Thursday, September 22, 2011

I am (reluctantly, at times) Canadian

Celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in Russia.

Don't get me wrong. I love my home and native land. Living in a foreign country was the wake-up call my dormant patriotism needed, as I learned to look at my country through the eyes of others. I was often surprised and gratified to hear what my students thought of Canada - "you are the best at hockey" "your country is beautiful and Canadians are so friendly!" "I want my daughter to study at a Canadian university because there are so many more opportunities for her there" "You Canadians know how to drink almost as well as us Russians" - and being the only Canadian amongst American, British, and Irish teachers made me more of a fervent Canuck than ever (I may have purposely started ending my sentences with "eh", although I never admitted to being from the same country as Justin Bieber and I never will).

But even though there are great things about being Canadian, there are definite downsides, too. I mean, the rest of the world thinks we don't know how to pronounce the word "about". And we were number four in the "Top 5 Least Cool Nationalities" poll - that's just embarrassing. We're more uncool than, say, Iraq?! I demand a recount.

In all seriousness though, I love being Canadian and my only real gripe with my nationality is that it makes living and working in other countries a pain in the you-know-what. Because we're not a part of the European Union, visas are necessary in order to spend longer than 90 days in most European countries and to work while you're there. With Russia, I was lucky that my employer took care of all my visa issues and even refunded the $135 cost! But to live and work in the UK, I had to take matters into my own hands.

Luckily, Canada is part of a Youth Mobility Scheme with the United Kingdom, whereby people ages 18-30 from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan can apply for a 2 year "working holiday" multiple entry visa. This was EXACTLY what I needed to work as an au pair in England, so I was ecstatic when I heard about it. However, its not as simple as "Hey, I'm Katie, I'm a 23-year old Canadian, can I have a visa now please?"

You need to have the equivalent of 1600 pounds in your bank account, because this visa does not allow you recourse to public funds while you're over there, so they want to make sure you can support yourself in the time it takes to get a job. You also have to fill out a long, seven-page form where, amongst other declarations, you promise you've never been convicted of crimes against humanity or genocide.

Then you have to take the form, your passport, a statement from your bank, and specially-sized photographs of yourself to the UK Home Office or, in my case, the agency in Toronto that forwards everything to Ottawa. After watching the "Welcome to the UK" promo video in the waiting room approximately seventeen times while I waited for my name to be called (I was beginning to feel like there was no point in me even going to England anymore as I had now seen everything it had to offer) I handed over my papers, got my fingerprints electronically scanned, and...that was it.

A week later, I got an email saying that my application had been approved and my visa had been issued and was ready for pick-up. Two weeks later, I paid my credit card bill (you need to pay for your visa online; they don't accept any other form of payment) and nearly fainted. A cool $315. Her Majesty the Queen REALLY must be in need of renovations to Windsor Castle or something if a youth visa to her kingdom costs that much! I thought us Canadians were still loyal subjects, anyhow. Not like those colonials who threw off the yoke of British rule back in 1776. I think we deserve a little something-something in gratitude, don't you?

So this is where the whole "I wish I had dual citizenship in some EU country" thing comes into play. My friend Iain is Irish, and can flit around Europe hassle-free because of his Golden Ticket - aka his Irish, EU-member passport. Contrast this with my former roommate in Russia, American-born Colleen. She's studied and worked in Scotland, fallen in love with a Scotsman (my other roommate, Stu...and they are truly a match made in death metal, beer-swilling heaven) and now she's facing deportation because her visa time is running out. She is actually considering marrying Stu so she can stay in the country...

I know I shouldn't complain - the grass is always greener on the other side, right? And my understanding of visas and citizenship and the inner workings of the EU is most definitely rudimentary and naive. But sometimes I really, really wish I could be Canadian AND Irish/British/German/Italian/French, etc etc...the best of both worlds!

If you could have dual citizenship, what would it be? Why?


  1. Aww great post! My patriotism definitely sky rocketed this year as well. I found myself googling or wikipedia-ing (yes, it shall be a word!) Canadian pop culture/history/politics/weather so that I could sound like I knew what I was talking about (ABOOT). Speaking of which, Australians seem to get all their Canadian stereotypes from South Park. Wonderful. Thanks.

    I would have dual citizenship anywhere!!!! Italy would be feasible if I spoke more Italian (a requirement), but sadly I do not. Maybe Australia ;) Definitely biased to anywhere I have already been. I'm sure when I come to visit you I will want UK citizenship!!

  2. Love the new verb you just created. :) If we've got "to youtube" and "to google" and "to facebook", I think we can definitely have "to wikipedia"!

    Oh South Park - we can also thank them for spreading all the love for gingers that's out there. Blame Canada, indeed.

    Do you need to be fluent in Italian to have citizenship there? An American friend of mine recently got French citizenship after living there for seven years - he's completely fluent! I think Australian citizenship would be pretty great - do they have any special deals with New Zealand too?

  3. You've described the procedure Irish citizens have to go through to get a Canadian visa in reverse!

    I wouldn't say I can 'flit' around the EU entirely hassle-free: one major headache is getting registered with the police (e.g., like here in Finland). Just today I sent off another letter from my employers to the Immigration Police, hoping they will give me the much-needed "right to remain" decision. But if not, I'm not in any danger of being kicked out of the country. They'll always let me in without any problems.

    I wouldn't opt for any dual citizenship, to be honest. Happy with the one passport.

  4. "Flit" definitely wasn't the right word to use! Good luck with the police registration Iain! :)

  5. For me it would be Russian/Germany citizenship. Though I studied Endlish like a thousand years already and during most of our classes we discussed the gross beauty of GB, I am supposed to be to adore it. But I've been there, though for only 4-5 days but I've seen the beauty of the country (which is actually really great!). I liked the country but if I could choose I wouldn't choose Britain for living. I don't know why, people seemed cold and unfriendly to me (look! A Russian is talking about the coldness of British: ha!), while in Germany (and I was there for only 1 poor day!) there were sooooo any people who looked friendly and easy-going, ready to communicate. Besides, I fell in love with Berlin! It's the city I'd LOVE to live in! I hope you you'll get there someday for us to read your anothere brilliant blog about this beautiful country. And of course I hope to travel there myself!!!

    1. Oh, I've heard AMAZING things about Berlin! When did you go? Just one day would not be long enough haha, but at least it gives you a taste and then you can plan to come back.

    2. I went there long ago, about 5 years ago. 2 years ago I've also been to Munich, but I didnt like the city at all, i dont know why. Yes, of course I can't get the whole idea of the country only by one day! But at least it gives some idea of the country. Besides, I used to study German at my uni and I like the language so much! It sounds so nice to me, though many ppl say it's rough and unpleasnt to hear! But I love it! It seems rough only in the movies about war where germans are potrayed monsters.