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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Citizen Me

I have one project that I am determined to complete this year. That project is to become a British citizen. For many years I had assumed that in order to obtain British nationality I would be required to renounce my American citizenship. But then after I had been here for several years and after I had returned from 5  years living in Germany I discovered that this was not so, that I could in fact have dual nationality: British and American.

The timing of this discovery was unfortunate. The Man, who was in the Royal Air Force at the time and was, therefore, on duty when we went to Germany discovered that if I had applied for citizenship before leaving for Germany the process would have been accelerated. But as the saying goes there is no use crying over spilt milk...

Much to my surprise, several of our British friends have, with great incredulity, asked me Why do you want to become British? The question rather took me aback and to be honest I wasn't completely honest, because I didn't want to sound 'corny'. The thing is I really like it here and I have developed a real love for this country and it's traditions and quirkiness and people. I like that it's not perfect and love that it wants always to not only do better but be better. I love its politics and want to be able to vote; I want to commit!

My wish to become a British citizen is not because I no longer feel like an American or because I do not love my native land. I had not realized it until I thought about it recently, but while people talk about being proud to be an American, most people do in fact identify most of all with one state or region in particular. I feel very strongly about being a New Englander -- I identify with that culture and life and it is intrinsic to my being. My personal history is very much a product of the great American melting pot. I'm a mixture of old New England families and Irish, German and Swiss immigrants -- lots of Connecticut Yankees and Alabama politicians and even a cigar manufacturer from Baltimore named Gallagher!

But I haven't always loved Britain. There was a time when I felt well and truly alienated -- when I never wanted to return. But there is more to tell before that...

24 comments:

  1. Broad, that's lovely! I feel really pleased that you want to do this and touched by the reasons you give. At a time when much of the press seems hellbent on running down Britain and expat forums are full of people saying how they couldn't wait to shake the dust of Britain off their feet, it's so refreshing to find my love of my country reflected in the words of someone not born here but choosing to identify with it so completely. You've made my day. -)

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words... It's so easy to forget the good things sometimes -- especially when it comes to the country where you've been born and bred -- no place is perfect and often the more you know the less regard you feel -- as in familiarity breeds contempt!

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    2. I'm glad to say that I've never felt that way, Broad. Perhaps I've been lucky with where I live and the people I live among, but Britain is home and always will be.

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  2. This is a very moving and illuminating post. Like many of your British friends I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to adopt Britain at a time when I am rapidly falling out of love with my country or even feeling ashamed at times of being British. A lot of the things I used to be proud of seem to have been drowned in a quagmire of modern trends which I can't relate to and would dearly love to run away from.
    Sometimes it's very hard to love the place you live and I would give anything to see it through your eyes.

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    1. There are certainly a lot of challenges for this country. It is not easy to come to terms with the changes in the culture and demographics since I first came here to live in 1980. For one thing -- it's so crowded here! The idea of driving terrifies me ...Sometimes it would seem that other cultures want to come here not because they appreciate what a wonderful country this is, but because of the handouts they can receive and that is very difficult for the ordinary citizen to take. My husband feels very much the way you do...

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  3. Dear Broad,
    I, too, associate myself with the region in which I live. And with the fact that my ancestors were Irish and English. I am still glad to be an American, but like Jean, I sometime despair of the United States and what is happening politically.

    I so admire your honesty in this posting and your love for Britain. I hope that you will have your citizenship soon. And I eagerly look forward to reading more your moving to Britain and your sojourn there.

    Peace.

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    1. For a long time I have had difficulty with the political situation in the United States. A big country with a dysfunctional government -- not good news for anybody...

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  4. Good for you Broad! I too found myself in the same sort of quandry five years ago. I'd lived in the US for 20 years but never applied for citizenship because I refused to renounce the country that I loved so much - Australia. But when the US relaxed its rules and allowed dual Aussie/Yankee citizenship I jumped at the chance mainly because I want to vote and sit on a jury...two privileges denied me as a non-citizen. Happy to see you'll soon be an American/Brit. Smiles - A

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    1. Thanks Astrid. Glad you've been able to take advantage of the relaxation in the rules.

