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Friday, 14 April, 2000, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Going native: Ex-pat life

The people of Port Talbot are up in arms after their town's most famous son, actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, turned his back on Wales to pledge allegiance to the Stars and Stripes of the United States.

The 62-year-old Silence of the Lambs star says he has only taken dual citizenship, retaining his links to the land of his birth.

But it is clear that the man the newspapers have dubbed "Hannibal Defector" has upset many by agreeing to "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure allegiance and fidelity" to the UK.
Sir Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day
Sir Anthony: Still one of the UK's top stars?

However, Sir Anthony has lived in the United States for some two decades. Is it really so surprising he should want to put his residence on a firmer footing?

BBC News Online talks to two ex-pats, one an American in London, the other a Brit abroad, to find out if absence really makes the heart grow fonder or causes national loyalties to dim.

Amy Thompson, 27, was born in Chicago and once studied in the UK. In September, she returned to London to work in public relations.

Fran Sears, 25, left a job in the UK to work for the Forbes magazine in New York.

Has living abroad changed the way you feel about your nationality?

AT - I've become far more sensitive to criticism of America's economic and cultural effect on the rest of the world. There's so much in the UK media about how big and greedy and gormless we Americans are. To me the US doesn't look quite as rosy from this side of the Atlantic. FS - People ask me about Britain all the time whenever they hear my accent. It causes you to re-evaluate where you're from and how much you miss home. I'm now prouder of my nationality.

Do you feel at home in a foreign country?

AT - Not at home, but happy. It's kind of like when you're a kid and want to have dinner at your friend's house every day. Everything's slightly different. You become less complacent when you constantly have to figure new things out. I still don't understand cricket. FS - I feel comfortable in New York, but not at home. I speak the same language as the locals, but there are differences. The pace of life seems much faster, for instance.

Would you be tempted to change your citizenship?

AT - I'm not patriotic or nationalistic, but I don't know if I'd consider it. My family would be really upset if I did. I'd love to vote in the UK, but I would prefer to keep my current citizenship. FS - I don't think that's very likely. If I was sure this was going to be my permanent home I might make the effort so I could vote.

What things would keep you away from home forever?

AT - Well, I love Penguin biscuits, the weather and the opportunities to travel in Europe. I'd also much rather raise a family in the UK than in America. FS - I'd only stay in the US if I was offered a job of a lifetime. I might also be tempted to stay if I met someone while I was out here.

For what reason would you go home?

AT - I don't see me ever going "home" or settling long-term in the States. I like the people here too much. They're better educated. If you think there are stupid people in the UK, just follow me home. FS - I'll return to Britain to be with my existing family and friends. If I were to stay in America I wouldn't feel uncomfortable raising a family here. I'd just make sure they knew where I was from.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Wales
Welsh star becomes American
14 Apr 00 | Entertainment
The Valley boy in Hollywood
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