I’m staying Canadian: an open letter to the mayor of Hamburg, Germany

calvin-hamburg-hamburgerDear Mr. Scholz,

Thank you very much for your letter in which you invited me to become a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany.  The recent introduction of standardised electronic EU permanent residence cards, one of which I had the pleasure of picking up recently (see below) has no doubt made it simpler for you to streamline your database and target the Ausländer of Hamburg in your drive to promote the benefits of citizenship in this great land.

I have given the matter a great deal of consideration, but have decided for a number of reasons that the chances of my becoming a German citizen are – at this time and most likely even if the temperature of Hell hits zero – zero.

Responding to only some of the many advantages you list:

All the rights I currently enjoy including the right to pay taxes will continue as before.

Mr. Scholz, I don’t mind paying taxes.  I’m Canadian, after all, where wallets are sold with special pouches that flip open automatically for quicker tax payment at every turn of the road.  But if you’re trying to sell me citizenship on this basis, you should re-phrase it somehow.  How about: You will continue to enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling you get knowing your contributions to the great European Social Project and other black holes including the Elbe Philharmonic Centre, the new Berlin Airport and the bailout of Greece, will go on as before.

The German passport will allow me to enjoy visa-free travel to many countries.

Mr. Scholz, allow me to condense in a few lines how much of a pain in the kiester it was the last time my family crossed the Canada-US border by land on the way to Seattle.  I was flashing a Canadian passport, so no trouble there.  But because my wife was travelling on a German passport, we were singled out for special treatment and made to park our car off to the left in a huge lot and leave the keys on the dashboard.  I’m sure they had a good sniff though our undies as we shuffled off to a humungous building nearby to join the waiting queue of people in a similar situation.

Two hours and I forget how many US dollars in fees later, we were on our way again, but not before my wife and daughter nearly burst their bladders as they tried to find a toilet for those waiting their turn.  And to top it off – this is completely our fault – my wife forgot to get her passport stamped on the way out of the country, so there’s no telling what bureaucratic bullshit awaits our return to the US on holiday sometime this year.  An overnight stay in their specially designed hotel rooms, perhaps?

Ahah!  I now recall where the German passport has it all over the Canadian: when we were travelling to Turkey, the price of a visa for Canadian passport-holders was the highest in the world.  It’s more than double what anyone else pays.  That’s because Canada soaks the Turks for an equal amount for visas to Canada.  Fair is fair.  A German passport holder pays diddly-squat.

I won’t have to deal with the Foreign Residents’ Bureau anymore.

Because it is so very enticing, this point should be way up top.  But considering it is only once every five years that I have to get up in the middle of the night to stand around in front of a locked gate for a couple of hours to be handed at 6am a chit that allows me a couple hours later at 8am to get one of only 60 waiting-room numbers issued on any given day for the chance to hand over my new paperwork to one of your minions, well… I guess I can deal with it.  Besides, I love the smell of mothballs in the morning.  Smells like…

Mr. Scholz, I am unfortunately unable to continue this open letter because my upper limit of 700 words per blog post is fast approaching.  In a world where few read anything on the Internet beyond block letters superimposed over a cat pic photo, you have to keep it short and sweet.

Yours sincerely,

Ian OHamburg

PS. Damn the word count, when will Germans ever learn to spell my fz*cking name right?  I know nearly every automated computer system in the country explodes at the insertion of a capital letter in the midst of a name with no room for a space, but if you’re going to be communicating with Ausländer – some from countries with languages so bizarre the word for ball contains a glottal stop, four Ms and a silent Q – you really should try to update a bit.

10 Responses to “I’m staying Canadian: an open letter to the mayor of Hamburg, Germany”

  1. March 18, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Sounds like they need a PR department to spice up that letter if they want to entice more new citizens. Perhaps it should mention the beer?

  2. March 18, 2013 at 10:00 am

    At least you got an invitation. Mr. Scholz never sent one to me. But unless things have changed since last I checked, which was quite a while ago, citizenship is not free. They require a fee which is based on something like two times your monthly salary, and you are required to run your current passport through a shredder.

    • March 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Oh hey, Indie – thanks for pointing that out! Is that right about the two months’ salary? Holy cow. All I can find is a formula you fill out online dated October, 2010 that requests you include a 255 euro fee, whether they accept you or not, and if they do, they’ll bill you for any research they’ll have to undertake to check up on what you’ve put down. Sky’s the limit on that one, I guess.

  3. March 26, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Ian, your daughter is German, correct? Because I worked for a multinational German engineering construction firm in Vancouver, http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/drama-at-construction-sites-things-i-never-knew/ ( Your comments would be apt at this blog post. I would go home and tell my dearie stories) , I met some German engineers who worked on the international circuit for the firm. One guy, a German-Canadian living in Vancouver, told me that the Canadian passport was ranked very high in many countries…it was like gold.

    I learned all sorts of stuff…among primarily the university educated Germans. I didn’t realize that now English learning is a requirement for kids in schools now.

    One thing since this firm headed some projects in Asia, an inner joke between dearie and I, was that there IS a similarity between the German and Chinese/ Japanese work ethic…a tendency to approach things technically and working one’s butt off at a regular pace. Stereotyping but just expressing cultural tendencies.

    • March 26, 2013 at 5:20 am

      I find the balance here to be much healthier than in North America or Asia. Having worked in all three, I much prefer Europe. Our generous holiday time gives you a chance to put work behind you more often, so you can come back refreshed. In Canada and Hong Kong I was close to burnout all the time.

  4. October 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Brilliant! I got the same letter you got and wanted to write directly back to Herr Scholz, but never got around to it. They saved the best point for last, namely that you would have to give up your previous nationality to become German. I find that insulting.

  5. April 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I got my Irish passport back in 2006. Other than needing to send in 8 original Birth, Death and Marriage certificates, it was and has been quite alright. Both Canada and Ireland recognize dual citizenship so I did not need to give up my Canadian passport. I also live in Germany and the Irish passport allows me to work throughout the EU. So if you are living in Europe and there is a grandparent from one of its member states in your family, check it out.

    • April 23, 2014 at 12:48 am

      Hi Mike,
      That was probably a pretty smart move getting your Irish passport. I might have gotten a UK passport, but what I had to do to get it didn’t seem worth it at the time, and now more than ever. I wish Germany would just loosen up a bit on the dual citizenship. What do they have to lose, really?

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