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  • Articles by Mary

    Becoming a Brit

    I'm not sure why, after many years in the UK, I  finally decided to apply for citizenship.  It may have been the increasingly scary anti immigrant rhetoric.  It may have been that having left my full time employment in the public sector I felt less securely connected to the UK. It also seemed important that I had spent more of my adult life this side of the pond than the other. In any case, I reached a point where talking about the British as them began to feel, well, inauthentic, like saying tomaytoes, and gas and truck when you’ve been here a while. 


    There were of course a few problems. When you’re born with a nationality you don’t have to sign up for all the small print, you’ve just got it.  Being naturalised is different.  You find yourself scrutinising your surroundings and noticing what you like and what you don’t. It’s a kind of political litmus paper that tells you who you are.  So while there are things I respect about British society there are also irritations.  Specifically, I find I am deeply republican.  I’m very keen on being a citizen—paying taxes, voting, participating, but being a subject is another matter, and the inherited privilege it’s based on is a big stumbling block. 


    But I convinced myself to look at the big picture, parked the fine print of my scruples, and found myself with thirty other people in the very lovely Woolwich Town Hall for the citizenship ceremony.  I had expected a bit of pomp and a fairly po-faced do.  The truths was 90% photo opportunity and 10% ritual  in which we were encouraged to celebrate, have fun, and support each other.  After a mercifully brief welcome by the dignitaries we swore or affirmed and then individually came forward to be congratulated, given our certificate of naturalisation, and photographed. Each person was announced in a very upbeat manner, reminiscent of the 2012 Olympics. Some of us were couples and brought young children to the party (and the photo) adding to the generally rowdy atmosphere.  There were people from Albania, Afghanistan, China, Germany, Iraq, Nepal, Nigeria, Poland, and many other countries.  Everyone clapped everyone else.  It was very jolly.  Then we sang the truly dreadful God Save the Queen and formed a tidy queue to collect our pictures.  


    After the ceremony I met up with some of the people who have made me welcome here for some bubbles and food. It has surprised and charmed me that friends who have never treated me as any kind of outsider seem nevertheless to be genuinely pleased by my decision to join the fold.  


    It was a lovely day for me and for the other 29 new citizens.  The letter we were given from the Home Secretary invites us to ensure that Britain continues to be a decent and open society.  And in the end it is actually about more than just being able to get in the short queue at the airport.  This small celebration of inclusion and generosity, despite the  background of increasing xenophobia, confirmed my feeling that this is a good place to be part of.  



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