Reflections #25: On My Way to British Citizenship

Portrait of Dutch Girl in London holding the Life in the UK book in one hand and a Sinterklaas chocolate letter in the other

Once a month I write my personal review of the previous four weeks. November was a quiet month, spent mostly at home (pretty much like the previous nine months) due to another national lockdown. There wasn’t much time for relaxing though as there was serious studying to do every day in preparation of my Life in the UK Test, a prequisite to applying for British citizenship. Read on to find out if I passed and why I’m considering to become a British citizen. But as always there’s also my personal recommendations for films and series and all the other things I’ve been up to!

My first steps towards becoming a British citizen

In the midst of the coronacrisis, you’d almost forget about Brexit. Yet, with less than a month to go, there’s still no Brexit deal in sight. It’s ‘funny’ how British politicians promised Brexit would be an easy and fast process. Fastforward four years later, and there’s still no unanimity within the British government on certain topics, let alone between the British and EU negotiators.

In December 2018 I wrote about my Brexit stress and how the prospect of leaving the EU and all the insecurity made me anxious. Since it’s still not clear what kind of Brexit deal we’ll end up with (because the negotiations are still ongoing), it’s been practically impossible to prepare ourselves for it in a practical way. For example, 99% of my income comes from EU countries. Will that be affected by Brexit and if so, how?

Picturesque street view in Bermondsey, London, of a cute corner with The Shard skyscraper in the background
One of this month’s Instgram posts taken in the pretty London neighbourhood of Bermondsey

Two years after that post, I’m still a bit anxious, but in the light of everything else in the world and in my private life, I let it go a bit. It helps that I have Settled Status, which is kind of a visum for EU citizens living in the UK. However, since you don’t receive physical evidence of this – it’s linked digitally to your passport – EU citizens in the UK don’t feel reassured at all. A large group is lobbying for physical proof of our status while others are taking it a bit further by applying for British citizenship. I belong to that latter group, but am only doing so because I qualify for dual citizenship.

The Dutch government only allows dual citizenship to people married to someone who has that new nationality already. If you’re Dutch, single or a widower and apply for a second nationality, you automatically lose your Dutch citizenship. But even if my Dutch passport were to expire after obtaining dual citizenship, I’d lose my Dutch nationality. Not everybody is aware of these rules before applying so it can be quite tricky. I find these rules very odd to be honest and I haven’t heard any other country than the Netherlands having them. I’d like to think there must be a good reason for it. If you know it, do let me know.

Street art portrait of Shakespeare in London by JimmyC
Another Instagram post from this month: the iconic mural of Shakespeare by JimmyC

So, why would I even bother with applying for British citizenship then if I already have Settled Status? Well, first of all because of ease. I don’t fancy the idea of having to stand in the long non-UK queue at passport control upon entering the UK again. (Not that we need to worry about travelling or queuing at the moment.)

But then there’s also reassurance. As said, we don’t get any physical proof of our Settled Status. There have already been numerous reports of discrimination and injustice because of this. Individuals such as landlords and employees but also officials, both in the UK and overseas, aren’t fully aware of the situation. They demand to see physical proof which doesn’t exist. This has resulted in rejections for housing, work and problems at passport control.

Furthermore, and more importantly, Settled Status rules aren’t set in stone. Who knows what happens in the near future. So, I’m mostly applying for British citizenship just to be on the safe side. It would also allow me to vote in General Elections as I haven’t had a say in crucial matters that affect me personally in these last years. It would be nice to at least be part of the electoral system.

Zarina looking tiny standing next to a giant Richard Serra installation in Museum Voorlinden, the Netherlands
On the gram: being tiny next to a Richard Serra installation in Museum Voorlinden, the Netherlands

So, how do you become a British citizen?

Before you can even start your application, you need to take a spoken English test and also the dreaded Life in the UK test. The first test takes only 10 minutes but costs £150. The fact that I have a MA English Language & Literature didn’t make a difference. Obviously, I passed this test with flying colours.

I was more nervous for my Life in the UK Test though. That’s a knowledge test based of 24 multiple choices about a special book of approximately 170 pages in which practically every sentence contains information that could be tested. I initially planned on taking this test shortly after my interview in January but, well let’s say life got in the way.

