I Belong Here… And There Too

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Canada Cookies

Canada Cookies

Five days after the big ceremony, I still have to pinch myself from time to time. I. Am. Canadian. God, I love it.

A lot of people around me are quite curious about it. Can I get dual citizenship? Yes I can, I didn’t lose my French citizenship. How long did the whole process take? The citizenship process took 11 months, but I had been in Canada for almost five years before that. Do I feel different? Well, yes and no. I feel like I achieved something. I am what I am, a bit of this and a bit of that I guess.

This got me thinking. I was born in France, of French parents, so I am French. No-brainer here. But because I left the country right after graduating from high school, little by little, I lost my French identity. Obviously, I adapted to Canada — this was bound to happen. But I also lost it in a very practical way. For example, as a French, I was covered by the French health care system and had a health card (carte de sécu). Well, because I stopped living there, it’s not valid anymore. I’m not sure what the requirements are to keep your health coverage in France but my card stopped working sometimes in 2006.

I used to vote in France. Well, basically, I would go to the French embassy in Ottawa and fill up the papers to give my father my proxy. I believe that voting is both a right and a responsibility and I was happy to do it. I vote for the presidential elections. I vote for something else, can’t remember what. And then next thing you know, it was the municipal elections, and then the European referendum on the Constitution, and then the regional elections… and then I got lost. I didn’t know the candidates, didn’t live anywhere in France and frankly, I couldn’t have cared less who was winning. I just didn’t have an opinion because. I had lost the taste for French politics.

I slowly started to remove all my French IDs left in my wallet to make some room for the Canadian ones. A carte de sécu for an Ontario Health Card, a carte d’identité for a permanent resident card, a carte d’électeur for a library card…

Eventually, all of my IDs expired and I didn’t renew them. Dealing with the French consulate in Toronto (since the embassy in Ottawa is now basically useless) was too much hassle. I was left with only one piece of valid ID– incidentally the most important one: my French passport, issued in 2003, and valid for 10 years.

Meanwhile, I had obtained all my Canadian IDs as I had many rights as a permanent resident: full access to the job market, social benefits and health care. The only things I couldn’t do were voting and applying for a Canadian passport.

I loved the irony. I had no status in France but I had a French passport, and my life was in Canada but I couldn’t vote nor have a passport.

It became less funny when, last year, the French administration suddenly remembered I existed. My parents received a letter for me: I was called for jury duty. But not just any jury duty: a several month-long murder trial jury duty.

Shit, or rather, merde. What the…?

Well, because I never really “moved” to Canada, I never informed the French administration that I had left the country. It’s a bit of a grey area here. If you move later in life, when you have a job, property etc. obviously you have to deal with taxes, closing bank accounts etc. But in my case, I went to work to Hong Kong right after I graduated from high school and attended university in France while I was traveling and while later I was in Canada (and yes, I graduated in case you are wondering). That’s it. I have never really worked in France (except for a few very temporary positions) so I didn’t have to pay taxes. I have never rented a place, my official address is still at my parents’. I had no belonging, no properties so I didn’t move officially. I simply started spending more and more time abroad till the day I became a permanent resident in Canada.

So apparently, I had no rights to health care, benefits etc. in France (sounds logic) but I could be called for jury duty. Weird.

I sent a letter explaining that I was now living in Canada, working, and that I wouldn’t be able to attend a several month-long trial. I do take my duties seriously, but I would have had a hard time completing this one.

It wasn’t a problem since I never heard from them after that. But it got me thinking. What did having French citizenship mean to me? And how about Canadian citizenship?

I’m glad I became Canadian. I chose this country as my new home and I plan to fulfill my duties as a citizen. I don’t mind being French either and I will always be European, at least to a certain extent. But I don’t care about Bastille Day, I can’t sing La Marseillaise, I don’t vote anymore… I don’t even speak French on a regular basis…! I’m certainly not using my rights as a French citizen (although I do complain from time to time) nor fulfilling my duties. Weird.

How about you guys? Expats, immigrants, newcomers, new citizens? How do you deal with having dual citizenship, or living abroad? Do you still vote back home, celebrate holidays etc.?

