Day One: Applying for a Foreign Birth

This really isn’t day one, as I’ve been putting plans in motion since January 2019 to apply for an Irish citizenship so that I can escape the madness that is Brexit, but today I filled in my application online and paid €278 to the Irish government. Spend it wisely fellas!

The process was actually quite interesting as I read through my grandmothers, mothers and my own birth certificate, noting the changes in legislation, and the comparison between the different countries (my mother was born in Canada).

I also found it super interesting that on my grandmothers Irish birth certificate from 1922, there is a space for the profession of her father, but nothing for her mother. On my mothers Canadian certificate from 1954, there is a space for trade/profession as well as type of industry, for both my grandmother and grandfather. Conversely, on my own birth certificate, from England in 1992, there is no space for occupation for my mother, but it seems she put it in there anyway (go on mum!).

Although I was born with a Canadian passport, I’ve always felt very English, because it’s where I grew up, it’s the language I speak and the place I called home until I was 22. But looking back at my maternal historical documentation, I am really anything but. My father was born in Edinburgh, my mother in Nova Scotia. My grandmother was born in Belfast, my grandfather in Ontario. Her parents were French and Spanish immigrants to Ireland. And in my grandmothers marriage certificate, she listed her racial origin as Spanish.

I hope that soon, and by soon I mean probably within the year, I will be an Irish citizen, and hope to learn more about what that meant for my grandmother who grew up in Belfast, and the time her parents spent there.

Berlin Christmas Market Attack – Amelie

If you haven’t been to a christmas market in Berlin, let me tell you what it’s like.

There are hundreds of people, crowded into the narrow lanes between the stalls, selling hot glüwein and bratwurst, unable to really hear much above the music clashing from multiple speakers. In the early evening there are buggies and children on shoulders, but as it gets a bit later, they are replaced by louder and merry-faced tourists, buying market gifts to take home. One thing to know, it takes ages to get from one side to another; once you commit, you are penned in.

What happened in Breitscheidplatz was a tragedy that could not have been avoided. I believe that Angela Merkel was right to let in the 1.1 million refugees, and in 10 years time she won’t be vilified as she is now, but heralded as a hero and a lifesaver. However, when so many people are migrating so quickly, it is nigh on impossible to screen them all for dangerous ideology, so mistakes will be made, and people will be let in with an intent to harm.

But responding with “When will this … hypocrisy end? These are Merkel’s dead!” as Marcus Pretzell, a member of the European parliament representing  the AfD did, only incites hatred, fear and anger. Right wing parties need to stop taking horrific attacks by individuals and using them to fuel the ignorance that leads to violent crimes against the majority of the minorities. The fatalities of the accident are not Merkel’s dead. They are the unfortunate victims of a group of individuals who are causing panic and fear. Much like the AfD.

Now is the time to stand by the 99% of the refugees, no matter where they are from, and help them to settle into their new lives. Now is the time to go to donate your time and skills, and if not, your money, to the people who have been forced to leave their countries and their homes, many losing family members on the way.

Dom

Berlin has a long history of welcoming immigrants. In the seventeenth century, 6000 French Protestant Huguenots expelled from France were granted asylum by the city; and as recently as this year, tens of thousands of refugees arrived from the Middle East. A third of all Berliners were born abroad. In August 2015, I became one of them.

With so many people originating from overseas, Berlin is truly an international city. Perhaps it is because of this high proportion of foreign-born citizens that leads people who live here to often ask, why did you come to Berlin? Why do people come to Berlin? Cynics answer that it is a city of lost souls, attracting people who don’t know what else to do, or need to run away from something.

For me, there was nothing in my life for me to run away from back in the summer of 2015. I had some of the best years of my life in the UK, growing up in York and then studying in Bristol. But I remember looking ahead at what life would be like if I stayed in my home country, and I found it deeply unattractive. There is something perfunctory about the process that almost all British graduates go through in their early 20s: graduate young, travel a tiny bit (if at all) and then move to London. After arriving, graduates join the rat race, working really hard to earn average money, whilst living in some overpriced armpit vaguely near a nightbus stop.

As somebody who likes working in creative roles at startups, I knew that my first few years in the capital would be difficult because of the pay. I didn’t want to go into finance, and I didn’t like the idea of chasing promotions simply to live comfortably. Without even living there, I had already grown bored of the people who constantly moaned, ‘I’ll never earn enough to buy property in London unless Daddy buys me somewhere’. I had no intention of becoming one of them.

So in some ways, I did run away from something when I moved to Berlin. I ran away from London, and I ran away from predictability. I ran away from how I envisaged my future in Britain. I didn’t want to make the same choice as everyone else, and looking back, my instinct was right. Pivotal moments like Brexit made me feel vindicated in my decision to move abroad; now I will always remember to take my own route, and not to follow the footsteps of others.

Amelie

Finishing university in the summer of 2015 left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I had just spend £42,000 on a degree that offered me no tangible opportunities, I’d never been privileged enough to have savings, and I couldn’t move back in with my parents in London because they had downsized and I would’ve been sleeping on the sofa. So I decided to move to Berlin.

 

I arrived as an au pair, living with an awful family and looking after three very young and tired children. I spoke no German, knew no one, and had only visited Berlin once before, but I fell in love with the city pretty quickly. After four months of deutsch classes and a swift move into a shared apartment, I began settling in and reaping the benefits from the vibrant night and social life, delicious food and great music scene.

 

In the early summer of 2016, 51% of the United Kingdom voted to leave Europe and I was astounded. I was in Italy at the time when I finally accepted what so many people had been telling me about the UK. I don’t hate England, but if you can’t be critical of your own country, then who will? The UK is crumbling under the Conservative party, with the NHS being squeezed dry so that they can claim it doesn’t function and can justify selling it off. The academy schooling system is making teachers hate their jobs and turning education into ticking-boxes rather than instilling a love of learning. City boys are getting richer and the disabled are getting poorer. Porn is being censored, your Internet is being monitored and racist hate-speech is becoming more commonplace.

 

But this isn’t anything new. It took me moving away from the UK to see it more clearly. And that’s not to say all is lost. But right now, Berlin feels like a more liberal place; not faultless by any stretch, but more accepting than London by far. I have found a job in Berlin that I enjoy, that pays me enough to live in a great apartment, in a central location and have enough left-over to go out, go on holiday and do interesting things. That’s more than I can say for every single one of my friends who live in London.