is forcing the Spanish people to a straight choice of fight or flight. [Reuters]
The latest reports suggest 17,000 Spaniards are arriving in London every year, and the city's Spanish population has risen past 30,000. Shops, cafes and restaurants are earning a fortune from this influx; go into any Pret a Manger in London and chances are you'll find a Spaniard smiling at you from behind the counter. Probably with a master's degree in astrophysics.
Over 24 percent of Spaniards between the ages of 25 and 35, young people with ambition and qualifications to burn, cannot currently find a job. I am part of this collective, having been forced to migrate to London from my home city of Barcelona, where ambition and aspirations to improve both personally and professionally simply don't exist anymore. My experience is broadly representative of the hardship which is being felt from Cadiz to A Coruna, and has driven thousands of my country's most talented young people to Britain in search of fresh hope.
If you are denied stability at work, you are unable to grow professionally or feel satisfied with whatever you are doing. Millions of Spaniards, who have spent years mastering their profession at university, are now locked in this purgatorial limbo. I know a solicitor who works 43 hours per week to earn £850 per month; an engineer who spent seven years studying to end up working as an intern; and several friends who cannot even get a temp job.
The few vacancies offered at the moment demand either comprehensive knowledge of a foreign language, the sort of expertise which is impossible if you have never lived in that country, or bags of work experience, which young people simply cannot have. Then you have the precarious political and economic situation, pockmarked by corruption, redundancies, evictions and social exclusion - this sort of bad news only saps people's spirit further, and sends the vicious circle into an ever-quickening spin.
Even though Spain cannot guarantee a basic standard of living anymore, it still requires guts and motivation to make that leap abroad. The culture, the language, the common human fear of the unknown, even Britain's 'unique' gastronomic culture present forbidding factors which have to be absorbed and overcome. Most of us have had to show our family how to use Skype before leaving our country and, even with this precious tool, the feeling of solitude is never far away.
As fresh news reaches us every day from Spain, nightmarish headlines screaming about the country's problems, our uncertainty only increases; will things ever get better, will we ever be able to go back home? Some Catalan friends have been living in London for a while, working in a rewarding job and happy with the life that the UK kindly offers to its newcomers. However, their lives are cloaked in a feeling of impotence - they want to go back to Catalonia, but they have no idea when or if that will be possible.
As a graduate who spent five years studying and four years gaining experience as an architect, I can only echo the anger and frustration of Spain's entire mid-level professional class. After all the time and money we poured into our degrees, our efforts are not being rewarded in any way. Many friends feel our degrees were ill-suited to the realities of our country; instead of focusing so heavily on academic tuition, we should have had a more practical education, with some kind of internship built in. But ultimately, given the catastrophic problems in our labour market, such a change would probably be meaningless.
The thousands of Spaniards now living in London are thankful for the opportunity to sample a genuinely multinational city, to gain life experience abroad, keep a flicker of hope burning in our hearts and, above all, enjoy a basic standard of living. But these sentiments do not expunge the anger, resentment and fear that follow us every day.
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