Life in the UK: what is Englishness?

Melanie, Paloma and I celebrated the Royal Wedding at a Street Party.

Who should get the chance to become a UK citizen? What should the requirements be?

Currently to become an English citizen you must either be born in the UK or meet certain requirements, such as taking the Life in the UK test. However, the requirements revolve around how much you earn/how long you’ve lived in the UK and the test focuses on statistics from the census. And not even the most recent one.

Last summer a Kiwi friend of mine took the test and passed with the help of a mutual English friend who ended being outraged with the questions. Turns out that a lot of the questions have “wrong” answers because the census the test is based on is out-dated and it doesn’t even cover parts of life that she considered “true Englishness”.

Recently Channel 4 filmed a two-part documentary that explored the Life in the UK test and what eight British citizens who failed the exam thought “Britishness” was in Making Bradford British. While I thought the show itself was lacklustre, it did raise some interesting points; if English people can’t even pass the test, how should foreigners be expected to? Obviously we’re* told to study the exam manual, etc., but is that enough?

I’d personally like to see that us foreigners could assimilate into the “British” culture by showing an understanding of British traits that may be inherently different to our own cultures (example: British reservedness), an understanding of EU and UK laws, a concrete knowledge of the current political scene in England and maybe even intricate knowledge of how the NHS or education system works. And, to be totally honest, I think it should be necessary to have personal recommendations from a set amount of current English citizens, such as coworkers and friends, who all agree that you should be a citizen. (You know, to show that you fit in with the culture and all.)

Obviously there’s loads of debate around this and it’s quite controversial and all I have is opinion so I thought I’d pose this question to you all: Who should be given the chance to become a UK citizen? What should the requirements be? Or do you think the system works great just the way it is?

Please put your thoughts in the comments below and I hope we have a great conversation around all this!

*I don’t currently qualify for citizenship so I’ve got no plans to take this test at any time in the near future!

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5 thoughts on “Life in the UK: what is Englishness?

  1. Since I had to face immigration policies very often over the last 5 or 6 years in different countries(including my own)I have become quite puzzled over how every country apparently wants diversity on their grounds, but not necessarily with all the consequences, i.e. diverse people actually living, working, and going to school there.
    In the US (as probably in evry other country too, but here I found this factor the most obvious) it is all ruled by the fact if you can afford to go there and pay much more for things you get almost for free in your home country.
    In Germany, btw the immigration test is pretty easy for most Germans (at least all my acquaintances who took the test for fun,just like me, passed it). So apparently there’s a certain amount of thought put in here.
    Maybe if the British redesigned their test a little bit, maybe it would be easier for foreigners to dive into Briishness…then again, the question could be raised: do the British actually want that? Wouldn’t they lose their typical reservedness to foreigners who are not as reserved to never leave their home country and staying as unreserved as the British never wanna be? :p


    • Haha I think the problem in England is that leave to remain is so popularly sought after they’re looking for ways to restrict it – which has in turn made it nearly impossible for the average British citizen (born & raised here) to pass.

      Do you happen to know what the USA citizenship test asks?


  2. I’ve done one before. Failed with a score of 60%. In the words of Lady Sovereign, ‘I’m English, try and deport me!’


    • Haha – yeah, I only know one English person who got a perfect score on the Life in the UK test, but that’s because she helped our Kiwi friend study!! ;) Still, I think that the test should be devised in a way that the average born & raised Brit citizen could pass without studying.


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