“What is your experience of a British upbringing?” is one of my final questions. All the interviewee-couples told me stories about themselves, their bilingual and bicultural day-to-day challenges but at the end I asked them to talk about their experience in the country they live in; things they like or dislike about the way the parents interact with kids and talk to them; the British style of education.
What surprised me was that they don’t necessary have an idea about that. Some of them seem not to want deeper interaction with locals, or simply don’t have them because they live surrounded by multicultural friends. Though this was only the case with a minority of interviewees, it was interesting to see how much distance there can be between “multicultural” and “monocultural” parents, whilst their kids play together at school or on the playground.
Let’s have a look at those couples who underlined some interesting aspects they didn’t know about British culture, or parts of the upbringing style they particularly like.
Ariane and William: she is French, he is English, they have two adolescent kids. She prefers the more relaxed English style compared to the French style.
What I appreciated with the nurseries here is that they consider themselves as being helpful to you. As parents you can come at the time which is convenient for you and your work or family. They are flexible, which is just not possible in France, where the doors open and close at special times or you have to ring. And here you can stay with your kid, if you feel that it’s better, you can stay longer, play a bit and then go. I like this child-oriented atmosphere.
Magda is Polish and Stefan is Austrian, they have one child. The question about the British style of upbringing made them smile… Continue Reading
The bilingual (or multilingual) story starts with this question, in a certain way. For parents the choice of their child’s name is full of meaning and often related to a story, a shared moment. It’s extremely carefully decided. As this name lasts for your whole life, it’s the first identification someone is granted with. And it’s probably one of the words you write and speak most in your life. Especially for multicultural families, who have relatives abroad, it’s an important space where they can pass on cultural values.
Whilst preparing my questionnaire for the book Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures I didn’t think of this question, it was one of my first interviewees-couples who gave me the idea to mention this point with the parents. And they were right, I had lots of colourful stories which underline how important this topic is for the parents.
Let’s have a close look at some of them and don’t hesitate to tell us your story in a comment below.
Hannah is Israeli and married to Dirk who is Dutch. They have one child and a second on it’s way.
The choice of our child’s name was a very cultural negotiation between us. As it was really important for my husband that the child carries his surname.
Dirk: The reason why is simple. Continue Reading
Une des premières notions qui nous vient à l’esprit lorsqu’on évoque nos voisins britanniques c’est leur sacro-sainte politesse. On peut râler sur l’éducation libérale des petites têtes blondes d’outre-manche mais une chose est enseignée avec ardeur et ce dès leur plus jeune âge, dire yes, please et no, thank you. Ils ne vous diront probablement ni bonjour ou au revoir, mais merci c’est sacré. Tout comme pardon, à tire larigot, mais ça, c’est un autre sujet.
Qu’elle ne fut pas alors ma surprise, le week-end dernier pendant une excursion en famille lorsque nous nous trouvâmes pris au piège par de la boue vaseuse ayant par moment des aspects de sables mouvants. Le ciel d’un bleu éblouissant nous avait tiré du notre canapé pour nous offrir un air doux et à la fois revigorant. Mais catastrophe, au retour, les jeunes et téméraires parents que nous sommes s’aventurent sur un nouveau sentier. Continue Reading
I came home yesterday evening after an intense working day. One of those days you just want to enter into your warm and welcoming home sweet home, sit down on your sofa and chill a bit with the kids before cooking dinner. As I was leaving the kitchen with a cup of tea, I heard some unusual words in our household. Our four-year-old daughter decided all of a sudden to talk to her baby brother in English. And some sentences later, she begun to talk to me in English: “Mummy where shall I put this?” Continue Reading
At the start of the bilingual (or even trilingual) trip of life with kids you often are looking for places where they can meet and play with other children. It’s also (which is not less important) a moment when you can reconnect with your home country, take time to chat in your mother-tongue around a cup of coffee!
Oxford is packed with lots of different playgroups and little language schools! All these places give you the opportunity to connect with other multilingual families and to share cultural events and customs. It’s a new way for your children to explore your and their home-culture in another environment than at home. We do certainly all agree that this is extremely useful. It is during these meetings that they realise that they are part of a cultural and linguistic community.
I discovered the importance of such places since we are expatriates and as part of my work on Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures. That’s why I was thrilled to discover all the different playgroups and schools for children with an international background. Continue Reading
The Family Centre is slightly hidden behind some trees and bushes. These also give the place a cosy garden-atmosphere when you are outside the centre. And in fact, it’s a special spot, once the gate and two doors passed, you discover a rather unexpected venue. A giant place, like an enormous tent decorated with windows to see the sky… I can barely describe this incredible construction.
Entering Donnington Doorstep Family Centre feels like a harbour where you simply want to sit down to a cup of coffee and let your children play. A baby-corner, messy-play area, some tables with toys or craft activities, a place with books and some role-play equipment… your kids will be spoiled for choice!
For whom? Mums, dads, grandparents and carers with kids! There is also a Youth Group (read more: Good to know!).
