UK immigration test to focus on Shakespeare and Christianity instead of human rights and civics

The UK Home Secretary has announced changes to the "Life in the UK" immigrant test. Instead of containing information on human rights, the nature of the political structure of the UK and the EU, and who has the legitimate right to access benefits, the test will focus on useful things that everyone in Britain really cares about: Shakespeare, Christianity, the Duke of Wellington and the Battle of Trafalgar.

I sat this test before I established my UK residence (I later became a citizen) and a large part of it is about UK culture: the history of women's suffrage, the law and norms around childrearing and work and tax, and more. Much of it is a bit tedious. Is it necessary to be able to rattle off the number of seats in each regional assembly? The multiple choice answers for Scotland were something like: a) 131, b) 130, c) 120, d, 100 -- surely knowing the number plus or minus 20 percent is enough for daily life. The legendary difficulty of the test is largely down to this sort of fine-grained multiple choice answers; it's important to know that women got the universal franchise in the late 1920s and the tradition is firmly established in the UK, but being able to name the exact year is beside the point, something that the test-designers clearly missed.

Being able to name the plays of Shakespeare, or the dates of Trafalgar are also beside the point. As a naturalised immigrant, I'm here to tell you that this sort of thing is an ocean away from the sort of knowledge that one needs to become a part of UK society. It'd be far more useful, for example, to teach us that when you turn on the BBC's "Today in Parliament" and hear the back-benchers braying a kind of well-bred, adenoidal "hnnneagh, hnnneagh" that this is the way what antique posh people say "hear, hear!" and not some kind of mass-poisoning.

Theresa May 'planning changes to immigrant test'


  1. I hope, for the sake of our friends across the pond, that May’s transparently cynical pandering to a variety of cultural symbols sufficiently de-vitalized that they need to be placed on nitpicking official life support will make the test a less accurate introduction to British life, rather than a more accurate one…

    1.  “…cultural symbols sufficiently de-vitalized…”

      I want you to think long and hard about what you just said, with especial reference to the cultural influence of Shakespeare and the King James Bible on the English-speaking world.

      “These are our stories: they tell us who we are.”

      1. I’d say that the cultural influence is overstated, dwelled upon and actually fairly irrelevent to daily British life. As much as fiction is useful for cultural identity, it’s snobbery to expect everyone to place them in intellectual prime position.

        1. I think that it was Jilly Cooper who pointed out that the children of upper class Brits learn Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes because they’re actually stories about their ancestors. The children of the rest of the population just sing advertising jingles.

      2. For the record: they’re not “our” stories.  The former British empire encompassed (how’s that for a euphemism?) many non-Christian cultures who are now fully, legitimately British citizens.

        Having to list the ingredients in a curry is a more accurate representation of British culture these days than knowing which Biblical passages are in Two Gentleman of Verona.

      3. I stand by my assertion.

        ‘Culturally influential’ and ‘de-vitalized’ are by no means contradictory. 

        Consider the analogous(though admittedly substantially further advanced) case of Latin: up until fairly recently, and in certain specialist niches to the present day, it enjoys substantial prestige and official support in terms of curriculum requirements, specialist jargon, and non-unemployed classicists; but it lags somewhere below Esperanto in terms of vitality, with essentially zero native speakers in the last few centuries and minimal use even as a secondary language(‘lingua franca’ may be latin; but the reverse is not true…)

        British christianity has been hemorrhaging customers for some decades now, with rapid upticks in both nonadherence and nominally-adherent-but-only-actually-show-up-to-be-hatched-matched-and-dispatched groups. Some of the masonry, and much of the ceremony, will probably survive well into the future; but, statistically speaking, we are watching the late stages of the transition from ‘culture’ to ‘core curriculum’ here.

        The statistics on Shakespeare aren’t gathered with as much enthusiasm, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that his popular cultural appeal has not been augmented by the passage of time nearly as much as his critical acclaim and appeal as fodder for various flavors of scholarship. Hardly dead, and he’s held up a great deal better than his contemporaries; but increasingly likely to be something you read in English class rather than something you went to see live because it is popular entertainment…

        Obviously, I’d be utterly foolish to argue that these are not influential. They are. My point is that their influence in the ‘culture, it’s what people do’ sense has not been doing so well, and that they seem to be well on their way to being enshrined as reverently mummified(but no less dead for it) cultural prestige artifacts.

