Zena

Freelance Artist

Lives in Leeds // From Bucharest, Romania

The first time I came here I just had this idea to get a job just to be more stable and to get some experience. I have noticed that when you get here and you don’t have any experience in England, no matter what kind of job you have done, they want the experience, they want to see that you have worked here before. I just wanted to get a job and it didn’t really matter what it was. But, I ended up in a care home and I worked for one year and four months and then I just quit because I felt like I was trapped in a vortex, let’s call it that way. Usually, I do art and I felt like I was wasting myself physically and mentally. And, I also tried to evolve. I wanted to go to activities, I kept telling them I would like to do activities because I can do things, I have skills. They kept saying “yeah, yeah we will see”, they didn’t accept me so I got bored and upset, and I left. I don’t mind having a job that you do only for the money because that’s how life goes, you need money for food, rent, and living. But, I would also like to have time to do what I like and what I love, and what I am. When I do art, I feel like I can be myself totally. I feel more confident doing that. 

Everyone of us lives in a bubble, in a way. That bubble means the way we think, our attitudes. And, some people have open mind so their bubble has holes in it, and they can see right, and left, and up, and down. And, some people have the bubble a bit closed so they only think about the necessary things in life, like “all I want is a job, money, family, and that’s all”.

Even if you have a bad situation, I noticed if you try to change your way of thinking and you have a little hope, then things can change, and you can be surprised. Even if you go out in the street and you try to feel more positive, then you will see that people are smiling and talking to you. But, if you are negative, sometimes you feel like everything is against you. So, it’s also our perception and there are also the outside factors, you can’t deny that. 

When I was in Italy, my colleagues and my friends were asking me, “so, how do you feel like when you are in Italy, do you feel like you are speaking to Italians? How do you perceive that?” I said to them, “actually, I just feel like I am around people and I just talk with them. It doesn’t make a difference that you are Italian or another person.” Yeah, maybe there is the barrier of language and culture but I never had this feeling that I am a European or I am Romanian, or I belong to Romania and I am just here to work or study, and then when it’s all over I will go back and just be myself in my country. I don’t make that difference with nationality or race. It doesn’t matter to me. I just say we are all humans. Sure, we have different ways of thinking and the language barriers. Life is unpredictable and I never imagined I will come to the UK, it just happened. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or in one year, or the next few years. 

They are quite different when I think about the people back at home and how people are here in the UK. The good thing is in here you can dress the way you want to, you can look the way you want to, you can be more open about your sexual preferences, or if you identify to be someone else like non-binary. If you are like that in my country, people are still close minded a bit. It’s also because of the media, they try to wash people’s brain, they try to change your opinion.

The problem here is that when they think about Europe, they think about the Union. But, Europe doesn’t mean just the Union, Europe is a continent and people in the UK are Europeans. All the countries that are in the European continent are Europeans, so I think people in the UK forget that part. Politics and religion always separate people.   

If we talk about British people’s opinion on foreigners or Europeans, then things change. But that part I can understand because I have seen it in Italy, while I was living there. I was in a nice fortress town with lots of universities, and I have seen the locals saying “I’m bored of these students, they always talk different languages”, so I noticed that we as humans, when we live in a certain country, we try to be protective of our culture, language, and customs. So, people tend to be protective which is why they say “why are these people coming here?”. They feel a bit attacked, I think they are afraid to lose their identity as a country, maybe. 

I have this disgust for politics because people just promise things, but they don’t do them. And, if they don’t do them, they don’t try to make things better so I am not very keen on voting and getting involved with a certain party. But, if it was for the UK to stay in Europe, I would have voted to stay. 

I am also disappointed on how people are because if we unite, we have the power to change things but I just see people complaining on Facebook. For example, with the Amazon forests that were burning, people just stay on Facebook and complain. But, instead of being on Facebook and complaining, you can maybe try to do something that will make a difference in this world or in your town, or your street. I was thinking the other day, what if I take a garbage bag and some gloves, and start picking up the trash from the street or go in the park near me and pick up the trash. And that’ll make a difference. Sure, people will bully you or say, “it’s not your park, what are you doing? What’s the point?” but it makes a difference, it can make a difference.

I am trying to find a job, something that’s a little bit closer to my desires but it’s a bit hard because I see that maybe I am not given the opportunity because of my previous job or because I don’t have experience, or because I am not English. I am still trying to work it out, I am still fighting to have a certain stability here. I don’t know whether I’ll still live in Leeds or maybe I will change the city, but for now I am still thinking to stay in the UK. It depends on the work possibilities and the economy of the country. 

I don’t mind moving because I am already used to it. I’ve noticed that when you haven’t left your country before and you haven’t lived outside for a year or a few months, then it’s quite hard because you are afraid and you are closed in your universe. When you live in your country and you haven’t been outside, it kinda feels like that is your universe and everything revolves around that bubble. When you go outside your country and you live outside for a while, you realise that it’s not not how you thought it was. You realise that there are differences, there are different people and different ways of living, and different possibilities.

Sometimes I feel that people can be superficial here, but they can also be superficial in other places. Here they can seem friendly, but they actually are not. It’s a way of being polite. In my country if someone says “thank you” or “please”, they mean it. Here it seems they just say it because it’s their instinct to say “sorry” or “thank you”. 

In my country if someone asks “how are you doing? How are you feeling?” you open up and you start to tell them about what is going on in your life and people listen to you, and they give you an opinion or advice. But, here I notice that when I was at work, usually people expect you to say “I’m fine, thank you. How are you?” If you want to say more about how you are not doing or feeling well, they just run away. They excuse themselves and run away, they don’t want to listen to you. 

Moving can change you in that you are not afraid of having changes in your life. It depends on the people that you are surrounded with. For example, when I left my country I was already living in the capital, I had a certain mentality but I also liked the countryside life. I was doing half and half. When I was studying I was living in the big city, when I was having holidays, I went to my grandparents’ house. I know how both lives work and I noticed that people in my country who are from the city, they tend to be more superficial sometimes and they desire to go to the countryside because they are fascinated by that kind of life. People from the countryside are jealous from the people in the city, or the urban life, because they think those people have more possibilities. They are captivated by the luxury of that life.

If people from a city or a town go to another country, they tend to change but they change in a better way. If they come from the countryside, they can change but it’s a bit harder. They still have that mentality from the countryside. Also, I notice that if you are surrounded by people who have certain values, and they have different passions and interests, then you kinda grow with them. But, if you surround yourself with the same people that you had back in your country, then you don’t manage to grow very much and that’s why you feel a little left outside because you close yourself in. You say “these people are racist and they don’t want to accept me”, but you have to look at yourself. Your perception matters and the way you behave, and the way you open yourself, and you have to be open to learn from other people who live in the country you went to. 

In my case, I don’t know if I changed. Maybe I changed by accepting changes more. It helped me grow in understanding cultures, and customs of the people, and how they think, their attitudes.

Using Format