Nationality – Is It More Than Just a Name on a Passport?

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If someone asked about your nationality, how would you define yourself? I was born in England. I grew up in England. I have no plans to move away from England. But please don’t call me English.

To me, English is bound up with connotations of superiority particularly regarding the other nationalities in Britain. I am a realist, so when I hear my sweet mother tongue I don’t close my eyes and see castles surrounded by rolling landscapes; neither does the taste of strawberry and cream tingle on my tongue.

Maja Hultman has a similar feeling towards her home country of Sweden.  Because she has no sentimental feelings towards her country, she feels as though she has no nationality. She says: ‘It’s more about attitude, not about your passport.’

But my passport doesn’t say England; it places me into the much wider nationality of the United Kingdom.

I do feel slightly more comfortable referring to myself as British.

I do feel slightly more comfortable referring to myself as British, it’s inclusive of many more people and does away with the connotations of power and superiority amongst other nations closer to home. It still isn’t perfect though. With Britain there is the empire, and with the empire you have the juxtaposition of glory and oppression.

So I still can’t define myself.

This realistic approach to ‘place’, however, isn’t absolute. If you mention my hometown of Stroud my reaction is totally different. I just can’t quite suppress the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I think about home with its scenery and countryside. I will happily admit that I’m impacted by its unique local culture and gorgeous surroundings.

It’s only when I get back there that I remember that towering hills are a massive hassle to climb and that most of the country pubs are only unique in their smell.

It seems when you are removed from the immediate negatives of a place you are able to build a much more romantic relationship with it.

It seems when you are removed from the immediate negatives of a place you are able to build a much more romantic relationship with it.

Maja also agrees that living abroad, although it doesn’t make her pine for Sweden, has made her appreciate elements of her family and village life more.

Nationality isn’t just about sentimental ideals. There is a complex web of unique experiences that bind people together. Did you ever watch Grange Hill? Listen to Westlife? Read the Famous Five? These are common experiences of people everywhere who grew up in Britain, and in some way have helped to create a national character through our communal experience.

So if someone asked you your nationality what would you say? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

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