        In the context of a test that is explicitly designed to distinguish between the ‘them’ who are qualified to be ‘us’ and the ones that aren’t, a focus on cultural prestige artifacts, rather than culture, tends to have the unseemly tinge of either cluelessness or cynical dog-whistle political signalling…

      1.  “Browning”.  “I reach for my Browning.” A Browning is a make of revolver, as well as the name of a poet. It’s a pun, you see. /grumpy old man

        1. No, Browning is for semi automatics, machine guns, shotguns and rifles. Not a revolver. Revolver is a Beatles album. No citizenship for you!

      2. It’s the UK, though.  You’d have to reach for… I dunno – your cudgel, or a banana or something…

  2. no you miss the point. The conservative government has to pander to the nationalist leanings of its right, which means keeping out those dirty foreigners, and this has to be reconciled with the brain tumour that is EU membership, which provides the unchallenged right to work in the UK to most of mainland Europe. Their solution is to create a spurious easy-to-fail test, as a barrier to entry to people outside the EU, whose movement the government can still legally restrict. What better way to do that than to invent a test of random pointless fact-lets about Britain? The more spurious and arbitrary the questions, the better.

    1. Shades of White Australia.

      Early drafts of the Act explicitly banned non-Europeans from migrating to Australia but objections from the British government, which feared that such a measure would offend British subjects in India and Britain’s allies in Japan, caused the Barton government to remove this wording. Instead, a “dictation test” was introduced as a device for excluding unwanted immigrants. Immigration officials were given the power to exclude any person who failed to pass a 50-word dictation test. At first this was to be in any European language, but was later changed to include any language. The tests were written in such a way to make them nearly impossible to pass. The first of these tests was written by Federal MP Stewart Parnaby as an example for officers to follow when setting future tests. The “Stewart” test was unofficially standardised as the English version of the test, due to its extremely high rates of failure resulting from a very sophisticated use of language.

      1. Or even the Jim Crow era of the American South.  You couldn’t vote if you couldn’t pass an unusually difficult “literacy test” … unless your grandfather could legally vote (ie, you were white), then the test didn’t matter.

      2.  Not to mention that the test-giver could choose which language to give the test in, meaning that if a test-taker’s French was better than their English, the test might be given in German, if the test-taker wasn’t supposed to pass

  3. At one time we would have had enough confidence in our political institutions to make the idea of any test unthinkable. Now the politicians seem to have completely given up too and are suffering a European identity crisis.

    Personally I do not even know whether I am English, British or both – likewise for those born in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Each has positive and negative connotations and is bound to incense someone. This is something everyone born here has to work out for themselves. The UK Border Agency recognises no such thing as UK citizenship only British citizenship.

    Just teach people the fine art of forming an orderly queue.

    This is fucking depressing.

  4. Surprise a few MPs with the test and see how well they do! Requiring of immigrants knowledge that the average natural born citizen is unlikely to have, is patently stupid.

    1. There’s not a lot that’s particularly stupid about it; I think the term you’re after is something like Draconian, or perhaps rather, Machiavellian.

    2.  I’ve maintained for a while that to vote in the States, one ought to be able to pass the naturalization civics test, “natural born” or not. People could take the test whenever they liked, for free, and as many times as it takes to pass. Two benefits: you assure the “informed citizen” part of voting a little more, and you make voting something people want to do by making it a little more special (because I guess deciding what happens in your country isn’t special enough).

      1. Would this civics test of your’s contain questions related to America’s long use of such tests to disenfranchise Black people, or perhaps ask a few questions related to the fact that such tests are illegal in America?

        1. I used to think a civics test of this type would help cut down on low-information voting too. The history of such tests, however, was more than convincing as to how they would really be used.

          Florida, however, just decided to cut out the pretense and just stone cold cut Hispanics out of the voter rolls. 

        2. 1) Black folk aren’t the only folk to be disenfranchised. Hispanics, like myself, have been as well; those two don’t even begin to cover it, either. But I guess, race in America is “Black & White,” just ask the people who fall into those categories.

          2) If you had RTFC instead of jumping down my throat, you would know that it’s the same civics test given to immigrants looking for citizenship and not some “civics test of your’s [sic]” or a literacy test (though our ballots ARE literacy tests, due to that whole “being in written language” thing). I think it’s more than fair to ask people to live up to the same standards (ie, the civics test) without regard to which piece of dirt they might have been born on or to which piece of dirt their parents might have been born on, and especially without regard to race.

