My Path to Dual Nationality

Flash back to 6 years ago and I was a girl with a dream of going to England and a 10 year plan to make it happen. I needed that time to save up for the fabulous, extravagant, dream vacation in London that I’d always fantasized about.

Now skip forward to present day and I am officially a BRITISH CITIZEN!! What? Someone pinch me, that surely can’t be real. Okay, don’t pinch me, it’s real. I have the certificate to prove it!

Officially, I am a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Unofficially, I am a very lucky girl! One country was my home for 23 years, it’s where I was born, where my family lives, all of my childhood and teenage memories belong to that country, it’s the place I can always call home, where I love to visit and am happy to claim as my heritage. The other country is the place where I found my first and true love, my new and future home, where I was married, where I gave birth to my beautiful babies, and where I learned things about myself, both good and bad, that I hadn’t known before.

I’ve had a very love/hate relationship with England. I’ve learned from my newly found fellow expat friends that my experience is a fairly common one. I started out with a very romantic and fanciful love of England; it felt like a permanent vacation. That love quickly turned into despair and bitterness that unfortunately lasted for quite awhile as I was missing home and all the things familiar to me. There was this moment of awakening for me where I realized that I had been living as a visitor the whole time I’d been here, rather than a resident. Changing that behavior was the key to happiness for me. And I’m pleased to now be at a place in my heart where I once again love this country, but this time it’s a realistic love. I love it for all of its beauty and its grit. I’m in the unique position of calling two countries home. For the rest of my life, no matter where I live or where I call home, I will always be missing another place. How blessed am I to have such a problem as that!

Fiancee visa: $860
Visa extension FLR (Stands for Further Leave to Remain): $952
Life in the UK test: $82
Visa extension ILR (Stands for Indefinite Leave to Remain): $1,769
2 Consular reports of births abroad: $200
2 UK minor passports: $151
2 US minor passports: $210
Citizenship application: $1,440
British adult passport: $120
Total: $5,784 (£3,510)

Security of knowing you won’t be separated from your spouse and forced to leave the country: PRICELESS!

In my entire journey to dual nationality, the final step of obtaining citizenship (not counting the cost) was probably the easiest one. In order to qualify for citizenship, I needed to be legally living in the country for 3 years (they have since changed that to 5 years) and I had to take a Life in the UK test, which I had previously completed as part of my ILR.  After then it was just a matter of filling out some paperwork and making a (very large) payment.

I got a letter about a month after my application to say that it had been approved. Next step was my citizenship ceremony! There was quite a large group of people obtaining citizenship at the ceremony. We all had to either swear an oath or make an affirmation of allegiance (difference being that an oath is swearing by God and an affirmation isn’t) and also say a pledge of loyalty. Then we were presented with our certificates of citizenship. Afterward they had cake and drinks for us and we had the opportunity to take photos.

The oath of allegiance I swore:

“I, Ashley Nicole Rayford, swear by almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.

The pledge of loyalty:

“I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

I’ve been asked why it was important to me to become a British citizen. Honestly, it’s important to me because it’s the closest I can get to a guarantee that I won’t be separated from my husband. That’s the number one reason. Another reason is because my children are dual citizens of the US and the UK. None of us have any idea what the future holds, this whole experience has been great proof of that, and I want to have options and be able to live where my children settle if that’s my desire. The final reason? Because it’s awesome and I love this country!

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Chris and I after the ceremony. It’s hard to tell because it’s a selfie, but we took this photo in front of the fountain in Leicester ‘s Town Hall Square. This is the same fountain we posed in front of after our wedding. This town hall has seen our marriage, it’s where we registered the births of our babies, and it’s where I became a British citizen. It’s played a large part in our life together!

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

My certificate and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There's also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

My certificate (with important information blacked out) and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There’s also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

This feels a bit like I’m accepting an award, but I feel like I need to give thanks to some people here. Thank you to fellow Three Ladies author, Stephany, for coming to take care of our kids while we attended the ceremony and also getting a cake to celebrate with us when we got home!

Thank you to my parents, not only for all the financial assistance you’ve provided in this journey and for spending so much time and money to come see us since I’ve moved so far away, but also for being amazingly supportive and essentially being the ones to make this dream of meeting my “friend,” Chris, a reality. If it weren’t for you two, I fear we’d still be Skyping each day for hours on end, and instead we’ve got a wonderful life together!

