roxanabacian
Apr 15 · 8 min read

Home in Dialogue is a collective storytelling platform led by those with personal experiences of migration: leaving, returning and the in between. Nadia Barbu and Șerban Anghene have both recently become British citizens after leaving Romania a few years back. Below is a conversation between the two, on messenger, about double citizenship:


Nadia and Șerban at Nadia’s British Citizenship Ceremony

Roxana:
What’s it like to be newly British, Nadia?

Nadia:
Well, it’s a relief. I went through this whole process because I was worried about Brexit and what that would mean for me, now I can stop worrying. I haven’t really thought about it much from a philosophical perspective :)) it was all pure practicality. I guess maybe now that it’s over there’s more time to philosophise. What was it like for you, Anghene?

Șerban:
More expensive. Especially since I failed once and my employer didn’t subsidise my second try. There is nothing more to that. I am also a keen churchgoer on voting days. I am pleased at the prospect of walking into my nearest church next time we have an election I didn’t use to be eligible for and cast my ballot.

Nadia:
Yes, I’m eager to do that as well. I was quite upset with being the subject of all these conversations, what EU immigrants should do or shouldn’t do, and having no say in the matter whatsoever. Do you think we should still vote in Romanian elections as well though? Seeing how we haven’t lived there in almost a decade. Is it fair? Is it about us anymore at all?

Șerban:
Is it fair to waste a day travel card and precious time to queue on some pavement in Kensington? I would be weighing the advantages of doing so very carefully even if the affair interested me directly, let alone if it is about a country that has long ceased being my home.

Nadia:
What about friends and family who are still there though?

Șerban:
Of course, on the other hand, if someone I cared about living in Romania asked me to cast a vote that would help them in some way, I’m not saying I would automatically do it, but I might consider it. If it is nice enough outside why not go for a stroll to Central? But no unreasonable queues please.

Nadia:
So you would vote as they tell you to vote?

Șerban:
Of course. It is to help them, not for me. I vote for myself in Britain and for others in Romanian elections. I think that’s fair.

Nadia:
You said Romania is not your home anymore, is the UK your home? What does it mean that a place is your home?

Șerban:
The trouble is sifting and weighing through options — who do you listen to? As if one vote would make a difference. They probably cook the books and recycle the ballot papers within the first hours after the polling station closes.

Now that’s a good one.

Home is where I’m most comfortable. I have no problem making a new place my home very quickly if it offers me comfort and security. It is also about the very few people I hang out with or live with.

Where is your home, Barbu?

Nadia Barbu — British Citizenship Ceremony

Nadia:
Well, I’ve said this before, but when you move to another country people assume it must be very hard because you’re going ‘away from home’, from the place where you feel comfortable. But I’ve never felt comfortable in Romania. It’s not that I’m necessarily very comfortable here. I think I’m just constantly uncomfortable :)) So moving to a different country was not going out of my comfort zone because I don’t have one.

Șerban:
It is difficult for the first few days or weeks until you buy all the forks and mugs and everything else that you’re used to taking for granted. I had a cultural shock when I went to buy forks at the 99p store and was asked for ID. By a Romanian till worker. Then it may be difficult for a while until your sort out money and practicalities. If it’s too difficult, you’re probably in the wrong country. Like for example a Brit trying to escape bureaucracy by fleeing to Romania. What a bummer that would be.

Nadia:
Yes, there were some minor cultural shocks. Like the bathroom sinks with one tap for cold water and one for hot water. And learning that ‘pants’ means underwear here, after you’ve learned from American movies that it means trousers. First time I told a guy I liked his pants he looked quite alarmed.

In a way I think Britain suits me better than Romania because people here are less likely to push and pry if you’re reserved or shy. But other times it’s difficult to figure out what they’re trying to say to you and you miss a bit of Eastern European straightforwardness.

Șerban:
There’s even a pub, or at least one, called ‘The Shy Horse’ showing that shyness is celebrated. As well as animals, that’s another thing I like.

I will never miss Eastern European straightforwardness. Language is a wonderful tool through which a range of realities can be constructed based both on delivery and interpretation, and therefore those two false concepts of truth and falsehood are less relevant here. One can say so much without saying anything or on the contrary, can say everything.

And in the midst of confusion there is a place for everyone and everything. Liberalism let us not forget was a British invention.

