Montag, 6. März 2017

An Aunt Abroad

I'm currently in the process of trying to become a Swiss citizen - or wait - will I be becoming a citizen of Schaffhausen, if the guy in immigration at the Zürich civil registry is to be believed.
Things that I've learned so far in the immigration process. (With the awareness that this process is made simpler by my current citizenship as an American, the fact that I am white and the fact that I am married and financially stable.)
1. Swiss bureaucrats have clear ideas about who is Swiss, which is good, because it's their job to make people Swiss, but this also means that they can have a tunnel vision of their definition of Swissness. At the civil registry, when attempting to procure a Gesuchsformular (application form), the civil servant uncivilly serving me refused to believe that my husband was, is or ever had been Swiss. He took my residency card to look me up in the system and didn't find me (this - of course - heightened his suspicion of me.) "M-U-N... Ich finde Sie nicht! Es gibt keine Munssen." Of course he couldn't find me. Of course no Munssen exists at my address. My name begins M-I-J. When I told him as much, he scolded me for the small print on my residency card, (not sure how that's my fault) and continued to be incredulous that anyone with such a foreign-sounding name could have been a Swiss citizen when he married me back in 2007. I told him that my husband's great grandfather had been Swiss, but he wasn't convinced till he found my husband in his system and read that his mother was called Hemmi. Apparently, he was permitted to be considered Swiss after that. The uncivil servant became more civil and told me that I would need to get my application form from Schaffhausen, as I would be a citizen of Schaffhausen. He also tried to scare me by saying that Schaffhausen's location, near the German border, meant that I might be under more scrutiny than people trying to become Zürchers. I told him that I welcomed scrutiny, with the confidence of a woman who'd been married 10 years and felt sure that I could convince Swiss Makers that my marriage is not being faked for citizenship.
2. Bureaucrats have no idea what they're talking about. Today I schlepped all the way to Schaffhausen, to pick up the application that Mr. Uncivil had assured me that I'd need to get there and I couldn't They didn't have an immigration office to visit at their registry, just a slip of paper with a lady's name and number on it. So I call her and she answers like she has a moment and then I'm telling her while I'm calling and she says, "I'll have to call you back, I'm in the middle of something here." First off, what can she be in the middle of if her office is un-visitable? Second, maybe don't answer if you can't talk or don't ask me what I need if you don't have time to hear it. That's impatient me talking, who's in the car to drive back to Zürich and there's a person in a car behind, wanting me to leave the parking space. So this magic, office-less lady calls me back and tells me that the Zürich guy should have absolutely given me the application because it's not a cantonal matter, it's a federal matter and she starts going on about those idiots in Zürich and I'm thinking, like the printing on my residency card, this is another annoyance for which I am not responsible and can not help. So she'll mail me the form that I just drove 45 minutes to get and then gets frustrated with me 3 times for speaking too quickly. You are a lady with just a phone number! You should be tops at taking info off the phone! Again, this is my frustration speaking. Luckily, phone number lady didn't have a problem with the foreign-ness of my last name at least.
3. As a foreigner, I am meant to better understand the naturalization process better than the people responsible for the process.
4. Jokes are not welcome. When I was visiting the tax office, I suggested that part of my integration process, on the road to becoming a citizen, was visiting a bunch of city buildings that I'd previously never visited before. She seemed offended by this attempt at whimsy.
5. People at the work and welfare office are never happy to have a visit and seem genuinely inconvenienced at having to leave their seats and come to the service window.
6. The America Consulate security fella is being overly dramatic about his job. His lap around the building, his singing of the Winkie Chant as he keeps you from visiting the Wizard… Because of the 4 visits there in the past month, 1 was with a different security guard and he was totally chill and seemed far more ok with my speaking Swiss German with him than Mr. Winkie.
7. Becoming a citizen of another country feels weird. It's different to the weirdness of getting a different last name after 25 years of having another last name. But it's similar to learning the language that the love of my life speaks. I've learned the language of the man that I love and the culture and then I went and lived there for longer than I've lived most any other place and it's home and now it'll be my home on paper and I'll be one of the growing number of Swiss people with non-Swiss last names.
Like changing my name when I got married, it feels weird to be something so different to my siblings; to be a foreign citizen to the citizenship of my family. The first most significant time that it felt significant to live abroad was when my nephew was born. I was an aunt abroad. When he talks about his extended family, he mentions that he's got an aunt in Europe. That felt big to me. When my mom was dying, the distance felt significant, but that wasn't anything to do with citizenship or particular location, just miles apart.
So that's the road thus far to being a citizen of the town with the golden bollocks.


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