Romanians make good immigrants
Admitting a million Poles, even though in good manners, industry, church attendance and many other ways they put many of the British to shame, was certainly a mistake on the part of the UK. We know this because ministers said they expected tens of thousands to come. Still, if Britain and other Western European countries have decided that they need immigrants, and they have, they should be very grateful that the EU has a supply on hand of Romanian immigrants who share a European culture and will fit in easily. Probably no immigrants in the world assimilate as quickly as Romanians who seem not to stay together in clusters like other immigrant groups.
Bearing in mind the numbers of immigrants who have settled in the UK recently (one million in 2011 and 2012) it is understandable that the British press worry about an influx of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants after January 1 2014. What is odd is that, a couple of days after David Cameron said he wanted to persuade the EU to change the rules, he said on a visit to India that:
"There is no limit on the number of students who can come from India to study at British universities, no limit at all. All you need is a basic English qualification and a place at a British university. What’s more, after you've left a British university, if you can get a graduate-level job there is no limit to the amount of people who can stay and work, or the time that they can stay at work"
This dichotomy does seem hard to explain. I suspect that one reason why British journalists are complaining about an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians next month is because they are white. If they were Asian the papers might be much more worried about being accused of racism. And yet the fact that Romanians are Europeans is a reason why they will fit in in Britain.
Romanians were disappointed but not in the least surprised by the noisy British reluctance to let them settle in the UK without restrictions before 2014. As far as Romanians are concerned, they blame this reluctance on confusion abroad between Romanians and Roma. (Roma is the modish term for gypsies.) It is no use saying to Romanians that Romanian gypsies are both Romanian and Roma. ‘Romanian’ is understood here as an ethnicity not a citizenship.
Romanians come from a Balkan, Orthodox and Latin culture, unlike the Poles, who are Catholics and Central Europeans, but like the Poles they bring with them so many qualities that the British used to have. Like all people from post-Communist countries, and this is what makes them most different from the British, they come from a part of the world where the 1960's social revolution never happened. When I moved here in 1998 the Romanian standard of living was that of Britain in 1959 and many of the ways of thinking were late 1950's too.
Things have changed a lot since then, but by no means out of recognition.
Romanians have virtues that some in Great Britain have lost. Romanian women are womanly (and very often beautiful), Romanian men are virile even if they seem quite otherwise at first sight. Romanians are family minded and esteem education. They are old-fashioned, clean-cut, self-reliant, sceptical of authority and they believe in freedom. I might have expected Romanians to be disappointed by the reality of violent crime, binge drinking, feminism and innumerable rules. Romania, where people smoke in bars and say whatever they like about most things, is a much freer country these days. But no, Romanians usually love England and so they should. Things work in England and people are kind and honest, though the trusting nature of the English provokes wonder and seems naive. Britain is still a wonderful country and London is the only big city in Europe which is not a museum.
The Romanians who return to Romania after working abroad will create the Romania of the future. They are the candidates I most value as a recruiter. On the other hand, inevitably, the great majority will not return and this is a huge, irreparable loss to Romania.