Is there a downside to being Greek

integration: The dual citizen


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This one question, as a child I heard it again and again: "What are you actually: German or Greek?" It doesn't matter whether the neighbor in Eschweiler asked or the aunt from Thessaloniki asked. The matter did not seem entirely clear to them. Me neither.

I haven't found an answer until today. Even though I recently became officially German. The naturalization process took almost a year, and in the end I find myself back in the large ballroom of Hamburg's town hall. Around me 500 people who should feel as much as me. Three chandeliers on the ceiling, each the size of a small car. The guests wear Sunday clothes.

"Naturalization is not an everyday occurrence," says Mayor Olaf Scholz at the beginning of his speech. The SPD politician has invited to the celebration. Last item on the program: "National Anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany". I see blonde hair, canes, headscarves, mini skirts. The guests applied for and received a German passport. Many had to pass integration courses, language and naturalization tests. It was easier for me.

Blood law used to apply

I was born in Germany in 1980, at a time when the principle of descent still applied. Some also say it Ius sanguinis or blood right. Since my parents are Greek, I was only a Greek citizen from birth. I could have answered the long-term question of my childhood clearly: Greek. Actually.

Being a foreigner was not a problem. As an EU citizen you have almost the same rights as German citizens. There are, however, restrictions, both large and small: As a schoolboy, I needed a registration certificate in order to rent films from the video library. There is no address in the passport. Later I was not allowed to have a say in who would become Federal Chancellor. Only Germans are allowed to do this. That's why I applied for a German passport two and a half years ago.

Zacharias Zacharakis

Zacharias Zacharakis is editor of ZEIT ONLINE. His profile page can be found here.

In the spring of 2010 I was standing in a poorly lit hall of the residents' central office in Hamburg. Linoleum floor, pastel colored concrete. What is in store for me now? Countless forms? Unfriendly officials? Maybe a naturalization test?

Abitur certificate is sufficient as proof of language proficiency

Clerks V to Z opened the door. "Good morning, Olaf Petersen," he said, a friendly man in his late 30s, Hamburg tone. He assigned me a chair. I said that I graduated from high school and studied in Germany. Now work as a journalist. Question: Do I also need a language or naturalization test?

Petersen looked at my documents: "No problem with you. A high school diploma is sufficient as proof of language proficiency. You even have a legal right to naturalization." However, being German is not available for free. Processing fee: 255 euros, plus the costs for identity card and passport. To be paid into the cash register against receipt.

In the following days I filled out the application. Entered the income and rent. "You have to be able to make a living for yourself and your dependents," Petersen told me. In another form, the question: "Do you have or have you had contact with people who belong to a group that is classified as violent or terrorist?" I checked: "No".