Sunday, February 27, 2011

Life in the UK: Heaven or Hell?

Among the many happy things about living in England, along with getting a settlement visa, learning to drive, and passing a driving test, in the next few months I also have the great privilege of taking the British Citizenship Test, also known as the Life in the UK Test. Let me just tell you a little bit about this examination. There is a study guide that you can purchase in order to have an idea what questions to expect, the actual test is comprised of 24 questions and must be completed within 45 minutes, you must make an appointment to take it at least 7 days in advance at one of the official testing centers, it costs roughly £34 to take, and once you pass it you then may apply to stay in the country. The test is in English and is done on a computer, so if you don't speak English then sorry, you have to pass a language course to prove that you have learned English before you can take it. All that to say, once you pass the citizenship test you don't even become a citizen. No no no, that's like 5 more years and about as many thousand pounds down the line. And that's probably why so many people just come here illegally and live happily ever after. Anyway, here is a short blurb from the official testing website:

Becoming a British citizen or deciding to settle permanently in this country is an important event in your life. If you are applying for naturalisation as a British citizen or for indefinite leave to remain, you will need to show that you know about life in the UK.

I have underlined the most curious part of that phrase. It's curious because here is a brief sampling of questions on the test:

-How many parliamentary constituencies are there in the UK?

-In which year did women get the right to divorce their husbands?

-In which two places does the European parliament meet?

-What is the number of young people in the UK aged 19 and younger?

-What is the percentage of peoplein the UK who claim to be Muslim?

-How soon is the information from a public census available for public search?

-How many hours per week are children aged 13-16 allowed to work?

-Where is the Scouse dialect spoken?

-Where does Father Christmas come from?

That's right, you probably thought I put that one about Santa Claus in there as a joke, but it is, in fact, one of the 2,000 possible questions you might be asked to show that you know about life in the UK on the 2011 version of the test. What Santa Clause (who last I heard is not even real, what?) has to do with a person's immigration status is completely beyond my comprehension--maybe I don't know as much about life in the UK as I thought I did. Some people might argue that knowing the answers to the above questions would have absolutely no affect whatsoever on my ability to participate fully in this society, and I have to say that I would agree with those people 100%. It makes no sense.

So I've decided to design my very own test, it consists of a few requirements and a few questions. It's a much simpler streamlined version which I think the Queen and also the Home Office should consider using in place of the Citizenship one. Below are a few examples of things a person immigrating to the UK might need to know.


-Can you make and drink milky tea?

-If you are under 25 can you drive at over 75 mph on a one lane road? If you are over 75 can you drive at under 25 mph on a six lane road?

-Can you describe what a combine harvester looks like?


-What beverage is consumed more per capita, ale or water? (Ale)

-How far over should 16 year old girls part their hair to one side? (1" above ear)

-What is the nationally recognized proper outfit to wear on a day out in town? (grey tracksuit)

-What type of shoes have laces, are commonly paired with the above outfit and are not associated with any sort of physical activty? (white trainers)

-When is the appropriate time of day to drink a cup of tea? (upon waking up, getting to work, mid-morning, late morning, lunch time, mid afternoon, late afternoon, upon arriving home from work and before bed, and any other time that you come inside from being outside)

-What is football? (Soccer)

-What topic is talked about more, the weather or politics? (the weather)

-If you're in a pub and you order a bowl of chips what are you going to get? (Fries)

-How long does it take your towel to dry after showering and hanging it on the back of the bathroom door? (5-8 days)

-How many different types of rainy days are there? (as many as you are capable of complaining about)

-Which British program is widely considered to cover the most important of life topics, EastEnders or Prime Ministers Questions? (EastEnders)

So there you have it. My version of the Life in the UK test much more appropriately reflects daily life in the UK and is actually based on relevant topics that are reasonably important to know. The official test is more like a boring game of trivial pursuit. For the record, I don't know any of the answers to the first set of questions, obviously. I've been living here for a year and a half without even knowing how many children or muslims there are in this country--insanity!! How have I survived? The only one I do know for sure is the Father Christmas one, which is definitely the North Pole... or is it...


  1. the British Citizenship Test! Texas wants you back

  2. Don't worry Sarah, I'm not becoming a citizen, but I still have to take the test in order to stay here for a little while longer! I want Texas back too:)

  3. Hurray, you updated your blog! That test is insane!!! I wonder what questions we ask people wanting to immigrate here? I liked your questions...especially the driving ones and the outfit ones :) MOM

  4. I like your post! And I want to move to the UK. No seriously I do. We'll have to talk when in Thailand:)