Who's full of what?
"London's changed so much," lamented the roast beef-hued elderly Englishman beside the pool. His kindly, obese wife reclined next to him, bobbing her head in agreement. She was one of the few women at the resort to conceal her mountainous breasts from the sun. For the purpose of conversation, I was grateful. It's not that I'm offended by the human form, but heaps of oiled, cascading flesh is nothing short of completely distracting for my relatively conservative Canadian sensibilities.
"I hate to say it," he continued, "but it's full of immigrants now". It was the second time he'd said it. I wondered which time he hated saying it more.
I thought about how any friendly banter I've had in London has been with the immigrant population and how in contrast, the English had for the most part successfully avoided me. Then I thought about the Canadian jokes I've endured, all involving some mispronunciation of 'about' and using 'eh' as a suffix for everything, and finally, pretending to mistake me for an American and expecting me to be offended. Usually in that order.
"I'm an immigrant," I said. Sure my great-grandparents emigrated to the United States, then to Canada and then I emigrated back to England, but that just makes me an immigrant to the power of three.
The rest of my family was from Poland – a group particularly disliked in England – but I like to wait until someone says something disparaging specifically about the Polish before mentioning that portion of my DNA. It's a weak sucker punch, but a jab all the same.
The Englishman stuttered and rubbed his hands together before clarifying, "Well, we don't mean people like you."
People like me. Outspoken, agnostic, half-Polish liberal humanist environmentalists from a nation built on immigration, and one of the world's most successfully integrated multicultural cities, Montreal? Or white, English-speakers from the Commonwealth?
Three months since my emigration to London, I'd finally settled in enough to want to get the hell out. So, my boyfriend and I decided to celebrate the occasion with a super cheap 4-hour flight to Cyprus – a hot, dry island flooded with English ex-pats. Seven days on the coast in Paphos and save for the service staff, there were no obvious signs of Greek Cypriot life anywhere – just traditional English breakfast, pendulous English breasts keeping time with the sun on the beach, and daily papers flown in from London. I learned more about Pete and Katie Price than the local culture.
"Cyprus has changed so much," I imagine an elderly local lamenting simultaneously. "I hate to say it, but it's full of the English now."
This is me on Coral Beach in Paphos, Cyprus, feigning surprise after a Cypriot piña colada. That's my shark-master partner in crime in the reflection of my sunglasses. He's the reason I'm in this part of the world at all.