As a “EuroYankee”, I feel I should weigh in heavily on the so-called Brexit. I was not surprised at the Leave vote. The Brits have been complaining about the EU for years – and the EU had had to bend over backwards to accommodate them. Yes, Ok, they could eschew the metric system used everywhere else and keep their sacred pints. Yes, they can still measure highway distances in miles; yes, they can still give their weight in stones; yes, they can sell land in acres and not hectares like everywhere else. I just called my boss, who is staying at my house in Italy, and he informed me that the weather there was great, with a temp. of 85 degrees, when I knew damn well it was really 29.
When asked where they plan to vacation (or holiday), most Brits will still reply “oh we are going to Europe”. Since starting work for my London based employer I have become accustomed to this distinction, as in “we have offices in both the UK and Europe” or “we need to start work at 7am in order to accommodate our European customers.”
The Brits also insist on using AM and PM, which gets very confusing once you start doing business on an international/ intercontinental level. I have yet to meet a Brit who was really comfortable using 14:30 rather than 2:30 when scheduling a call or a meeting. This gets dicey when you are often doing calls at 07:00 in Europe and then 19:00 in the US.
Most Europeans speak at least two languages, and many speak 3 or more. The most popular second language is of course English, and there is a reason for that: after 30 years of doing business in Europe, I can count on one hand the number of British businessmen I have met who were able to conduct business in a non-English language.
ALL THAT SAID: I am happy to let the British be British. After all, no one in the rest of the EU understands sarcasm. No one has the rich literary tradition that the UK has. And no “European” country has anything even remotely approaching the brilliance of Monty Python or Fry and Laurie or Rowan Atkinson. I majored in English History and Language at college, so I know of what I speak: the British are unique on this earth in terms of their contributions to literature and popular culture (Beatles, anyone?). May they forever remain so.
Still – be careful what you wish for: the Germans, French and Belgians are now rubbing their hands with glee: they finally have a legitimate reason to buy “European” and pay in Euros while keeping the business in their own countries. I have already heard of one large project that was destined to be delivered in Wales but has now flipped back to Germany. The Irish will have a problem with Northern Ireland, where the border may once again have to be hardened – but on the positive side, they will now represent Anglophone Europe. Any job in the “new” EU that requires native English will now perforce have to go to an Irishman. And all because their English rulers outlawed the Irish language and imposed English as the official language of Eire. Sweet irony there.
All in all, I am happy with the Brexit. For one thing, it may mean that my London-based employer may finally make the long-discussed move to open a “European” office in Barcelona, where I live. That will really cut down on my commute 🙂