Cristian, 35, Waitrose, Morningside, Edinburgh

Edinburgh vendor Cristian learned English entirely though selling The Big Issue after coming to the UK eight years ago

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I’ve been selling The Big Issue for eight years, nearly three of them here outside Waitrose in Morningside. Before that I was in Livingston outside the Morrisons there, but I had a problem so I decided to move across to Edinburgh. A guy kept coming over to me while I was in Livingston asking for a cigarette and for me to give him cash and then the last time I sold there, he followed me to the bus to try and get my money.

Things are a bit slow at the minute because it is the start of the year, but usually things are alright on my pitch so it’s not so bad. There was a big, big, big rise in sales at Christmas. As soon as it gets halfway through November and into December it gets busy but then it is quiet, sometimes until March. But that’s the way it is, I have no complaints at all.

The last year of selling the magazine through the pandemic has been alright. Much better than the one before! While I was off my pitch I found that if I was able to budget and sort money for bills and food and everything I was OK, but if I spent cash on other things then I had no money to live. So I was careful.

I like the job because it comes easy to me. I like to chat to people and make friends on my pitch. It’s not a hard job for me and I am my own boss. I don’t like having a boss! For me, chatting with people isn’t work, it’s a hobby. I love to do it. I like Edinburgh because the people are nice, a lot nicer than in Livingston I think. It’s a nice city to walk around, some parts can be dangerous but it is usually OK.

I never learned English in school, I learned English by selling The Big Issue. I didn’t know any English when I started and I have learned it entirely on the streets selling the magazine. Now my English is really good. It’s amazing! I really do believe that if you have a vision of what you want to do in the UK you can make it happen.

I don’t try to push the magazine on people. They say hello to me and then they often buy the magazine. I try to keep it quite chilled and quiet and the people here are friendly. So I try not to harass them, following them saying ‘please, please, please’ or anything like that. If you are polite you get more customers, if you are impolite then customers run away, that’s what I say. I have a lot of regular customers here though.

Sometimes I get a new customer but it’s not that often, most of the time it is the same people who support me. Sometimes on my pitch I do have problems with beggars. People come here to beg and sometimes that can end in a shouting match between me and them. I want them to move on because they can affect my business. I am here trying to sell the magazine and I buy it myself so I need to sell it. If I can’t sell it then I have lost money. I have come from Romania to work and support myself. Others have come to beg. I hate that. There is a job here for everyone and mine gives me respect.

I want to keep selling the magazine until my funeral, I enjoy it that much. I’d like to thank my customers for buying the magazine from me.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Waitrose Ltd, Morningside Road, Edinburgh, UK