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On his third visit to England, my father was pulled over by a police officer for driving over the speed limit. “Did you just get off the plane?” the officer barked. My father just said yes. “Your driving is shit. You should’ve looked into the speed limit. There is a way to do things here, you know.” 
He was fined £500. Even though we both understand that there certainly is a ‘way’ of doing things in this country, I didn’t think there was any need for the police officer to ask my dad to get into the police car, reprimand him so harshly or even patronise him. My dad is going to dispute the fine, and even though I believe it will be to no avail, I think it’s important that he gets the chance to. 

When my boyfriend first visited my homeland, Guatemala, I took him on a nine-hour trip to the jungle in the north of the country where he fell ill with a 42 degree fever on our last day there. I drove him to the nearest pharmacy, where the pharmacist laid out a piece of cardboard on the floor and injected him with something she didn’t charge me for, because he was a tourist. “He’s having a bad time as it is,” she said as he attempted to get up. “We don’t want him to have a bad time here! Don’t worry about the money.” The village’s tourism administrator was there too, and when my boyfriend eventually managed to stagger to his feet, he subsequently fainted and hit his head on a Coca Cola fridge. The tourism administrator immediately called an ambulance. “I know a doctor at the hospital, it’s only a half hour drive. We’ll get him in the ambulance, I’ll call the police and they can escort you so that you can drive behind us,” he said whilst still on hold to his friend, the doctor. 
“I don’t have a licence,” I managed to mumble, my voice shaky and sick with worry. He took my hand and I felt the calluses on his palms and the tips of his fingers. “You have to do what you have to do. It’s fine. I won’t tell, and they won’t ask.”

In retrospect, it may have been unwise for me to drive nine hours back to the capital city without a licence, but he was right. No one asked. These circumstances — although vastly different — trace divergent lines in my experience of having lived in both countries. In fact, the difference can be felt directly from the moment you get off the airplane. In Guatemala, tourists are welcomed with smiles and broken English. At Heathrow, the random selection demographic in the security areas are predominantly brown, black, and immigrant. In Guatemala, tourists are praised for their light hair and their blue eyes. Young barefoot children come up to them in the street, asking to take pictures with them. They laugh, holding their fingers up in a peace sign.

"I have been welcomed and praised for choosing to study and work over five thousand miles away from where I was born. However, as someone who is perpetually received as a tourist in the place that is actually my home, I notice the differences in existing in the first world as an immigrant compared to that of visiting the third world as a tourist."


Once, when I was speaking on the phone to my mother in Spanish, I was told to ‘fuck off back to wherever I came from.’ Needless to say, not everyone shares this very narrow vision of prejudice towards immigrants. My time living in the UK so far has been met  with far more love than it has animosity or bigotry. I have been welcomed and praised for choosing to study and work over five thousand miles away from where I was born. However, as someone who is perpetually received as a tourist in the place that is actually my home, I notice the differences in existing in the first world as an immigrant compared to that of visiting the third world as a tourist. The immediate frowning upon a foreign language or traditional clothes that is so often experienced in Western countries compares drastically to the third world idolatry of Caucasian features and makes for a very different welcome. 

Sadly, I’ve come to believe that the third world’s assumed ‘propensity' towards (and indeed, reputation for) hospitality is a result of the long-lasting consequences of imperialism. Perhaps this is even fuelled by an attitude adopted by the people of these countries that exudes a particular reverence to life in the first world or the West, which may to them seem  like a fairytale land of free healthcare and education, democracy, honest politicians and accountability. A part of me also truly believes that those who have less really do give more, perhaps out of empathy — something which the police officer who embarrassed my father certainly lacked. The complexities of immigration compared to the privileges some tourists experience everywhere result in a jarring juxtaposition; an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ reinforcement. It feels as though the corners of the world for which the oppressed had to fight to get back are the ones in which we’re meant to remain, everywhere else being solely exclusive to a certain demographic. 

Kind people, the Mayor of London, and the home secretary make me believe that the UK truly is open. Some days, everybody I encounter is that police officer. Some days, these entirely opposite experiences make for a really bleak outlook of my life here — but other days, most days, I find tiny pieces of home within those who don’t even know my home. They invite me to dinner. They ask about my culture. They look Guatemala up on a map. They turn the light on.