Mark Taylor moved to Slovakia in October 2013 where he lives with his wife and daughter.
1) How did you feel on 24th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
Horrible. For a couple of weeks I was a bit numb, feeling waves of anger, sadness, fear and shame. Sometimes more ashamed than afraid, sometimes more angry than sad, etc. As we slowly got over this phase, I remember being in the kitchen one day and my wife or I (I honestly can’t remember which of us) said “Well, we’ll never move back to the UK, will we?” We immediately agreed that we will not. We’ll stay and find a way to keep EU opportunities, and protections, for our daughter.
2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?
My work (as a postdoctoral health researcher) often takes me to new places for a contract of 2 or 3 years at a time. I’ve worked all over the UK, a few years in East Africa, etc. I was about half way through a contract here in Slovakia when the referendum happened. As I said above, we are determined to do the right thing for our daughter, so as soon as the decision was made that UK would leave, it made sense to stay here and work towards citizenship.
3) How/why did you choose your current country of residence?
Have travelled here for pleasure before, and so when I saw a job offer I applied for it. At the time we didn’t know Brexit would happen, and we probably imagined being here for 3-4 years then going back to the UK. But the vote changed everything: the opportunities we can recover for myself and my daughter if we stay, and also it made us feel far less affection for Britain/UK as a whole.
4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?
I’m doing additional language classes with a view to taking citizenship. It’s a long process, and I haven’t even been resident long enough to do the test yet, but I am working towards it. I have long term resident’s permit, local driving licence, etc.
5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?
I am very happy with my quality of life here. I can imagine moving on again within the EU, eventually. But unless/until the UK rejoins, I can’t imagine moving back there.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest challenge you faced in moving?
Like a lot of ex-Eastern Block countries, there is a lot of paperwork, lots of bureaucracy. The people in the police/immigration departments aren’t trying to be difficult, but you have to go through the exact process and have every bit of paper they need, otherwise you get rejected and start again. At one point I had to write and print a letter, and pay to get my signature witnessed by a lawyer, to prove that I give consent for my daughter (then aged 3) to live in my house – otherwise she couldn’t have a local residency permit.
And that turned out to be quite simple, compared with importing my motorbike!
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
Indian restaurants! Not the only thing, but as well as loving the food, I felt that curry houses were a nice marker of modern British, multi-cultural society, which to me was such a good thing. A hot South Indian/Sri Lankan take away, washed down with cold Polish lager is a beautiful thing.
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
We have amazing access to nature here. Within 5 minutes I can walk out of the front door and into a national forest nature reserve. I can go cycling, hiking or kayaking in peaceful and unspoilt green spaces. There’s also tasty local food, cultural events to learn about, good and cheap local wine or beer and beautiful women. (Am I allowed to say that?) Our neighbours have been very welcoming and helpful to us as newcomers to the area too.
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what that does that mean to you?
Definitely. I guess it means different things to everyone, and it’s very multi-faceted, but to me it includes looking for opportunities for cooperation, enjoying modern liberal values, and taking pleasure in getting to know our geographical neighbours. I’ve holidayed in just about every EU country, I have friends in many of them.
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
Not anymore. I’m sure there are millions of people in the UK with whom I would still have a lot in common, but that’s definitely secondary to being European these days. In fact probably tertiary, I try to be human first, European second, British third.
Additional Questions (relating to Corona Virus)
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
Actually not that much. I had to delay plans to see my parents, and I had to home school my daughter for a month or two. Wear a mask to go shopping. That’s about it.
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the UK government & media?
Vastly better. Here they imposed some restrictions really early, but by doing so they didn’t have to lock down nearly so hard. Schools and restaurants closed, and borders closed, but we were never asked to avoid travel within the country, and food shops never had any shortages. Considering that we have 5 different land borders, most Schengen, one is the edge of Schengen, there were actually some bigger challenges in keeping Covid out of this country. Yet we ended up with the lowest rate in Europe, about 30 deaths in total.