Am I British enough?

I’ve been slightly troubled lately about a personal issue. After some considerations, I’ve decided to share it with you here.

At the dawn of new year, I’ve begun to seriously wonder if I should become a British citizen, after living in England for nearly 16 years.

Many people who have known me are surprised that I’m still not British. I’m a proud Malaysian and I was born and bred there, until I went abroad to study at the university. I’ve now spent many more years abroad than the time I had spent in Malaysia.

To many, to gain a western passport is a glory, an achievement in itself. I’ve never thought that way, however. I stubbornly feel that your passport is the statement of your identity, representing your root, your past, and, your dreams. It’s never crossed my mind that I need to ‘upgrade’ myself to become British.

I’m also a proud resident here in the UK. I have a respectable job as an academic, I pay tax, I drink English tea and I can describe the English rain using different words, such as spitting, drizzle, chucking it down, pelting down, bucketing down, spot of rain, soft rain, hard rain, shower, deluge …….

More than just rain

More than just rain

I’ve tried to be logical in my analysis. Are there any obvious advantages of becoming a British citizen for me? As a Commonwealth citizen, I have the right to vote at the UK general elections. Without being a British citizen, I have already voted a few times in both general and local elections.

In early 2011, I was surprised to be called by Her Majesty to perform the jury service. In spring 2011, I performed my 2-week duty in a distinguished Crown Court as a juror. I remember vividly I spent a whole week gazing adoringly at the young, dashing attorney who spoke posh upper-class English. Even his wig looked cute. And his client won of course. It was a tremendous honour and I would say my jury service was definitely the highlight of my life in this country. I wouldn’t mind being called again.

I was called to be a juror in a Crown Court in 2011

I was called to be a juror in a Crown Court in 2011.

Without being a British citizen, I can vote, become a jury, have equal rights at work. Why change?

First, my dread of passport renewal. Every five years once my passport is due for renewal, I have to either travel far to the Malaysian Immigration Department in London, or fly back to Malaysia to get it done. It’s extremely troublesome and I would spare you the boring details. I had renewed my passport a few times; it was costly (plus travel fees to London — peak time travel cost) and the experiences were never pleasant.

Second, what if I want to travel to Israel, to see The Dome of the Rock, the Jerusalem zoo, or to feel the warmth of the Dead Sea? You can see on page 2 of my passport, as a Malaysian citizen, I’m not allowed to travel to Israel. “This passport is valid for all countries except: ISRAEL.”

My Malaysian passport states that I'm banned from visiting Israel.

My Malaysian passport states that I’m banned from visiting Israel.

This restriction saddens me more than it infuriates me.  I may never visit Israel, as I haven’t even visited nearer places such as Glasgow, Newcastle, Dundee, Birmingham, Ireland, Spain…yet. However, with a Malaysian passport, my right to visit Jerusalem has been taken away from me.

Like the temptation from the forbidden fruit, I may visit Israel one day, to appreciate its beauties, its unique charm, its depth in culture and history, and to prove that I’m a person with a free will. To achieve that, having a British passport would be handy.

Third, am I still connected to Malaysia? Emotionally, certainly, some of my most precious memories are there. But, is emotional attachment sufficient enough to keep me hinged on the citizenship? Our old house had long gone, friends scattered, sweet love lost. In 20 years’ time, am I likely to ‘return’ home, like some people do to retire after a lifetime abroad? No. I love the English weather so much that I have no intention to leave.

However, to apply for British citizenship, I must pass the Life in the UK test. I’ll need to study hard for 2 weeks to cram all facts in. Am I going to succeed?

Will you pass the test?

Will you pass the test?

These are some of the questions for the Life in the UK test. Will you pass the test? Be honest. It’s the New Year.

