World famous actress Kirsten Dunst is currently making headlines because she has obtained German Citizenship. We, Germany natives, are going the other way around: we want to become Americans.
There are few benefits that Green Card holders don't have. But we can’t vote, are not allowed to sign petitions or contact “our” legislators. Those are the few that are most important to us. As parents of a child with autism, we wish we could voice our concerns or support in several instances regarding passing the Autism Insurance Legislation in Michigan.
But we are one step closer to obtaining the citizenship: Last week, my husband Frank and I received our appointments to get fingerprinted at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) facility in downtown Detroit. This will be the first of three appointments. After the fingerprinting, we will have our interview and civics test. Then the last appointment will be the Naturalization Ceremony.
The civics test consists of 100 questions - we will be asked up to 10 of them and must answer six correctly. The subjects will range from the American government, American history, geography, other integrated civics as well as local (Michigan) politicians and landmarks. Sounds easy, right? Give it a try yourself.
For us, the process to the final decision to become Americans has been a long one: We have lived in the U.S. - right here in Michigan - for almost 15 years as Green Card holders. We first moved to Northville, then Southfield and now live in Hamburg Township with a Brighton address. The interesting part of this is before moving, we lived in Hamburg, Germany!
Starting our new life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean was a blast; we were young, spoke the language and had great jobs. But most important of all, Americans made us feel welcomed and comfortable. We were greeted with interest, open minds and helpful suggestions on how to navigate the systems or shopping. We have developed valuable friendships with many Americans and have felt at home from day one.
However, as easy as our welcome had been, it was just as hard to leave so much behind. Especially our friends and family. To stay in touch, we purchased a fax machine (do you remember the ones with the thermo-paper?). Calling Germany in the 1990s was pretty expensive. Internet and email had just been introduced to the world.
Going through the process can be emotional. Just a few weeks ago, I found our box of faxes to and from relatives and friends, containing our first memories of our first years.
They included our observations and experiences in the “New World.” We did not miss many products from Germany since most of what you can purchase in Germany is also available here - they both have the same clothes and foods. We got used to the much weaker coffee and beer quickly. We know the same seasons - but each summer is hotter, the winter is colder, the fall more colorful and in the the spring, plants and flowers emerge much more explosively. Everything is bigger over here - cars, TV sets, computer screens, ... even the sky feels bigger! Michigan is much further south than Germany.
We fell in love with Michigan as it reminded us of home. We just miss the ocean a bit.
The first installment of this series explored winning the Diversity Lottery and obtaining green cards. Watch for the next column on Nov. 25.