Until Wednesday this week, friends and colleagues showed great fascination in whether I would support England or France if the two went head to head in the World Cup final. Would I choose my country of birth or my country of choice?
I found it tough to answer – and not just because I don’t follow football. All the same, it raises an interesting question about my identity now.
For my partner, Damon, the issue has been resolved: he officially became Irish this week. After almost a year, he has finally received the paperwork to confirm that he is an Irish citizen, albeit one born overseas.
To our huge relief, that’s our post-Brexit future in France sorted.
“Damon officially became Irish this week. To our huge relief, that’s our post-Brexit future in France sorted”
But where does that leave my perception of self? I don’t consider myself French – and nor do the French. When I speak, they can hear I’m not one of them.
Interestingly, though, I often get asked here in Lille if I am Belgian.
Either way, I am treated as a foreigner and sometimes as just a tourist. One store assistant recently insisted on trying to give me a VAT discount and was most disconcerted when I said I couldn’t prove I live abroad… because I don’t.
But I am not sure I consider myself English anymore either.
The whole Brexit catastrophe was a game changer for me, to use a football analogy. It has made me question how I feel about the UK.
I am so disgusted in the British for turning their backs on their closest neighbours – and in doing so, on my identity – that I know I will never live there again.
“The whole Brexit catastrophe was a game changer for me. It has made me question how I feel about the UK”
It’s been suggested that losing to Croatia on Wednesday is a good thing for England in the long term. Given its misplaced superiority and the nationalism stirred by Brexit, imagine if it had won… Certainly, I’m sure the Brexiteers in the British media and political arena would have used an England win to their benefit.
As it turns out, with France playing Croatia in the final tomorrow, even the World Cup wants to stay in the EU.
So, I’ll wish the French team bon courage and wonder how I’ll feel in 4 years’ time, when the World Cup comes around again. Maybe I’ll just content myself with being European and leave it at that.