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What does gaining Danish citizenship mean to dual nationals?

What does gaining Danish citizenship mean to dual nationals?
Photo: Jason Leung on Unsplash
Above and beyond the practical benefits of Danish citizenship, becoming a dual national can affect your sense of personal identity, writes Divya Rao.

Danish citizenship grants expats, particularly those originally from non-EU countries, mobility without hassle, especially within Europe.

Besides having learnt the language and its culture, the change in the perception of national identity after becoming a dual citizen is perhaps the most profound change you can undergo after moving to a new country.

“Research shows that for most of the applicants from non-European countries, the change in nationality has a telling influence on how they feel about their own identity,” says Marie Andreasen, who conducted postgraduate research on the subject at Aarhus University’s Department of Political Science.

“They feel a lot more safe and finally have a feeling of belonging to the country, which they have always considered home. A lot of them always have the feeling that they have to prove that they are good enough,” Andreasen told The Local.

“Now you finally have a paper that tells you that you do belong here and are good enough. For applicants who primarily get the passport for practical reasons (mostly British/West European applicants because of Brexit, and the fact that they look a lot like Danes), the feeling is not as strong,” she added.

For people whose motivations are primarily practical, “they are glad that they finally have the passport, but most of them don’t feel different about their own identity,” Andreasen also said.

“Most of them often look like Danes, so they are not asked the question ‘Where are you from’, at every new meeting, which is often the case for minority ethnic applicants,” she said.

Carol Stief is an American who moved to Denmark in 1965 and received her citizenship in 2017.

“When I first came to Denmark, I did not see another person of colour. Even after 55 years of being in the country and speaking Danish almost as my first language, I would still not be considered a Dane as the image is of someone who is blonde-haired and blue-eyed, which I am not,” she says.

For Ekaterina Yaltykova, the approval of a Danish citizenship meant having a sense of belonging.

“While the practical benefits of holding a Danish passport are many, to me the emotional sense of being accepted was very strong. I consider Denmark to be my home, even if I get asked about my background based on my surname,” says Yaltykova, a Russian who moved to Denmark in 2002 and received her Danish passport in 2015.


Clockwise from top left: Ekaterina Yaltykova, Idyln St. Hilaire, Carol Stief and Sondra Duckert are all dual Danish citizens. Photos: supplied

The reactions from close family and friends in Denmark, on hearing the news of Danish citizenship approval, also infused enthusiasm among some of them.

“Everyone in Denmark that I meet is happy, enthusiastic about this (citizenship approval). Danish people also think of this as a major achievement,” shares Sondra Duckert, an American who got her citizenship in August 2020.

For Idlyn St. Hilaire, the experience after becoming a Danish citizen was rather unchanged.

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“I am not really ‘more of a Dane’ now than I was before receiving my Danish passport. It just makes travel easier. When you look at me, I'm just another Black person. My Danish co-workers don't see me differently, either,” shares the Dominica native, who has lived in Denmark since 2004 and received her Danish passport in 2016.

Stief, who has lived in Denmark for over 55 years, says “there is ‘everyday racism’” in Denmark and cited citizenship as a means by which to tackle it.

“(‘Everyday’ racism) may be due to the ignorance about the racist undertones in Denmark, as I see this to be a comparatively ‘new’ problem, when compared to countries like the USA,” she said.

“Even if I give this a pass, I see that younger Danes of colour are not as forgiving of the racial discrimination. Therefore, I now use my right to vote for a political party that would represent my beliefs and target racism for me and our future generations,” she explained.

Representation also played an important role for Yaltykova, who says, “It was very cool to have the opportunity to vote. Immigration laws are made by political parties and the fact that I get to vote made a big difference to me.”

But St. Hilaire is ambivalent about the impact of representation.

“I'm not deeply invested in Danish politics. While it is good to have the chance to contribute in bringing about change, I am unsure about how much I am going to be heard,” she says.

Duckert believes that with the power of the Danish passport comes the responsibility to be represented.

“I've started following Danish politics more extensively now. I feel like it is my responsibility to know more and help shape Denmark,” she says.

What do you think about citizenship and national identity? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

This is the third and final in a series of three articles around Danish citizenship.

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About the writer

Divya Rao is a marketing and communications specialist. She moved from her job at Microsoft in India to Næstved in 2018, to follow her heart. She now works as a freelance marketing and communications professional and is a contributing writer with The Local. She currently lives in Næstved and travels across the region for project implementations. You can find her on LinkedIn or via email.

 


Member comments

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  1. Wherever there are blacks, they always are the first to bring up racism. SO you say well because they are subject to it, but the reality is that it is a perception that is fostered by the behavior of many in their ethnic group. As in the US, where the black population is only 13%, they commit over 50% of the crime. So the natural reaction to a black person, as I have spoken to many US citizens, is to assume, rightly or wrongly, that a young black male significantly may commit violence and that a large majority do not want to work. If one looks at the BLM movement in the US, they are not concerned about black lives, as they fraudulently claim that, because black-on-black crime is at epidemic proportions, and yet they say nothing. Only if a cop justifiably kills a black in the line of duty do they protest. However, last year eight unarmed blacks were killed by cops, and this gives them an excuse to riot, loot, and claim there is systematic racism in the US. By the way, every one of those, 8 were RESISTING arrest and would be alive today if they complied with police orders. The US has spent more money than all countries combined to enact laws, provide services, build affordable housing, even to the point of enacting reverse discrimination laws, like affirmative action. Yet, what has it gotten us, more unwed black mothers, more drug use, more gang violence, more angry black people saying it is not enough! A culture that idolizes the most degenerate like rap stars condemns successful conservative blacks, like a Clarence Thomas, etc.? One can go on, but I say to blacks, if you want to end racism, then clean your own house, stand up for successful blacks instead of calling them Uncle Toms, repudiate the drug dealers, those who would instead not work, and stop expecting society to provide for you. Asians and Hispanics have assimilated quite well in the US.
    Interestingly, neither of these groups ever play the race card. They work hard, support their families, and take the opportunities given to them. As a caucasian, I suspect I am like many who resent this constant claim we are racists!

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