. I came many, many times to England and stayed hotels, boarding houses. I fly KLM, British Airways many, many flights I came to this country, and on the ship many, many times. After 2000 I cannot go back to my country so I am making asylum cases, but I cannot. The Home Office rejected my case in 2002. I couldn’t attend my asylum case because I didn’t have any money. They rejected my case so now I am trying again, trying to make a human life. Because I have been in this country a long time. For eleven years my life has been very isolated, without family. So my life, all my energy is finished. I would like to return, voluntary return to my country, I fail everything. So now I have nothing, no income, so I am thinking what shall I do if I have no work permit, nothing? People help me; I go to my friend, my friend helps me so that is why I am passing a long time. Now I am feeling tired. So I cannot work as well which is a big problem and physically feeling weakness. So I do not know what I can do. I go two times to the immigration to get back to my country but they don’t tell me after that. But now I change my mind. The situation is who do I come to? What can I do? I have no money, no income in the country. I have children.  I have two children and wife so I am thinking lots and thinking about my children’s life and my life, my wife’s life. My daughter was three when I left and my son was a baby. I cannot even give them money for food. My life and my wife’s life are already finished, but now I am thinking of my children’s life. So I don’t know what I can do, what will happen in my future life. My country is a poor country because lots of people and no income. So I went to America, London, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and I been in lots of countries so I liked England very much because I have been here a lot since 1980. So I am passing life in England and it is a very nice place in the world. That’s why I stay here to make my children’s lives. I am very hopeful that my children will study in this country because I can’t at the moment. I have no house, no income, nothing, no benefits, I am not taking anything, nothing . So now my hope is finished, now I don’t know what happens for my life, but for my children’s life I still hope, I hope I bring my children to study in this country.

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