  1. Is this statement TRUE or FALSE: in the 1980s, the largest immigrant groups were from the West Indies, Ireland, India and Pakistan
    1. True
    2. False
  2. How many parliamentary constituencies are there?
    1. 464
    2. 564
    3. 646
    4. 664
  3. Which of these statements is correct?
    1. Education at state schools in the UK is free and this includes the cost of school uniform and sports wear
    2. Education at state schools in the UK is free but parents have to pay for school uniform and sports wear
  4. Why were recruitment centres set up in the West Indies in the 1950s?
    1. To recruit workers for textile factories
    2. To recruit workers to build canals
    3. To recruit workers to build railways
    4. To recruit workers to drive buses
  5. Many job applications will require a covering letter and
    1. a document showing proof of identity
    2. your National Insurance number
    3. a curriculum vitae
    4. a signed photograph
  6. Ulster Scots is a dialect which is spoken in Northern Ireland
    1. True
    2. False
  7. In which year did married women get the right to divorce their husband?
    1. 1837
    2. 1857
    3. 1875
    4. 1882
  8. Is the statement below TRUE or FALSE: adults who have been unemployed for six months are usually required to join New Deal if they wish to continue receiving benefit
    1. True
    2. False
  9. The number of children and young people up to the age of 19 in the UK is
    1. 13 million
    2. 14 million
    3. 15 million
    4. 16 million
  10. The percentage of people in the UK in 2001 who said they were Muslims was
    1. 1.6
    2. 2.7
    3. 3.4
    4. 4.2
  11. A quango is
    1. a government body
    2. a non-departmental public body
    3. an arm of the judiciary
    4. an educational establishment
  12. Is the statement below TRUE or FALSE: you can attend a hospital without a GP’s letter only in the case of an emergency
    1. True
    2. False
  13. Which of the following statements is correct?
    1. Information in the census is immediately available for the public to search
    2. Information in the census is kept secret for 100 years
  14. Schools must be open
    1. 150 days a year
    2. 170 days a year
    3. 190 days a year
    4. 200 days a year
  15. The official report of the proceedings of Parliament is called
    1. the Speaker’s notes
    2. Hansard
    3. electoral register
    4. the constitution
  16. Which of these statements is correct?
    1. For cars and motorcycles the speed limit on single carriageways is 60mph
    2. For cars and motorcycles the speed limit on single carriageways is 70mph
  17. A byelection is held
    1. halfway through the life of a parliament
    2. every two years
    3. when an MP dies or resigns
    4. when the prime minister decides to call one
  18. Which of these statements is correct?
    1. Children aged 13-16 cannot work for more than 12 hours in any school week
    2. Children aged 13-16 cannot work for more than 10 hours in any school week
  19. Which of the following statements is true?
    1. The governing body of the EU is the Council of the European Union
    2. The governing body of the EU is the Council of Europe
  20. When was the census first carried out in the United Kingdom?
    1. 1785
    2. 1801
    3. 1851
    4. 1912
  21. Who is the monarch not allowed to marry?
    1. Anyone who is not of royal blood
    2. Anyone who is not a Protestant
    3. Anyone who is under the age of 25
    4. Anyone who was born outside the UK
  22. What type of constitution does the UK have?
    1. A legal constitution
    2. A written constitution
    3. An amended constitution
    4. An unwritten constitution
  23. How might you stop young people playing tricks on you at Halloween?
    1. Call the police
    2. Give them some money
    3. Give them sweets or chocolate
    4. Hide from them
  24. What is the difference in the average hourly pay rate for men and women?
    1. 5% lower for women
    2. 10% lower for women
    3. 20% lower for women
    4. No difference

Source for the above test

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85 thoughts on “Am I British enough?

  1. kerenbaker

    Janet! What a dilemma. As the initial question was posed my reacting was firstly- no way. You should not need a ( or should I say ‘an’!) UK citizenship to be any more ‘at home’ here. You’re probably more knowledgable about lots of Brit stuff than some of us.
    However- I get your point abo

  2. Tilly Bud - The Laughing Housewife

    I think I may have my British Citizenship taken away from me! Some of those questions are ridiculous and don’t tell you anything about being British.

    We pride ourselves on being a kind and tolerant people. You fit right in 🙂

    Can’t you retain your Malaysian citizenship? I hold dual nationality and two passports – British and South African.

    Only you can decide what’s right for you but, personally, I think we’d be gaining someone wonderful if you decide to take British citizenship.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Tilly,

      You think you might fail the test? You’re the most knowledgeable woman.
      No — Malaysia doesn’t allow dual citizenships. I know some people keep dual nationalities and they are very secretive about it.
      I don’t really gain much more or lose any being a British citizen, apart from the freedom to travel. Again, freedom is important and no one should dictate where I should travel.

  3. kerenbaker

    ..oops- pressed reply too early!
    I get your point about Jerusalem, simply the principle and the hassle and money factor. Having a UK citizenship/passport makes you no less Malaysian surely, just a little extra British! Rather than being 100% Malaysian, you’re still that with an extra % Britishness too. Your passport will never define you- you’re simply wonderfully you. You have other things about you that define you!!

  4. Janet Williams Post author

    Dear Keren,

    Thank you for understanding my feelings and dilemmas. If you ask me to fill a list of being British, I can happily do so easily. I’m very comfortable here and both my husband and son are British. With a formal status, it may just make it more ‘official’, as a seal to my devotion. And, I’ll have the freedom to travel — this principle is important to me. Yes, you’re right that I’m not confined by my nationality. I’m a mix of many cultures and it’s very valuable, occasional confusing though.