And finally, thank you to Chris. He has dealt with more tears and heartache from me than any person should ever have to deal with. He has had to hear me say awful things about his home country when I’ve been down in the dumps. He had to fill out all the visa paperwork with the exception of the first fiancee visa because it was just too much of a headache for me. And he has never showed the slightest bit of annoyance at any of that and has always been my number one source of comfort when I’ve been down. You are amazingly supportive, loving, and caring and I’m so glad to be a British citizen and spend my life with you, wherever it may be! Love you baby! 🙂

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Language Barrier (part 3)

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“A ladybird just flew into the house!” A ladybird? You mean…a female bird? Nope. It turns out that what is known to Americans as a ladybug, is known to Brits as a ladybird. One recently flew into our open front door and I took a video of my son searching for it and posted it to Facebook. You can hear us calling it a ladybird on the video, and since then I’ve been asked a few times why they call them ladybirds here. I have no idea. I’d guess because they fly, but so do a variety of other insects that weren’t given the distinction of “bird.”

ladybug-cartoon-md

The ladybird flew into our front door, which is located on the ground floor of our house. In England, what Americans would call the first floor is actually called the ground floor. Subsequently, what Americans know as the second floor then becomes the first floor. That confused me a bit when I first moved here and we were in the ground floor flat of our building. Ground floor isn’t so confusing, but calling the second floor the first floor threw me for a loop.

Flat-for-let-Signboard

Oh whoops. I said flat. Generally when I’m speaking to an American audience (which statistics show makes up the majority of our readers here at Three Ladies & Their Babies), I’ll stick to American words/phrases/spellings/pronunciations. After living here for 4 years, that becomes harder and harder to do and I often say things the “British” way without giving it a second thought. I think an apartment being called a flat is probably a widely known Brit vs. American language difference, but just in case you didn’t know, now you do. Speaking of flats, houses, or any other type of building which can be rented, did you know that instead of, “For rent,” they actually say something is, “To let,” here in England?

Recently while out on a drive, we were diverted because they were setting up for a celebration of the Diwali lights switch on at the Golden Mile (Leicester has the third largest Hindu population in England and the stretch of Belgrave Road known as the Golden Mile is one of the best places to discover Indian culture and food outside of India itself.) and the flyover was closed. A flyover is what we Americans know of as an overpass. The word flyover amused me when I first moved here, but like most of these different words, I’m used to it now and use it myself.

Hopefully you enjoyed this installment of Language Barrier. Hope you aren’t too gutted (disappointed, upset) by the differences. Cheers (thanks) for reading! 🙂

You can find part one of Language Barrier here and part two here.

* Any differences in language that I discuss only pertain to the area that I live in, Leicester. I don’t know if other areas of the country use the same words, though I would assume that in much the same way that different states in the US have different accents and slang words, different counties in England have as well. Also, from time to time I may mention a word that my in-laws use. Let me say now that although my in-laws in particular may say these words, that doesn’t mean they are used in all parts of England (they might be, I wouldn’t know!). Let me also add that I do know England came before America and that these posts are meant to be a lighthearted bit of fun. Thank you.

Language Barrier (Part 2)

*Following my first Language Barrier post, I received a few negative reviews. Let me take a moment to clear something up before I begin the second. Any differences in language that I discuss only pertain to the area that I live in, Leicester. I don’t know if other areas of the country use the same words, though I would assume that in much the same way that different states in the US have different accents and slang words, different counties in England have as well. Also, I mentioned a word that my in-laws use during the first LB post, let me say now that I didn’t mean that was a phrase that is used in all parts of England, only that my in-laws in particular use it, and yes, I am certain that I am not misunderstanding them. When participating in a public blog one has to expect a degree of negativity from the general public. The criticism I received was not posted directly to the blog, but rather on public forums where there was no guarantee of my seeing the comments. As much as I’m aware that criticism is to be expected, I’m constantly surprised at the level of nastiness some people stoop to when they have a computer screen to hide behind. So please, if you are offended in any way by something I’m posting here, remember that it’s all intended to be innocent, good fun. I am in no way an expert on the English language and I am fully aware that it was England, and not America, that came first. Also, try to remember that the person whose blog you are anonymously commenting on is a real person with real feelings.

