A few days after I published my last blog post Almost Dutch? I received a letter, written on behalf of the mayor, inviting me to a naturalisation ceremony which will take place this Wednesday. When I saw the envelope with the local council's logo lying on my doormat my initial thought was oh oh there's an issue with my citizenship application - it's too early for there to be any contact.
I opened the letter in an anxious state only to read that I could attend a ceremony a week later. I was gobsmacked, to put it mildly. I had been expecting a ceremony invitation for somewhere in December.
My husband had taken our sons to school and he was helping out in my eldest's class but he popped unexpectedly back to grab forgotten keys for their bike locks. As he was frantically turning a drawer upside down in search of keys I said,
"Volgende week word ik een Nederlander."
He stopped his search and looked as surprised as I had felt a few minutes earlier. Then he smiled broadly.
So that is the current status. Attendance at a naturalisatieceremonie is compulsory and the last step to being granted Dutch citizenship. At the ceremony (described as a 'feestelijke bijeenkomst over de betekenis van de Nederlandse nationaliteit') what it means to be a Dutch citizen is explained and each applicant has to declare that they will uphold and respect the rights and freedoms of the Netherlands.
The declaration is as follows:
'Ik zweer dat ik de grondwettelijke orde van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, haar vrijheden en rechten respecteer en zweer de plichten die het staatsburgerschap met zich meebrengt getrouw te vervullen.' Gevolgd door: 'Zo waarlijk helpe mij God almachtig.'
'Ik beloof dat ik de grondwettelijke orde van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, haar vrijheden en rechten respecteer en zweer de plichten die het staatsburgerschap met zich meebrengt getrouw te vervullen.' Gevolgd door: 'Dat verklaar en beloof ik.'
So I'm really looking forward to getting up in front of the room to say that...... *gulp*. I don't do public speaking........
Other than the time and location, and the fact that I make a declaration, I have no idea what to expect. After the declaration I will be granted a document that says I am officially a Dutchie. Five days later I am able to start an application for a Dutch passport.
So there you have it. The process has been easy, quick and painless (aside from standing up in front of a public gathering at the town hall then) and I am, in all honesty, reeling from the whole process.
The idea of becoming Dutch makes me feel incredibly emotional. It's not something I ever thought I would do. My sons were asking me questions this morning. Would I still be British? Yes. I retain my British nationality. It's hard for them to wrap their heads around, despite them having dual nationality. From Wednesday evening on I will have dual nationality. It's a confusing feeling. It's a lot for me to wrap my head around. It's an honour. It feels strange.
When I announced on Facebook that I would be attending a ceremony imminently I had questions and comments. And a wind up. Shouldn't this blog then become "A Dutchie with a Double Buggy"? Do I feel more Dutch than British? Prepare yourself for the tricky questions about Dutch culture and life - and for the Holland scent they spray at the end of the ceremony which smells like oliebollen.
I have lots of questions whizzing around my head. I have lots of emotions too. I am going to get myself through the ceremony and then assess how I feel. It's a big change, not for my every day life of course, but for how I feel as an expat, a Brit and my own identity. I know for sure that the Netherlands feels like home, far more than Britain has for the past decade. I can't see myself living in Britain again. But I have learnt never to say never - I blogged back in May 2014 about feeling like I live life in the middle - between being Dutch and British:
"However, I am not Dutch. Nor will I ever be. I don't have the cultural background, mentality or history to be Dutch. My cultural background, mentality and history is British through and through. So I fall into a void. Locally, I'm accepted as one of the gang, but I feel sometimes like an impostor, like I stand out, like I'm different. Which I do and I am."
Life twists and turns, throws up surprises. Life changes. Expat life is all about adapting; it always has been. Suddenly I will be able to call myself Dutch. And British. En dat is even wennen......