Becoming German

 

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Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances have changed nationality these past years. Some time ago, many European countries changed the rules about naturalization and no longer make you choose whether you want to be French or Finnish,  Swedish or Spanish, Danish or Dutch, Belgian or Bulgarian. This is an interesting psychological issue because I have never met anyone so far that would readily have relinquished their original citizenship despite the fact that it wouldn’t actually disadvantage them in their lives that they live in another country than their home state anyway. Dual citizenship is now the thing to have, it’s like the prolongation of Erasmus in a way. Just like I’ve almost never been to a wedding where two people from the same country married each other is an effect of the internationalization efforts of the EU so is the taking on new passports.

Now it was time for my friend Anthony to take that step. Coming from Britian almost ten years ago, he has integrated in Germany ideally. He married a German girl, he learned German up to level C2, he keeps a large map of Germany in his study, he recycles his garbage like a pro and he hands in his taxes on January 1st. I told him that if he, in the process of applying for German citizenship, needed someone to testify that he was a very suitable to become German, I’d gladly be called to the stand.

With Brexit upon us, he applied to become German last summer and it almost took a year for them to grant him citizenship. Hello, what happened to German efficiency? Now finally, however, he is one of us. A national, allowed to vote! Last Monday we went out to celebrate this milestone. I made him a card honoring this special occasion that was heavily inspired by the card I received years ago from my dear friend Malin when I acquired my personnummer in Stockholm. I also threw a big party then, something I am still trying to convince Anthony to do, too. In the meantime we celebrated with burgers at my new favorite bar. They charge 18 euros for a burger, which we noticed afterwards. Talk about a worthy celebration!

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This is what a German looks like, I guess!

Never gonna give EU up

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Today marks two important birthdays: Ingrid‘s 29th and the EU’s 60th. I love them both. Acutally I love the EU so much I attended the March for Europe today with my choir friend. All those marches in D.C. have reignited my political spark. Thank you, Donald.

It wasn’t a march at all which was a bit disappointing (then again, this Saturday there is so much gong on in downtown Dizzel, you can’t possibly march anywhere) but it was a nice manifestation that there are still people who care whether we are a strong union or lots of small nationalistic states.

We also became the interest of almost every attending photographer/cameraman, both professional and amateur, because we were the only ones refering to the 60th birthday. So now not only does the EU give me money, rights and friends – even fame!

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photo: Rheinische Post

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Also happening today: start of the countdown to the Grand Depart of the Tour de France which will be in Düsseldorf, of all bike-unfriendly places

After speeches (not the best way to enthuse the masses for the EU) and European pop music (minus Bob Dylan’s song), the university’s choir and orchestra appeared and performed the European anthem, “Ode to Joy” that we were asked to sing along to. As we, next to the river Rhine connecting five European countries and Switzerland, chanted “What routine has split asunder, thy enchantment will rebind”, lots of blue balloons with golden stars were released into the perfect blue sky. We didn’t manage to get a hold of one as there were too few. At the very same moment, the same thing was done in 50 other European cities. “We sent 200 balloons to Bucharest”, the host on stage informed us. “So that they could do the same”.

The European project and national reality

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A garden in Aix

Three countries in one day – a typical European travel plan. I started this morning in sunny Aix-en-Provence, landed in Amsterdam and now I climbed off the train in Düsseldorf. I am still not sure what to make of the fact that I felt the greatest culture shock was in Dizzel where once again a car driver had parked in an area designated for another traffic participants, namely the tram that had to stop because the car was parked on the tracks. Seriously, how hard can this be? In Amsterdam, on the other hand, I felt immediately somewhat at home – such a nice place, really.

When I studied my Master’s in European Studies, one buzz word was always part of our discussions: closeness to the citizens. What is a European citizen and how can the EU work towards making a difference in her citizens’ life? Well, today, I got to experience how policy influences real life first hand. In France, a country formally at war with heavily armed guards patrolling the central station of Marseille, we were forced to go through border control and they looked at our passports closely. This is something I’ve known from flying to London but once I was on the train from Amsterdam to Dizzel, I really got a taste of the “we don’t do Schengen anymore”-decision. A couple of plainclothes policepeople suddenly came in and demanded to see our tickets and passports. They searched the bags, asked why one had been in Amsterdam and for how long and then called some authority to verify our documents. While I luckily can travel legally, it still felt very odd. I almost felt insulted in my Europeaness. The EU member states decisions have, at any rate, suceeded in terms of closeness to citizens.