Despite the fact that it’s pretty goddamn crazy that there’s a talking bear in a duffle coat, most people react to Paddington not with amazement, but with prejudice. Like the cab driver who charges extra for bears.
Even Paddington’s adoptive family try have him fit their mold rather than learn about his culture. Instead of taking a few minutes to learn his Peruvian name, they literally give him the first “English one” they see: the name of the goddamn train station they’re all standing in.
It’s pretty clear that Paddington’s story is meant to represent the immigrant experience in England – but it’s likely an even more specific commentary than one might realize. The location of Paddington Station was one of the means by which a large influx of West Indian immigrants entered Britain in the 50s. The racial tension bubbled up into the brutal Notting Hill race riot in 1958 (not to be confused with the Notting Hill riots from 1999, when people demanded Hugh Grant’s head). Incidentally, 1958 is the same year the first Paddington book was published.
The recent movie adaptation didn’t ignore this context, incorporating calypso music in the soundtrack as a reference to the Notting Hill immigrant culture. Even Paddington’s distinctive suitcase and “Please Look After this Bear” tag aren’t totally apolitical – they were inspired by the author’s memories of children being evacuated during WWII, standing in a train station with “a label round their neck with their name and address on and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions.” So, yep, Paddington is a refugee.