Nadia:
And then you get used to it and you get the reverse cultural shock when you deal with your own countrymen again. Like when I go to the Romanian consulate for paperwork and I wait in line patiently for my name to be called as I’m told, and the clerk snaps at me for being a loser.

Șerban:
I was told off for not reminding the clerk that they had forgotten about me. It was implied that they would.

Nadia:
Yes, same thing happened to me.

Șerban:
Must be the same clerk. By the way he tossed documents through the window I figured out he was a natural tosser. Will you vote in Romanian elections?

Nadia:
No, it was a lady clerk with me, not a guy. Maybe it’s part of the training for getting the job. I don’t know about Romanian elections, to be honest…on one hand, I feel like it’s not my right to decide for people who live there anymore

Șerban:
I told you what happens to the votes anyway.

Șerban — British Citizenship Ceremony

Nadia:
But I’m interested. And because I’m always undecided I can’t necessarily exclude the possibility that I may go back there to live there one day. Even though rationally I know I won’t. But letting that go completely as an idea would cause me a lot of anxiety. It would mean a door has closed forever.

Șerban:
Coming back to the core of the discussion which is this whole double nationality thing, we can or I can rant at both Britain and Romania all I like, but the truth of the matter is I was privileged to grow up in an educated family, in a reasonably stable country, and to have an even better performing one close-by, in the same confederation of states, and also the means to move here. It could have been much worse.

In the bigger picture of things, Romania and the UK are not at the opposite ends of a spectrum but quite close to one another. I’m grateful to hazard for not being born in say Yemen or Somalia. It’s like saying Neptune is very far from the Sun. Well yes, but if you look at the galaxy as a whole they all show up as one dot.

And I get your door theory. I couldn’t live without knowing I can get a supply of pastrama cu mamaliga every now and again. Actually I could. But like communism in Switzerland, it is possible but it would be a shame.

Nadia:
Yeah, Romania and Britain are not THAT different actually. Especially for people from our generation who grew up with the same American pop culture to a degree, I guess it doesn’t matter that much where you were when you experienced it. A surprising number of people from my very international class at the Filmmaking MA I did could sing the Captain Planet theme song along with me.

Șerban:
It is the new empires — cultural. I quite enjoyed growing up with Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine, Mr Bean, Blackadder and the like. In many ways that was the Britain I was hoping to find when I came here. That I now know Britain is the Polish cage fighter and Romanian English tutor as well as Croydon and Tooting is just another layer I have added to that reality which I have created in my mind about where I am. I partly live and have lived for a long time in Greendale.

Nadia:
I think one of the most silly ideas I had about Britain before I lived here was that everyone was wealthy. Because back home we always thought of ‘the West’ as wealthy. I was surprised initially to see that Britain had poverty. I realise this doesn’t make me sound very smart.

Șerban:
Although poverty looks different in some ways. You will be hard pressed to find someone who, through poverty rather than choice, does not have running water or electricity. For me flushing toilets are important and a measure of civilisation.

In that line of thought — one measure of poverty is personal debt level. Having seen many officially sanctioned loan shark companies like Amigo sprout about like a venereal rash lately, I was thinking — should the contemporary Postman Pat be Bailiff Ben? You know how it says in the song — ‘You can never be sure/ There’s a knock, ring, letter through your door?’

I have read that Romania has a similar issue. They’re called IFN — Instituții Financiare Nebancare. I think they’re worse over there because of even slacker control.

Messenger coversation between Nadia and Șerban — April 2019

Șerban Anghene left Romania in 2009 to study for an MA in the UK. He likes to think he is a writer and teacher of sorts, but other than that he doesn’t like to think much, which is why he likes spending time with like-minded goats and donkeys from British sanctuaries.

Nadia Barbu used to be a future journalist, but now she wants to be an artist. She draws, makes animated cartoons, blogs and works in university communications. For more stories see Home in Dialogue and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Home in Dialogue

Collective storytelling on Romanian migration: leaving, returning and the in between. By and for those in movement.

roxanabacian

Written by

Coach + Therapist in training/ Editor @homeindialogue / Prev @WADUP_Productions @enrolyourself @wearesnook @futuregov @shift_org /They/Them🏳️‍🌈

Home in Dialogue

Collective storytelling on Romanian migration: leaving, returning and the in between. By and for those in movement.

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