We are two women. One from The Netherlands the other from Germany. And 7 months before the Brexit Referendum we started a business in the UK. The aim of our business is mainly spreading kindness and love. And the way we do that is by letting people share words of love, endearment and encouragement with friends and family on our personalised biscuits.
We like people. We always have done. It’s why Lisa chose to study intercultural communication and I went to journalism school. People’s stories move us more than anything. We always intrinsically knew that there was more to people than their appearance and the scripts they ‘play’.
It is important to understand that we probably know this because Lisa and I have often been ‘judged’ on our appearance. Lisa who was born and raised in Germany, but has dark hair and skin that tans quickly. She was (and is!) often asked the question where she originally comes from. As many thought her parents might be of Middle-Eastern or Southern European origin. Me, growing up with brown skin and frizzy hair in the Netherlands, was often asked about my ethnical background. For the record: My father is Dutch and my mother Cameroonian.
The world beyond the one we knew
This question more than anything gave us an understanding that there was a world beyond the streets we lived in. There were places where people looked differently and this sparked our interest. So we traveled. We traveled the world. Which led us, amongst many other things, to find our husbands. Lisa in the Galapagos Islands and me in South Africa. Both our future partners were British and so we ended up in the wonderfully multicultural city of Leeds.
Next to our new British friends, people from all over the world entered our lives in this city. Brazilians, Italians, Jamaicans, Portuguese, Polish, Irish, and as we got to meet and know more and more people through our baking business we soon started to feel so very connected to this city and this country.
And then Brexit happened. Something we never ever could have imagined coming true. Why? Because as mentioned above, we were surrounded by different cultures in our day-to-day lives. So the result of this referendum hit us hard. Very hard.
As European citizens all of a sudden we felt judged. We felt it when we spoke our mother tongue to our children in public. And in the big melting pot of Leeds we wondered once more how people really perceived us. Were we the Europeans, the foreigners that they wanted out? Or are we the acceptable ones, because we come from strong economies and have day jobs here that no British person could do BECAUSE of our European background? It feels no better. On top of this, there was the extra European element of our business. Because next to the bespoke biscuits we also bake Dutch and German-inspired treats in our bakery. Directly after Brexit we wondered what the point was to our business? Why are we offering something that many people seemingly are so happy to reject?
It crushed our confidence for a bit. But the understanding that we gained after a few weeks is this:
Only 51% of the Brits who voted in the referendum voted Leave. 49% of voters were of our ilk.
Politics in Britain is a vacuum. The world moves on. People will always migrate.
Diversity That is what the world looks like from our perspective. It always has and that will never change. And we do not think we are fooling ourselves. Being different, offering something different, is a good thing. For diversity in nature is always the best breeding ground for growth! Be that personal, spiritual or financial growth. So, in or out by the 31st of October… That at least they can’t take away from us or the 49% who will always make this island feel like home to us.