Alex Rawlings, named the country’s most multilingual student in 2012, is moving to Barcelona next month.
One of Britain’s most celebrated young linguists, a master of 15 languages and author of two books, is quitting the UK, blaming “a dangerous political atmosphere” following the Brexit vote and “the financial brutality” of living and working here.
Alex Rawlings, 27, was reading languages at Oxford in 2012 when he won a competition to find the UK’s most multilingual student. Tweeting about his decision last week, he wrote: “Just booked a one way flight out the UK. Not an easy decision to leave family and friends behind, but there’s a bad atmosphere in the country and I need to get out.”
Speaking to the Observer this weekend, Rawlings, who now works as a language teacher and app developer, said he was stunned by the public apathy about Brexit.
“This whole country is on the brink of the worst disaster since the second world war, and everyone is just sipping coffee, going about their daily business as if nothing is happening.”
Rawlings, who is half Greek and retains a Greek passport, will move to Barcelona on 1 November to pursue “creative passion projects”.
He has travelled in more than 50 countries, and said: “One of the things I was always most proud of in the UK was that this is a place where anyone can belong, which is an amazing achievement. That is now being threatened by the populist rhetoric of politicians and the laziness of the media in not challenging it.”
Fears of a post-Brexit brain drain on talent working in the UK were not, he felt, unfounded. “I don’t want to live an environment where I have to apologise for believing in European unity.”
Rawlings, who speaks Russian, Italian, Dutch, Hungarian and Hebrew among many others, said: “I have huge faith in the people of the UK to sort this out eventually. It will take a generation… and in the long term, it will be good for the country to realise its own insignificance.”
The question of what it means to be British would, he said, remain fractured because “we have never done what Germany did and talk about the legacy of empire, about the terrible things this country has done in the world. That the majority of people in the UK think the British empire was a force for good is terrifying”.
It was a summer in Athens with his family, aged eight, that changed Rawlings’s life and allowed him to realise that “if you just climb over the side of the English-speaking box and look out, the world’s a very different place out there. There is more that unites us than divides us but everything we take for granted about national identity is pure chance.”
Source: The Guardian