          3) It ideally wouldn’t be something that you would simply throw into the system without offering, to all citizens, the resources necessary to educate oneself on such matters. Come to think of it, it’s really too bad that there is no way to access, freely and publicly, valuable information from a variety of locations in a variety of ways. OH WAIT.

          Or, you could just be a sarcastic asshole who’s too good to have a civil conversation. I just relearned it’s a lot easier that way.

      2. First you’d have to create a society where everyone had equal opportunity to education and there was some kind of representative democracy.

        1. Well, if we’re admitting that representative democracy is impossible, than this whole schtick is pointless.

          As far as (as close as we can come to) equal opportunity to education, let me Google that for you.

  5. I’d get kicked out if I had to take the test. Because North American culture has a bigger influence to non-english speaking countries, differences between pants & trousers and fanny & bum would be more useful. And how to use roundabouts. And how to navigate an A-Z OS map. And why we queue. And how to spell cheque. And as Wreckrob8 touched on – why you don’t call a Scot or Welsh ‘English’ and the difference between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

    But if it’s to keep people out then I see it’s point, ConDems will never admit to that though.

  6. Why would you want to immigrate to the UK. I for one know most old age pensioners from the UK retire to Australia. Where they can easily pass our white Australia focused immigration test. Sitting in my local cafe I’m often surrounded by voices from all over the UK.

    1. As an American I fled to the UK to escape persecution by rampant, systemic stupidity.

        1. Nonsense…in the UK we lag behind the US by around 20 years in our rampant, systemic stupidity.  Still, we elected the Tories again, so hopefully we can make up some of that gap.

          1. Agreed. I’ve been here 5 years now and much prefer UK style stupidity to the US version. I’ll take lager louts and Cherly Cole groupies over the Christian Taliban, climate change deniers and gun fetishists any day of the week. 

          2. You are forgetting that it was us idiots that let the US loose on the world in the first place…

        2.  Exactly, the rate of violence in the UK is apparently Higher than in the US. Fewer people in prisons though, due to higher US rates of incarceration of low-level drug offenders

  7. Thats a very good point – how many naturally born British citizens would actually pass this test? I’m guessing almost none of them, without study. I’ve got no clue how many seats are in the Scottish assembly, although I’ve been to Holyrood and seen the room – it must be around 120 – 130 but who knows the exact number? Perhaps the test should be compulsory for all citizens, and anyone who fails it gets deported or at least refused a passport? All equal under the law, right? 

    1. I think the point is that they don’t want anyone to pass. And, for God’s sake, don’t give them ideas about administering it to all citizens. If you fail, they’ll just take away your (remaining) rights and make you keep paying taxes. And probably add a Failed Citizenship Administrative Surtax.

      1. I dunno, failing a citizenship test might be just the nudge I need to leave. In all honesty I’m sure I wouldn’t pass it, past or present.

        Any who, how can we have a citizenship test? I didn’t think we were technically ‘citizens’ but instead subjects – shouldn’t it be up to the queen who goes and who stays?. I’m sure I had this discussion with a publican.

        1. Nah, we are all citizens under the law, it’s just our clusterfuck of a constitution makes it conveniently confusing. Technically a regent has subjects, so yes, but also no, as it was possible to be a British subject under the empire and not a citizen of Britain.

        2. But where would we leave to?
          All the decent places in the world won’t let us in, long-term, because of where we come from.
          Unless we’re loaded, in which case why would we leave?

          1. Anywhere in Europe is fine, they have to take us. Outside of that? I dunno, a beach hut in Thailand sounds tempting right about now – but I’m sure the novelty wouldn’t last long.

            I used to say Canada, but I’m not so sure anymore.

    2. This idea is popular but wrong. Naturally born British citizens are not expected to just sit down and pass the test. People who say this are missing a critical detail.

      Before taking the test, you’re given a booklet with all the answers in (it discusses a mixture of important, useful, and cultural background information), in prose form. The test is to prove that you *can* read the booklet, and that you *have* read the booklet. It is essentially a reading comprehension test. Anybody who meets the basic standards for school leavers should pass it easily.

      Why do we have a reading comprehension test for citizenship? Because you need to be able to read the letters that the government sends you, about taxes and the census and electoral registration.

      1. Could they just not call it a written comprehension test then? Or does that not give the right message at their annual conference?

      2.  Do you get to keep the booklet while you take the test? ‘Cause if not, that’s also a memorization test. And let me tell you, personally? my reading comprehension isn’t bad, but my memory is TERRIBLE. If I read a booklet full of facts, I could mentally note every fact, understand them, then get distracted for twenty seconds and lose 95% of them.

