Today I became a German citizen. Voluntarily taking on a new citizenship as an adult is a big step, so you may ask why I chose to do it.
My personal journey in this country started in the summer of 2005. The country was on the up. Its youth full of hope. Political debate was rife and soon after Angela Merkel became the chancellor of Germany. The following summer brought the European football championships to Germany. From the British perspective, Germany displayed itself as colorful, surprisingly fun-loving, relaxed and of course well-organized but perhaps not that different from us after all.
I was fresh out of university and introduced to the alternative scene in Berlin, the breathtaking harbour in Hamburg, the opera houses of Rhineland and the industrial heritage of the Ruhr district. I got to know its people thanks to their mastery of the English language, all the while pouring over German grammar books back home in England.
I learnt about their inability to form an orderly queue, their obsession with sparkling water, their tendency to dress down and their incomprehensible love of a television show called “Tatort”.
A few years later, when I transferred my career over the channel, I was embraced for my skills and valued in my job. I felt I was offered every chance that my fellow German was offered. My language improved steadily and I found myself reading German novels for fun and passing postgraduate medical exams.
There were days where I recall feeling momentarily alone, lost and simply foreign and out of place in this country and that may never change. But over the years, the foreign has become familiar, the differences less noticeable and the annoyances more predictable and negotiable. I have largely forgotten the way things are done in the UK and am fully equipped to deal even with the height of German beurocracy in a level-headed manner and often in an appropriate tone of voice.
Our children were born, establishing an even deeper connection with the country. Because how they see and learn to identify themselves has as much to do with how I choose to see and identify myself here. I know I will never be a German in the eyes of some. And indeed I feel shy to lay a claim to the title, just as I am sometimes reticent of identifying myself as either British or Indian.
To me nationality is little to do with waving flags and singing anthems loudly. Nor is it a love of a country. I trade-in no part of my British-Indian upbringing to enable me to take this step today. And yet I know that the years in Germany have changed me and offered me a new perspective of Europe and the wider world. No pledge was asked of me, and yet I pledge my allegiance to this state.
Culture is seen, heard, lived and learned. And I feel like I am learning more and more with each year. I fell in love with a German and he has helped me negotiate this unexpected path from occasional weekend visitor to fully-fledged resident with astonishing ease. The unwavering love, support and good German grammar has been indispensable in me finding a place here and slowly beginning to call it home.
It has never been clearer to me just how much politics and policies shape our personal decisions and influence our opportunities. Angela Merkel is on her way out and with her a figure that has helped over many years to hold together Europe today as we know it. There is an unappetizing rise of the far-right and no clear answer from the center ground. Europe is on the cusp of a new era and the position Germany takes is going to be crucial in this.
Without the imminence of Brexit, I perhaps may have not chosen this path at this time. On the other hand, I believe in, commit myself to, and identify myself with this country that has given me the opportunity to unfurl and maximize my potential in my young adult years and to nurture and grow a family.
And because where history defines me as a British Indian, my present and near future is as a European in Germany. And that’s why I chose to become a British-Indian-German today.