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When Does Abroad Stop Feeling Like Abroad?

government identity reflection

The title of this post is just a question I added to my impossible list back in September 2022. It has been sitting there since. After making a little cleanup to the page today, I thought: I really want to develop this feeling a bit more, and explain it better, as well as how I feel in this moment regarding my plans for “living abroad”.

I have been living in The Netherlands for over 3 years now. In 2 years, I will need to ask for permanent residence. That is quite trivial, as a citizen of another member of the EU. However, there is something else that becomes possible upon that date: I can request for citizenship if I want.

Choosing a path is not always easy
Choosing a path is not always easy

Getting Dutch citizenship for me would involve doing the inburgering exams, in which language exams are included, as well as societal knowledge exam. Up until this year, the language level required to obtain Dutch citizenship was only A2. Form this year on, if I’m not mistaken, the requirement has been changed to B1. I think that makes sense.

I’ve read about people online feeling ashamed that they have a Dutch passport and yet they can’t speak any Dutch. If A2 is the level required for citizenship, I understand how that could happen. It is the same in Portugal, but I think it doesn’t make sense. Anyways, I am not going to elongate myself about which language level should be required for citizenship.

The caveat that comes with obtaining Dutch citizenship is having to renounce my own. There are exceptions, such as being married or in a civil union with a Dutch person, or if your citizenship can’t practically be renounced. However, at the moment, I don’t fall into any exception. The current political panorama doesn’t depict a very positive change either. I do think double nationality should be allowed by default. This also affects Dutch-born people that have lost their citizenship without knowing because they moved abroad and obtained some other countries’ citizenship.

Anyways, going back to the main point. I have been living here for 3 years and I will definitely say that my home, at the moment, is The Netherlands. I’m learning the language and I definitely want to be more engaged in the society. For this, language is important. In addition, if I decide I want to live here for the foreseeable future, voting is extremely important.

At the moment, I can vote for municipal and the water board elections, but not for regional or national elections. For that I need to become Dutch. Regarding Portugal, due to the way the system works, I can vote for national elections, but my vote has an extremely small impact that is in no way proportional to the Portuguese living abroad. I don’t feel like I’m contributing to Portugal’s politics in any way, even if I vote, which I do. At the same time, I am not able to do it where I live.

And here comes the question: would I renounce my Portuguese citizenship in exchange for a Dutch passport? I think that at the moment the answer is an italic, a bit shivering and uncertain, yes. The thing is: if I plan to live here for the foreseeable future, want to learn the language, it makes sense to be able to be involved in the politics of the country I’m living in. The process takes time, and it certainly can also be sad. But after all, my birthplace will always be Portugal.

In the event that I would decide to return to Portugal, it is more than possible to get my Portuguese citizenship back. At least at this moment, the process seems to be relatively straightforward. Just need to fill some papers and pay. Similar to renouncing: also filling some papers and… paying.

Now… feelings? I think I feel reasonably good about this thought process. I don’t really know how my family or friends in Portugal feel about it. I think there’s quite a lot of patriotism in Portugal regarding citizenship and being Portuguese. I would certainly prefer to be able to keep both citizenships. However, if that is not possible when the time comes, I think I will make the decision that makes sense for me. Of course that what makes sense for me - explained above - might change in the future.

Always look at the bright side
Always look at the bright side

In a similar topic, I have a goal this year: do the inburgeringsexamen, which includes also doing the Staatsexamen either for level B1 or B2. There is no specific reason to do it. People from outside of the EU would have to do it mandatorily in order to apply for a permanent residency, but that’s not the case for me. However, if I ever want to apply for citizenship, at least the inburgering process is already done. In addition, I think it can give me a nice sense of accomplishment.

So to answer the initial question: when does abroad stop feeling like abroad? I think that starts when you start calling it home, and culminates on you deciding you want to live there for the foreseeable future.

I hope you enjoyed the post. If you live abroad - and even if you don’t - and you had to renounce your citizenship in order to be able to fully participate in the society of the country where you plan to live for the foreseeable future, what would you do? Feel free to send an e-mail or something else. Tot volgende keer!