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.