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

23 Comments

  1. I’m not a citizen yet, but I lived here for 4+ yrs now… And I still feel strange about living abroad. I feel I’ve not completely left ARG but at the sametime I live my day to day life here feeling one more in the crowd.

    I don’t know Zhui… Sometimes I think we will always be immigrants with or without a maple leaf passport and a wallet full of local I’d cards.

  2. My sister has lived in Singapore for more than a decade, and is married to a Singaporean. But she still keeps Malaysian citizenship. (Malaysia does not recognize dual citizenship.) Perhaps one advantage of this arrangement is that she can travel easily between the two countries.

    My cousin also lives in Singapore. His wife is another Malaysian. He has applied to become a Singapore citizen, but his wife still holds Malaysian passport. Best of both worlds, maybe…

  3. Nice out pour of your heart… So you did vote for Nicholas Sarkozy 🙂

    Once again congratz for becmg Canadian.. Enjy.

    French govt sometimes remind me of Indian govt.. After both of those govts are best buddys n international arena.. So its expected 🙂

    I’m an Indian though I live n US.. I pretty much follow each and every happeng in India.

  4. Well, after working in four countries and getting myself into trouble in two of them (kicked out of one, I tried to leave the other one without a ban), I’m happy to be here, where I am allowed to stay as long as I want.

    Unsurprisingly, I am very pro-immigration, because Canada is built on immigration and that’s what gives the country its diversity and flavour. Also, I wouldn’t be here otherwise. For that I am grateful and whenever I leave I always identify myself as Canadian, even though people usually want to know where I was born. (A few other branches of my big family moved to the U.S., but my parents are the only ones who came here and never left.)

    There are two camps regarding dual citizenship. Some people say that it makes Canada less patriotic (usually that means less patriotic than the Americans, whose officials frown upon dual citizenship). The idea is that it waters down allegiance to the adopted country, that people continue to live as if they are still in their native country. Some also use it as an argument behind the claim that many immigrants don’t bother learning English… this broad category that includes refugees, sponsored-by-family, etc. This may hold true for the old folk, like grandparents, but the youngsters will always learn English at school, anyways.

  5. Since we moved to Canada when we were young the only tie I have with Taiwan, is my Taiwanese passport or ROC passport. Sometimes I think I should abolish the passport since I only used it twice in my life (to visit Taiwan). So I have been having identity crisis for over a decade now, but I find it difficult to explain my situation to some people.

    Many Taiwanese question my identity and think I’m not patriot enough since I don’t LOVE Taiwan or am Taiwanese enough? What does being Taiwanese mean anyway? On the other hand, when I hear sensible political subject I get all offended and try to defend my birth country in public as best as I can. So am I really Taiwanese? I’d say 5% of me is and other other 95% is Canadian.

    Besides I’m too banana for my Taiwanese friends so I often can relate to them or even understand their mentality. Hence the reason I barely hang out with Taiwanese people. I only have 2 close Taiwanese friends whom one I speak French to and the other one in Mandarin.

    Now I’m moving to Denmark on August 31 and I’m sure I’ll lose my right to vote in Canada. I can’t become a Dane until 9 years of permanent residency and they don’t allow dual citizenship. So how Canadian will I be when I move abroad? Will I change? Will I still be a die hard Canadian? I don’t know…But I’d like to keep my voting right and still be in touch with my adopted country.

    So we’ll see how well I’ll adapt to Danish society despite all the horror stories I’ve heard from expats online and those whom I’ve met in real life. I actually met 3 Canadian in Copenhagen last time I was there and it was nice to talk about home. Home is where a heart belongs. Nationality might be given by birth but it can also be an identity adopted by one.

    It seems like other immigrants and locals don’t think I’m ‘Canadian’ when they ask my nationality. Well, my nationality IS Canadian, but my ethnicity is Taiwanese. I think people should rephrase their question instead of telling me I’m not Canadian. Well, I’m damn proud to be one and will never change!

