From: Pernik, Bulgaria | Date moved to the UK: October 2013 | Occupation: General construction operative | Previous job: Qualified electrician
I was aware of the negative media coverage before I moved to the UK. But in Bulgaria, the media were also saying things. Whilst the UK were talking about Bulgarians being bad people, being thieves, exploiting the social system, the Bulgarian media were trying to dissuade Bulgarians from moving. They said the UK people were highly anxious towards Bulgarians and they talked about how hard it was in the UK. They said it was an ugly country with ugly people.
I haven’t found it to be like that but I have experienced problems. Every time I say I’m Bulgarian, the behaviour of most British people appears anxious towards me.
I have a lot of work experience - I was a qualified electrician in Bulgaria and I’ve been a quality control manager, but when I’ve gone to interviews or asked people for help and advice, as soon as they’ve heard me talking like a foreigner, their behaviour becomes anxious or they try to end the conversation.
So it’s hard sometimes. I work in construction but I want to work as an electrician again. I’ve been told that outside the construction industry it’s almost impossible to develop your career. You have to be fully qualified and fluent in English and you have to be better than English people who are working at the same thing as you.
"It’s not that people hate us, but the people are being manipulated by the media to hate us"
In construction, it’s different. Most of the UK people are going away from construction so immigrants are welcomed. The Polish, the Bulgarians, the Romanians – they are seen as better at construction work and they are also a cheaper price.
But some construction sites I’ve worked at, the managers have looked at us like slaves. I don’t know if it’s a personal thing for me as a Bulgarian or if it’s the job we are doing, but the attitude towards general operators like myself can be sometimes offensive. Most of my colleagues in the same position as me are either Bulgarians, Romanians or Nigerians and at times we’ve felt mocked.
It’s not that people hate us, but the people are being manipulated by the media to hate us, to be anxious towards us, to be reserved.
I do think there is a lot of prejudice from some English people too. A lot of English people on the sites, even if they are very friendly, I feel are hypocritical. It’s not like they really want to be a friend of mine, it is like they are pretending for that moment.
And I think the media are to blame for a lot of this. And the politicians. Politicians have great power. They blame immigrants for everything, but it is because they are trying to expand their influence.