  5. roughseasinthemed

    I seriously think those questions are absolutely crass and like Tilly I would fail. And I am born British with no other nationality. Who cares when women got the right to divorce (1857 as my partner guessed correctly!) for example. But I just can’t believe anyone has to learn rubbish like that. It is ridiculous.

    I would be so annoyed that I wouldn’t even consider going for citizenship. But, having said that, as a British national, I wouldn’t change for any other passport. And if someone didn’t want me to visit their country eg Israel, then I wouldn’t want to go anyway.

    A different point of view. Unless you really need it, why bother? I would like to think Britain is inclusive enough to welcome everyone without taking stupid tests or making them lose their nationality. It appears not.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Lots of people have complained about how ridiculous the UK Citizenship test is. On a positive note, it’s important for foreigners to get some basic knowledge of this country, if they really want to integrate into the society.

      The problem with my existing passport (Malaysian passport) is that: it explicitly dictates that I can’t visit Israel. If so, I may not be allowed to re-enter Malaysia. There would be consequences. I’m sure Israel will welcome me with open arms. It’s that a decision from Malaysia had been made for me.

      Thank you for your interest in this post and trying to do the test. All the best to you in the New Year.

  6. JoV

    Happy New year Janet!
    If you are not going home to Malaysia, I think it doesn’t matter if you are holding on to the Malaysian passport or apply for British citizenship. I dread such test and I’m not even sure I have a clear head these days to sit for such test. If there is an impetus to do so, I’ll probably have to grit my teeth and do it.

    As for Jerusalem, if you haven’t heard I know groups of Christians in various churches organise tour to Jerusalem annually. How did they do that I always ask? Because they do have a special permission and privilege to practice their religious freedom in Malaysia thus visit Jerusalem for pilgrimage. Our Malaysian government do not deny that rights. As it is timely to disclose as well that my family and I are going to Jerusalem this Feb 2013, fingers crossed it all goes well. Malaysia is not the only one who prohibit citizens to visit Israel, other Muslim countries impose such rule as well but the Israel embassy knows how to circumvent this and as long as you make it known, your visa or permission to visit or any stamps will not appear in the face of your passport.

    Malaysian passport is still one of the top 10 most accessible one in the world. If you do decide to visit Middle East (Jordan, Turkey, UAE etc) one day, you will find that visa is imposed on British passports and not on Malaysian ones.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear JoV,

      I’m intrigued by this fact that you are so kind to reveal to me. You’re visiting Jerusalem in February, using a Malaysian passport? I’ve read a few online discussions today about how to ‘go round’ the situation, and how kind the Israel officers are not to put a stamp on your passport, and how you can go through Jordan to avoid leaving any traces on your documents.

      However, I won’t be comfortable doing this. I would like this ban lifted.

      I’ve just read some discussions and one reader posted this answer. I find it interesting to share it here. Malaysian travelling to Israel

      9. Re: Malaysian traveling to Israel
      06 May 2011, 20:40

      I visited Israel (and Debi!!) with my mom last September with my “valid for all countries except Israel” passport so I may be able to answer some of your questions.

      We didn’t travel in a group and I didn’t go for religious purposes either.

      You don’t have to fill out a form in order not to have your passport stamped by the Israeli immigration authorities. As long as you get the Israeli visa, the Israeli authorities know not to stamp Malaysian passports.

      We entered Israel through Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. When my turn came, the staff manning the counter didn’t even ask me whether she should stamp my passport. Because the visa is issued on a sheet of paper, she stamped my entry details on the visa sheet, not in my passport. The visa is not affixed to your passport but you have to keep that visa together with your passport very carefully throughout your stay in Israel.

      > Question: … Even if I go through the Malaysian Home Ministry and receive permission > to travel to Israel,

      You WILL NOT receive this permission from the Malaysian Home Ministry. Before my trip, I put in a call to the Home Ministry and the staff confirmed that there is been a complete ban on travel to Israel – even for those wanting to go on pilgrimages. This ruling has been in place since 2008 and is enforced. I have had friends who wrote in to Putrajaya seeking permission and they were denied on the grounds that “it is not safe to travel to Israel” (LIES! All lies! Israel is the safest country I’ve ever visited)

      We went via Bangkok and didn’t have to account for our whereabouts when we got back. Our passports bore no evidence of ever being used to enter Israel. (Though I almost gave myself away when renewing my passport as I’d left the El Al boarding pass stub in there – haha!)

      Leaving Jordan by a land border would be too obvious so your best bet would be to fly.

