Monday, September 28, 2009

Oceans Apart, (Day after Day)*

Living across the world from where I was just a few months ago I occasionally feel a sense of displacement. On the one hand I feel very grounded and rooted in my life here, but on the other, I can't shake the sense that something is missing. I was recently reminded that it's time for the rice harvest. This means that it's been almost a year since we left for Japan to help my father-in-law with the rice harvest. I can't believe it! We won't be there for the harvest this year, and as a result I have that sense of displacement, "How could I almost forget?!" Likewise, I keep thinking, "Is it almost time for the olives yet?" It's too early but I can't wait until we hear from my mother-in-law that they're ready to be picked.

In that vein of thinking about how we integrate our cross-cultural partners and lives, I've been reading some interesting articles in the paper lately and wonder if you've seen these stories? The first story is about a pair who has been living in the U.S. for several years and would like to stay in New Hampshire operating their authentic French bakery but the U.S. government assessed the bakery and its profits as marginal and therefore made the lady's application for an extension on her work/investor's visa ineligible . The people of the town essentially lobbied the State Department - writing letters etc. saying that this small business was more than "marginal" to their community. I found it touching and think I'd do the same. How wonderful would it be to have an authentic French bakery in your little community and why would you want to chase that away?

The second story is about a newly married couple right here in the Pacific Northwest, he's American and she's Canadian and they're currently unable to live together in one country.

What I find most frustrating about both stories is that there's such a tangle of legal....stuff. The boundaries that exist among nations are often arbitrary, although in some cases there are natural geographic constructs (like rivers, mountains, etc.) that act as dividers. It just seems like all of these problems could be easily avoided or resolved if we didn't have these rules. Naturally it's easy for me to say all this, and I'm clearly biased as all of this legal stuff occasionally makes things challenging for my husband and I and especially my daughter who, as things stand right now, will be forced to choose between her Japanese and American citizenship statuses once she is 22 years old.

Having said all of this, I should also emphasize that I'm in no hurry to give up my American citizenship. While that might simplify things in some ways (if my husband and daughter and I were all Japanese citizens) I just can't wrap my head around revoking a status that really feels like a part of my identity. In other words, it's not just that I'd choose not to be Japanese, I don't think I'd feel able to adopt the citizenship of any other nation either. Maybe there really is something to the notion of national identity and boundaries after all?

If you had to revoke your citizenship in order to become a citizen of another country would you (i.e. no dual citizenship allowed)? What if that was the only way for you to be with your partner/spouse?

*Yes I was a Richard Marx fan once upon a time. Don't mock.


  1. Toughie. Luckily Sweden has dual citienship. There's lots of benefits to the globetrotter in me that I'll get to live anywhere in the EU. I think I get that just with permanent residency, though, so I'm not planning on going for Swedish citizenship. What with my American citizenship and EU option, I've got it pretty good! Uh, once the paperwork comes through at least.

  2. That's a very sweet story about the bakery. I love when a community comes together for things like that.

    I, honestly have no idea if I would revoke my citizenship or nor. I think if my husband and I moved to his country of origin (if it weren't USA)and I really enjoyed it there, I might. But, I think, I would have to LOVE the other country.

    Good question!

  3. i wouldn't, not for my husband, but definitely for my kids. i can't imagine not being american. i guess i can't actually imagine a situation that would require me to give up one to adopt another, though, too. interesting question!

  4. I can play that Richard Marx song on the piano. Yes, I am *that* cool.

    As far as the citizenship... I think it's unlikely that I would revoke my US citizenship. On a similar note (but entirely different), my husband is Lutheran and I am Catholic. We made the decision that our children would be baptized Lutheran (of course they can be whatever they want to be when they are old enough to decide). Even though I am a non-practicing Catholic now because of my dissatisfaction with the Church, I am not converting to Lutheranism. My parents and grandparents and brother etc are all Catholic, and I feel it's still a part of my identity. It's not an easy thing to give up, even when it's just a label.

  5. My sister and I had an argument about my giving up my Canadian citizenship last year. She thought I should do it, that it would make my life in Japan easier. I refused because I don't have a clue how not to be Canadian. I don't even want to think about it.

    If there were dual citizenship in Japan I'd probably try for it, but give up my Canadian-ness? No way.

    I don't have children to complicate matters.

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