On Becoming German

Ten days ago I got my Personalausweis (identity card), which kind of make me feel like a real German citizen for the first time, although my certificate of naturalisation was issued on the 15 October and I officially became a German citizen when it was handed to me 21 October. It’s a rather strange feeling to become a citizen of another country, although as a EU citizen I retain my British citizenship and am thus a dual national.

It is a move I have been considering making for several years now, but as a ADDer with dysgraphia I hate, fear and loathe all bureaucracy, so my innerer Schweinehund (translates roughly as internal lazy hound) kept me from making it. The result of the Brexit referendum finally pushed me to get off my fat arse and do something but even then my inertia held me back. Last autumn I paid two hundred plus euro and took my German language and German citizenship exams. The first shouldn’t have been necessary, as I took and passed the much harder university German Language exam three decades ago but couldn’t prove it, the records have got lost, so I spent a whole day proving that I could master the German language. The citizenship exam was a joke. You have to answer 33 multiple-choice questions, 28 of which are taken from a catalogue of 3000 questions that you can read and learn on the Internet (I didn’t bother) and 5 specific to the German State in which you live, in my case Bavaria. To pass you have to get at least 17 right. You have 60 minutes for the exam; I took 4 minutes and I wasn’t the fastest. I got 31 right and am annoyed because I know one that I got wrong but have no idea what the other one was!

Having taken this step I still kept putting off having to actually deal with the bureaucracy. Eventually on 27 March just four days before the final Brexit deadline (remember that?!) I finally pulled myself together and submitted my application for German citizenship; with all the forms, documents and whatever that I had to submit, the pile was literally three centimetres thick; the Germans are very thorough. And then you sit and wait! I was actually fairly convinced that my application would be rejected because of lack of financial support. Having led a rather fucked up life, I live on a basic state pension, which is a pittance and have no financial resources whatsoever. I got more and more nervous as the next Brexit deadline approached fearing, I would become an undesirable alien in my country of residence. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I received the letter telling me to come and collect my certificate of naturalisation.

Having changed my nationality or rather acquired a second one as I am now a dual national, as I said above, I suppose I should feel something but I don’t and don’t really know what I’m supposed to feel.

I’m a white, middle class male born of British parents in Clacton-on-Sea of all places, so I suppose I couldn’t really be more British. However, as I pointed out in an earlier post my mother, although British, was born in Burma and grew up in British India first coming to Europe at the age of thirty-one. I’ve never really identified as British. It’s a word I fill in, in the appropriate section on official forms that ask for my nationality and it’s what is on the front of my passport. I enjoy watching sport but have never been particularly or even mildly fanatical about any team. Except for in rugby, which I played and enjoyed at school, and the Olympics there are no British sports teams but separate ones for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I take an Englishman’s perverse pleasure, I think the term is schadenfreude, in watching the inevitable English bating collapse in test matches or another golden generation of English soccer players crashing out of yet another European/World Cup. But that’s about it. I’ve never understood sentiments like “my country right or wrong” or dying for “king and country.” I’m a lifelong pacifist, who would adopt Bertrand Russell’s policy if those that I love and care for were threatened by fascism or anything similar and do what ever was necessary to oppose.

I vaguely identify as a West European; I have lived in England, Wales, Belgium, Sweden and the largest part of my life in Germany, Middle Franconia to be precise. Beyond that, I have travelled and holidayed in Denmark, Holland, France, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Andorra and Lichtenstein. However, my family background and my upbringing have led me to regard all culture and peoples to be fundamentally the same and to abhor discrimination of any sort.

I identify Middle Franconia in general and the area in and around Erlangen in particular, as being my Wahlheimat, Heimat is the German for home, home town, home country but has connotations of belonging that can’t really be translated into English and Wahlheimat is Heimat of choice. It’s where I feel at home, comfortable and everything else considered where I would like to live out the rest of my life. All of this was true before I applied for German citizenship and being granted it hasn’t really changed anything.

Going through the process of acquiring a new nationality has shown me that the word nationality really doesn’t have any deep meaning for me at all. I probably shouldn’t but I worry slightly about this realisation.

10 Comments

Filed under Autobiographical, Uncategorized

10 responses to “On Becoming German

  1. Gavin Moodie

    Thanx for this interesting post.

    Will you always travel on your German passport or continue to use your British passport? I plan to travel on my Canadian passport when I get it, so much do I detest my country of birth (USA), hate the country in which I grew up (Australia), and feel disappointed with my inherited citizenship (UK).

    My comrades describe their attitude to the Poms’ frequent sporting defeats by adapting Lenin’s term revolutionary defeatism.

    • I don’t yet have a German passport as I can’t afford it at the moment and my current UK one is valid for another seven years. The advantage of an identity card (the Brits despise/fear them) is that I can travel over all Europe with it without problem. If I travel outside of Europe I’ll use my British passport for the time being.

  2. Mike from Ottawa

    Congratulations on getting through the rigmarole, Thony.
    And on now being able to be secure in your Wahlheimat regardless of the nitwittery going on in Britain.

  3. Clive Raymond

    I am Australian, and was based in London as a seafarer since 1971 (January). Having gone to the trouble of sorting out a grandparent visa, no longer recognised, in 1982, I recently applied for Right of Abode in Britain, and was turned down. Apparently I just miss the cut-off date of 1981. During the early years of my abode in the UK, Australia did not allow dual citizenship. Having lost money on the ROA application, I went for the Indefinite Leave to Remain card and was successful. It means that I still have to get in the slow queue at Heathrow. It irks me that an Albanian (not EU, and not Commonwealth) with criminal past can get ROA after living here for five years.

  4. “and 5 specific to the German State in which you live, in my case Bavaria”

    suddenly I’m imagining a government test comprising of nothing but questions about “Ein Münchner im Himmel” …

  5. “as a EU citizen I retain my British citizenship and am thus a dual national”

    This is not true in general. Traditionally, Germany, along with many other countries, has required people applying for German citizenship to give up the other one. There were still people with two (or more): some countries don’t allow people to renounce their citizenship, children can inherit more than one, and, for the last 15 years ago, children born to parents living legally here who spend a minimum amount of time get German citizenship and have to decide at 23 if they want to keep it or that of their parents. Also, people born in a country which awards citizenship at birth have to decide at 18.

    For a few years now, Germany has not required citizens from other EU countries to renounce their other EU citizenships. However, there are different rules in different countries. For example, in the Netherlands, it is very difficult to have an additional citizenship, even an EU one, in addition to Dutch.

  6. “The citizenship exam was a joke. You have to answer 33 multiple-choice questions, 28 of which are taken from a catalogue of 3000 questions that you can read and learn on the Internet (I didn’t bother) and 5 specific to the German State in which you live, in my case Bavaria. To pass you have to get at least 17 right. You have 60 minutes for the exam; I took 4 minutes and I wasn’t the fastest. I got 31 right and am annoyed because I know one that I got wrong but have no idea what the other one was!”

    Yes, it is very easy. Also, one can repeat it until one passes. However, even this low bar can’t be jumped by some.

  7. Ritchie the Bavarian

    Firstly, congrats you made it into your Wahlheimat. Just with a twinkle, you know that Mittelfranken doesn’t belong to Bavaria? Just in case you’d come to Upper Bavaria … (where I live, but I for sure do not support those old stories)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s