my american decade.

Ten years ago today, I walked into the federal courthouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a German citizen, and walked out a newly-minted American. The first thing I did when we got home to Knoxville was to take my shiny new Certificate of Naturalization to the town clerk’s office, to register to vote and file the paperwork for a U.S. passport.

It has been an eventful decade since then. We had two children, moved to New Hampshire, and I got to start a full-time writing career. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to 1988 and show about-to-graduate-high-school teenage Marko his life in 2014. I mean, literally every single item on young Marko’s “Things I Want To Do When I’m A Grown-Up” list has come true, and a whole bunch of goals besides that he didn’t know to put on his list back then. What a lucky-ass kid young Marko turned out to be.

I’ve lived here for the majority of my adult life now. I moved to the U.S. when I was 24, which means I spent six years as an adult in Germany, and eighteen in the United States. In another five years, I will have been in the U.S. for half of my total life. With the way things have been changing on both sides of the Atlantic in the last 20 years, the country of my birth and upbringing is a foreign country to me now. (This is also true in the legal sense. When I got naturalized, I lost the German citizenship. Now I can’t stay in Germany, the place where I was born and where I served in the military,  for more than 90 days without a visa, which is a little weird.)

When the subject of my personal story of immigration and citizenship comes up, I like to joke with my friends that I was an American all along, just one born in a German’s body. There are many laudable things about Germany and its culture, and it will always be the place where I was born and raised, but American culture is a better fit for me, and always has been. There’s a tradition if individualism and self-sufficiency here (along with a healthy streak of “you’re not the boss of me” distrust for authority) that isn’t very common at all in Germany. Having lived in the U.S. for almost twenty years now, I like going back to visit the family in the old Vaterland, but it always feels a bit too stifling and crowded and over-regulated, and I’m always glad when I’m back home where I have elbow space, both geographical and mental.

And even with the annoyances of air travel and customs and immigration kabuki, I never fail to feel a thrill when I walk back out onto the street in front of the arrivals hall at the airport, and take in all the familiar sights and sounds. This is America. This is home.

(Of course, everything I wrote in this post up until this paragraph is just a ruse, a public facade, to mask the fact that this is merely part of the master plan of OUR INEVITABLE WORLD DOMINATION:

Step 1: Go to America and become a citizen.

Step 2: Con a smart, beautiful American woman into marriage.

Step 3: Have children and raise them to be well-read, smart, functional, and responsible people.

Step 4: Start a great new career and pay lots of income taxes.

Step 5: ???


Oh, crap. Did I just disclose the master plan? Scheisse. Merkel’s going to be pissed.)

Anyway, my ten years as a U.S. Citizen have been the best ten years of my life, and I have no reason to doubt that the next few decades will be even better. Take it from someone who was born and raised elsewhere–despite its warts and imperfections (and every culture has those, believe me), this is still the best place to be if you have even a little bit of Browncoat in your blood, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it.



31 thoughts on “my american decade.

  1. Thanks for sharing. I always got along with German troops while I was in the Army. I knew I liked you for a reason. The funny thing is that I signed up for service in Chattanooga and had to go to Knoxville before shipping out. It’s awesome hearing immigration stories. There is something classic about it. Makes me think of the immigrants on Ellis Island who came over to make a better life for themselves. Glad you fit in!

  2. Marko, I will quote my three year old, ” you da best!” I’ve enjoyed your scribblings for many moons. May you have many more. Glad you made the leap into our wacky, independent melting pot.

    With my oldest now in kindergarden, one thing I wonder for her future is the rise of “common core standards” and the impact on her learning. The more I learn the less I like, but I and my wife are unwilling to put on the mantle of home schooling. I wonder if private school might not be a better option. Knowing of your recent support of the local school system, what do you think about this common core buisness?

  3. The passenger manifest from my Grandpa’s immigration to the US from Sicily asks a question whose answer is revealing: “How long do you intend to stay in the United States?” The answer column is a long line of “forever”.

