Thursday, July 6, 2017

Nationality, identity and being an angry Brit

9 months ago I wrote "How I became a Brit with a German passport, and why I no longer am", just as I was considering taking more serious step towards permanent residence and eventually citizenship.
My final paragraph read "It may just be that applying for British citizenship is my safest bet to ensure my future in this country. But I fear that even if I apply for and obtain citizenship, I will never feel British again in the same way I did when I was a Brit with a German passport.", and that has definitely turned out to be the case.
It is done. 16 months after I first tentatively and half-heartedly started the process, I have finally become a British citizen.

Please don't congratulate me. I have all kinds of emotions, but joy and pride are not amongst them.
Yes, I feel a sense of RELIEF. It secures me a future in this country and it gives me rights I have never had before. I will be able to leave Britain for any length of time without having to worry about potential changes in immigration rules. And of course I can vote!
I also feel a lot of ANGER. Anger for having felt forced to take this step, but also anger on behalf of all my fellow EU citizens who cannot or don't want to become British citizens and on behalf of my British friends - young and not so young - who never wanted to lose their rights as EU citizens either.
I also feel a certain amount of SHAME, because I feel that I have become a British citizen for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps I had some romantic idealistic ideas of taking citizenship, but I never thought I would end up doing it out of sheer self-preservation! Many people I have spoken to have told me to just do the thing and not to worry about it, and that I was doing it for myself and no other reason.

The thing is, I have taken every step with resentment.
In the process of becoming a British citizen, I had to prove that I speak English and understand British culture. I have had to prove my monetary worth. They have recorded my voice, taken the biometrics of my facial features and my fingerprints. They have checked my coming and goings from this country, checked for criminal records, and have taken £1700 in the process.
The final step was to swear allegiance to Queen and country - something which many of my British friends tell me they would never do.
Feeling already chewed over and spat out by the Home Office, I met that final requirement too. It didn’t seem to matter any more. I promised to "be faithful to the Queen". What does that mean anyway? We weren't told, so I took it to mean that I should not attempt to seduce Prince Philip. Fair enough!
I also promised to abide by British laws and values. What the **** do they think I have been doing for the last 27 years?? 😒 I've never even had as much as a parking ticket or speeding ticket! (Although my husband reckons that’s almost certainly suspicious and gives the impression of someone trying to fly below the radar of the authorities... 😎 )

I feel that Britain definitely had the best of me, and has squandered it!
What's left of me is an bundle of anger and resentment.
Paradoxically Brexit is creating a new breed of British citizens, and I am one of them - those EU citizens who until the EU referendum trusted the great British public to do and vote the right thing ... and who have now decided to take matters in their own hands. After the treatment they have received from the media, the government and certain groups and individuals, they are a highly politicised bunch. They will not forget how they were treated, and the lukewarm promises they got from their MPs. They will not forget which MPs and parties voted against guaranteeing their rights in this country. They will not forget the remainder of the 3 million who are still living with anxiety and uncertainty. And they will not forget that they are European first and any specific nationality second.
Make no mistake, they will take an active role in shaping the future of this country!

So here I am. German by birth, British out of necessity and European by my identity of choice.



3 comments:

  1. British and bloody furious at your government. That should do it – welcome!

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  2. Hi Anke thank you for writing this, I feel exactly the same as my life seems to parallel yours but from Spain and two years earlier! I came to Bournemouth as a 15 year old in a student exchange in 1979, then returned to first study in 1988 then worked since 1992, married here etc I looked into UK citizenship in the early 00s but Spain did not allow it at the time and then after the referendum I went though the whole process of naturalisation until I got it last April (just in time for the GE). Anger, resentment, shame all of those words also resonate with me and sadness too. More recently, also the realisation that the passport means zilch for many British-born people as one will always be a 'foreigner' for them (still get the 'jokes' about Manuel from Barcelona) but my comfort is that now I have a say or a vote rather to try to influence the direction of my adoptive country (calculating from an average lifespan, the vote will have cost me around £300 every GE, a price worth paying). Regarding having a say, I have been told that I don't have a right to have an opinion on the government or UK society because I wasn't born here. Have you experienced something similar? If a big proportion of the 3M EU nationals become naturalised, then we at least can become a significant minority that politicians should take into account (rather than brush them under the carpet as most have done so far). In addition to UKIP, guess what party I will never vote for? :) All the best

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  3. Well, I am the other way round. I am British and have taken German nationality for myself and my children as I have the right as the child of a refugee. I now value it more than my British. I spent many years when living abroad saying how Britain was a beacon of tolerance and multiculturalism. It seems hollow now.

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