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Your shout: Zing Tsjeng - 'Get over it: immigrants are London'

By Time Out London contributor

Ignore tabloid posturing about a tidal wave of immigration in this country. This is London, not Middle England.

Ah, London. It's pretty crap living in London, isn't it? According to the tabloids, we're a city sinking - some say metaphorically, I like to think literally - into the Thames under the weight of immigrants. Coming over here, eating our Nando's; awkwardly attempting to pull our women in Wetherspoon's; forgetting their Oyster cards at the barriers and making everyone wait while they scrabble around in their bag at rush hour. They're ruining everything this place stands for!

I'm an immigrant to London, 11 years and counting. And these are tough times. We immigrants used to peacefully plot the destruction of this green and pleasant land in our special immigrant private members' club - the one that looks like Soho House, except with the big fuck-off sign outside reading 'No Brits Allowed'? At the same time, we were determinedly undermining the NHS by demanding free prescriptions for sticking plasters. Me and Mikolaj had some right laughs, I can tell you!

Now the temperature in the city has changed. Immigration is a dirty word again, and that's not the London I know. When I was growing up in Singapore, I read books about this city in all its pulsating, Technicolor glory, like a huge version of the West End curry houses in Zadie Smith's 'White Teeth', alive with clattering plates and swearing. I listened to Ms Dynamite and Mike Skinner albums 7,000 miles away from the streets where they were recorded. I fell in love with the city as a multi-ethnic tapestry of voices and stories, which makes sense: almost 40 percent of London residents were born outside this country.

There's a well-meaning tendency to champion immigrants for doing essential if usually underappreciated jobs: 'What will we do if they send home all the nurses?' we cry. 'Who will wipe our arses?' But immigrants are also the city's teachers, its artists and musicians and every shade of occupation in between.

More than that, we are the city. The M&S on your high street? Thank Michael Marks, a refugee from Belarus, for founding the home of nice jumpers and ready meals. The humble fish-and-chip shop? The first one in London was opened by Jewish immigrant Joseph Malin. If you peel back London's history like the layers of an onion, you'll probably find a proto-immigrant on the banks of the Thames, shrugging, 'Well, it smells like sewage and the weather's terrible, but I suppose it will do.' Immigrants and London go way back; I bet there's a few in your own family tree.

So when politicians disparage immigrants, it's not just me they're talking about. They might be talking about your mum and dad. Maybe they're talking about your grandad, whose accent still runs thick and strong with his own memories of home. Maybe they're talking about your best friend, or your lover, or the person who serves you coffee in the morning. So whenever people tell us immigrants to fuck off home, the joke's on them - we are home. We're in London. We're your people, too.

Want more ranting and raving? Read Steph Dye's column on why hungover people deserve a priority seat on the tube

Illustration: Nate Kitch


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