      To everyone else, thank you again for being SO helpful when I was planning my trip. I wish you Shabbat Shalom from Malaysia! 🙂

      1. JoV

        The comment on trip advisor is correct. The ban will not be lifted in this lifetime as you know it is a strong belief of some countries that the land is occupied by Israel and so the perpetrator should not be recognised as a country and therefore citizens are prohibited from travelling to that country. The political situation is a sticky one in the middle east and I doubt the ban would ever be lifted.

      2. JoV

        It is also not a matter of being comfortable of not going in and out of Jerusalem this way, it is an “official” and formal practice of the Israel authority. As I mentioned, the Malaysian passport is not the only one who impose this restriction.

      3. Janet Williams Post author

        Dear JoV,

        Thank you so much for your replies. We’re coming from an Islamic country and I can fully understand your explanation, and of course I know the ban will not be lifted.

        I haven’t travelled a lot so I’m not aware of this practice of visiting Israel. To be honest, it’s so fascinating to learn of all these ‘tricks’. However, with my personality (a bit timid!?), I can’t see myself trying to enter Israel with my current passport. I’ve had enough hard time trying to renew my passport each time in the past 15 years and I just can’t bear another hassle.

        However, if I switch to British, this burden will be lifted off me. Then, it will not be a problem to me anymore.

        I really look forward to you telling us your trip to Jerusalem next month. My brother-in-law bought me this Christmas some lovely skin friendly, mineral rich hand care product made in Israel, all the way from the Dead Sea. Oh, I must visit Israel, for the hand cream.

      4. JoV

        There are two parts of the dead sea. One in Israel and the other in Jordan. All is not lost if you can’t go Israel, you still can float on the dead sea in Aqaba of Jordan! and see the prophet Lot’s cave, where he hid from God’s wrath on Sodom and Gamorrah. Don’t worry Janet. There is no problem one! 😀
        p/s: It only take me one day to renew my passport in Malaysian Embassy in Grosvernor street. Not much hassle for me and my son. I thought it was quick?

  7. hibiscus rosa noor

    hi janet, happy new year! i share your sentiments, we are in the same boat, i’ve lived in england for 16 years now too…i wish we could have dual citizenship, would make things much easier…but since we can’t, i prefer to keep my malaysian one, for we don’t know what the future holds, therefore i’d like to keep the option of returning home open at any time should I need/want it.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you, hibiscus rosa — you use hibiscus (Malaysia’s national flower) as pen name and it jut shows how special Malaysia is in your heart. Thank you for your advice. This is the same advice that my family gives me too. ‘What if (your husband doesn’t want you)…’ ‘Just in case (there’s war)…’ and we could always go back, so they told me. However, in my life, I’ve always moved on. I’ve never turned back.

      Your family — your husband and children must be all Malaysian, though you’re all here in the UK. However, my family is British. You know that as a Malaysian woman (my husband is not from Malaysia), my son can never gain any Malaysian status, nor would he want one anyway.

      It’s been lovely to engage in such an interesting conversation with you. All the best to you and your family in the new year. Look forward to more lovely posts from you.

      1. JoV

        The new law in Malaysia now says if you go back and apply to Putrajaya your son can get Malaysian citizenship if you want. p/s: I don’t think Hibiscus’ husband is Malaysian. 😉

      2. JoV

        Here’s the border of the two countries on dead sea:

        Sorry it should be the city of Madaba, instead of Aqaba as mentioned above. Madaba is a spa town and beach town of Jordan. Also called Amman beach.

      3. Janet Williams Post author

        Fantastic!!! You’re such a hardworking scholar! Thank you, JoV. I definitely need to get more Dead Sea rejuvenating hand cream for perfect, revitalised hands. As you can see, the Dead Sea contains 21 minerals including sodium, magnesium calcium, bromine, bitumen and potassium…..

      4. JoV

        Yeah the law favours men. 😦 We are non-entity until recently, because they are trying to solve the brain drain problem. Anyway, it’s draining still. lol but just to prove a point, I’ll give it a go anyway. 😀 yeah we should form a club and we can have tea party and teh tarik virtually!

      5. Janet Williams Post author

        THIS IS NEWS to me! (‘The new law in Malaysia now says if you go back and apply to Putrajaya your son can get Malaysian citizenship if you want. ‘) You can see I’m really out of touch.

        After my son was born, I went to the embassy in London. I was told rather coldly that my son couldn’t be registered as I was a Malaysian mother, not a Malaysian father. (The Malaysian law favours men!?)

        To be honest, my son has no connection to Malaysia and he will find a Malaysian status ridiculous anyway.

        I would suggest you form a Malaysian Wife Club on WordPress.