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  5. It's nice to know this. Can you vote in both countries?

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    1. Yes, I will be able to vote in both countries and will have two passports.

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  6. I'm a dual national. American born I hold a US passport; my parents originally came from the Netherlands so I hold Dutch nationality as well. I'm grateful to Ted Kennedy who was responsible for the legislation which allowed Americans to keep their dual nationality. I vote in both and have 2 passports.

    I can see why you'd chose to apply. A British friend of mine applied for Dutch citizenship a couple of years ago. As she pointed out she'd spent 1/2 her life in NL and her kids were dual nationals.

    Good luck with the process :-)

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    1. I so miss 'the Lion of the Senate' -- there don't seem to be many of his ilk in politics anymore. Thanks for your 'good luck' wishes!

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  7. Jean has pretty much said it all. I do though agree with you, if you want to live in a country, then you should be able to have a say in what is important to the country, especially the political situation.
    I think though getting French citizenship is a little too difficult! Diane

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    1. I think obtaining French citizenship might just be a nightmare too far!

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  8. I'm so happy you have room in your life for more than one country to love. And yes I agree with you. We are who we came from but then we are so much more.
    Congrats on this decision. I'm happy you can have dual citizenship. Don't know much about those matters but it seems this is a natural progression and decision you've reached.
    I say go for it.
    Just don't forget us back home!
    Blessings, B
    I'm so glad you are following my publishing adventure. I'm having the time of my life - well, for this time in my life!!!

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    1. I am so fortunate to be living at a time when it possible to travel back and forth and when the law looks favourably on those of us with 'dual' natures...

      I am so excited for you in this venture. So many of us believe we have a book or two or more in us -- but you are doing something about it and getting published ... Brilliant!!!

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  9. Broad, Britain will be a better place for having you, well done, SP

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  10. G'day Broad. Good for you. I am a very proud Australian and because I live in the state of Victoria, this is where my heart is. We do associate with the region we live. I wish you well. Take care. Liz...

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    1. Thank you Liz ... I hope one of these days I get to visit Australia and see the state of Victoria ...

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  11. No way would I want to give up my German nationality. When I first settled here I couldn't have dual nationality, I'm not sure if I can now. As a member of the EC I am free to do as I wish (provided I don't break the law) anyway. In spite of having lived in the UK longer than anywhere else, there is much that still infuriates me; there is also much that I, well, not love, but enjoy. I'm afraid I wouldn't pass Tebbit's cricket test.

    I miss Europe, not just Germany, and the insular and parochial attitude of some Britishers drives me mad. The lack of interest in any other country, the constant comparisons - Britain 'leading the world' in this or that - the posturing of politicians,; I'd better stop right now, before I say something I might regret!

    And then I look out of the window at my little paradise, see my sweet-natured Beloved, sit round the table with my wonderful British friends, arguing for hours, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

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    1. You have struck a chord here, Friko! It was a long time before I understood the mentality of islanders! It is different to those from a continent -- I expect that is why that annual injection of continental living is a kind of 'therapy' for me. Island Britain is something I can understand now, but a place where I cannot quite go...

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  12. I find this so interesting, and I can imagine feeling the same way. My best friend is German, though she has lived in the U.S. far longer than in her native land. She has contemplated acquiring American citizenship often, but never followed through with it. Her husband is American, their son is dual German and American. I don't know if it matters to her, ultimately, whether or not she eventually becomes an American, but I recognize that it matters to me. Sometimes I feel a bit wounded when she criticizes Americans, even though I agree with her! But if she were an American citizen, she would be one of us, and that would make a big difference to me. Sort of like how you can't criticize my mama. . .

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    1. I know exactly what you mean! Criticism of this sort always feels quite rude and surprisingly 'personal'... Do you think Americans, in particular, are too sensitive to this and too defensive?

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!