There’s 14 of us waiting outside Room 203 at a Berlin 'Bezirksamt', the local council. Fourteen citizens from countries all around the world who have come to this Tower of Babel en route to German citizenship. We each need to get 17 of the 33 questions right to take a step closer to officially becoming citizens of the EU's largest nation and economy.
As a British citizen and resident in Berlin, you can probably guess what has made me want to apply now. Having read that more than 10,000 of my co-citizens have received German citizenship since the Brexit referendum, I feel I've joined the movement late. But not too late, hopefully.
A record high number of 7,493 people gained German citizenship in 2017, that's 12 times the number of 622 in 2015, and 162 percent higher than the 2865 in 2016, according to statistics from Germany's Federal Statistics Office.
Britons were also the largest group to be granted German citizenship in 2017, behind 15,000 Turks.
Pink post-it stickers
A woman carrying a pile of exams with pink post-it stickers goes in and out of the room. She announces that something will begin in about five minutes. A couple more people arrive.
The overseer, a bubbly woman in her late forties or early fifties, returns and opens the door. Everyone takes their place in a queue and readies their documents. The overseer checks everyone’s ID against the details on their exam file, before directing each applicant towards a number written on a pink post-it sticker in this classroom of bland desks.
Everybody is afraid to talk to the woman checking documents, as if they are crossing a border illegally or are being searched by the police. She, by contrast, continues to be bubbly. I’m given the pink post-it sticker number 11.
A uniformed security guard who is waiting to be seated after me asks for a detail to be changed on his form. “Well, just cross it out and put whatever country you like,” says the woman amicably. The man does so and writes something.
“I just prefer Palestine,” says the man proudly, following the woman’s hint to take a seat at desk 4.
A young Pakistani man is next. He has come from Neuenhagen, he announces to the woman as he signs off the details on his form. “I have a niece who lives there,” says the woman. The Pakistani man seems interested. Or perhaps just polite.
“Where so? In the west? The north?” says the young man, interrupting his signature and lifting his head for effect.
“I’m not really sure, I don’t know it that well,” says the lady, ushering the man to desk number three. The Pakistani man takes his seat and lets his Palestinian neighbour know that he empathizes with the former's argument regarding his country of origin.
Two Brazilian girls, a Kenyan and a Congolese woman, a Tanzanian elder and a US citizen on crutches all take centre stage for a moment to sign off their details.
“Porto Alegre, huh?” says the German woman returning a passport to one of the two Brazilian girls. “Don't they have a good football team?”
“Ich weiss nicht,” (“I don't know”) the Brazilian girl replies timidly. Did she understand the question?
“They absolutely do,” insists the German woman. “My husband is a football fanatic. Porto Alegre, I could never forget them. Next!”
The man on crutches had earlier expressed concerns that he could fail again in this, his second attempt. He checks in with a worried look.
A pale man in a suit stumbles on his way to the front. “There’s simply thousands coming, it’s really amazing, isn't it?” comments the lady in a friendly tone as she returns the passport to the Brit. He quietly moved to desk 13. I had somehow managed to fly in under the radar and avoid such commentary.
The overseeing lady hands out exams to everyone. We can leave when we want, she says. “Anyone need a pen? I’ve brought a box. And I stole this box of sugar colas from my nephew. Feel free to take any you want.”
The instructions on the first page involve various degrees of shading and reshading, depending on whether an answer has been amended. I manage to identify that a simple cross in the corresponding box for the correct answer in each multiple-choice question will get me through this. So here we go.
I fly through the first few questions but page two brings its own set of hurdles. Which was the French quarter and which the American again in Berlin? How frequently is the EU parliament elected? And is the Ordnungsamt part of the Gemeinde?
That’s definitely the GDR’s flag. But is that really who wrote the German national anthem?
I enter my 33 answers, hand in my test and leave. As I walk into the street below, I feel slightly more German than I did an hour before.