    We need more like you, Marko, and more like my grandpa, here because you want to be, because you are willing to use the freedom and opportunity here to accomplish your goals.

  4. Marko I’m curious to know, with your current remove from your country of birth, what you think of the famous quote from Goethe, who lamented that the German people are “so estimable in the individual and so wretched in the aggregate.”

  5. As a fellow immigrant to the land of the free and home of the Braves (and Cubs, and Mets…), concur 100%.

    This country frickin’ ROCKS. I didn’t move from Canada to have America turn into Canada. If America is going to succeed, it needs to be America, not Euro Lite.

  6. Happy anniversary. I hope you have many more. I’ve noticed that some of the best,most patriotic citizens are the ones born elsewhere.

  7. Glad you are here and happier that you did the legal route.

    I hope we remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    • I was thinking the same thing!
      I welcome legal immigrants, it’s the illegal kind I’d like to see jailed and/or deported.

  8. Congratulations Marko!

    Next month marks the 120th anniversary of my grandfather’s arrival from Germany (Stuttgart) and the 100th anniversary of his citizenship.

    His 6 children, 22 grandchildren, 79 great-grandchildren, and 16 (and counting) great-great-grandchildren are working hard to execute the Master Plan. (It would have been 80 GGCs and 18 GGGCs, but one married a weird French Canadian guy and moved to Montreal.)

  9. Happy anniversary and I am glad you’re one of us :)

    I know so well that moment you describe of walking out of the arrivals hall when you get back on U.S. soil. I got choked up every single time I experienced that over the last 5 years. A marvelous feeling.

  10. Hhhhmm the master plan must of started a bit earlier then you think- My German great some thing or other grandfather, Gustav, arrived in the USA in 1741. But to defeat the plan my Italian Nano (Grandfather) arrived in the USA in 1921 . after the “GREAT War”. He then used an insidious plan to produced offspring that married into the German blood line just to weaken the German master plan.

    Personally, I am rather glad that his plan worked out as I am also pretty certain my kids feel the same way..

  11. Congrats. I don’t regularly read your blog but know who you are from Tam’s mentions at VFTP.

    Interesting co-inky that I was lusting over an older Audi on the drive home from work today and thinking about how the Germans do make better cars than us then randomly decided to follow the link here from her place while relaxing after work.

  12. Marko, thanks for reminding this native-born American why this place with all its many problems is still a special and dear place to call home. Congratulations on your tenth anniversary as my fellow countryman.

  13. I am more hopeful for the future of this country, after reading your little story. I especially like your comment regarding our healthy “distrust of authority.”

    Best regards from Oxford, MS

  14. It’s been said many times that the United States is a nation of immigrants. While mostly true, it’s also the catchphrase of people that support illegal immigration. I’ll not get on a soapbox and explain the crime, disease, and public burden that illegals put on our society, but I will point out one distict point:

    Marko came here to become an “American”, not to turn America into Germany. As such, I applaud his efforts.

    He is my (our) brother.

  15. The most AMERICAN people I’ve met in the last ten years, like you, didn’t start out that way. Just shows that AMERICAN is a mindset, not a nationality. Didja buy a scary-looking, semi-automatic gun yet? Boo Yaa!

  16. Awfully glad you’re one of us Marko. FWIW, I spent seven lovely years in Germany with NATO. Loved every minute of it. (We lived in Geilenkirchen. a small village in Kreis Heinsberg, Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

  17. You do this native born American’s heart some good to hear you can feel that good old American exceptional-ism. We think we have a pretty good thing going over here. Glad to hear that someone agrees. Best of luck to you and yours.

  18. Reading this made me realize that our plans for world domination deviated only slightly. I actually married a US Soldier before coming here. This year will tip the scale for me, as I have now lived in the US longer than I lived in Germany. I am not yet a US citizen however which my husband teases me about quite often. Can’t blame him, it’s been 20 years!

    Happy Anniversary!