Opinion

Beyond Brexit: UK verdict reflects anxieties of those hit hard by economic inequality

This can't be viewed neatly as a battle between progressives and conservatives.

So the suspense is over – Britain has voted to leave. The margin of victory is very small, but the decision has been made.

The issues related to the referendum to remain or to leave the European Union are far more revelatory than the word “Brexit” suggests. This was more than just a choice between crazy jingoism and being progressive.

The vote to leave is being projected as a manifestation of the resistance to immigration and an uninformed understanding of the financial implications. But the debates in the British media in the weeks leading up to the vote have given a sense of other issues that the British people are also considering.

The stability of the United Kingdom, its strength as a democracy and political spaces that are still somewhat safer than the political tumult in many of the other European countries gets somewhat overlooked when the nation is viewed as a part of the EU.

Britain has been one of the most attractive countries for investment because of its stable financial institutions. In terms of real estate, it attracts a large amount of money because of the credibility of its legal system.

As part of the EU, all this is ignored – or overpowered by the concept of Europa, which at the time of its founding in 1993, appeared to be a strengthening initiative. But since then, the EU has become a place full of indebted nations, with uncomfortable diversity in their democratic cultures. The economic club is unequal and fragile

So why stay? As in all contemporary discussions, the dominant criterion used is economic power. With this decision, many are trying to predict what kind of crises could affect the global economy. But recent history has taught us that these bumps can settled fairly quickly due to the power of global communications, and because of the deep disparities in inter-region wealth and participation in the financial system.

The danger of this verdict is that some of the most outspoken leaders of Brexit have revealed xenophobic attitudes. However, there are others who see it as a way of protecting the best of Britain’s political and social culture. They also see it as an attempt to safeguard the nation’s economy. A strong British economy, they believe, can provide a better bulwark for other countries than the precarious European economy .

As anticipated, there is a clear divide in voting patterns between polling areas considered progressive, and those from areas considered working class. Commentators suggest that this inward-looking tendency is a sign of right-wing affirmation. However, this could also be a rejection of globalism, especially from who have suffered the consequences of the banditry of capital flows and the tumult of inequality.

These anxieties and viewpoints also need to be brought into the debates – not bifurcated neatly into progressive and conservative camps.

Devaki Jain is a visiting scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.