  6. Well put, Zhu. I have been through all the stages you described (though I did tell the government that I was leaving) 🙂

    I’ve said it several times before in my blog, after almost 9 years of having been here, I feel that I will never be 100% Canadian, but there is no way I will ever be 100% Argentine again (even if I moved back there, which we won’t). I’m 42, and I’m still discovering a new world, learning new things every day, and I love it. Sure, sometimes I feel we might have sacrificed our own happiness for the sake of our kids, and I had to start all over again at 33, after having worked for over 15 years, but I would do it all over again.

    Many times I asked myself what defines me… I’m neither ‘fully’ Argentine nor I’m ‘fully’ Canadian. I’m somewhere in between, and that ‘in-between-ness’ is what I am. I have learned to embrace it; it’s much healthier than spending the time trying to figure out ways to feel better about yourself… like putting down others. I chose to live here, and I love it, but that doesn’t mean that I will be waiting for bad things to happen in ARG to say ‘too good I left’ to myself. I’m nothing special, just an Argentine-Canadian.

    Welcome to the ‘expat’ world, Zhu! 🙂

  7. This is one of the things that I sometimes find myself stubborn. Sometimes, I pick the childish way and just not face the problems at all, hoping that they disappear. I’ve lived in 6 different locations in 3 countries (plus one territory), and if you ask me what my identity is, I would have a hard time answering that. I just do not feel any attachment to a certain national entity anymore, perhaps that is the reason why I do not vote (heck, I don’t even know who is running for office nowadays in the country that I can legally vote). Holidays don’t really mean anything to me, so I take a day off when I feel like it. I’ve talked about this before in my blog, about the feeling of simply not planting myself in the current place that I am in, since who knows, I might be leaving it sometime in the future. So yeah, I am still moving around, and although I do realize that I have to settle somewhere sooner or later, I still haven’t found out where that place would be.

  8. @Guillermo – I think you are right… we are just in between! I don’t mind though.

    @Seb – Must have been tons of fun, indeed.

    @Khengsiong – It’s hard when the country doesn’t recognize dual citizenship. I would have felt weird losing my French citizenship I think.

    @CM-Chap – Voting for Sarkozy? Over my dead body! 😆 I hate this guy…

    @Gail at Large – Were you kicked out of OZ? 😉

    Like you, I think being a citizen of two countries has nothing to do with patriotism of the love you can have for the place you live in. It teaches you to accept cultural differences and to consider yourself as a world citizen. I love it actually.

    @Bluefish – “Home is where a heart belongs. Nationality might be given by birth but it can also be an identity adopted by one.”

    This sentence is beautiful and so true: I feel exactly the same.

    I can see that being Taiwanese and explaining people you are from there, but above all Canadian can be challenging. On top of that, Taiwan status itself is challenging!

    I think Feng is the same. A bit Chinese, sure, but he grew up in Canada and therefor is more Canadian than Chinese, for sure.

    @Gabriel – 9 years in Canada, already? Wow!

    I think you are right, we are a bit of both, almost a third culture actually. You will always be Argentinian (football fan!) like I will always be French (aaah… blue cheese…!) but yet, we are very much Canadian and we can realize that when we visit home.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – I remember your posts about identity and I guess we are the same. Maybe it doesn’t matter actually in this big global world…

  9. Hi!

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I like it! I’ve been fascinated by Canada for years and I’m writing a thesis on Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, thus my interest in following “Canadian blogs”.

    To answer your questions, I’ve been living in Ireland for ten years (the anniversary will be in September). Settling in Ireland is quite easy when you are a French citizen. I didn’t do anything special, just started working and paying taxes here. My health protection stopped after a year and that was it! Now, like you I don’t really care about my rights as a French citizen, my life is in Ireland, not in France. However, I’m still not an Irish citizen, I wish I were and I’m now allowed to be one (after 7 years of residency if I’m not mistaking) but Irish citizenship is dear and for the moment I can’t afford it. It doesn’t take much to apply for it but one has to pay! So I guess I will have to wait! It can be a bit frustrating since it is the country where I live, I can vote for european and local elections but not for national ones and not for referendums. It’s a strange one!

    Enjoy your citizenship!