      3. If by ‘given’ you mean ‘are told you have to buy several different HMSO-published books and study aids  (i.e. produced by the government’s own publishing company)  for a good £50, on top of the £50 charge for taking the test’, and by ‘anyone who meets the basic standards for school leavers’ you mean ‘people with advanced abilities to remember useless facts and figures and names and dates which will be of no practical use to them beyond passing this test’, then yes, you’re dead right.

        Except no, wait.  You, asuffield, are the one missing the point.  Born nationals have very little of this supposedly vital information, and don’t get it in school, so saying that immigrants need it is either clearly and obviously wrong and untrue on a basic level, or indicative that schools are flawed in the most  fundamentally important way, and have been for at least twenty years.  A test that any British-born  national could pass without intensive study would be a reasonable test.  This is virtually impossible for a British-born national to pass first time.  In its current form, it is no more than a government cash machine, and in its proposed form will be a more lucrative cash machine, as more people will fail.

        And to cover something you don’t seem to have understood: you absolutely are NOT allowed to take any books, study materials or mythical ‘booklets’ into the test. It’s just as stringent as any school or university exam.

        Some context: I’m British by birth, highly educated and married to a Chinese woman.  She recently took and passed this test in its current form.  I took a look at the study materials and did some research around how hard it was and what was needed to pass it.  I got her an ‘all-you-need-to-pass’ book, she took a week off work to study it intensely and do online practice tests, she stressed herself out massively, but passed.  Of the cohort of eight people, two failed.  The examiner told me one of them was there for the fourth time.  So I know whereof I speak.

        1. “so saying that immigrants need it”

          Who said that?

          The only thing immigrants need is the ability to read. The rest they can look up when they need it.

          ” I got her an ‘all-you-need-to-pass’ book, she took a week off work to study it intensely and do online practice tests, she stressed herself out massively, but passed.  Of the cohort of eight people, two failed.  The examiner told me one of them was there for the fourth time.  So I know whereof I speak.”

          So you know one person who read a book (apparently not the official material) and they passed, and you also heard about two people who have repeatedly failed and you don’t know anything about what they read or did.

          Clearly, your knowledge is without equal.

          “‘are told you have to buy several different HMSO-published books and study aids  (i.e. produced by the government’s own publishing company)  for a good £50”

          You might benefit from reading one of them, because one of the things mentioned is that here in the UK we have these great things called “libraries”, which not only have copies of the material which you can access for free, they also usually have quiet places where you can sit at a desk and study uninterrupted.

  8. RichG2012 above is right about one thing. The point of the test is to have a test. The exact content of its questions is irrelevant.

  9. I’m taking the test in a month. Aaack, what I am supposed to know?? And for sure, my partner, who is taking studying for it far more seriously than I, often quizzes her Brit co-workers with some of the sample questions and she is almost always met with blank stares.

    1. I’d advise: if you want citizenship, then take it more seriously.
      It’s not really a test of anything other than how badly you WANT it.
      If you’re not taking it seriously, you don’t want it enough.

      1.  I’m a little unclear as to just what in Drabula’s comment makes you think that he’s taking it particularly “unseriously”?

      2. The why do they automatically give it away to people whose only credential is their parents’ inability to keep their pants zipped up?

    1. Thanks for the link. I just took the first one and scored 79% without having studied a bit, so hopefully, that’s a good sign.

      1. Is this the final hurdle before being granted indefinite leave to remain? Politicians know that talking about immigration is meaningless without a legal definition of status and rights. They can exploit this to tighten or loosen the law on immigration without the majority of the population really having any idea at all of what is being proposed.

        1. More or less. There are other, obvious conditions like having the visa history to have been here legally to begin with, but presumably it’s one last cultural/language hurdle to thwart undesirables. In which case they might want to refine their tactics because as undesirable as I may be, they won’t trip me up with language or culture. Now, morals….they might get me there.

          1. Statistically you have a good chance. 95% of those from English speaking countries pass, 79% of those from India and 50% of the rest including ex-colonies (Pakistan), European countries (Turkey) and others (Iran). How would you create a non-biased test, anyway?

    2. I passed with 75%, but I guessed almost all of them because it’s practical information.  If they were asking who married Berengaria of Navarre or who was beheaded at Fotheringhay, I’d have done much better.

