Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, Profiles, United Kingdom

Alejandra: “Emigration is not as easy as people think”

This Colombian woman arrived in London with her boyfriend Juan Carlos at the beginning of October. Her idea was to work as ‘whatever came along’, improve her English, and perhaps further down the line, find a job that had something to do with her studies.


Alejandra confesses that she isn’t happy in London because she has ‘not found what [she] was looking for”. That is why she does not write off the possibility of returning to Spain if the situation doesn’t improve.

What brought you to London?

As you can imagine, finding work in Spain is very difficult, enough to make you despair. I mean, now, having a degree in Management and Administration and a master’s in Marketing is not enough to be able to find a job. Not in that field or in any other. I’ve spent a year and I am unable to find any kind of job related to my studies. Almost in a moment of frustration, I decided that perhaps in London there would be more opportunities. I was wrong.

Did you come to London by yourself?

No, I came with my boyfriend Juan Carlos. He was working in a little shop in Santander until a few months ago. Due to the recession, the business had to reduce the number of staff, and, as he was the most recent arrival, they laid him off. It was after that that we decided to come here.

Why did you choose London as the city to emigrate to?

The friendships and the information that we had about the city thanks to those who had been here; from the word go we knew where to look for a house, and which neighbourhoods to avoid. That is important. Being far away from home it is fundamental to have friends and contacts. It’s true that Juan Carlos looked in other cities, Coventry for example, but in the end we came here because it is where we have people that can support us.

What has surprised you most about London?

The supermarkets. It surprised me to see such a variety of frozen and ready-made food. There is almost nothing that isn’t frozen! I couldn’t believe that it was impossible to buy meat or fish by weight, freshly cut. Until today I haven’t seen a single butcher’s that isn’t a delicatessen. What’s more, everything is very expensive, and sometimes, it is cheaper to go to a fast food restaurant than buy food in a shop, most of all if you want to eat something hot.

You said that you came here looking for work. Have you found any?

No. I arrived on the third of October and I still haven’t found anything.  I tell a lie, a few weeks ago I started a trial period as a cleaner in a hotel, but they still haven’t told me if they will take me on or not. I am quite worried, because if I don’t get this job then I will have to go back to Santander.

Your partner has had better luck?

Yes he’s had better luck. After handing out hundreds of C.V.’s they took him on in a shop. The pay is okay, but he is working nights and he’s finding it hard.

You seem a bit worn out.

Yeah, because to live in London you need a full time job, or to work two jobs at a time. We don’t have either and there’s two of us trying to get by. Thanks to some of my parents’ savings we are making ends meet, but I don’t want to abuse their help, and I want to make my own way.

In your opinion, and speaking from your own experience, why do you think it is so difficult to find a job?

Everyone comes to London looking for work, and the city is saturated.

I suppose that a few years ago it was easier to find a job of any kind, but now, if you don’t have a good level of English, it’s almost impossible. What might be considered an intermediate level in Spain isn’t up to scratch here.

What to say to those who wish to come?

That they don’t come. Emigration is not all as pretty as they paint it out to be.  I would also say that people shouldn’t come unless they have no other option, or unless their English is really, genuinely good. Every kind of job that requires little or no qualification, like waiting on or washing pots, is taken, and so it’s just not as simple as it used to be.

In spite of all this, are you happy in London?

Sincerely? Not much. I arrived with high hopes for London, and now that things are turning out to not be as I expected, I am a bit sad really.

Christmas is on the way. Do you plan to go and see your family?

I don’t think so. At Christmas is when there are most temporary job opportunities. Anyway, it really depends on whether I get this hotel job or not. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

*Fictional names, real stories.

(Translated by Thomas Wright) – Photos: Pixabay


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