    Em

  10. Most importantly, those cookies look amazing. Where can I get some?

    This is a very interesting topic. It seems to me, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that even if you didn’t go abroad with the intention of permanently leaving France, that soon became your objective. I think the intention is the important part here. I know an American woman who is married to a French man and has lived in France for 3 years. She’s in the US on vacation right now and says it no longer feels like home. Her life is in France now.

    For me, I never intended to stay in France forever (even though I want another year there!). I was never trying to become French, and I was always acutely aware of being an American in France (the accent doesn’t help with this either).

    I also think that in general Americans (and perhaps other nationalities too) tend to be much more patriotic than the French and care more about symbols like the flag, celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, and that maybe helps us continue to feel American and part of our country, even after living abroad for several years (but this isn’t true for everyone, see above story).

    I’m still very excited that you’re Canadian now!

  11. Ah I can imagine the identity conflict and transition. I don’t know if I will take Canadian citizenship because the Indian government doesn’t allow 2 passports. It’s a completely different decision to give up the identity of your home country and I am not ready for all the mental thinking about it… hehehe! 🙂

  12. I’d love to become an expat, and have a taste of living in a country whose culture, language, society and etc are different from my own. I’m sure you’ve learned and grown a lot through your vast travels and experiences.

  13. Very interesting! It’s quite amazing how much one changes bit by bit while they are living abroad. I’m finding it so difficult to adjust to being in Canada again. I miss my lifestyle a lot, and find the routines here so boring and ‘un-exotic’. Of course this will pass, and we will settle. I’m glad you chose Canada to make your home! 🙂

  14. It has been so very interesting to follow your process to a fully success. I do understand you are happy, proud and relieved.

    It has never been a question for me, but of course my American wife who came live with me in Norway have thought about it. I don’t think US accept dual citizenship though. It’s an important step, so of course I leave it up to her and support her whatever she choose.

  15. Renny is right, he beat me to the responce. I can’t have dual citizenship so although I can apply for Norwegian citizenship now I have not done so yet. It’s hard to make that decision when you have to let go of your home country. I am very happy for you though, and its great that you can ‘belong’ both places.

  16. @tikno – It’s true: I made bureaucrats’ lives easier! 😆 Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment!

    @Em – Hi Em, thanks for your message! Ireland must be a bautiful place. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of the UK (except for London) but I would love to visit Ireland. Unfortunately, I keep on flying over it when going to France, but that’s it! Oh, well, I can still read Marian Keyes’ books…

    I can imagine that, in term of identity, it’s even more weird to move from one UE country to another, due to the lack of paperwork. Yet I guess after 10 years, you are turning more and more Irish… and less French!

    How come you chose a Canadian author for your studies?

    @Soleil – The cookies are actually… Obama’s cookies! 😆

    Let me explain. Obama visited Ottawa sometimes in February (I wasn’t there, we were in Brazil) and stopped at the local French bakery, right besides the Parliament. Pictures were taken etc. and he apparently ate one of these cookies. The bakeries has called it the “Obama cookies” and display them along numerous pictures.

    @Final_Transit – I don’t know if I would have been willing to give up my French citizenship if I had had to choose…especially that all my family is in France.

    @kyh – Becoming an expat, and then an immigrant, a new citizen is a fascinating experience indeed. But one must like bureaucracy and paperworks!

    @Brenda – Same here, even though I love Canada, I miss traveling… can’t always get what you want I guess!

    @RennyBA – US does accept dual citizenship now actually, I though that they didn’t and after some research, I discovered it was a myth. It is a bit confusing though apparently.

    @DianeCA – Diane, you may not have to let go, since from what I read, US does recognize dual citizenship. You may want to read that: http://www.richw.org/dualcit/

  17. I’m much like you for my status in California. Most of it is lost, although I do vote. I do have to file taxes but besides that I want to become a Canadian Citizen. I still get called for Jury duty and tell them it’s too hard to go there when I’m permanently in another country…

    Much the same, but I still long to go back to Europe so that I don’t loose more of my FRENCH!

  18. Pingback: The Pros and Cons to Canadian Citizenship | Correr Es Mi Destino

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