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Becoming English

It’s been almost ten years since I got off the plane at Heathrow, not really knowing what was going to happen or where I was going. I’d been to London before, but never with all my earthly possessions and no return ticket.

I moved to London for, I suppose, the usual reasons. I was in a position where I could renew the lease on my shared flat, or not. I could renew my contract at a job I hated, or not. I could break up with my waste of space boyfriend of five years, or not. The decision was fairly easy. It’s not like I came from the other side of the world. Finland was only a two hour flight away. My home country was then, and still is regarded as the cradle of advanced technology, a healthy economy and the world’s best education system. I wasn’t escaping persecution or a hopeless life. I wanted an adventure, and was eager to experience England and all its unique quirks.

I didn’t stay in London for long, after a year I was ready to move on, and moved up North. That was nine years ago. I have since then learned the local lingo, attended University and earned a degree, got engaged to be married to a Northerner and worked my butt off in any jobs I have been lucky enough to get to support myself. I’ve attended neighbourhood events, contributed to my community, I’ve made life-long friends and have no plans of returning to my country of origin.

But still, something is missing. I’m not English. I haven’t applied for citizenship. I am proud of my roots and when I eventually have children, I want them to know where their mother came from. My parents-in-law-to-be are supportive and have embraced me as a part of their family. My friends are amazing and I doubt they care about where I am from.

I am, what you may call a naturalised citizen, I feel England is my home and even the thought of living anywhere else is almost alien to me. And still, on occasion I face prejudice and get told to go back to where I came from. I am told I have come to this country to sponge of its benefits system. I am asked if I am marrying my partner to get a permanent visa, even though as an EU citizen I don’t even need one.

These people do not care I have paid taxes for a decade through working, they don’t care I have integrated into the community I live in nor that I will next year marry an English man. They don’t care that I got my education here or that I have built a life here in the last ten years. It doesn’t matter. I am foreign and I don’t belong here.

I had thought about applying for citizenship, if for nothing else, to make the life of my future children a little easier when it came to their nationality. But I don’t believe it would make me any more English than what I am now. I would still be the blonde, blue-eyed Scandinavian with a slight accent, regardless of what my passport says.

I love England and it is my home, and I don’t intend to leave. I am lucky to have met amazing people who see me for the person I am, not the country where I am from. I am lucky to live in a community that for the vast majority accepts me and will accept my children. But I know not everyone is as fortunate and I feel a deep sorrow for them. I try from my part to advocate acceptance and to show that foreigners can be an asset to the UK. We can integrate and contribute to our local communities. I want to show that we may come from different cultures but that is not meant to threaten the established traditions of an old empire. And with this, I hope to beat prejudice.

Then, perhaps, one day I can apply for citizenship and feel like I am truly English. Not just in my heart, but on paper as well.

Comments

  • […] Becoming English […]

  • Janni Ke Janni Ke says:

    This is such a complicated matter! I can totally see where you are coming from, though. I have lived abroad myself for the past 7 years or so and I don’t feel Swedish at all anymore. Yet… it is a little hard to escape ones nationality, isn’t it? I have never felt Swedish, not even when I lived in Sweden and if it was up to me I would have converted to another nationality a long time ago. In my case it’s Mexican, I identify with the Mexicans and I feel I am Mexican at heart… yet my passport says otherwise. Overall I think people pay too much attention to nationalities… gosh… especially when it comes to people that have lived in a country for a very long time. Great article!!

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