“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…
The biggest fear of a Polish mother is that a child will starve or have cold. (They laugh). To be well fed and wear socks and gloves, especially in the winter, is the primary occupation for them. Here in England, it’s not only my wife but also me who “educates” the teachers at school that when it’s freezing outside, they have to wear some warm clothes. It strikes us very often that, when it’s freezing, they are without socks or/and with short sleeves.
And the kids don’t change shoes at nursery, which for me it’s a big thing and a big smell in the evening!
Satsuko from Japan is married to Wolfgang from Switzerland. They are parents of two kids under six years. She mentioned the point that some usual communication styles in England are not possible in the Japanese culture.
One day at school all the parents received a little note with advice about our way we talk to children. They encouraged us not to say “no”. And at the same time I had a baby and the health visitor underlined it as well, “no negative message, don’t use ‘no’ or ‘stop’”. But this is not possible to translate in Japanese. I can’t say to a child “I would appreciate if you do it that way” – it’s not natural to me to speak like this. The Japanese language is built on different levels; each level is for a different type of person. I use different words to say the same things when I talk to a child, my husband or to my boss. When I talk to my kids in Japanese it’s already a very simple and short cut language.
Julia is German and her husband Andros is Greek. They have a child under 8 years. Andros is very happy in Britain and loves the way the parents here let their kids explore the environment
In Greece there is more an overprotective atmosphere; the whole family is constantly fussing over the children. In Britain, on the other hand, the kids explore, run around, play in the mud, have fun – that’s just totally new for me. And I often realise that I have to learn to let go because this will to be overprotective is inherent and makes me restless.