      1.  I also passed with 75% – thankfully, I knew the ingredients to a Christmas Pudding.

    3. Also, why are there five questions about driving?  I don’t know about the UK, but in the US, very many immigrants will end up in big cities where they will spend their first decade, if not the rest of their lives, on public transportation.

      1. Yeah, one reason I like it here so much is that I don’t have to drive. I have no car, no licence and never intend to. I don’t give a toss about MOTs and all I care about roundabouts is how to cross one as a pedestrian without getting killed.

      2. Isn’t there something peculiar about driving in the UK which also have an impact on how you behave as a pedestrian or cyclist ?

        A hint, it is a common point with Australia, Japan, India, a large part of southern african countries and a few others around the globe.

        1. Beyond which side of the road you’re on, as a pedestrian or cyclist it’s pretty handy to know who has right of way in any given situation.

          1. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s any system for how pedestrians and cyclists share paths. Like normal road traffic? On the paths I frequent there sure don’t seem to be any rules. As far as cars go I’ve learned one important lesson – except (perhaps) for zebra crossings drivers in the UK YIELD FOR NO MAN!

          2.  Drabula, cyclists and pedestrians aren’t supposed to share footpaths at all;

            “Cycling on footways (a path at the side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888. This is punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £30 under Section 51 and Schedule 3 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.”

            Though under-16s are exempt, I believe.

          3. Drabula – cyclists should not be on the pavement, they should be on the road with the other wheeled traffic.  If they are on pedestrian paths they are breaking the highway code, unless it’s a shared path, in which case there ought to be a dividing line and clear markings to say so.

          4.  Fairly universally, the party who would end up dead from a potential collision  should behave as if he did not have right of way, even if legally he does.

            And YourMessageHere, your use of the term “pavement” is designed to confuse Americans.  To us, “pavement” is the part that’s paved, which might or might not include the shoulder of a road; I gather in Britain it’s what we would call a “sidewalk”?

            I tried a couple of the test examples, passed about half of them.  I was impressed that it’s important to know that “April Fool’s Day” in the UK is April 1, not April 31st.

          5. I’d say that in the US, ‘pavement’ usually means sidewalk, as in “pound the pavement.”

          6. There are three basic kinds of paths in the UK: “footpaths” and “footways” (which are pedestrian-only routes where there is and isn’t also a road respectively). Cyclists are never allowed on these. There are also “cycle tracks”, which are signposted, on which cyclists are allowed and sometimes people on foot are too.

            I imagine cycle tracks are what Drabula is talking about. Sometimes they’re segregated but for the most part the only rule is “don’t do things that are dangerous”.

            Incidentally, under-16s are not exempt from the law against cycling on footpaths, but when fines were introduced in 1999 the Home Secretary issued the following letter of guidance:

            “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at
            responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

            and this advice is still followed, allegedly, today, so it’s basically never enforced unless you’re riding very fast on the pavement.

            More info:

        2. If you are a pedestrian or cyclist, one rule encompasses ALL major cities: EVERYBODY ON THE ROAD WANTS TO KILL YOU. 

          Some places, they won’t renew your driver’s license until you’ve nailed your quota of cyclists. (Not intended to be a true statement…just yet.)

    4. 55 pages??

      The U.S. one is much, much shorter.  Still too hard for the majority of natural-born citizens, but at least it’s short.

      1. My US test 10 years ago was a hoot! 
        “What are the colors of the flag”, “who is your representative in Congress”… there would have been more but when asked “who was President during the Civil War?” and I said “Jefferson Davis!”, after the examiner had picked himself off the floor and composed himself, I knew I’s passed. He just said “Son, I guess there’s no point in continuing this anymore. You’re in”.

        So clearly the examiner had some discretion in  the testing an evaluation process. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a different question. He like me was white and male. Such discretion might have turned against me were I different.And yes, the US exam is verbal (or at least it was), and you can it in whatever language you like, although time to take and fees vary wildly outside of English and Spanish.

    5.  Funny that the stuff in there includes *complete lies*.

      Like, the answer to “Many other religions are explained to children in all the schools as part of their lessons in religious education in the UK” is meant to be “true” – but RE class was always bible reading by another name, for me.

      “Compulsory test help to give parents a good indication of their children’s progress”… yeah, no. Not even correct grammar.

