Far from a social analysis, this is a reflection based on the past 10 years of experience living abroad between London and Switzerland (because London is not the United Kingdom).
Contrary to what many thick (orange?) politicians might think, as I wrote two years ago in my "Expat Life, Culture Clash and Cognitive Bias" many of us do not live abroad because are obliged to or because we could not work it out in our own country.
It is all much easier.
Sorry Ms May, world citizens do exist.
Halfway between Millennials and Generation X, mostly with master degrees and MBAs, hard workers, 30 to 40 years old, grown up with Erasmus and Socrates projects, that's US. For all of us "abroad" is in our DNA and is part of who we are, abroad is just another part of home.
As kids and then teenagers you sent us off on exchange programmes, to learn languages, live with wonderfully picturesque families in Ireland, in London colleges, in Bavaria, in Northern Europe, we were sent across half Europe and beyond in those highly formative years of our life.
Who does not remember those exchange programme friends coming from Germany who during the 4th year dragged us to the Gymnasium bar every morning at 8am? They ordered beer, we ordered cappuccinos, we laughed, learnt, we knew we were just the same and our differences were enriching us. The guys were 17 and fluently spoke three languages and were efficient like machines – we were the masters of social skills and history of our country. Come tell me that diversity is not an asset for societies and that one population is better than the other.
You sold us the dream of the European Union and of a world without 'felt' borders. We soaked up all that. We believed in it and still do because we know it is possible and it works if people are educated enough to make it work and politicians have brains.
You forgot to teach the basic civic education of the EU to the new and the old generation, but you taught it well to us during the end of those nineties and beginning of the new millennium. You forgot that Europe, as such, should go through the value of an identity and a passport, that people need to be educated on the pros, the cons and alternatives, or the lack thereof, of an Union. That diveristy, within Europe and outside, matters.
Why to this day don't we have European passports next to our Italian, English, French, Swedish documents?
Why isn’t the value of the European Union taught in school along with the consequences of the rise of super powers such as China and Russia and the role that Europe will need to play? Or the risk of segregation and retreating all to our own little villages and caves in the name of borders.
Why do we stick to teaching history if the meaning of it is not understood and applied?
Then off we go criticising the young because they have no clue of how to read a newspaper, do not understand politics and believe that the real world happens on social media (which actually, partially, breaking news, it does!).
In my life "at home" in Milan I had a great permanent job and owned real estate. On October 5th, 2007, I did not leave my country and ran to London because I needed to. Simply, I wanted to, I wanted to experience living in another part of Europe, to broaden my horizons, get out of the comfort zone, open my mind to different cultures and mindsets. It happened that as most of my generation, I knew how to work hard and earn people's respect, so things turned out fairly well.
We live abroad because the "abroad" is home, it is not foreign and it does not frighten us. We have the tools, the culture, the open-mindedness and the languages to make it home. Do I miss Italy? Yes and no, I like life inside and outside my native country, I love it and go back often, see its positives and negatives, as much as I see them in every country.
Diversity is a strength and we know it. The fact that my children are growing up speaking three languages and owning three passports, hopefully will mean that tomorrow's generations will not think in terms of individuals or nationalities, but in terms of human beings.
They will look up Europe on google maps and realize that we are a tiny spot on that screen.
Can we, thanks to the diversity that next generations will need to learn, take the best from each culture and learn where to draw the line between differences, understanding, identity, fear and racism?
We can influence this, allowing our children to learn that political and geographical borders are important, but the diversity of language, thought, speech, culture, is a wealth we do not have to fear, but to leverage for a better world.