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Did you know that in England, rather than calling the big area designated for parkingParking your car in a public place a “parking lot”, they call it a “car park”? I don’t know about you, but that always brings to mind an image of many cars going down a slide or swinging on a swing set  I don’t recall ever getting a funny look from someone for saying parking lot, but for the purpose of blending in and avoiding the question of where I’m from, I tend to just stick to the usual phrase of car park.

While I’m on the subject of cars, I’ll mention another travel related word. When I first started traveling on the bus by myself a couple of months ago, I confidently stepped on the bus and told the driver that I needed a round trip ticket to the city center. “Pardon?” Was his response, “You mean return?” Of course! I had forgotten that when a person wants a ticket to go somewhere and return to their original destination it’s not called a round trip ticket, it’s called a return ticket. That was slightly embarrassing.

Okay, I’m going there. I’m going to talk about the bathroom. When people need the toilets460bathroom in England, they usually just call it the toilet. That always seemed gross to me. It sounds so much cleaner and polite to call it a bathroom, even when there’s no bath in the room. I’m almost used to asking where the toilet is if I’m in public and in search of one. Almost. Of course I’m sure most Americans know that the Brits also call it a loo. It can also be called a bog. Those words aren’t strictly for the bathroom itself either, they are also used for the toilet paper, which instead becomes loo roll or bog roll.

Another thing found in bathrooms (and kitchens. And bedrooms, if you’re like me and live in a house that has a bedroom that was once a bathroom, but for some reason the re-modelers left the sink.) is a sink. We all know sinks have faucets, right? Wrong. They’re taps! Of course I knew this word before I moved here, I’ve had plenty of tap water in my life, but I don’t think I realized that was the word for faucet here. Chris was pretty confused the first time I told him the faucet was dripping.

We’re sort of in kitchen territory already, so let’s talk about food! I am crazy for chicken. Pretty much any kind of chicken is my kind of chicken. I really love chicken oven chips sc largesandwiches. My husband’s always acted like I’m a weirdo when I say I want a chicken sandwich. It is strictly a chicken burger to him. A chicken sandwich would be on sandwich bread instead of a bun. That one makes sense, so I can’t argue with him too much about it. Speaking of buns, they’re not called buns here, they’re called cobs. What? Cobs?! Like corn on the cob? Nope. Maybe there are some people here who call them buns, but my husband is not one of those people. He had no idea what I was talking about when I told him we needed to pick up some buns from the grocery store. Do you want fries with your chicken burger (on a cob)? Ask for chips! French fries are known as chips here. You may be patting yourself on the back because you already knew that one (I mean, who hasn’t heard of fish and chips?), but did you know that what Americans call chips are known as crisps here? They can’t be called chips, that word’s already taken by french fries. Crisps it is. One last food item: Cookies! Cookies are known as biscuits here. There are cookies here, but I haven’t figured out the difference. I think the difference is in the hardness of them. Biscuits are hard and crunchier than cookies. They’re all the same in my book though.

A bag of Walker's ready salted. Notice beneath the word salted where it says "potato crisps." Does this bag look familiar? That's because it looks almost exactly like Lay's brand potato chips. Walker's is the UK brand name of Lay's. Lay's

A packet of Walker’s ready salted. Notice beneath the word salted where it says “potato crisps.” Does this bag look familiar? That’s because it looks almost exactly like Lay’s brand potato chips. Walker’s is the UK brand name of Lay’s. Lay’s is also known as Chipsy in Egypt, Poca in Vietnam, Tapuchips in Isreal, and Sabritas in Mexico.

That concludes this chapter of Language Barrier. I hope you enjoyed!

Language Barrier (Part 1)

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“Okay ladies, hang onto your woggles!” …If you’re an American reading this, then I’m sure you’re having the same reaction I had, “What?! What is a woggle?” A woggle, as I discovered last week during my water aerobics class, is a pool noodle. I had no idea what the instructor was talking about when she mentioned our woggles. I’m sure it doesn’t speak very highly of my maturity level that my first reaction at hearing the word woggle was an internal giggle. I played it cool and looked at the others around me to discover just what the heck a woggle was. As an American expat living in England, I’ve experienced many situations similar to this.

woggle

Woggles!