Poppy installation at Tower of London in 2014
On 11 November there’s a 2-minute silence in the UK in commemoration of soldiers who have lost their lives in wartime fighting for Britain

In the midst of grief, isolation and depression, I couldn’t really deal with the test as well. But a few months ago, I decided to start studying again and try to fill my old brain with the names of monarchs, battles, legal bills, sports people, the different legal systems in the UK and much more. I’ve been taking online mock tests for hours at end and fortunately it proved to be worth as I passed my test last Friday, yay! After posting about it on social media, friends congratulated me on being British. Alas, I wish it was just as easy, but passing the test only allows you to apply for British citizenship.

The naturalisation process is rather intimidating as it requires lots of steps. I’ll need to provide proof of my identity, that I’ve been living here legally, information about my parents (interesting as I don’t know anything about my biological father), write down all the dates I’ve been outside of the UK in the last three years, provide financial records for the last three years, provide referees who need to meet certain criteria, have my biometrics taken etc etc etc. It’s not uncommon for applicants to hire a solicitor. I’m hoping to do it myself as the whole process is costly enough. So, wish me luck these next months and fingers crossed my application eventually gets approved!

Combatting winter depression by going on morning walks

Winter has always been a challenging time for my mental health. Imagine what it’s like in a year like this! In an attempt to combat winter depression, Hubby and I have been going on early morning walks this month. And when I say early, I do mean early, like 7.45am!

Although I don’t always like the idea of leaving our warm home to get soaked or frozen outside, I do notice it’s been helping! I’ve been feeling happier and appreciate discovering new places around us and get our bit of daily fresh air. And as you can see in the photo below, we even made some new friends!

Blog posts I wrote in November

As I mentioned in last month’s personal review, I’ve been doing a bit better mentally recently. I’ve even felt inspired to write a few brand-new blog posts in November!

While I wrote about my visit to Charles Dickens’s house in London here on Dutch Girl in London, I published two articles about New Zealand on my travel blog Miss Travel Clogs.

Zarina posing by an artwork in Akaroa, New Zealand
Pretending to be part of an artwork in Akaroa, the only town in New Zealand with French heritage

Find the articles here:

street sign for the Charles Dickens Museum in London

Step Inside the Charles Dickens Museum in London

Visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London and get an intimate look into the life of this celebrated writer whose works and iconic characters are still a huge influence on today’s language and popular culture 150 years after his death.

The holidays are coming

Can you believe it’s only three weeks till Christmas?! As I get older, I feel each year always just flies by, but 2020 has really just evaporated it seems. It’s so strange, as on the one hand days and weeks seemed to have crawled by this year, yet at the same time days just disappeared.

Christmas poinsettia
Christmas has arrived in our home!

While Christmas is usually spent with family in the Netherlands, this year Hubby and I will be spending it together at home. Considering I haven’t seen my family since January, this obviously makes me quite sad. But I’d usually also meet up with some of my closest friends for our annual Christmas drinks. The realisation that this joyous occassion will never be the same again has made these last days quite hard for me again.

Coincidentally, I already wrote a blog post about how Christmas has lost its magic for me after the loss of several family members in recent years. Little did I know that it would be so much harder the following year. But I know Hubby and I will have a fun few days together eating too many naughty things despite everything and we remain hopeful that we will finally be able to see our loved ones in a few months’ time.

I didn’t have to wait till Christmas for presents though as I received two care packages filled with some of my favourite Dutch food this months! The first one from my dear friend Susan did a bit of sightseeing before it finally arrived as it travelled back to the Netherlands via Germany before being returned to the UK. I think that parcel travelled more than I did this whole year!

And just last week I got another surprise parcel from my parents filled with my favourite Sinterklaas treats and probably the last piece of imported cheese. (After Brexit we can’t travel back with fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products. Thankfully, beers are still allowed, phew!) In line with Sinterklaas tradition, we even received chocolate letters in our shoes this weekend! Good to know that Sinterklaas was still able to reach us despite corona restrictions and the new national lockdown that lasted till 2 December.

Related article: Saint Nicolas, the European predecessor of Santa Claus

Films and series recommendations

In between endless hours of studying and less hours of sleeping, there was of course still plenty of time left for on-screen entertainment. Sadly no cinema visits again because of lockdown, but there have been some interesting on demand options. We devoured the mini series The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and even watched the series everybody was raving about, Emily in Paris. I might be one of the few people on Earth who don’t like Paris, so I was less charmed by it.

You can see my full list of films and series below. As always, I’ve marked my recommendations with a *.