    6. Holy Jeebus, thanks for the link. The questions are just terrible — for example, is there “concern in Britain over the age at which some young people start drinking”? What is this, the Daily Mail proof-of-readership quiz? And this will get even *worse* you say? I guess I better sail to Oz asap…

  10. I presume it’s to make it easier for White people from other English-speaking countries who know about Shakespeare and Christianity, and harder for the people the Daily Mail calls “immigrants” whether or not they were born here.

    1. If you were born here and lived here until you were 10 you have citizenship automatically, no test required.

      1. Haha, tell that to UKIP. Their definition of British is ‘white’.

        I get really riled at this shit. 2 generations, 4 generations? What the fuck does it matter, we’re all monkeys anyway. The US is even funnier with this shit, considering that modern America is barely 5 minutes old – you can be a real American if your grand pappy came on a boat 200 years ago, but if you walked across the border youre an immigrant. Some people are so stupid it hurts.

          1. I do know a few people who claim they were born with tails (and one with a sort of vestigial third eye, thought she might be embellishing). 

            I’d say that monkeys tend to be smaller than great apes; you could mistake a chimp or bonobo baby for a human one, but it would be difficult to do so with a baby lemur. 

        1. The vast majority of current U.S. citizens have ancestors who came over in the big immigration glut of the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, so it’s even more recent than that.

          And glut really isn’t the right word, because it suggests “too much” in a negative way, when in fact that immigration has been key to our successes in the 20th century.  If anyone has a better command of the language than my poor little brain seems to, feel free to offer a better word choice.

          1. I think “immigration boom” is a good alternative.  It doesn’t have any negative connotations, as far as I can tell.

          2. @ Felton and Mark

            Thanks!  Much better, both of them.  I like how “boon” echoes “boom” while also indicating how positive it was.

  11. I just took the test as well, and I’m surprised to hear about the “legendary difficulty”.  To be honest, all the answers are contained in the book. I memorised some figures, sure… but I don’t mind the fact that I can now rattle off the ethnic split of the UK, or the split of it’s religions (at least according to the census…).  I finished the test within 4 minutes, and that’s with checking my answers.  I’m Australian, so there’s no language barrier, and the cultures are similar enough that I could guess answers where I wasn’t sure.  I imagine it’s harder for immigrants from non-western backgrounds, but substituting in Shakespeare, while laughable, probably doesn’t make the test easier or harder for anyone.

    1. Fuck The Don.

      He was a prick, and cricket is like watching paint dry anyway…

      Every nationalist is an utter fuckwit.

      A sample multiple choice question on The Don was included for the original test, reportedly at the insistence of cricket tragic former PM John Howard.

      And don’t get me started on that rancid fuckstain, that vile little worm, that putrescent fucking hole, that… my perjorative imagination fails me.

      For those who don’t know who Howard is, just think Bob Parr’s boss at the insurance company in The Incredibles. Then imagine the c**t running a country.

      1. And it’s all about to return again, only with that rancid fuckstain’s chief acolyte. 

  12. It’s not just the UK – I have a friend who has take the Dutch naturalisation test. I would fail that test. And not just fail, but fail in a thanks-for-trying-now-get-out-of-our-country-and-don’t-ever-come-back kind of way. Thank [deity of choice] I’m Dutch by birth…

  13. It’s always sunnier on the other side of the hedge, otherwise people would never emigrate anywhere! Fact is, quite a large proportion of those who do, return not long after having moved (mostly because it’s next to impossible to find decent fish and chips outside the north of England!).

    1. You want good fish and chips buddy you head to a seaside town, make it south and you’ll be lucky enough to get a pea fritter. North is great if you like brown sauce on your chips, I guess.

      1. In the north we like gravy on our chips. While brown, it should not be confused with ‘brown sauce’ which is a sort of spicy ketchup-y condiment.

          1. Around Wolverhampton, the dish of choice is Grey Peas and Chips (peas boiled for days so they lose their colour along with lumps of pork fat).

      2. You get the better fishcakes in the North. Proper slabs of fish and potato, none of this mashed minced nonsense you get down here.

    2. Plenty of joints do nice fish’n’greasos in Oz.

      Funnily enough, the vast majority used to be run by Mediterranean or Slavic folks; now Asians are taking over.

  14.  Interesting. I’m from continental Europe, but that test is not so difficult. I guesstimated my way to 65-75% results for the first three tests. However, the post is not about difficulty, but pointlessness. The question that solidified this in my own mind was this:

    > What percentage of the UK population is Jewish?

    Um? So that their new citizens know how many are left to cull? This borders on … whatever -ism this falls under.