So let’s take a step back in time to almost four years ago. My visa was approved, my bags were packed, and I was moving to England! One English speaking country to another, it seems pretty simple, right? That’s what I thought before I discovered that there was a language known as English and then there was what I had been speaking, which was known as American English. Don’t get me wrong, I knew there were some words they used in England that we didn’t use in America and I learned some of them when I visited the country prior to moving, but I had no idea just how many things would sound completely foreign to me. I suddenly found myself in a place where words I’d known my whole life meant something totally different and some things were known by completely different words. If I didn’t have the help of my husband I’m sure I would have embarrassed myself on more than one occasion.

Next to completely different words are the different spellings of the same word. The English love their u’s! Color becomes colour, glamor becomes glamour, favor becomes favour, the list goes on and on. It really blew my mind when I found out curb is spelled kerb. That’s just for the sidewalk type of curb though, if you mean it in a curb your enthusiasm way it’s still curb. Confusing, right? I’ve fought the spelling issue to this day, but now that I know my kids will be attending school here I’m going to have to give in and start spelling things like a true Brit so they don’t get confused. I’m sure all my in-laws and British friends on Facebook think I’m dimwitted and don’t know how to spell properly. Truth is, I’m just stubborn.

Back to the true meaning of this post, the different words. There are so many differences, there is no way I’d be able to cover them all in one post, but I’ll share a few with you. Woggle’s not exactly common. I’ve lived here nearly 4 years and last week was the first time I’d even seen a pool noodle here, let alone heard the word woggle. Something a bit more common? Pants. If you see someone wearing some nice looking pants and you’d like to compliment them, do not call them pants. They will probably think you’re talking about their underwear. Pants here are known as trousers or jeans. Women’s underwear can be referred to as knickers. Men’s and children’s underwear are most commonly called pants. I still struggle with remembering this one and I’m constantly saying pants instead of trousers. Oops.

Pants

Pants

Trousers

Trousers

Now I’d like to take a minute to talk about cars. I’m sure you all know that in the UK the driver’s side is on the right of the car rather than the left. Did you also know that in the UK many parts of a car are called something different? The trunk is the boot, the hood is the bonnet, the windshield is the windscreen, and the side rearview mirrors are wing mirrors. While the horn is known as a horn here it can also be called a hooter. I don’t know about you, but when I lived in Michigan and I had cause to use the phrase, I would say honk the horn, however since living here I’ve more commonly heard it phrased as pip the horn. Pip pip!

car

Now I’m going to cover some of the more risqué words. I think it’s important to know these if you’re ever planning a visit to the United Kingdom. I will try to be as delicate as possible, but if you’re a sensitive sort, please do not read this paragraph. If you’re still reading, then I have a bit of advice for you. If you are someone who enjoys wearing a fanny pack and you’ll be mentioning it for any reason while you’re in the UK, you should remember to refer to it by its proper English name of bum bag. I’m afraid that a fanny in this country is a rather vulgar word for a lady’s private areas. Next, if someone approaches you and asks for a fag, please do not be offended (9 times out of 10 anyway. After all, I can’t say for certain you’re not hanging out with the type of people who wouldn’t use the word offensively!), that is merely an English slang word for cigarette.

As this is only part 1, I think I’ll end this here. There are so many more and I look forward to sharing them with you. Even if you’re never planning to visit the UK, I find it interesting how many different words and phrases there are here and hopefully you will too. I must be going now, so as my in-laws would say, “Ta-da everybody!” (That means goodbye.)

Any differences in language that I discuss only pertain to the area that I live in, Leicester. I don’t know if other areas of the country use the same words, though I would assume that in much the same way that different states in the US have different accents and slang words, different counties in England have as well. Also, from time to time I may mention a word that my in-laws use, let me say now that although my in-laws in particular may say these words, that doesn’t mean they are used in all parts of England (they might be, I wouldn’t know!). Let me also add that I do know England came before America and that these posts are meant to be a lighthearted bit of fun. Thank you.