        Thank you for all your useful tips on my post today.

      6. hibiscus rosa noor

        hi there again janet, JoV is right, my hubby isn’t a Malaysian, he is of Gujerati origin, born and bred in England. his parents migrated to England back in the 60s. all my 4 children were born and raised here. i remember when i renewed my passport with malaysian embassy last time they said i should try to give birth to my next child in malaysia, so that he/she will get malaysian citizenship. that would enable the older siblings to gain malaysian citizenship quite quickly. but i ignored the advice and gave birth to my forth and last child in England…it’s home now and it’s much easier for us anyway.

      7. Janet Williams Post author

        Dear Hibiscus,

        Thank you for correcting me.

        I’m surprised to hear that you were advised to fly back home to give birth while you were living in the UK. Perhaps it’s the job of a diplomat to give such advice.

        I found the Malaysian High Commission in London the most interesting place. When I renewed my passport last time, to my amazement, there was a lady selling Nasi Lemak there in the hall, from a mobile trolley (p/s: Nasi Lemak is Malaysian coconut rice + chilli dish; a national dish), and perhaps she was one of the secretaries. I don’t know if it’s common for any High Commission to sell food like that — it reminds me of the hawker centre in Malaysia.

        (Image: Nasi Lemak, Sydney, image from Mw12310 on Wikipedia)

  8. Ah See 阿思

    Hi, Janet姐,

    Happy New Year!

    I had passed my Life in UK test with no problem few years ago when I was applying for my PR. As long as you read and memorised the facts and do lot of practise questions, you will pass the test.

    For me, I’m still proud to be Malaysian and I told my husband if one day I die, please bury me in Malaysia. Haha, sound a bit ridiculous but I still have a strong feeling of returning to my motherland. I always have this thought, I told my husband, when my daughter has her own family, I will return to Malaysia. I know I’m being selfish but I still have a feeling that I don’t belong here.

  9. Janet Williams Post author

    Dear Ah See,

    Thank you for telling us that you’d passed the Life in the UK Test! Congratulations! I had lots of sleepless nights trying to pass my driving theory test many years ago. This one will be another challenge for me.

    I fully understand how you feel about wanting to return to Malaysia. Your family is still out there. My parents and other siblings are in Singapore (they have always been Singaporeans due to the separation of Malaysia and Singapore in the 60s — but this is another story), so there is no way I could go back to Malaysia to find ‘home’ there anymore.

    Our friend JoV is forming a Malaysian Wife Club — we should all get to know each other more and support each other, on WordPress and in the UK. If you need any help, please let me know.

    1. ahseeinuk

      That’s true, my family are all in Malaysia.

      Don’t be put off by the questions posted in your blog. They look hard if you never study the Life in UK handbook. All the questions are from the handbook. So as long as you read them, memorised them then you will be fine.

      Malaysian Wife Club, that’s sound interesting. Let me know how to join please. 🙂

  10. Maxim Sense

    Very interesting post and I’ve learned a lot from the post and the comments. I think there are enough of the pros and cons of this issue that you are so much in a better position now to make an informed decision. Good luck Janet.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you, Maxim Sense,

      Indeed, on my very first post of 2013, I’ve received all these fantastic feedback with massive amount of information. I’m overwhelmed.

      There’re pros and cons, and it’s never easy to make a decision like this, which involves principles and emotions. I’ll try my best. Thank you for your advice.

  11. marshland

    My wife is an Indo or Dutch Indonesian and she has lived with me in northern England for 11 years now and she has no intentions of becoming a British citizen, preferring to remain Dutch on her passport, on the Dutch electoral roll and in her mind. I am more than happy with that. A lot of her family are of Indonesian descent and have Indonesian and Dutch passports. I don’t know what benefits there are for you as a non EU citizen but for her there is no incentive financially or practically.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Marshland,

      Thank you for your visit.

      I think I’ve got a lot of benefits as a non EU citizen in the UK, possibly all the same rights.

      I’ve worked out that a British passport would only benefit me for travel convenience (freedom). Secondly, I would possibly feel being closer (spiritually) with my husband and son and will try not to run away.

  12. aFrankAngle

    First-time visitor … and wow … I had no clue that a non-citizen can vote and serve on a jury. Not sure if I agree or disagree, but interesting! Good luck on your decision.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you aFrankAngle for you visit. I’ve also just started reading your blog.

      Yes, I could vote and perform jury duty as a foreigner in the UK, because:
      1) I’m a Commonwealth Citizen.
      2) More importantly, I’m on the Electoral Register. It gives me equal rights as British citizen. I vote at elections and I was called to be a juror.

