International Migrants Day, December 18th: Reflecting on 5 years of TogetherintheUK

by | Dec 10, 2020 | Shared Experiences

What might you not know when you arrive in a new country and in the UK? You might have all kinds of assumptions… This blog is about the smaller detail of life in the UK that you might not know until you are living here.” 

  • 09/10/2015, excerpt of our very first blog from Co-Founder and Chief Executive of TGIUK, Teresa Norman. 

Here at TGIUK, we’ve never stopped asking ourselves that question. Now, five years later, we’ve found some answers. 

TogetherintheUK was founded by Teresa, Johann, Kosta and Fatkma with the aim of creating a platform where we could all learn about what it is like to live in the UK and share advice for migrants who have arrived in the UK. Over the course of these five years, TGIUK has published over a hundred blogs, created events where migrants could share their stories live, created a podcast, interviewed fellow organisations, published our Moving Matters report, created a beautiful e-book, and currently we’re running a creative writing competition to find new literary insights on what migration means to first and second-generation migrants. Over these five years the aim has always been at the forefront, to help migrants have their voices heard and to provide helpful tips for migrants to the UK.

Of course, we would not have been able to have these insights without the generous responses from the migrants we have spoken to over these five years. From Teresa’s first blog, we’ve received so many responses full of happiness, full of struggle, full of determination and full of life. These stories are part of the everyday make up of what it means to live in British society.

On International Migrants Day, TGIUK looks back on a momentous five years. We want to share a few highlights from each year on what we have learnt from migrants over the course of our journey so far. We hope it is as insightful to you as it has been for us. 

 2015:

When I ask people who have immigrated here, what has most surprised them or struck them, many people say the weather. It rains a lot in Britain but we rarely have any extreme weather. We still talk about the Great Storm in 1987 or the few winters when it snowed a lot.”

When I ask people who have immigrated here, what has most surprised them or struck them, many people say the weather. It rains a lot in Britain but we rarely have any extreme weather. We still talk about the Great Storm in 1987 or the few winters when it snowed a lot.”

11/11/2015 ‘The Weather’ 

Perhaps not the most surprising that one of our first insights into what migrants to the UK thought of Britain is the rainy weather! It’s a topic that’s been brought up in subsequent interviews, both in our blogs and podcasts (like in our podcast episode with Kitty Madar). It seems that one of the first surprises in coming to the UK is dealing with near constant gloomy weather in the autumn and winter. Even some who are born British complain about this too (myself included!), so it appears to be a common surprise!

2016:

2016 was the year where we heard often about the difficulties with navigating the job market and finances:

When my baby was 2 weeks old, I tried to get money out of my account but the ATM would not give me any. I went to the bank who showed me that money had been taken out all over the city and that as my funds ran low, the bank transferred money from my savings account into my current account… 

I would like to emphasize that this was a long time ago and I have managed to hold down a good job for the last 25 years. I have supported my family and my child is now studying in a good university to enter into the profession.”

  • Selassi’s story from ‘You need to know how money works’ 21/03/2016

The other thing I would like to have known would be the process of finding a job in the UK. It is different in Greece where you can give your CV in paper or maybe know someone who will be able to get you a job through contacts, whereas in the UK most applications are done online.” 

  • Gianni’s story from ‘Helpfulness and applying for jobs’ 16/04/2016

Since I came to the UK, I have experienced redundancy twice in 8 years! It was awful and certainly the first time was devastatingly difficult as I had no knowledge of the concept… [I learnt to] Realise that you are more than just your last job – you are a committed, passionate and diligent person that can achieve anything if you put your mind to it and enjoy the support of the people closest to you.”

  • Sebastiaan’s story from ‘The cost of cost cutting’ 31/05/2016

Money is always a concern, perhaps even more so when you have come to live in another country. In this year, TogetherintheUK heard from the stories of migrants who had to adjust to a new banking system or a new job market and had often had to learn through their own experiences on how to navigate their finances and the job market in a more suitable way.

Since hearing these stories, TGIUK has published several blogs on how to navigate the job market and your own finances. From our ‘Top tips on using the internet to find a job’ to ‘Top tips on c.vs and your social media profile’, TGIUK aims to ensure our platform can be a site where migrants can find usual information on how to secure a new job in the UK and we’re always updating our platform and social media on resources that can make this process easier. Also, quite often, the people who have shared their stories have also offered some really useful advice based on the lessons they learnt. So, we hope our blogs can offer that mix between first-hand experience and information to make the job hunt less daunting. 

Selassi’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/you-need-to-know-how-money-works/ 

Gianni’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/214/ 

Sebastiaan’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/the-cost-of-cost-cutting/ 

2017:

I wish I had known how culturally diverse London is, that would have helped a lot, it would have calmed me down.”

  • Sarah’s story from ‘TGIUK – I need a coat!’ 13/02/2017

Jose arrived from Mexico City 7 years ago. He lived in London for 2 years and now in a rural and ancient village which he loves. He found London too busy and overcrowded, not seeing nature and being surrounded by buildings. He now works in a local shop where everyone knows him and chats to him in the day. He describes the village as very quiet, relaxed and beautiful.”

  • Jose’s story from ‘A Mexican view’ 03/02/2017

In 2017, we received two contrasting insights in living in the city. While Sarah was much more reassured to live in a multicultural London, Jose found the village life much more appealing for its intimacy and quietness. Sarah and Jose’s stories emphasise how diverse the UK itself is as a region, and how migrants to the UK may find themselves surprised by their preferences and insights. Ultimately, their stories explored how they were able to find their new homes and they demonstrate how different our styles of living can be here in the UK.

