I’m not sure where to start. So much is happening in my life these days.
Yesterday, for example, I pledged allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
As if pledging allegiance to a single human being, a non-elected monarch at that, wasn’t enough, to become a British citizen I also had to pledge allegiance to Charles.
I had to pledge allegiance to all of Elizabeth’s successors and heirs. No matter how horrible or evil they might turn out?? Some of you might like that Meghan Markle, but I’m keeping a close eye on that one and her progeny.
Am I the only person who sees something terribly wrong about all this?
Not that I didn’t do it. I did it. I pledged my allegiance. And, as I explained to my personal trainer this morning in the midst of all my moaning and groaning—because of the heavy lifting but more because I was explaining the process of becoming a British citizen to my now fellow Brit—my word is my honor. I mean honour.
Brits who were born into Britishness don’t have to pledge their allegiance to the Queen, her successors, and all of her heirs. Not that I’ve heard. Why do naturalized citizens need to? I mean naturalised.
The citizenship ceremony also included pledging loyalty to the United Kingdom, respect of its rights and freedoms, and to uphold its democratic values.
Now that’s more like it. All that is why I wanted to become a citizen of this country in the first place. Those words were ones I felt strongly about. I am more than happy to pledge my allegiance to a place, a people, and the democratic values they represent.
The Brits I’ve moaned to have told me to just let the allegiance to the Queen thing pass. “Just do what you’re told, Nadia. Do NOT make an issue out of this,” my husband told me when I learned I’d have to do this a few months back. He was just as exhausted from the whole application process as I was. He wasn’t going to let me go all-out political activist over this one small pledge.
But it isn’t small. It ISN’T. I come from a culture that tends to glorify non-elected, autocratic, all-powerful leaders. They have to. The consequences of not doing so are not pretty. So I’ve grown up with a disdain for the glorification of single human beings; even those that don’t have much power.
It’s cute that the British monarch, her successors, and her heirs have a role in supporting tourism in the country. It’s nice that they can represent the country every now and then without getting involved in the politics. I envy their lifestyle. Man, oh man, do I envy their lifestyle. I wouldn’t want to be surrounded by photographers everywhere I went. So I don’t envy them that much.
But, really. So many people coming to this country have fled or decided to leave another country behind where they may have resisted their whole lives pledging their allegiance to a monarch or ruler.
Coming here and having to do just that does not feel right.
Another thing: why the heck will Meghan Markle be able to get British citizenship after only three years of living in the country and not five like the rest of us? That’s what the nice man who officiated our citizenship ceremony implied. He said she has only two years left before she becomes British. I might have misunderstood. Or maybe he miscalculated. I hope so. But this is just another thing to make me angry about the long and arduous process of becoming British.
During that process, I have had to repeatedly, over a course of five years and with every single residency application, prove that I was married to my husband, that we actually lived in the same house, and that I was divorced from my ex-husband. That last bit is what makes me really angry. I understand needing to do that the first time I applied for my spousal visa to the UK. But every single time afterwards? What happens to all these applications that we make? Do they just get binned or something? Is there no large database somewhere where there’s a detailed file on Nadia El-Awady, her marriages, children, finances, and long list of countries travelled to over the years? Can’t the people at the Home Office dig into my file and see these documents for themselves? Do I REALLY need to send the same documents over and over and over again?
And don’t get me started on the Life in the UK test. I had heard about its necessity a long time ago. The general concept of it makes sense to me. If a person wants to become a citizen of a country, they should integrate enough into it that they understand its style of governance, its geography, and its people. Forget for now that British politics makes absolutely NO sense. Even the most specialized experts seem to have no idea what’s going on these days. Put that to the side. Aside from that, I have made a sincere effort over the past five years to understand the country. I’ve travelled to many parts of it, I paid a visit to Westminster and took the tour to learn more about parliament and the House of Lords, and I’ve watched countless documentaries and read books on or related to the country’s history. I have found it all absolutely fascinating. I thought that that sort of integration should be enough for me to be able to answer normal questions about Great Britain on an exam? Was it? No. Not one bit. Most people I’ve spoken to here wouldn’t pass the Life in the UK test without specifically studying for it. This test isn’t designed to make sure you’ve integrated and that you have an average understanding of Britain, its people, its culture, and its politics. It is designed to make you have to sit down for weeks and weeks and memorize word for word information that is then completely forgotten a few days later. Here, try some mock tests out for yourself: https://lifeintheuktests.co.uk/life-in-the-uk-test/
The process has also cost me thousands of British pounds. One day, when I’m feeling less traumatized, I might sit down and tally it all up. Just know for now that it’s really expensive to apply for British visas, residency permits, and citizenship. Really really expensive.
And then there is all the sifting through pages and pages and pages of online links to try to figure out what each application needs me to provide. You start on one page. It contains multiple links that send you to many other pages that also contain links. And soon you’re just lost and you have absolutely no idea what anyone wants from you. Lots of my friends hire immigration lawyers to sort it all out for them. That’s how complicated the process can be. I wanted to save the money by doing it myself. Figuring it all out was hellish, and I consider myself a relatively smart and educated woman. I communicate science to general audiences for a living. All I could think during this whole process was: the Home Office seriously needs someone like me to simplify this process so that normal human beings can understand it.
I’m probably a bit hormonal. I know that there are people all around the world that would give up an arm and a leg to become citizens of developed, democratic nations. I am in a very privileged position to have been given the opportunity to do this. I know that. And I am tremendously grateful for it.
But now that I am British, I feel that it is my right to speak up and express myself. I finally have the right to freedom of speech without having to fear reprisal. Well, beyond potential social media backlashes, that is.
I am grateful for the privilege. I really am. But this process needs an in-depth review.
Unfortunately, the British government and its members of parliament are currently too busy saying no to anything and everything.
Listen. Let’s just blame the hormones for this blog post. I’m blaming the hormones.
On another note, I am SERIOUSLY excited about being able to vote, and for my vote to actually mean something. I cannot wait for the next elections.