Stories about life in Denmark

The Things I Do Double: Thoughts on Dual Nationality in Denmark

There was big news this week for foreigners in Denmark. It looks like dual nationality in Denmark will soon be permitted. Previously, if you wanted to be a Danish citizen, you had to give up citizenship in your home country.

Meanwhile Danes who had moved abroad, say to the US or Australia, and became citizens there had to give up their Danish citizenship.

There’s now been a proposal to get rid of all that. It hasn’t been finally approved, but all the Danish parties say they’ll vote for it, with the exception of our anti-foreigner friends in the Danish People’s Party.

Why I’ll apply
Now having been here for 14 years, I will probably apply for Danish citizenship. I realize I’ll have to do a lot of studying about Danish history, and learn things like the difference between King Christian the Fourth and King Christian the Seventh.

But that’s true of any country. I’m sure people wanting to be American citizens have to learn the difference between, say, George Washington and George Bush.

I want to be a Danish citizen for a lot of different reasons. Right now, my ‘permanent’ residence permit expires if I’m out of the country for more than a year. That could easily happen if I travel, or have a family crisis back in the US.

Daughter born in Denmark has no rights
Also my daughter has no rights here. She was born here, and has only lived here, but she has no residence rights here, or right to attend university here. Under the current law, she’d have to apply for a Danish residence permit when she turns 18, and there’s no guarantee she’d get it. If I’m a double citizen, she can become a double citizen. And if she’s a double citizen, it means she can hold the Danish flag in her girls marching band. Right now she’s not allowed.

Most importantly, I’ve been paying Danish taxes for 14 years, and I want a say in how those taxes are spent. I want to vote.

I get to vote
Now, I can vote on the local level, as can any foreigner who has been here for four years. That said, the Danish People’s Party is trying to take that away from us. One of their candidates recently said, “As an immigrant in a new country, you’re busy with a bunch of other things as opposed to politics. If I moved to a hula-bula land in Africa, I also wouldn’t be able to have an opinion on political matters and vote.”

If the Danish People’s Party was not the second largest party in Denmark, they would be comic relief.

More things to do double
At any rate, having double citizenship will add to the large number of things I need to do double as someone with ties to two countries.

Having double citizenship will mean that instead of trying to remember where I put my passport, now I can try to remember where I put two passports.

I already pay two sets of taxes, and wrestle with two sets of tax bureaucrats. Lots of fun. I have two drivers’ licenses, and two sets of eyeglass prescriptions, since one country won’t accept the others’.

In each country, I have two sets of pensions, public and private. That means four pension plans, and I basically don’t understand any of them.

But those are the big things. There’s also the small things, like having two different keyboards on my iPhone, one Danish, one English. Whenever I start typing something, the keyboard always seems to be in the language that doesn’t match what I urgently need to say.

Even worse, sometimes I need to mix languages – say, giving an English-speaking friend a Danish street name. That just about blows the iPhone’s circuits. You can tell that the iPhone was designed by mono-lingual Americans.

Another thing that drives me crazy is geo-targeted sites like Google or Hotels.com or Trip Advisor. They assume because I’m physically located in Denmark, I want all their services in Danish. No I don’t. You can figure out how to re-set them into English or whatever language you choose, but that always takes like 15 minutes to find that little hidden tab that does it. Drives me nuts.

The Danish People’s Party disagrees
Now, the Danish People’s Party would suggest that if I wanted to get rid of all these double headaches, I should simply give up my American citizenship and commit myself to Denmark.

In the newspaper stories I’ve seen about this issue, there are a lot of comments from people named Knud and Bent and Axel and other old people Danish names that say things like “It’s citi-zen, not cities-zen – statsborger, ikke statersborger. That means one person, one country, one pass. How hard can it be?”

“Hvorfor kun to pas, hvorfor ikke tre, fire, fem, seks, syv, otte………?”

Or “I can’t see why anyone would want double citizenship, or even twenty citizenships, for any reason except to have many identities they can use for crime or tax evasion.”

But I don’t want to give up my American passport. I’m an American, and I always will be an American. I live in Denmark, I speak Danish, I send my child to a Danish school. I’m pretty well integrated. But as a foreigner in Denmark, you’re never entirely Danish. Even if Denmark has become home, there’s still another home, at least somewhere in your heart.

Kay Xander Mellish books

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Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2024

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