Over the many centuries Britain has been defined by the endless comings and goings of boats – and now ships, trains and planes – in and out from its shores. As you arrive in Britain you are helping us to write a new page in the long history of our nation. As you bring your own rich stories and cultures to our mix, you are welcome. When I travelled to work in exuberant, bustling Nigeria recently I was amazed at how often complete strangers would cross the street to say: ‘you are welcome’. Even as I was leaving a place people would shout after me ‘you are welcome’. This made me smile as I thought of just how reserved British people are – we don’t tend to shout greetings of welcome across the street. I wondered what a Nigerian would make of arriving in UK? Writing this message to you is my way of sharing that Nigerian welcome in a British way!
And I know why this welcome matters. In 1930’s my own grandparents came to Manchester as economic migrants from Ireland, they came with a different religious background and with their own language and customs, in search of work. They worked in domestic service, in the factories and in manual labour. They had little formal education themselves but were devoted to the education of their own children and were immensely proud that their children became teachers, nurses and businesswomen. I have spent my life so far working in the education system that they so valued – schools and universities. British education is something to be proud of and your children will find a warm welcome in our schools. My son’s school has children who speak over 40 different languages; his closest friends are Malaysian, Korean, French, Egyptian and Sri Lankan and each year they celebrate this diversity with food and cultures shared.
Although we now live in Cambridge, we often spend a Saturday enjoying the delights of London and here are a few tips for the things we enjoy doing as a family: most of the London museums are free entry and our favourite is the British Museum (and if we’ve a little money for coffee and cake in our pockets a little visit to the London Review Bookshop Café on Bury Street opposite for the best cake!), walking in the many green spaces across London parks won’t cost you a penny either – you can see all the big historic sites and plan which you’d like to visit – feed the ducks in St James’ park and enjoy the views towards Westminster and Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park by the Serpentine down towards Kensington Palace gardens ending up at the fabulous Royal Albert Hall.