Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reconnecting with British Culture.

It has been interesting, endearing & quite amusing seeing how our children react to things they are not used to & seeing the things they don't know about.

As I said, they are thrilled with the house which they don't remember at all. It is interesting the things they love about it. Our daughter spends every waking moment playing on the banisters as if it were a jungle gym. She just loves having stairs. She thinks they are really cool! They both love the fact that you go out of the kitchen straight into the garden & can come in & out at will, unlike in our Tiranan 2nd floor flat.

They also love the fact that we have a land-line & a postman. Every time the phone rings or the door is knocked, they race to get there 1st to answer it. It is evidently such a novelty to have a front door accessible to the outside world & to have a phone line into the house, which we haven't had for the last 5 1/2 yrs. They can't get enough of it. Suits me they can deal with the cold callers....

I am slightly less enamoured as I had forgotten how many door to door salesman you get, cold callers & people selling things, or trying to con you on the phone. And then there is the long ensuing discussion when the children want to know who they were & what 'That Person' wanted. When we set up the landline, we joined the telephone preference service & asked to be ex directory. Good old BT somehow managed to overlook this, so within 24 hours of getting the line, (before we had given the number to ANYONE), both Mr NGO & I had calls telling us there was a problem with our computer & trying to get us to buy something etc. BT told us it would take THREE weeks for us to become ex directory & on the telephone preference list. And meanwhile our number is 'out there.' Grrrrr.

Despite all their travelling, living in 2 different cultures abroad & in many ways seeming very mature & worldy-wise, there are some things (normal to us in the UK), which they haven't really experienced. After his grandparents phoned the other day our 11 y-o said,

"It is amazing what you can do these days; I was talking to granny & grandad at the same time! They were on 2 different phones"
In Albania in June, on a short trip where we had 2 hotel rooms, the kids kept calling each other on the internal phones & collapsing in giggles at this technology they had never used (in THEIR living memories) Hearing their sibling on the other end was just too much evidently. I don't know why it should seem so different to mobiles or skype, but they had never used a normal landline ... It was like using those tin cans on a string & marvelling that it actually worked.

On one occasion we were talking about things we were looking forward to about living in the UK, & I said I was really looking forward to having central heating in the winter. Our son immediately pipes up with,
"What's central heating?"
And why indeed should he know? But what a treat he's in for!

A friend of his was telling him about a gig he was going to for 'youth' on the holiday camp they were on & asked whether our 11 y-o wanted to go too. Our son said "I don't know, I don't know what a gig is."

Perhaps it's just as well they're on a "Rekonnect" holiday camp this week for third culture kids returning to live in their home country. I guess it's time to learn some jargon, gain some street cred & acculturise to the good ol' British culture, (though events this week hardly endear us to the culture we have returned to.) Their innocence & refreshing delight in everything is hard to let go of. It's a bit like when your toddler says words wrongly & you know they need to learn & say it properly, but it's hard to correct them when you just love their little malapropisms.

My daughter came up with a good one actually on the way to this holiday camp. (not a cultural issue, just a vocab one!) It got corrected in the nick of time. She was asking me about the holiday & said,

"Will there be lots of girls in the lavatory with me?"

"Well, yes you'll probably share one, but not all at the same time of course."

"So I'll be in there on my own?"

"Of course, they won't expect you to share."

"But I thought you said there would be lots of other girls in the lavatory with me?"

"Well it depends if they want to go at the same time, but you'll just have to queue."

"Why would I queue?"

"Because there may only be one lavatory & obviously you will need to wait your turn."

7 y-o seriously confused now.

"Why do I need to queue up to go to sleep?"

11 y-o starts laughing & says,

"You mean dormitory, not lavatory."

Seems obvious now, but driving a noisy little Fiesta up the M1, whilst keeping an eye on 3 bikes strapped to the back & watching my speedometer so as not to go over 70 because of said bikes, I obviously wasn't concentrating very hard.

Well by this time on Friday perhaps I will have returned to me, 2 newly cool, culturally adapted, street savvy TCKs (Third Culture Kids) But actually I just hope they had a great time connecting with other TCKs, sharing their rich life experiences & having lots of "You too?" moments, & celebrating their lives abroad, rather than feeling odd, different or 'out of it' . And realising that what they have to offer is unique, valuable & amazing.


nappy valley girl said...

Welcome back!
Fascinating stuff and looking forward to hearing all about how you settle back into British life. Amazing the things that children don't realise when they've grown up in another culture, really.

PantsWithNames said...

Welcome back to the dreaming spires! We're around too if you want to meet up for a Balkan coffee moment. x

Midlife Singlemum said...

I love this post. I found you through the tots 100 round up. I live in Israel and am seriously considering moving back to the UK - but very scared about making a big mistake. I'll be following your adventures back at home with interest.

Iota said...

Is 'acculturise' a word? If it isn't, it should be.

I think your son has a point about the word 'gig'. It seems to be used to mean a whole range of anything. When he said "I don't know what a gig is", I found myself nodding in agreement. I'm not sure I really do.

tiranamama said...

So glad you're continuing to blog. It's so interesting to me to journey with you to your new old culture...not sure how to put it. It's a new culture to your kids and I'm sure it's new in many ways to you too, and at least you have a new perspective from which to view it. LOVED the dormitory/lavatory exchange. Shkriva fare!

Mud said...

Isn't it funny, I seem to be shadowing your adventures. As you know I'm currently in Sri Lanka getting to grips with INGO life - and have now found out that I'm off to Kosovo for a stint next week. Will be very interesting and rather a change of scene!

Hope the British life is treating you well.

Sarah of 'Catching the Magic' said...

Wow! It's been a while since I dropped by and I wish you and your family all the very best in adjusting to life back in England! What amazing experiences you've had as a family and how lovely that your children are so close. Enjoy being back and treasure the memories of your expat days too x