Films

  • *A Man Called Ove
  • *Arctic (Netflix)
  • Arkansas (Netflix)
  • Big
  • *Christmas with the Coopers (Netflix)
  • *Final Destination
  • Final Destination 2
  • Gerald’s Game (Netflix)
  • Love Guaranteed (Netflix)
  • *The Other Guys (Netflix)
  • The Overnight (Netflix)

Series

  • Devs (3 Nov)
  • Emily in Paris SE01 (Netflix)
  • *Friends SE04-07
  • *The Handmaid’s Tale SE01 (Amazon)
  • *The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
  • *Truth Seekers (Amazon)

Documentary

  • My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)

Online events

If there’s one thing I’ve ‘enjoyed’ during this pandemic, I’d say it’s the availibility of online events. In the last months I’ve joined some virtual bookclub meetings, online concerts and fab Q&As with people I admire such as singers Rob Halford and Skin.

This month, I was very excited to participate in an exclusive workshop with the incredible artist Paperboyo in collaboration with Traverse and the Korean Tourism Organization. I’ve been following his amazing Instagram account for years now and was pleased to briefly meet him at a content creator event in London last year. During the fun hands-on workshop via Zoom he taught us to make origami cranes and even a Christmas tree out of traditional Korean han-ji paper. I never imagined I’d be able to learn these skills in only an hour’s time! Are you just as impressed with my creations as I am?

I also joined fellow Dutch city guide Emma on some of her virtual tours through Berlin where she showed us some of the fantastic Berlin street art but also introduced us to the beautiful neighbourhood of Köpenick. Hubby and I usually go to Berlin every year, so it was nice to visit this amazing city at least virtually this way. With the arrival of the first vaccinations in the UK this week, let’s hope we’ll get to visit in real life next year again…

Well, that’s prettty much for me about this month.
Tell me, how have you been?
Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xxx

6 thoughts on “Reflections #25: On My Way to British Citizenship

  1. Congratulations on passing the test and STERKTE for the next steps 😉 I will be spending xmas away from home too, I can eat some oljebollen for you as well 😀

    ps. “I think that parcel travelled more than I did this whole year!” lol

    1. Dankjewel! And yes, sterkte wishes needed very much so thanks for those too 🙂
      Ooooh, enjoy your oliebollen! This will be my second year in a row without them 🙁
      Ha ha, yes, lucky well-travelled parcel ;-D

  2. Congratulations. Sounds like a difficult and draining process. Some of the ‘Life in the UK’ test questions seem ridiculous btw. My girlfriend did the process a few years ago and showed me the material – I guarantee 9/10 people born in the UK don’t know or care who the last monarch in the Plantagenet dynasty was. Maybe if they asked who were the last three actors to play Dr Who or something (although I don’t know that one either 🤷‍♂️).

    1. Thank you! I quite enjoyed re-learning the bits about the British monarchy but had to use up mnemonic devices to try remember all the inventors, politicians, sports people and obscure facts none of my British friends had even heard of! I realised I took my last test 16 years ago, so no wonder my brain was a bit rusty ha ha 🙂

  3. Becoming British sounds costly and very taxing. You’re clearly kicking ass though! All the time I was sat here reading what you have to do, I was wondering if I could do that myself in NL if I was in the same boat. Crikey, I’m not sure!!
    I love your film and series recs btw – the Final Destination film series always remind me of my youth haha. Me and my friends used to watch them at sleepovers (as well as the Saw films and Ginger Snaps haha).
    I’m also super impressed with your early morning walks. I can’t even get myself out of bed these days let alone go outside. I don’t like the winter months for that reason. I’m such an early bird usually, it throws me out of balance!

    1. Hey Simone, thanks for reading and leaving a comment here! 🙂 I think Hayley from Bitterballenbruid obtained Dutch citizenship a few years ago, not sure. From the stories I’ve heard, the process in the Netherlands is quite similar. To be honest, I would have never considered it if it weren’t for Brexit and only still because I’m allowed dual citizenship. I wouldn’t want to lose my EU passport!! I found it emotionally quite difficult to change/add nationalities as my Dutch nationality is very much part of my identity, but I’m now trying to see it as a positive thing and having two nationalities would truly make me more of a cosmopolitan 😉
      Didn’t go on a walk this morning though as it’s bloody -1 at the moment! I’m not that brave ha ha!!

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