This is it

Eingebuergert

I’ve joked about it a few times and now it’s been reality for a good year already: my English husband officially became my English-German husband. After an eleven-month trekking trip through the jungle of application deadlines, waiting periods and scraping together of long-forgotten pieces of paper, Mr K is officially Herr K. For those of you with a Brexit-induced interest in self-Germanisation, here are some of our experiences…

If you want to become German, the first thing to do (or so it says on the website of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)) is contact your local Ausländerbehörde and make an appointment for consultation.

This turned out to be helpful advice, as the person at the Ausländeramt told my henceforth-split-personality husband not only what specific documents he needed to provide in his particular situation, but also that the recommended next step was to make an appointment for filing the application for citizenship.
That’s right – first lesson in being German: don’t just do things – make appointments to verify you do things properly.

The thing is, and that’s useful to know, the waiting period for an appointment to file your citizenship application is about six months (or was at the place and time we did it). If you try to collate all the necessary documents and pass all the required tests before making that appointment, you may find that the overall process will take much longer.

So Herr K’s timeline was this: first meeting with Ausländerbehörde clerk in March 2017, German-language test in June, Einbürgerungstest in August, appointment for filing the application in October 2017, Einbürgerung ceremony in February 2018.

My ECGH (English-come-German husband) and I are convinced, though, that for German authorities the real proof of eligibility for citizenship is not in the formal tests but in the trials and tribulations they throw your way on the journey. For example, to receive a physical copy of his German-language certificate, my then-still-exclusively-English husband had to pull off the stunt of being at the right place (5th floor, turn left, go through two sets of doors, turn right, then left, then right again, 2nd but last green door behind the Benjamin’s fig – which is compulsory in public-service buildings in Germany) at the right time (between 14:03 and 14:18 hrs on the fifth day of the Ides of August, but only if the wolf howled three times during the last full moon) and in person with his passport, favourite socks and 100 most recent income statements in tow. The letter stating this was sent during the summer school holidays with one week’s notice.

Another tribulation: making it through the daunting, windowless corridors of the Ausländeramt, adorned with aggregate-concrete on the outside and larded with miserable misers on the inside, in the otherwise cheerful and welcoming Cologne district of Kalk, only to find a hapless figure hunched over their big ledgers, throwing suspicious glances and sneering at you. As you pass each doorway, neon-light signs flare up that say, in progressing order, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’, ‘Are you REALLY sure you want to do this?’ and ‘Are you my-life-depends-on-it-and-I-will-never-be-happy-again-if-I-fail-sure about this?’

For my husband, being German is a no-nonsense responsibility. We have therefore since welcomed stringent German order in our home. For example, we are now the proud users of an app (for desperate parents: FAMANICE) that manages your entire family’s schedule up to and including the Mitbringsel (small gift) that our older daughter’s second-BFF’s second-youngest brother gets for the second-BFF’s 10th birthday in 2021 (Ides of April, I think – but let me double-check).

As for next week’s planning, I made an appointment with my newly-German-among-other-things husband to confirm that the filing of an application for spending Tuesday evening on the couch watching Queer Eye (our current ab fav after-work-build-me-up programme of love) was made in due form and time.

The Pommes Buddha says: Mind the Benjamin’s fig.

> Audio version

  

The Pout

gelangweilter Mann

Every culture has gestures or facial expressions that have a meaning even without words. Every person brought up in a particular culture (or having spent a sufficient amount of time in it) will understand them. For example, Italians are particularly renowned for underlining their utterances by countless gestures (please find examples here). However, in a foreign culture, one will at times encounter non-verbal communication one can’t quite locate …

If he were asked to make the most German gesture he can think of, my husband would doubtless do The Pout. Germans use The Pout a lot. They use it when they listen carefully (along with The Squint and The Frown – we might call it ‘The PSF’; it looks fierce but is just a Germanic way of saying ‘I’m taking what you are saying seriously’). They use it when they are weighing up the pros and cons of something. They use (or maintain) it when they intend to qualify their ‘Yes’. In fact, The Pout can put a little tag on anything. A tag saying, ‘Why not?’ A tag saying, ‘It could be worse’ (for example, when asked how things are going). A tag saying, ‘It could be better’ (for example, when asked how things are going).

So The Pout is big. Any self-respecting German has it in her box of tricks. In fact, I’m sure I heard that it has recently been included in a newly-introduced practical part of the Einbürgerungstest (‘Demonstrieren Sie drei typisch deutsche Gesten’).

The other day, Mr K and I were sitting at our dinner table. I asked him if he’d like a yogurt. And there it was! I couldn’t believe it. He pouted, and then said ‘Yes’. At that moment I knew that, even without an Einbürgerungstest, he was properly naturalised. Above his head a blinking yellow sign said, ‘Germanisation completed’. It was an ‘Oi!’ moment. (You know, when Charlotte in Sex and the City, in the process of converting to Judaism, said her first ‘Oi!’) I was so proud.

Next week, we’ll revisit gestures and learn what fingers can tell you.

The Pommes Buddha says: When in doubt, use The Pout.

> Audioversion