      I’ve been touched by so many responses, including travelling tips too. I’ll try to make up my mind soon. Hope you continue to enjoy my posts.

      1. aFrankAngle

        I had the feeling Malaysia wouldn’t recognize it, but it was worth asking. Personally, I wouldn’t go the quietly route.

        Interestingly, I’m an American who qualifies for Italian citizenship – but I don’t have it. Good luck.

        Oh … Shimon is wonderful, so we keep good company.

      2. Janet Williams Post author

        No. Malaysia doesn’t recognise dual citizenship. Life is complicated enough and I don’t think I need dual citizenship. I’m such a black and white person.

        However, I do hear about people getting 2 passports ‘quietly’ to suit various purposes.

        I found you blog through Shimon’s blog. I’m glad I’ve found your blog.

        (Sorry aFrankAngle — I have to reply again with the same comment.. I logged in with a wrong account (my son epicduda) earlier.)

  13. epicduda

    They should ask the question: Can you name the British monarchs.

    But then people like Lady Jane Grey, Henry the Young King, Edward V, Phillip II and Ed*cough*ward VIII and Matilda might or might not count, so it’ll be too subjective.

  14. Ruby

    Some of those questions seem to be completely irrelevant to British citizenship. I agree with other comments that many born-and-bred Britons would not know the answers to all of them. I have no idea when married women got the right to divorce their husband (but am somewhat surprised that it was as long ago as any of the possible answers), and am so disinterested that I can’t be bothered to look it up.
    I think the idea of an assessment of knowledge of things British is a good one in principle. However, the questions should be those that the man on the Clapham omnibus would know.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Ruby,

      Thank you for your sympathy. Some of these questions are really irrelevant, but I have a feeling that the government set this test to deter some unwelcome immigrants. However, you may also have heard that this system has also been manipulated. Frauds happened. Some people cheated all the way to obtain their citizenship.

      If I have to do this test, I’ll just be a good student and memorise some facts well. Chinese people are very good at learning for test. I’ll then either impress people or bore people to death with the details at dinner parties.

      Thank you for your visit again — all the way from dairyland. It’s a surprised visit.

      1. Ruby

        Thinking a bit more about that divorce question, I’ve realised that although it does seem out of place in a citizenship test, it does make sense within the wider context of the history of the equal(ish) role of women in British society – along with right to vote, equal pay, maternity leave, etc.

      2. Janet Williams Post author

        You’re probably right, Ruby. I remember watching the Woman Rights Movement being displayed on the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. People around the world would wonder why on earth the movement was shown on such a grand ceremony. When I studied English literature, the topic of women’s suffrage was impossible to miss. When I visited Big Pit (National Coal Museum) in Wales last year, I was impressed by the spirit of the community shown in Wales, especially the contributions of women.

  15. ShimonZ

    I don’t think it’s such a problem that your passport doesn’t cover Israel. As you have been told in the comments, there is an easy way to get around that. I think that what is most important is your own personal sense of identity; who you see yourself as. And this is a very personal question.

    1. Ruby

      BUT… Remember that if you were to go to Israel via this workaround your government would not support you if you had an accident, illness, or were robbed.
      Of course, it’s a moot point how much support a government (whether it be Malaysian or British) in any case.

      1. Janet Williams Post author

        Dear Ruby,

        Thank you for pointing this out to me. You see, I’ve been told of various practical ways, but it’s a new (and rather important) perspective that I hadn’t previously thought of.

    2. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you Shimon.

      I agree — the sense of identity is what matters. I’ve been exposed to various cultures, and I’m a mixed creature. When I was much younger, it caused a bit of a problem. For example, what does Chineseness mean? What does a nationality say about me? What about the language I use to count numbers, and the language I use to think and function? Now I’m much older, I can handle this ‘neither here nor there’ mentality quite well, and it’s like looking through the world through a misty lens. I no longer feel that I’ve ‘lost’ a certain identity, and I feel that each new element has enhanced me as a person. I’m happy.

  16. 10year

    Hi Janet,
    Changing citizenship is not an easy decision to make. I applied for British Citizenship two years ago since I decided that I would live (and work) in the UK for rest of my life. As a Chinese citizenship in the UK, I was not on electoral register; I needed visa to travel to almost all countries.

    I would say that Life in the UK test is not easy, lots of facts and figures to memorize. But if you read the book ‘Life in the United Kingdom – A Journey to Citizenship’ and be prepared, you would pass. You can borrow book and CD (for practicing) from library. Be honest, I have forgotten most of the answers now. However, the ‘Everyday needs’ and ‘Employment’ parts are useful and easy; most of those we have learned from daily life.

