to think that it is harder to be a mum as a foreigner(33 Posts)
Hi all. I've been living in UK for almost 4 years. I have a DS and I'm on maternity leave. I try to integrate as much as possible, but sometimes it feels like the locals are the ones who won't let us foreigners integrate. It's like they do not want to befriend a foreigner. I go to few baby classes, but the other mums are quite reserved. I have a neighbour who has a DC almost the same age as mine. We used to go for walks together and meet with some other mums that she knew. Recently she started to avoid talking to me. I mean, she won't talk as much when we meet at the baby classes and she won't text me anymore. She got really close to other mums that she knew. They do lots of stuff together. I feel like I've been left on the side, mainly by her. I'm a bit shy and may be this is the problem, but I do my best to overcome this "issue".
I'm sorry you're feeling like that, must be a bit lonely
I think it's hard to say if it's because you are a foreigner. Im married to a foreigner and we have lots of foreign friends from all over (we often joke about the fact I'm the only English person!) many of which are mum's.
We have all noted an increase in xenophobic or racist behaviour recently but I don't believe it's prevented any of my friends from feeling overall welcome at baby groups or from making other mum friends.
Cultures though can be quite different - the stereotypical English person would be a big reserved and take a whole to warm to new people - especially if friendship groups are well established but as we know stereotypes aren't often right!!
If this one person has gone cold on you then move on and meet others. I've yet to meet a mum who isn't keen to meet for a coffee and a bit of adult conversation or pop over for a change of scenery and a playdate!
I think it depends on where you live re foreigner. In London it wouldn't make a difference where you are from but maybe a small village somewhere where people are all quite similar it might be hard.
I have found as a new mum in a new area I don't know anyone it is hard to break into cliques or get to know someone past seeing them at groups and I'm quite outgoing
I moved here from Ireland just before my DD was born and found the baby groups quite difficult. I think it was as everyone else seemed to have done an NCT course and have a ready made group. I did make a few friends through one group, but it's very hard and I found the first few months of my maternity leave very lonely. I ended up just doing whatever I felt like- so would go for long walks, put baby in sling and go to museums etc.
Another foreigner here. I agree with PP - If this one person has gone cold on you then move on and meet others.
English people, IMO, takes ages to get to the level of closeness and intimacy that friends from Eastern Europe, Oz, the States seem comfortable with in weeks - inviting round to their homes, organising to do something on little/no notice, asking for favours when they need. It's part of the culture.
Personally I get very impatient about this, but I've resorted to embracing my inner foreigner and just asking outright if anyone wants to join me for x / come round for coffee / whatever.
My mother was a foreign mum in the UK in the 60s/70s and said she found it very difficult to socialise. I think an issue was that the only thing she had in common with the other local mothers was a similar- aged child. She didn't have the same reference points (Coronation Street, Morecambe & Wise etc), found the local accent (merseyside) incomprehensible (it probably didn't help that my dad had very BBC English so she'd not been previously exposed to it) - and just found it very hard. We moved when I was about 3 to a more diverse community where she found it easier, but still it tended to be the international families that we socialised most with.
So yes, I think it can be very difficult. I wonder if it might be possible for you to make some non-baby friends who might be around during the day?
I don't know. I think the whole mum group stage is fraught with these kind of issues regardless of heritage.
Women from all walks of life are thrown together simply because they had a baby with very little else in common.
Don't take it as a rejection based on you being 'foreign' and continue to meet other mums. You will find ones you gel with eventually because you have more things in common besides a recent baby and they will be better friends in the long run.
I am British but living abroad and currently on maternity leave. Since becoming pregnant and having the baby I am more conscious than ever of the fact that I am not at home and often wonder about how much easier things would be if I were doing all this at home.
My friendship group here is pretty international (with some locals). Maybe you could try finding an international group of new mothers and start your own group via facebook or local newsletters etc?
But don't give up on the other groups. I know I would want to be friendly with you, but I know my shyness does make me seem quite cold sometimes and I find it hard to talk to new people.
I'm not surprised you've seen this OP - I remarked even just with DH (who is a foreigner; I'm Scottish) that people were less willing to chat to him at parties and stuff, we got frozen out by people sometimes in a way that never happened to me when I'd been dating locals. And when I had my kids in London I saw that there were little cliques in the baby groups, based on nationality and social class - and if you were an outsider to the group, the mums would be pleasant and polite, but there was no going further.
I don't think it's a British problem in particular - I think a lot of people are just not that fussed about being friends with foreigners, specially if you sound foreign. I find that now we live in Germany. People are nice enough but they are just a bit reserved with me. I try not to let it bother me. My kids are pretty well integrated, which is the main thing.
I was coming on to say yes! But my reasons are that l just don't know how things are done here.
I went to one baby class and knew it wasn't for me. Now dd1 is at school I've met a few people l like. But l do miss my friends and family at home, more so with dc.
I suspect it can be harder. I found it hard being the Brit in a London borough where most parents in the children's centre were from other countries and spoke their own languages in their groups. Pop to the neighbouring borough and it's hard to break in as I'm different to them in other ways - less wealthy and younger. People tend to keep with other similar to themselves in other ways too, social class, age, cultural background...
As a bit of a social misfit I'm wary of this British reserve and snobbishness but if someone is friendly I'm very open. I was a token British friend to a group of Aussies in London, they just couldn't make friends with British people and ended up with a bigger group of Aussies and other non Brits. I have another foreign friend who's been here years but still doesn't get the social subtleties. Even as a working class northern brit it is tough to navigate the middle class world in the south. I've given up trying but am almost last that stage. It's easier to meet through work or hobbies.
