An Island Girl stranded in a Multicultural City…

Being a student studying in Preston, from the Isle of Man, has made me realise two things over the past two years:

  1. I’m a lot more proud of being Manx than I ever realised
  2. The Isle of Man is different

But it’s the second point which has particularly been evident over the past few weeks. Moving on from the whole snow fiasco like I mentioned a few days ago (and which I’m sure you’re sick to death of hearing about elsewhere anyway), my taxi driver last night asked a few odd questions. Generally, when I mention the Isle of Man I expect the “Where is that?” “I went there when I was young, where about’s are you from?” or “I guess you’re obsessed with motorbikes then!” kind of introductory comments. These then might turn into typical stone age comments about the Isle of Man’s culture or [supposed, lack of] technology. Or I sit and nod while some motorbike fanatic tells me of his five different motorbikes.

What I don’t expect is “Does the Isle of Man have any Indian restaurants/kebab shops/corner shops?” which is what came from my taxi driver’s mouth last night.

Seriously?

Ironically, though, we actually have very few. Especially in the town where I’m from, we have one Chinese restaurant, one Indian restaurant, three newsagents and the only kebab shop is in Douglas and when all the clubs close at about 1am that’s where we’d all gather. If you’d lost anyone on a night out this was very useful!

Of course, in Douglas it’s different because it’s bigger and given that it’s where the port is you generally see a range of ethnicities though still, this is generally only during peak holiday time like TT. Maybe that is what contributes to our lack of take aways, since there are very few Asian families or other cultures who typically set these businesses up. There’s also no call for many take aways given our restricted nightlife.

I remember during one TT fortnight I worked in a supermarket and had one entire family speaking to me in French, without even a slight attempt at English or even some other sort of indication of what they wanted. It got worse when no other staff member in the entire store understood a word of french. We had never needed to, the community I grew up in didn’t travel, we were born and bred islanders who were very proud of that- well, when I say “we” I mean them, since I was born in Essex.

A day trip to Liverpool was all the excitement I needed.

But when my taxi driver asked me that, it really hit me and similarly when my Asian boss commented that he was going to visit one day. Ironically my first response was “considering a few years ago the front page news was the locals refusing the let the Muslims build a mosque, I probably would stay away.”

I guess I have always had a slight inclination about my community.

Now, I’m not saying the Isle of Man is racist. The one Chinese restaurant in our town is a family run business, and they’re one of the biggest factors in our community. Despite the fact others have tried setting up similar businesses, if you’re a native, you always go to Hong Kong Delight. The Indian restaurant is a lot newer, and was a shock to the system, but even that’s thriving. We do do culture suddenly.

Just nowhere near as much of it as the likes of Preston!

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