Why was I so deliriously happy? Well, I figured that after two years of teaching the squirmy, squealing youth of Britain, I had such an insight into the collective psyche of the nation that I'd pass with flying colours. Not only that, but I'd also been recruiting overseas teachers to make up for all those Brits who didn't want to teach the squealing youth, constantly explaining everything from the NHS to the size of UK pillowcases (I kid you not - someone asked!). Surely the test would be a walk in the park. Oh what fun.
Vibrating with excitement, I purchased the Life in the UK book at my nearby Waterstones and confidently opened it, expecting to know everything inside. But horror of horrors, what met my eyes were facts I'd never heard -- nor likely would never need to know, be it for the fact that the Home Office thought it important for immigrants to know that Saint David's Day is on March 1. Or my favourite useless fact of all: If you're blind, you get 50 per cent off your TV license! What the...?
With the date of my test fast approaching, I spent hours studying the information in the booklet, even roping in The Man to quiz me. If I had to write the stupid test, I was determined to kill it. As I went off the nearby Kensington Library - the closest test centre - I was confident but nervous. Notes in hand, waiting for the test to start, I felt like I was back in university again. Finally, I was ushered to a computer (all the tests were multiple choice, done on a computer). Three minutes and 20 questions later, I was done. And slightly disappointed. That was it? That was what I'd spent hours studying for? What a letdown. My joy had given way to annoyance.
All sarcasm aside, I agree that immigrants do need to know about the country they are living in. They should be familiar with cultural practices and the history of the land. But why is it that the UK deems immigrants good enough to teach their children and heal their citizens, but when they want to settle in their adopted land, they have to jump through such silly hoops? And actually pay for the thrill of doing so?