One of the most frustrating things about living in Germany and people banging on and on and on and on and ON and FUCKING ON and then ON and then ON SOME MORE and then on and on and on and on about integration is that, even though all politicians, newspaper columnists, and your “German mates” expect 150 percent integrated behaviour at all times – you’re still not allowed to vote. It’s despicably unfair. It means you have to do all the crap things – eating too much pork, watching Tatort, waiting at the Ampel for the green man for about 27 percent of your adult life – and don’t get to have any of the fun – voting for the Linke and/or Pirates. Seriously, German people, talk about wanting to have your Kuchen and eat it too.
“Who are you going to vote for, Mummy?” my son asked me on the way home from school one day.
“Who do you think Mummy should vote for?” I asked him.
“”Definitely not the FDP,” he said, thoughtfully. He often has an American accent but every now and again a bit of Cockney will slip out and these moments are, as I’m sure you can imagine, almost painfully delicious for a mother like me.
“No?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I don’t like them. I think they’re a bit racist.”
“I think you’ve got them mixed up with the NPD,” I said gently. “Haven’t you? The FDP just hate poor people, and I’m sure they’re not, like, hugely anti-racist but I don’t think they’ll be sending anyone home or anything.”
Ryan looked at me knowingly. “Wait until they get in, Mum,” he said.
“So who should Mummy vote for?” I asked.
“Well, either the Grünen or the Piraten or the Linke or maybe the MLPD.”
“Yeah, they’re against racism and Ausländerfeindlichkeit.”
“I can’t actually vote, Ryan,” I said, sighing wistfully. “I’d probably vote Linke if I could – maybe a little bit Pirate as well – but I can’t, so it’s not even worth thinking about.”
Ryan looked at me, a little bit sceptical, slightly scornful and totally surprised.
“What?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m not German.”
“What?” he said.
“Only Germans are allowed to vote,” I said.
“But why?” he asked.
“It’s not my country,” I said.
“But you live here!” he shouted, truly aghast.
“Yeah, I know. It’s a bit annoying. I think they should let me vote. I think they should maybe tie it to taxes, if they’re worried all the foreigners are lazy bastards who’d just vote Linke and Pirate so they’d never have to get a job. Five years of having paid taxes, and you should be allowed to vote. That would be fair. I get to vote about swimming pools and airports and stuff.”
“You voted Pirates once,” my son said.
“That was for Berlin,” I answered.
Ryan walked along the road, shaking his head with anger. His mouth was hard, but he was smiling, but I knew he was really angry. He always gets this look on his face when he finds a story I’ve written about him that’s slightly inaccurate. He looks like Percy out of Thomas the Tank Engine.
“You just think that, Mama,” he said. “You don’t know everything about Germany. You’ve made a mistake. You go to the voting place with your passport and your other German things – your German papers – and you say to the voting people: ‘I’m not German, but I’ve lived in the country for very much years and I will live in the country for many much years so please make an Ausnahme for me.’ Then you’ll see, Mum. They’ll just let you in the cabin. You’re really just the same as a German person. The voting people will make an Ausnahme for you.”
A couple of weeks later, I took him to vote in the U18 elections. I won’t tell you how he voted, because of the voting secrecy thingimajig – I think, coz of the Nazis, the people in Germany take the voting secrecy thingimajig really seriously, nobody gives a flying fuck in England – but there was nothing to be ashamed of, let me put it like that.
On the way home, he looked at me pityingly and said: “So, Mum. I got to vote more than you did.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s a bit depressing.”
Come on, Germany, Let us vote, man. It’s so boring, not being allowed to vote. Election Day in Germany for expats is exactly like when you’ve been waiting for ages for your food to come and then your waitress brings your food only, dur – she’s forgotten the knife and fork. It’s an incredibly humiliating experience. Just give us the vote. We promise not to eat it all at once.