    1. That question baffled me along with Welsh population one. These things change and sometimes can change quickly and when the questions have three answers with %0.1 difference, it’s not information about UK, it’s just memorising. 

    1. No politician is going to be happy being shunted off into the dead end job of Home Secretary. It kills almost all chance of promotion to Prime Minister. Out of the 23 post-WWI Prime Ministers only James Callaghan had also been Home Secretary. Of course they need revenge.

  15. Let’s see what Mr. Cleese has to say about this.

    1. I am sure Hampstead is just the same as it has always been. It is people like him leaving who have let all the foreigners in in the first place. If he doesn’t like it he can fuck off back to California, where, apparently he is not an immigrant. That is what a free Cambridge education teaches, is it?

    2. “He is now preparing to leave the U.S., where he has been living for 21 years, revealing that his decision was partly prompted by a fall in the amount of work he is offered in the States.”

      “However, he says that he won’t be returning to live in Britain permanently, because it would mean paying vast amounts in extra tax on divorce payments to his third wife, Alyce Faye Eichelberger.”

      Good to see his priorities are in order.

      1.  Surely the citizenship test should have a question about “spending a year dead for tax purposes”.

        1. The test should TOTALLY replace all the Shakespeare and KJB questions with ones from modern UK authors such as Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, etc!

          Maybe a section on Charles Darwin–he’s still on the tenner, isn’t he? 

    3. “The former Monty Python star says he now feels like a foreigner walking through the capital’s streets.
      “California-based Cleese, 71, moved to the U.S. more than two decades ago, having grown up in Somerset.”

      Well of course he feels like a foreigner, he hasn’t lived there for 22 years.

  16. If they want more cultural references, shouldn’t there be questions on how to ruin perfectly good food and neglect ones dental hygiene?

    1. FYI, Britain has substantially healthier teeth than, say, the US, on average. Not as white, sure, because we don’t bleach the shit out of them, but fewer cavities. Being what, y’know, actually matters for any purpose other than vanity.

    2. I would absolutely love to know what it is that Americans eat when they come to Britain that makes them think we ruin food.

      Are you buying ready meals?  Ready meals are crap.  Ready meals are crap everywhere, though.

      Unless it’s McDonalds; although I’ve not been to the US, there’s a massive difference between British McDonalds (tragic) and Japanese McDonalds (glorious).  But really, if you’re coming to the UK and you only eat at McDonalds, you have no grounds, or right, to complain.

    3.  I’ve had really good food in Britain, and really bad food.  I still ate meat back when I was last there, and we didn’t get Indian food.  Bad meat with the flavor boiled out of it and mushy potatoes is bad.  Cornish pasties are good.  Fish and Chips can be anything from excellent to awful.  The Campaign for Real Ale exists for a reason.

  17. It seems to me that this test creates a slight bias in favour of applicants from previous/current Commonwealth countries.
    It’s not so much that poshos are more racist than the average Brit. It’s more about their tendency to loathe Europe and love the Commonwealth. EU countries have traditionally represented functioning, viable alternatives to the British class system. Immigrants from EU countries arrive confident and highly eductated and immediately start making tiresome remarks about ‘merit’ and ‘equality’. Commonwealth immigrants on the other hand can be expected to know where they stand. “…After all my grand father had several incredibly well behaved natives working for him when he was stationed in …. blah blah..”

    1. “creates a slight bias in favour of applicants from previous/current Commonwealth countries.”
      The only thing wrong with this is that the bias is slight, not blatant. After all, we did colonise them, rape their lands (and probably women and kids) and just fuck off when it suited us (or when the natives got really restless).

  18. This test should have only one question…the First Question…The Question that must never be answered…HIDDEN in PLAIN SIGHT…The question you’ve been running from ALL YOUR LIFE…doctor who…Doctor Who?!  DOC-TOR…WHO?!?!

  19. “hnnneagh, hnnneagh” that this is the way what antique posh people say “hear, hear!” and not some kind of mass-poisoning.
    and there lies the shame

  20. The only 3 tests needed are “Are you a criminal?” & “Will you be legally working?” & “Can you speak the local language fluently?” Failure on either count to do this would render you unable to enter. You should be prepared to pay a fair contribution to the pot before being allowed to take from it, IE: not take a pension unless 20-25 years worth of work has been paid into it, or have operations done through the NHS for free unless at least a minimum of year has been paid into it, just to prevent hospital tourism.