And even after many years my friend's English isn't perfect, it almost is but she'll misunderstand or miss the subtleties, which makes it harder work and less intimate.
Yes, it is harder. Everything just takes more of an effort!
I am a foreigner and so where 50% of my failed mother & baby group.
Honestly, when the children are so young and so demanding, and you are so very tired and sleep deprived, there is no much energy/time left to do things with other parents.
I stayed clear of any baby related groups, even those of people who shared my culture, as they turned out into vicious competition on what baby has done this or that sooner, better and faster.
I rejoined the mother groups at the doors of nursery and reception, by then everything was all right
So don't assume people are not nice because you are a foreigner, it may be just that everyone is a bit overwhelmed.
I'm white British all my family is, and I've got a few foreign friends and while I love their company they sometimes just don't "get" what your talking about if that makes sense. You can't talk about things you watched and did when you were a child because they didn't share that history
On the plus side I think being foreign makes it easier to all do things differently without getting judgy. My group of mum friends is half British, half foreign (am one of the foreigners) and everyone has heard different official recommendations, folk remedies etc. I think everyone accepts people want to things like 'at home'.
Hmm...I can appreciate that you've had a tough time. And British social etiquette is sometimes hard to crack. As I always joke, British people can be friends for a long time without knowing if the other one has any siblings. Whereas where I come from, one long bus/train ride and a chat later, the other person knows everything about your life. So yes, I've had to make that change and adapt accordingly.
But I'll be honest, I am not a big fan of baby groups per se, but I've never felt discriminated against as a 'foreign mother.' Groups are often clique-ish but personally my ethnic origins haven't been an issue. I speak English as my first language, I'm fairly culturally integrated and I have lived in Britain for a long time and lived around the world. (18 years this September and I'm 35- so I've spent more years out of my native country although not all of it has been spent in Britain). What I'm saying is that you haven't been here all that long, and it takes a while to navigate this stuff. Navigating work is easier because that's professional, but for British people to let you into their personal lives, invite you home for a play date etc, there is an extra step to go through and you just need to be patient. Yes, Britain is reserved, but you admitted that you are too (I'm not reserved at all- I talk a LOT) and so you are going to have to give it some time.
MiddleClassProblem, you are right, it does matter where you live. I am in a small town and not so many foreigners here. I do have a foreign friend, a mum, but she is 30 minutes drive from me and back in work. So it's pretty hard to meet so often.
What has upset me the most is that my neighbour mum did like to do things together at beginning. I feel like I've been used.
I might be shy, but I do try to get out of my shell all the time. I'm not great at small talking and I don't watch soaps and reality TV. But still there are so many things to talk about. My DH says that I should just come up with a topic even if it's a lie . Btw, he is the local but he would be friends with everyone if he could.
Anyway, obviously I will get over it and try to find some other mummies to chat and meet with.
I'll also be honest and say that perhaps she wasn't as close to you (or didn't have as much in common) as you might have believed. Having children forced me into close proximity with and into groups with people, with whom after the initial chit chat about weaning and sleeping, I had very little in common with. I wouldn't take your next door neighbour's moving on to other friends, all that personally. There are plenty of people I hung out with in the early days whom I gently moved away from, because we didn't really have much in common. And as you say, you are not great at small talk and in Britain small talk is almost central to social conversation and continues to be for some time after you've known a person.
Interesting question .... I am also a foreigner with a child. I have to say that I don't find it particularly hard to make friends with the locals, but I am a person who, when needed, can be quite extrovert and good at small talk and listening to others. I am also not particularly bothered about making lots of friends. I have a few friendships that I particularly value and they are really enough for me. But my experience of maternity leave friendships was that they will not necessarily last. I went to NCT and then spent my maternity leave in the company of women from that group. Our contact at that time was pretty intense, but then reduced to almost nothing when we all went back to work. For me, it was partly because I was the only one who went back to work part-time and I just don't have the time to meet up very often any more. I have a full-on demanding job. But most importantly it was because my interests moved on. What bonded our female group during maternity leave was the fact that we were all new mothers, we were all shattered, most of us were first-time mothers and therefore all the nappy, breastfeeding, weaning stuff was actually, for a time, interesting and exciting for us and therefore we had a big common interest. But once my child was over a year old all these things lost novelty for me. I am just not that bothered now. In fact, conversations about children, especially the small-talk kind, can bore me to death. So once that common interest went away, we drifted apart, and I am in the place where I find that I can make much more enduring friendships either at work or through my hobbies.
I don't think it's necessarily to do with being foreign. I am a British mum living in America and I've found it easier to socialise and make friends here than I did in the UK. People here are generally friendly and welcoming to anyone - local or foreign. Having an English accent has been a plus.
Yes there are cultural differences - I don't understand most of the sports, I'm rubbish at pub quizzes because I haven't grown up watching the TV here, I don't have childhood friends here - but they haven't made any difference to my ability to integrate.
I'm a Brit abroad and I r found baby groups terrifying. There are so many little social things I do wrong I think.
It's hard. I've given up on baby groups...
I'm a Brit abroad too and my first experience of ante natal class was with a midwife who said "there are too many foreigners in this city and we need more Italians like yourselves to have children". I was not impressed!
Tbh it seems as though baby groups are a nightmare regardless of your origin.
That said, I know the feeling of feeling 'foreign' despite doing my best to integrate as it were.
Yes I think it is harder.
But what you see as reserve to you, may simply be how they are with everyone. We have so much unspoken rules about how we speak to people and what is okay to say, that it makes it hard for someone who doesn't know those rules.
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