‘Zee’ or ‘Zed’: Contrasting Cultures

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Baby Girl is no longer a babe, I blinked, and now she’s a toddler. “This is crazy.” I mutter to my husband. We vacuum the blinds, bedding, and clean up the dried milk on the carpet. We dust the koala teddy with the smiling face. We sit down on her bed and sing a lullaby one more time. The question “how should we raise our children?” rings true probably for every person raising kids in a culture that is not their own. Ironically, our daughter was born on July 4th, just over a year ago. As a dual British-American, Baby Girl has some special rights that are really cool. She also gets two passports, two birth certificates and the privilege of calling two countries ‘home’.

Brits are SO different to Americans in many ways, and it takes a long time to get used to the subtleties. One example, people prefer to keep themselves to themselves in the UK, and don’t typically make an effort to get to know other people. They are friendly and polite when spoken to directly (most of the time) but they do not naturally open themselves up very easily. Like if you say hello to people you don’t know when walking down the street, don’t expect a friendly answer, or even an answer at all. They are not necessarily being rude, they might just be in shock that someone they don’t know is speaking to them for no apparent reason- or they think you’re going to rob them. Whereas, in the USA, Utah and California at least, strangers are constantly saying hello, opening doors, smiling at each other, offering to take back shopping carts, inquiring about family, offering to lift things down from high shelves…

As our babe gets more aware of her world, I’ve started to worry about the following: as Brits in America, do we raise our sweet girl as an American, or ingrain her with our British customs and culture? How do we make her aware of her Nigerian, Caribbean, Dutch and British ancestry? Do we teach her to say “zee” or “zed”? How do we train her away from the obnoxious downfalls of both British and American cultures? How do we cultivate a sense of belonging to the country she does not spend most of her time living in? When she visits that country how do we make sure she feels at home like we do? Is that even possible?

When I came to University in the States, I adapted to several of the cultural norms. Partially to be understood. Partially because several facets of society rang true to me. I’m not going to nit-pick, there’s things I love and hate about both countries I call home. I guess the question I’m really asking may not have an answer.  Although, am I even sure what question I’m asking? Do we simplify it down to raising her to be true and good, hoping a love and acceptance of her mixed heritage naturally follows? Who knows.
I’m not a very sentimental person, but this query holds a very prominent place in my mind today. I realized earlier, that my family is made up from generations of expats. So many exciting and crazy stories. My maternal Grandma leaving Holland mid 2nd World War at 16 for England, spared by the Nazis because of her blonde hair and blue eyes, my Grandpa’s grandparents leaving Scotland and Wales for England. My father’s parents leaving the Caribbean for the UK. My mother  and each of her siblings leaving England for America or Australia. My husband’s parents leaving Nigeria for England and now Qatar and India. My husband’s older brother leaving England to start a life in Norway. Now husband and me, migrating to America. Who knows where our kids will end up. Being nomadic seems to be in our blood.
The world is too big to stay stuck in one place. But for now, it’s bed time.

We vacuum the blinds, bedding, and dried-up toothpaste on the carpet. We dust the koala teddy with the smiling face. We sit down on her bed and sing the lullaby one more time.

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One thought on “‘Zee’ or ‘Zed’: Contrasting Cultures

  1. Todd Wilson says:

    My one suggestion is to make sure she understands American exceptionalism, in that the US is the only country in the world founded on ideals, instead of power or property or heritage or greed or what have you. When America is at her best, it’s because Americans are acting in accordance with the ideals that formed America. When she’s at her worst it’s because Americans are pursuing power or property or otherwise.

    She also must like baseball.

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