    You mentioned that renewal of Malaysian passport is costly. Be aware that applying for British Citizenship is not cheap. I remember that naturalization fee for one adult was £850. Not sure if you (as Commonwealth citizen) need to pay for it or not. Then you need to pay for British passport fee and renew it every ten years.

    Whatever you decide, good luck to you.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear 10Year,

      Thank you for this useful information. Congratulations on passing the Citizenship test and also becoming a British citizen.

      Again, you have given me an extra piece of useful information on this matter. I haven’t even thought of the naturalisation fee yet. I haven’t even planned a trip to Israel yet.

      Thank you and I wish you all the best.

  17. samanthamcgarry

    Wow; I may be British born and raised but I wouldn’t know the answers to half of those questions! I totally empathize with your against about this decision and process. I’ve been living in the US for 13 years and am feeling pressure (my own) to become a US citizen. I’ve been eligible for 8 years but could never bring myself to do it. I’d be giving nothing up in the process as I would retain my British citizenship (unlike you, I believe) and I’m not aware of any travel restrictions that a US passport would mandate. But, as you say, it’s a very personal and emotional decision. Nationality is part of our cultural identity; it roots and defines us. Am I ready to become an American? I’m not 100 percent sure, truth be told.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Samantha,

      Thank you for your visit. I feel that you really understand my feelings.

      Ang Lee, director for The Life of Pi, told the world that he’s a Chinese (He was born and bred in Taiwan, to be precise). His identity has always been a constant debate in Taiwan, the Mainland China and the US. But in one interview, he made it clear that he’s not an American, though he has got a Green Card that he works legally there.

      What about Bill Bryson (an OBE)? He’s an American who’s so passionate about Britain and he writes so beautifully about all British things.

      I wish you all the best in finding out your answer too.

      1. samanthamcgarry

        I love love Bill Bryson. My ultimate philosophy is that wherever I am right now is home. And that comes with a responsibility to my community, locally and nationally. Most importantly, this is my kids’ home. They need to be anchored so I take my lead from them. Good luck to you. Keep us posted!

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  19. todadwithlove

    I have only just read this post, and MY, has it struck a chord. I have been living in Australia for 14 years now, and I have grappled more than several times about whether to be naturalised. Like Malaysia, Singapore does not allow for dual citizenship, and like the UK, the Australian government puts their would-be citizens through ridiculously gruelling tests. Whilst I know all of us can pass the test if we put in enough effortht to and time, I am not ready to give up my Singapore passport. Not yet, anyway. As a Permanent Resident, I enjoy all the privileges afforded to a citizen except for the right to vote. And because I am so disillusioned with the politics (like most of us in this country) anyway, I don’t really care — about not being ale to vote, I mean. But I suppose, the real reason, I suppose, for being reluctant to give up my passport is that my family is still back in Singapore. That’s where mum is, where my brother lives, where I grew up, and where I spent the best years of my life (with my dad, even if melbourne might have been his favourite city). Your post has somehow allowed me to unravel my own thoughts. Thank you, Janet, you always remind me of the things we have in common.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Vera,

      Thank you for visiting and your comment. I can truly identify with you. I find the emotional attachment is the most difficult. Your mum and brothers are still there, so the connection is strong.

      Actually, there is another reason behind my thought. When I visited Singapore with my British husband and son previously, the Singapore Immigration normally gave them 6 months, but they only allowed me 2 weeks to stay.

      Can you see how illogical it was? The two white people without any connection with Singapore was given a priority, while I felt like an underdog. I had a strong connection with Singapore, as 90% of my family is out there, but as I’m a Malaysian passport holder, I was given 2 weeks. However, when I visited last year, I was surprised to be given 6 months. Perhaps there’s been a change from the Singaporean authority. I don’t know. You know the intricate Malaysia-Singapore relation, so I won’t elaborate here.

      1. todadwithlove

        Yes, it is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous!! It was probably during the time of heightened tension from thorny issues about water and land swaps. Now that Singapore has its own brand of Newater, and intractable problems about land have also been somewhat resolved (I think), fences might have been mended. I find it absurd that bilateral issues should affect ordinary lives of people of the two nations. I feel a strong affinity with Malaysia because my mum was born there and many of my aunties and uncles are still living in Johor. Perhaps, if and when, you become British, Singapore would grant a six-month visa regardless of relations between these two fractious neighbours.

  20. Rouxi Tan

    Happy New Year Janet!
    This post is amazing!! I remember how you were telling me our Malaysian passport restricts us from travelling to Israel and I was shocked!! I hope you had an amazing holiday season and wishing you a good year ahead! 🙂
    PS, I was the girl on the plane while you were going back to London last year and I was going back to New York. Do say Hi to Ben for me! Smart boy he definitely is!

