With the Brexit referendum firmly in many British expats’ minds at the moment, one British woman, Rebecca Sumner Smith, 35, has set about finding out more about how life really is for Brits living in Europe.
Based in Berlin, she plans to travel to every EU country before the referendum in the UK to talk to an expat in every location about their lives there and how they feel the Brexit could affect them. She write about her travels on her We The EU blog.
It is estimated 5.5 million Brits currently live overseas, and of those around one to two million live in the EU. Sumner Smith has already been to 15 countries including Greece, Czech Republic and Malta.
Last week she arrived in Denmark to find out what life is like here for British expats.
“When I started the project, I wasn’t sure where I stood on the Brexit issue and I wanted to educate myself more about it by sharing perspectives with other expats living in Europe. But as time went on the project evolved into something more than that,” she told The Local.
“Increasingly I saw there was so much information about the actual referendum and the issues surrounding it but less about the real people and places in Europe. I think it has now evolved into something other than what I first intended, as the meeting with Brits in each country and writing about the countries themselves have really become the main focus,” she added.
So what has she found out so far?
“So much, especially about the recent history of Europe, and how lucky we are in the UK to be an island with stable borders and no recent land wars. Every country has its own character, but everywhere the issues are the same — the refugee crisis, the need for employment that pays a decent wage and the pressure on housing (especially in capital cities) caused by increasing urbanisation,” she said.
“The Brits I have met have been a real mix of those who have learnt the local language and those who have not, those who have integrated and not, and they have held views right across the political spectrum. The majority are living better lives than they think they could live in the UK, even if that isn't the reason they originally moved,” Sumner Smith added.
As soon as Sumner Smith arrived in Copenhagen she experienced the honest nature of Danes when she left her mobile phone behind in the airport's baggage reclaim area. After realising 45 minutes later she thought there was no chance of finding it. With help from security, she was able to get back inside.
“I had absolutely no hope that I would get it back, which was devastating as all the photos from the trip so far are on it. Unbelievably, a Danish woman had found it and was still in the hall waiting for her baggage, so was able to return it to me immediately. I was so grateful,” she said.
“After that, arriving Copenhagen was a bit of a rush and we dashed to get a locker for our luggage before meeting Melanie, our interviewee. The first locker we found had the number 23-06 — the date of the referendum – I knew Copenhagen was going to be interesting!”
To read more about Rebecca and We The Eu visit her website.