Monday, 25 February 2013

Teaching your child about cultural differences and respect.

I was over the moon this morning when my older girl used a Russian word. It is a biblioteka day, she said picking up her library book. 'Wow!' I said. 'How do you know that word?'

I was prepared to believe, naively, that she actually took a lot more in than she ever admitted to. Maybe, just maybe, she knew a lot of Russian words somewhere deep inside her head and they would suddenly start pouring out now?

'No, mummy', she quickly disillusioned me. 'It is in Spanish!'

'Guess what!? It is the same word in Russian!' I cried out enthusiastically, still hoping to make her want to speak my mother tongue.

'And in Polish, too!' She shouted out, running out of the door.

I sat in the car later on, thinking about her school, which I never fail to complain about. I was, however, having positive thoughts for a change. It is, however you look at it, pretty cool that, at the age of seven, my child has such an experience of the international community around her. Her school, with hundreds of different expats, creates this amazing environment where she just happens to know random foods, cultural habits and words of various world nationalities.

They also teach them about cultural differences, tolerance and respect for each other. And yes, sometimes she gets confused. She is only 7 after all, you know?

And that is when she needs her parents. To explain things that the teachers are either afraid to explain or present in the wrong light because it makes their lives easier.

'You know',- my daughter was telling me the other morning, munching on her favourite (very healthy of course!) breakfast option- a Nutella sandwich-'how we are all told it is a nut-free school, and nobody is allowed to bring Nutella sandwiches to school?...'

Here she paused, waiting for me to proove I was listening.

'Yes, I do know that.' I confirmed, tearing myself from Facebook.

'Well, a few Muslim kids keep bringing Nutella to school, and the teachers never tell them off! Ever! That is so unfair!

'Hold on a minute!' I said, laughing. 'What does Nutella have to do with them being Muslim?'

'Well, she said, looking slightly puzzled- 'Ms N. says we should not ask questions like this because it is their culture and we must be respectful to each other's culture and religion.'

'Hey, hey, hey!- I even got up from the chair. 'You go to school, and next time you see a child- whatever religion or country he belongs to!- eating Nutella at lunchtime, you go straight to Ms N. and you tell her that Nutella has nothing to do with religion or culture. Nutella is not like pork. ( My child at the age of 7 is also well aware of the sensitivities surrounding eating pork around the world. How cool is that??) Nutella is about allergies and the school rules about those. And the rules, you tell Ms N should be the same for everyone, no matter what culture, religion or country they come from'.

That is what I call being respectful. Respecting the rules. By everybody. Unless they are, of course, from a khm...khm...some  important family. In which case I can sort of see why the teachers might keep quiet. Because, as we say, all people are equal. But some people are more equal than the others.


  1. Oh, things do get mixed up, don't they? When we lived in Indonesia our young blond daughters used to get their cheeks pinched all the time because the Indonesians thought they were so adorable. Then we had a friend from the Philippines visiting and our younger daughter loved her. They were comparing skin color (for some reason), and our friend, being very dark, said she was brown. My little pale 4-year-old vehemently denied this. "You're not brown because you don't pinch!" is what she explained.

  2. The problem with being tolerant is that we may end being that much tolerant that we get afraid of telling things straightforwardly. Just as you share here with the Nutella issue.