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Rouxi,

      Thank you for your visit. I’m sorry for my late reply.

      Yes, I remembered we sat next to each other on the plane back to London last summer. We talked about culture and languages, and I told you that you and I could never visit Israel (Why did I talk to an acquaintance on the plane about Israel? What a topic! This issue must have been bothering me deep down.) You, as a talented university student in the USA, didn’t believe me, and I asked you to check your passport on the spot. You took out your passport to check. I remembered you were completely shocked once you saw the printed words on your passport. It was so hilarious to reveal the truth to you in such a situation.

      Please stay in touch. Ben’s doing well and this is his blog.

      All the best to you in the new year too.

      1. Rouxi Tan

        It is I who should be apologizing for the late reply now.
        Yes! I was dumbfounded when I found out the we cant go to Israel. Now the urge to go there seems stronger than ever!!
        I’ll surely check out Ben’s blog! I went back to Singapore over the holidays and the heat was definitely something I hated then and missing a lot now.
        I hope you’re doing well and Happy Chinese New Year!! (Its in 2 weeks!! sadly, I’ll be spending it with the thick snow instead of those Chinese new year goodies!!)

  21. Life&Ink

    Janet, this was a most interesting post and was perplexed about the no travel to Israel remark on your passport. Reading the comments has been an education on the why of my question. I have learned something new. Thanks for that! 🙂

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you for your visit, Life&Ink,

      I’m amazed by the response to this post. Life is complicated, our nationality, identity, culture and all the world’s politics could be fused, sometimes it’s even beyond our control. Thank you for your visit. I’m interested in the educational topic on your blog.

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  24. Jo

    Hi Janet, I’m in the exact predicament as you are for I’ve been thinking long and hard about giving up my M’sian citizenship. I can relate 100 % to all the dilemmas mentioned above (and more)..The only thing holding me back is the fact that mum and dad are still in Sarawak so I’m still pondering although I can see myself going all the way (mind made up then? lol) . As for the Life in UK test, apparently the questions asked have now been revised to ‘encourage participation in British life’ (as off March 2013) covering topics such as sports, music and history…hmmm sounds tempting..:) Let me know if you’ve made a decision just yet.

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Jo,

      Thank you for your message and understanding. I know of a few more Malaysian friends who also share the same sentiment — because our parents or siblings are still there and that makes a change of identity very difficult and emotional.

      I’ve been to Sarawak once with my family and it’s such a beautiful and serene place.

      If the test is about music and sports, then I would fail miserably. I can name David Beckham and that’s all. Perhaps you and I can sit together and study hard for the test……

      All the best to you too.

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    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Indeed. This test seems to cover some facts that most British people don’t know about. I don’t mind reading about women’s rights or miners’ history, but I hope they don’t ask me any question about football.

      These days, you must pass the test to apply for permanent residency too, not just for being a British citizen.

      1. Hari Qhuang

        I think this kind of test is so ridiculous. It would have made more senses If they had asked general things that all British folks have to know in their daily lives.

  30. Jeff

    my son can never gain any Malaysian status, nor would he want one anyway.

    Why not? This blanket thinking is denying your son his heritage. He is as much Malaysian as he is British. I see this a lot in mixed children, and it saddens me to see them deny them an understanding of their roots. The dominant race/culture (White British) tends to supercede the minority one (even though they are both half).

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Jeff,

      My son had only been to Malaysia once and it is not the place that he could call his home. However, he knows that Malaysia is my country. As he is growing up fast, he starts to ask questions about my past. I would wait for him to find out more naturally through his own finding and questioning. Thank you for your comment.

  31. KL

    After reading this article and the series of conversation, I can appreciate more of the thought and emotion flow through one’s brain. National identity is a difficult choice. There are life examples of two very prominent Malaysian singers, 梁静茹 and 巫启贤。For 梁静茹,is she a Malaysian, a Taiwanese or a Chinese? Similarly for 巫启贤,is he a Malaysian, a Singaporean, a Taiwanese or a Chinese? 

    Old people always said, follow your heart.

  32. Doh

    The English are as far from tolerant as it gets, they are pompous, dilettante in everything, and a societal and cultural disgrace to Europe. Being a Malaysian with a clearly muslim cultural background, the israeli refusal of your passport validity is understandable, even if not necessarily fair or selective. The world is just like that (yes, for English islander monkeys, too). Just don’t be English “enough” to ingore that it is a sovereign right of every and each country to state whether they wish to allow visits from certain countries.

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