Old friends from Europe have been with us this week. They are an intrepid couple, he is Swiss, she is French. We met them in Japan long ago, on the OE.

These days they have a lovely chalet above Montreux looking down the lake to Geneva and every northern winter they close the doors for two or three months and go somewhere different.

They've had successful restaurants and their conversation is on food, cooking, trekking, the birds they've seen and the beautiful places they've been, which include Antarctica and, now, Stewart Island. Yesterday they left for Samoa, to see what Somerset Maugham saw, and possibly Gauguin.

They are almost the last Europeans you would expect to be worried about the immigration, yet they are. They talked about the failure of those immigrants to "integrate", even the generation born in the country that took them in.

Advertisement

Especially that generation. It lives in downtrodden parts of Paris and other cities, and it has produced a spate of "terrorist" atrocities in Europe in recent times.

I don't imagine Bruno and Jossette will be voting for any of the reactionary politicians contesting elections in Europe this year, they sniffed at the mention of the name Marine Le Pen, leader of France's National Front who could do a Trump in its presidential election in May.

But they said enough to suggest cultural anxiety is running deep.

They understood Brexit too, taking the view the European Union has gone too far by including countries of Eastern Europe and having completely open internal borders. They envied us being so far from these threats and tensions. I hope we are.

The United States is a long way from the Middle East and North Africa too but immigration from those places looms large in the nightmares of Donald Trump and his supporters.

He has White House lawyers trying to write a Muslim ban that US courts could reconcile with the Constitution. He makes the most of the relatively light toll taken by "radical Islamic terrorism" in the US since 9/11. The Boston and San Bernardino crimes were just two of hundreds of mostly homegrown massacres in the US every year.

San Bernardino in December 2015 was particularly instructive. Initially it looked like just another mass shooting and received no more than the usual "our prayers are with the victims" from Republican presidential candidates and defenders of gun rights.

It took a few days for police to discover the dead shooters, a young married couple, had been radical Muslims in Pakistan. After that, America never heard the end of references to "San Bernardino" in the Republican debates.

Acts of "terror" from immigrant communities have become all too frequent in Europe but rare in other western countries. All too rare for Trump whose delusions include the idea that news media ignore some of it. If only.

Public safety and common sense would be well served, I think, if we did not give lonely alienated murderers the blanket coverage they are guaranteed when they cloak themselves in the jihad.

Europeans have reason to be worried, Americans do not. But despite the horrors in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, the Nice truck and the Normandy church, terrorism is just a trigger for deeper fears of immigration, which would exist without it. The headscarf would be trigger enough. To many it represents a challenge to their nation's identity and culture.

The same fear is at work in New Zealand, though it has less to do with Islamic
immigration than the numbers migrating here from East Asia. Fortunately they are well-off. One in four Aucklanders are now Asian and they are not living in downtrodden communities.

They are unlikely to breed deadly resentment of their host country but nor do they need to integrate. They appear to be happy and thriving in their own New Zealand communities.

Personally, this doesn't worry me in the slightest. When we spent a year in Japan we sought the company of western expatriates most of the time. It's natural and harmless but when Winston Peters decides to say something outrageous on immigration this year it will work for him.

When he does he will lance a boil. A great deal of fear, prejudice and resentment has been suppressed by political correctness and it will spew forth from radio, websites and newspaper correspondence columns.

Then it will stop. Just like it did on Maori after the Brash speech. The political incorrectness will feel wildly liberating for a while, then it will just feel bad. Political correctness is correct, immigrants are good people, supporting themselves, educating their kids, putting more money and life into this country.

I just hope we get there before the election, so that this crisis of European confidence abroad does not do lasting damage here.