By Sarah Pridgeon
I made a discovery recently that has changed my answer to a very specific question: how do I feel about giving up my Englishness when I transform into an American? It’ll be a couple more years before I’m permitted to naturalize but, thanks to my new knowledge, I have a fairly good idea.
I’ve been pondering this issue since the moment I decided to move here, because I was told that it’s no longer possible to secure dual nationalities. As I’ve met quite a few people who also arrived here from different parts of the world, I’ve wondered how they felt about taking this momentous final step and whether I would feel the same.
However, upon investigation, I’ve discovered that it might be a moot point, because I may not have to give up my British citizenship after all. Having assumed that relinquishing my English passport would be a necessary part of the process, I had just about come around to the idea of giving up my birthright – but it was still very pleasant to hear otherwise. I’m fully committed to my new country, but I spent 30 years being British and I’m not sure I could give it up completely.
Finding out that this might not be necessary, in theory at least, has changed things. I am now told that taking the Pledge of Allegiance for the first official time will indeed make me a full-blooded American, but it will not remove my Englishness. To do that, I would need to visit the authorities back in the UK and request to be freed from my citizenship.
This is because my home country’s government has very little interest in what another country has to say about my nationality and will be keeping me for themselves until personally informed otherwise. It’s not just England with cloth in its ears, either: I am informed that the process is identical the other way round.
This, says my husband, will make me Ameritish. My next step is therefore to make the combination work – to bring together the best of both cultures in my home and in my heart. There is plenty that I still love about my own people, but there is also much to be said about the American way of life.
At first, for example, I embraced the idea of steaks and burgers with glee, but eventually I began to miss my familiar shepherd’s pie and roast dinners. And so I set about incorporating both into our daily diet, to the gravy-crazed approval of the dog.
I decided that there was only one thing for it: my pantry would need to double in size. Alongside American beans, mustards and salsas, you will now find English suets, gravies and custards. I’ve even reached the point where I can use staples born 5000 miles apart from one another in the very same entrée. In my kitchen cupboards at least, the integration process is complete.
Of course, there’s a great deal left on my assimilation list. My next task will be to accept that I can still use the words and phrases I relied on as a Brit, just as long as I now spell and pronounce them as an American. I can continue to be interested in the politics of the UK, but only if I pay equal attention to those of Wyoming.
I can still indulge my love of animals of almost all descriptions, but these days it’s necessary that I know how to avoid some of them when travelling on foot. I can still wear the wardrobe that served me back in London, but I should probably invest in some better snow boots to keep the trouser legs dry.
There are few parts of my old life that cannot be combined with the new, as long as I employ some lateral thinking. For example, I probably can’t apply the many frustrated hours I spent working out how UK taxes are supposed to be submitted to this brand new system I’m faced with (or, at least, I haven’t been successful so far because I still haven’t learned to count), but I can still shake my head when I’m unhappy about where my tax dollars are heading. Eventually, I will be a hybrid of two countries in every real sense of the word.
I’ve heard an analogy devised by Missionary Training International that sums this all up perfectly. According to their theory, a person who moves to a new country takes on a different shape forever.
I can apply this idea almost verbatim to my own experience and, as I am not alone in my repatriation and know many others who have moved here from other states and continents, I’d be interested to know if it’s a universal phenomenon.
The theory goes as follows: imagine, if you will, that I was once a Circle who hailed from Circle Land. This land of circles has its own customs, foods, language and celebrations that are unique from all others.
Across the way is a second country full of Squares, and this one is called Square Country. This land is also unique in its culture and shares some things, but not as many as you might think, with its Circle neighbors.
One day, this citizen of Circle Land travelled to Square Country and decided I might like to live there. I began to adapt to the new things I found and, at the same time, started to lose a little bit of my circular culture. I began to celebrate Square holidays rather than Circle festivals and eat Square foods instead of the ones I was used to.
Over time, I evolved into a third shape as my original culture blended with my newly-adopted Square side. I am no longer a Circle, but I’ll never truly be a Square – too much baggage remains from my Circle days. Instead, I am a Triangle, a crossbreed of two cultures.
Were I to suddenly decide that I wanted to return to Circle Land, it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s too late for me to remove the new culture I’ve absorbed and return to the person I once was. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I will always be a Triangle.
It’s a little bit frightening to realize I am a different person to the one who landed here a couple of years ago and that the old me has been lost forever, but it’s also quite exciting. The world gets smaller every day thanks to the internet, airplanes and upgraded communication. But for me, and for all the others who have moved here from distant lands, a big chunk of it is already overlapping in my heart.