    If someone is coming from a country to join another, they shouldn’t be able to do so to take take take without being prepared to speak the local language fluently and to pay in to the kitty first. 

  21. Why are these sorts of questions biased against non-whites? Shakespeare, Christianity, and Western political-military history are global matters. Christianity, for one, is arguably more representative today of the ‘developing world,’ especially the Global South, than Northwestern Europe. Even if Shakespeare hailed from England, his works have long since entered the global consciousness, especially but not only in Anglophone countries. These are in fact things someone in, say, Zimbabwe or India or China is more likely to already be familiar with, as opposed to, say, British labor history. A great deal of ‘classical’ ‘Western’ heritage has entered or is entering a broad global field of production and consumption, to the point where appreciate for Shakespeare or practicing Christianity may be more indicative of, say, Sub-Saharan Africa than Great Britain.

    If there is a bias, it is two-fold: one, as a previous commentator noted, bias towards countries formerly in the Imperial fold. This is a pretty big field, mind you, something like a fifth of the planet if I recall correctly. Second, there is a decided bias towards the better-educated. But that would be the case with any sort of immigration test, probably, including one dealing with the quotidian hum-drum of British law and procedure and labor history and whatever else. But in dealing with better educated people from the non-Western world (whatever exactly that means, if it means anything), I do not see why these would particularly onerous topics. In my albeit limited experience with ‘international students,’ primarily from Sub-Saharan Africa and from East Asia, I have been pleasantly surprised with the extent of their knowledge and appreciation of things like Shakespeare, Christianity, and world history.

    1. They’re not taking a final exam to get an educational degree.  They’re taking a citizenship test.  “Hum-drum British law and procedure” is what should be covered.

  22. Isn’t human rights and the main religion of a country somehow connected?

    If I would move to another country I think it would be important to know something about its culture and history. It is not necessary for survival, but it is polite to show some interest in other things than how to get social security or welfare. The dates of Trafalgar are not relevant, but then, to memorize them for the test is showing interest in this country and its history. Just see it as some memory training. You probably remember already much less world-moving dates.

    I do not think the citizen test of any country is meant as a survival guide for new citizens. It is an effort to make them understand this country and its people, their history, culture, religious beliefs, the society. Because such things do matter if you want to become a member of this nation – not just live there as an alien.

  23. I don’t understand citizenship tests. 90 percent of American’s couldn’t pass the citizenship test here, but we hold others to a standard we don’t hold ourselves to.

  24. Well hell.  I guess I’m just going to have to put on my water wings and make an illegal border crossing.  Or maybe I could hire someone to smuggle me into the country in a shipment of oatmeal or something…

  25. I find this all bemusing. It seems to be trying to cash in on the heightened climate of ‘Britishness’ brought about by the Jubilee nonsense. I say bemusing because as a Scot, a Republican, a Socialist (thankfully this still isn’t a dirty word in Scotland) and someone who is concerned with civil rights I can’t say I agree that these things are important to me – a ‘British citizen’ – never mind to an immigrant!

    How does this make someone from outside Britain understand the new class divide, the inequality, the racism, bigotry or baronial-ism that is rife here?

    How does it make someone from outside the ‘UK’ understand that this is not a kingdom that is united and that the things they are being asked about are not important to a large part of the population INSIDE the British Isles?

    It smacks of desperation.

  26.  I like Robert Heinlein’s proposal a lot better.

    step into the polling booth and find that the computer has generated a new quadratic equation just for you. Solve it, the computer unlocks the voting machine, you vote. But get a wrong answer and the voting machine fails to unlock, a loud bell sounds, a red light goes on over the booth – and you slink out, face red, you having just proved yourself too stupid and/or ignorant to take part in the decisions of grownups. Better luck next election! No lower age limit in this system – smart 12-yr-old girls vote every election while some of their mothers – and fathers – decline to be humiliated twice.

    Works for me.

  27. Tired of Shakespeare always being held up as some kind of unifying cultural touchstone. I’m constantly reading about new measures to ‘make Shakespeare relevant’ to the young, which suggests that he really isn’t. I like Shakespeare just fine, but let’s not fap ourselves to death over him just because we feel clever discussing his output.

    As with football, I think people’s tendency to over-analyse and find patterns has elevated Shakespeare far beyond mere entertainment and into a sacrosanct territory where art doesn’t really belong. Take what you want from it, but don’t hold your opinions up as the absolute truth about literature.

    As for the nationalist angle of this story, I’ll leave you with Doug Stanhope

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