Where? Townsend Square, OX4 4BB, Oxford. Contact: 72 77 21
Opening times? The family drop-in sessions are every day except for Sunday. Mon-Tue-Thu-Fri 10am-3pm, Wed 10am-1pm, Sat 10.30am-3pm.
What for? Lots of fun plays for Toddlers. The volunteers prepare every day tables with new activities. But the kids can also play outside, in a sandpit, cruise around with little cars or do some painting. Some days, the Centre offers special activities: Mondays Cooking in the afternoon, Tuesdays Singing with Lizzie (1.30pm-2pm), Wednesdays Bonfire in the garden, Saturdays Cooking session (11am). One of Donnington Doorsteps favourite activities is the messy-play (inside or outside). Be prepared and do not dress up your children in their best Sunday-clothes, in spite of some aprons to protect and some wellies to go out in the sand or if it’s raining in the mud :-) Continue Reading
If you’re in East Oxford, you’ve got access to many family-friendly places, including parks, restaurants, and cultural gems. One of the best places to spend an hour or two with children is the Pegasus Café, located on the first floor of the Pegasus Theatre. It’s no secret that it’s great for families – in fact, every time I’ve been there, every table included children!
The main menu includes sandwiches, soup, salads (but no hot mains), and cakes/treats, as well as tea and coffee. The kids’ menu features easy favourites such as cheese on toast and ham sandwiches. The Pegasus Café has free WiFi if you would like to stay a while and get online. Staff are always friendly and helpful and will bring your order to your table if you need assistance. Continue Reading
Bringing up children is a fantastic journey but it’s also a challenging one. More than you might imagine you’re propelled into your own childhood and have to consider what you want (or don’t want!) to pass on to your kids. For my book project Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Bilingual Children between Cultures, I talked a lot with parents about their experiences in their own multi-cultural and multi-lingual lives. One unexpected thing that came up is how much the adventure of life changes when kids arrive on the scene.
Being bilingual is not the same as having a responsibility to transmit your mother tongue and culture to your child. Especially when you realize that the first person who has to learn is yourself! When you live abroad you find out that you are no longer used to speaking your mother tongue; you have lost a lot of vocabulary on the way if you don’t speak regularly with native speakers; you remember music from the time you were living there (let’s say 20 years ago…) and don’t even think about the culture of childhood which has changed a lot since you were living in your home country…
So first of all, dear parent who wants to raise (or indeed who already raises) bilingual children, take some time to consider how you relate to your mother-tongue and home country. This is and will remain an integral part of the adventure of raising children between cultures.
Here are some extracts from my interviews on the themes of identity, nationality and culture!
Alice (French, married to a Welshman; she has lived in France, Africa and the US)
“I don’t feel as French as I perhaps should. When you leave home, you feel a stronger association with your home country. French is really my identity, but my culture is more a mixture of cultures. I travelled a lot, and I like some aspects of other cultures, British, French and some others…” Continue Reading
Talking with couples about experience as parents, especially parents influenced by their respective home countries, is always exciting. Lots of laughs, pauses for reflection, and also moments in which the couple discover things about each other…
Learn more about my project Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures.
With younger couples, I spent a little bit more time discussing the way their perceptions about their partner’s culture, and indeed their own, have changed over time. In what ways does he or she conform to stereotypes about their culture of origin? Let’s have a look at the anecdotes that some of them recounted to me…
Alice is French, she lives with James who is Welsh.
Alice Tea is such a big part of your life. It’s kind of grown on me and I’m now drinking tea all the time at work, but I just can’t put milk in it and it’s not English tea, it’s green tea…
But James is so into his tea. The first thing you do in the morning is put the kettle on. If we go to France, it stresses me out if the hotel doesn’t have a kettle in the room because it’s a big deal for you and you get annoyed about it. “How could a hotel not have a kettle…?” Continue Reading
Dear Oxfrognews-followers !
Six months ago I launched this blog with my dear chap Gregre. Together we went to different events, playgrounds as far as Russia! We met as well Oxfordian stars like Nick Cope and Mini Grey! Thank you so much for sharing these explorations with us.
For this week, a very quick reminder about the Oxford Preservation Trust and the Open Doors which is a unique opportunity to explore Oxford’s heritage and sneak into some Colleges. It takes place this weekend 13-14.09.2014.
Don’t be misled and think this event revolving around old stones and famous architecture is only for grown ups. A lot of venues offer activities for kids and the whole family! Have a lovely weekend (all the activities can be found here)!
Here is my personal selection of the top 5
Bring the children to see fire engines and find out what happens at the station and appliance bay, demos & displays of equipment and fire safety and wider work.
Oxford Bus Museum
Take a trip back in time celebrating 100 years of motor buses in the city, free vintage bus rides. For timetable and bus stops see website.
Free child-friendly activities. Drop in handprinting demonstrations…
Saturday 11am-1pm, 2-4pm.
St Micheal at the North Gate Church
Visit Oxford’s ancient City Church and climb its Saxon tower for wonderful views on the ‘dreaming spire’. See inside the working clockmechanism and the cell door of Cranmer.
Magdalen College School
Stroll through the beautiful school gardens crossing over the white Chinese bridges.
Sunday : 12-4pm