Sarah’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/story-time-listen-to-a-conversation-about-immigrating-to-the-uk/ 

Jose’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/a-mexican-view/ 

2018:

Upon the many insights we had gained in 2018, one that stood out was from hearing of the resilience of young migrants:

The school was big and I didn’t know my way round but after about three weeks, I found my way around… My favourite lesson is Drama… [and] I would like to do GCSE Art when I am older. I speak French at home so French is not that hard.”

  • Jack’s story from ‘Starting Secondary School’ 03/01/2018

Studying abroad especially in the UK is a great opportunity to meet new people with different backgrounds and learn from them, create a new network of relations, and more generally, try new things. I’ve found that being proactive is one of the most important thing: if you need help ask for it, do not be intimated if you make mistakes.”

  • Alia’s story from ‘Choosing Middlesex University and to live in London – An interview with Alia’ 30/04/2018

If you are going to be great at anything, ‘the will must be greater than the skill’. ‘Someone tells you, you can’t do something, say, I will show you, I will do it better than you ever knew’ and what really makes the difference in boxing and in life is ‘getting back up when you are pushed down’.” 

  • Ramla and Bilal’s story from ‘Good Food, Inspiring Speakers, Great Company’ 02/02/2018

Whether it’s starting a new school, studying abroad or pursuing your dream career in a different country, young migrants face their own set of struggles in a new country. Jack, Alia, Ramla and Bilal’s story remind us that younger migrants also have their own stories to share and their advice can be valuable for fellow younger migrants who can also feel intimidated by studying or working in a new country. These stories demonstrate the resilience of young migrants who are able to find their footing and become part of daily British life.

Jack’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/starting-secondary-school/ 

Alia’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/choosing-middlesex-uni-and-to-live-in-london-an-interview-with-alia/ 

Ramla and Bilal’s story: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/good-food-inspirng-speakers-great-company/ 

2019:

We need to empower migrants by listening to their preferences for support. We can do this by co-producing research and support systems alongside migrants. By doing what is right and not what is easy, we can put migrants at the heart of our work.” 

  • From the ‘Moving Matters: Challenges and Solutions to Creating a Life in the UK’ July 2019

2019 saw TogetherintheUK launch their report ‘Moving Matters’. In response to many of the stories TGIUK heard, a report was formed to further probe and understand what kind of support could be given to migrants in the UK. The report concentrates on three key questions: What challenges do migrants face when moving to the UK? How do migrants currently solve these challenges? What kind of support would migrants like?

The researchers conducted interviews, held a focus group, conducted a literature review, to further understand what life was like for migrants in the UK. Above all the several insights found across the course of this report, the main emphasis lay in understanding that the challenges migrants can face in the UK have no clear boundaries; more often than not, these challenges exist in relation to each other. The issue of learning a new language, for example, relates to many different aspects of living, such as finding accommodation, creating a new social network and securing a job. The report also concluded on the importance of having a trusted local community as pivotal to integration and mental wellbeing. 

TGIUK’s report is an important piece of literature that documents both the serious needs and gaps in support that migrants face in the UK. It also acknowledges the quirks and peculiarities that UK society has, like how having carpets can be off-putting. The report is perhaps one the greatest comprehensive documents TGIUK has created to further deepen our insights into the lives and requested diverse needs of migrants who have and will travel to the UK.

Download the ‘Moving Matters’ report from our home page: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/#connect 

2020:

We’ve taken two major initiatives this year, both to expand our insights into what it is like to migrate to the UK:

An anthology of migrants stories. Ranging from finding your feet on arrival to the UK, humorous anecdotes and fish out of water moments to helpful career advice. Let’s begin your journey in the UK. Together.”

  • From Let’s be together in the UK: Navigating Britain

TogetherintheUK’s first e-book is designed by migrants for migrants. The stories traverse the lives of migrants from wonderfully diverse backgrounds and include a wealth of anecdote and advice which could be useful for someone who has migrated to the UK. Whether it’s knowing how to transfer your degree to the UK to looking after your mental wellbeing to reading about the enjoyments of being at the British seaside, our e-book, as with all of our work, would not have been possible without the generous insights from the migrants who had shared their stories with us. 

Buy the e-book here for just £2.49: https://www.togetherintheuk.co.uk/e-book/ 

As the Beatles once said ‘It’s a long and winding road that leads to your door. ’We know that moving to the UK can be a tough time, but we also know that there a lot of good things that come as a result of big life changes and we want you to use your words to inspire us and tell us the things that made you smile, laugh and feel positive about migrating.”

Illustration from the e-Book

And now, here we are, looking for new insights into what it’s like to migrate to the UK! TogetherintheUK is running a creative writing competition and we want to hear from first and second-generation migrants on what migration means to them. Whether a poem, short story or essay, we’re excited to continue to learn from migrants and gain further understanding on what life is like in a new country. 

From its creation in 2015, TogetherintheUK has never wavered from that first original question posed by Teresa in our first blog: “What might you not know when you arrive in a new country and in the UK?” Since then, we’ve learnt so much about what it is like to live in the UK. We’ve heard about the bigger concerns such as money and accommodation to the smaller things like shocks about the weather and the contention surrounding having carpets in your home.

On International Migrants Day, from the whole of the TogetherintheUK team, we’d like to thank all the people who have been willing to share their stories and insights with us across the past five years. This organisation is and always will be a space for migrants to express their views and experiences. We hope it will also be a place for migrants to find useful information on how to navigate life in the UK. It’s been an extraordinary five years, and we look forward to all that comes next!

Speak to us

If you have migrated to the UK and would like to share your story, please get in touch. We know that others will benefit hugely from your experience TogetherintheUK  Or  subscribe to receive our monthly newsletter.

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Speak to us

If you have migrated to the UK and would like to share your story, please get in touch. We know that others will benefit hugely from your experience TogetherintheUK  Or  subscribe to receive our monthly newsletter.