Is it important to keep ur Britishness?

(20 Posts)
shmuf Sun 03-Aug-14 04:26:35

Here's my story..
I moved away from England straight out of high school, and a few years later married a native of my new country. We have absolutely no plans to move back to the uk, but I do still have most my family there. My kids are in daycare in the native language and dh and all his family speak to them in this lang too. I speak to them in English and although I don't care which language they answer me in, I do insist that they call me 'mummy' and not the native word for it. Got me thinking- am I being silly to try and instill a bit of Britishness into them?
Realize after all this waffle I don't have a clear que, just general pondering!
Any thoughts on the matter?

I really don't know! Lots of people go on about sense of home or sense of identity but it don't know how much it matters. Our dcs know that home is where your family is. Dh is Scottish, I'm English, dd1 was born in Scotland but doesnt remember living there, dd2 was born in singpaore and has never lived in uk and we all now live in USA. We go back to England and Scotland every year to visit family and friends but the kids have no cultural references. We do our best to do some really English and Scottish things there and although the dcs enjoy it I don't think it has any resonance for them as it's a "foreign" culture. But I don't think it matters really.

I would persevere with English with your dcs though as it's such a useful language. I spent years working in France perfecting my French and am always slightly jealous of bilingual kids!

elQuintoConyo Sun 03-Aug-14 17:41:21

Also, define 'Britishness'!

I still find it hard not to queue (here in the bank, for instance, there are people everywhere; you just ask 'who's last?' and queue behind them. Took some getting used to!), and I prefer DS to call me Mummy, not Mama.

He's being raised with about 80 different Christmas customs grin and three languages (we're in Catalinua, so Catalan/Spanish plus English).

We don't travel back to the UK much, only once in DS''s short life, but hope to do so once a year (got passport stuck in Belfast this year, grrr).

I don't know whether he's going to have much of a sense of being part British (as well as part Irish, confused little bean!), but I intend to expose him to Monty Python from around the age of 8 - so I'm sure that'll help grin

SwiftRelease Mon 04-Aug-14 08:43:06

Op, not silly at all! In your case way beyond Britishness. Your kids are overseas but with a British mum, as such vital to expose them to your language/culture/history, of course! But inevitably hard when they're immersed in another place. I know nany whove done this successfully, however, both in UK and overseas. Good luck and SO not silly, you are their mum!

WallyBantersJunkBox Mon 04-Aug-14 09:27:41

I don't know if I consider it that important, I think because I moved in later life some things are ingrained in me and as part of family life these get passed on. What we eat, and the way we eat, our sense of humour, our etiquette, traditions etc.

Our life has adapted a lot though. I think when you are exposed to many cultures you can take or leave certain aspects. We have a merged Christmas now for example.

However I do see DS with different traits and I don't overrule them in any way. He can pick and choose what he likes and what "fits" his life I guess.

DS know that I am very proud to be Welsh though, so the one tradition I do insist upon is St David's day. But if they don't want to participate I'll eat the Welshcakes myself whilst singing. grin

I've pondered this question a lot too OP, and I am not sure I have found an answer yet. I think it is important for all children to have a sense of where they are from, and so of course this includes you and where you lived as a child, your family, your celebrations and culture. I don't think it necessarily means a rigid adhesion to "British" customs though.

I agree that English is useful for your DCs. When DD was little I didn't spend enough time speaking English with her but I have luckily managed to get her speaking now and I am so glad I did.

I think your question also comes down to how british you feel at any one time. I find my attachment to the UK and how homesick I am feeling comes and goes.

Welshcakes are mandatory here too, even have DH converted. grin

Gfplux Tue 05-Aug-14 20:29:11

Hello OP
You must, must continue to give your British background and language to your kids.
If not, be prepared to answer them later in life when they ask "why not"
You hold their duel background in your hands. Do not let them down.

scousadelic Tue 05-Aug-14 20:36:59

I think it is important to do this as it is part of your identity so good to share it with your family.
Where it gets silly is when people take it to extremes, DH and I spent a while abroad and some of the expats were more British than Brits in Britain iyswim!

Millytint Wed 06-Aug-14 09:09:44

My wise mum says it s important to give children both roots and wings .... So yes Britishness is important to me, and I try and pass some of this to the children, but also to give them insight into plenty of other cultures, and in particular not to reject the culture of the place we live in. Also just pondering really.....

Roots and wings is a good one. I guess I want my kids to have roots in our family, our traditions, which are not particularly british.... or any other culture, they're just ours.

What elements of Britishness are your ensuring that your kids take in and feel familiar with? We do museums and summer fetes occasionally when we visit the uk in the summer but I'm sure every other tourist does too .... How do you get them to identify with Britishness more than a foreigner would when they live overseas?

Museums is a good one butterflies. I am sure there are lots of things I am forgetting, but I think a slightly subversive sense of humour, a healthy scepticism of authority and rooting for the underdog are essentials, as is an innate reaction to people putting on airs and graces. Also a steely determination to make the best of a day out whatever the weather. smile

redexpat Fri 08-Aug-14 12:49:07

Take the best bits of your home culture and mix it with the best of the other. The kids get the best of both worlds.

For me its important that they speak British English - in daily life this means steering away from American media and watching cbeebies when they are little and pointing out if they use an Americanism that it is American - but it is easy, as we are in Germany, and the English taught in school is British English, they go to German school not international school, and we aren't really part of the ex-pat scene at all, as we live rurally.

Initially I thought I would want the kids to have English speaking friends, but although they know a few English speakers we see them rarely, and it hasn't seemed to matter. All the kids friends are German, which not only ensures their German is 100% native and they feel they belong here but also means their English is separate, a home language, which has worked out fine.

We speak English as a family language even though DH is German (he speaks pretty much perfect English, people often try to guess where he comes from and guess SA sometimes, but not that he is a non native speaker, so he doesn't "teach" them "bad" English), but now the kids are nearly 9, nearly 6 and 3 they do chop and change between German and English with DH - I always speak English to them, always, always, and I absolutely do insist they reply in English - but they have never resisted or complained, and very rarely reply in German, in which case I just ask them to say it in English, the same way I would remind them to say please (I believe most people avoid doing that, and would instead repeat back what they have said but in English, but I find that laborious, forced and totally unnecessary in our situation, unless it is vocabulary they might not have come across before because its a new topic of conversation - this only really comes up in relation to school subjects and materials).

I do also want the kids to be aware of things most British children would have as part of their lives, but I don't care at all if they identify as German - as indeed DC2 does, though DC1 identifies as British - or says she does -(we moved when she was 19 months, DC2 and 3 were born here).

The language and "Cultural Capital" matters to me - I have begun my plan to take each child to London the summer before they turn 7 as a 1 to 1 to do the main sites// museums, and plan to do so with each one again at early secondary age. We visit my family once a year - I know a lot of people do more, but its expensive and stressful! I make sure they know all the nursery rhymes, the myths and legends, and try with the popular culture too (through TV mainly).

The older 2 and I talk regularly about differences between their 2 countries, and try to be even handed - some things are better here, some there.

I agree with roots and wings 100% - but to be honest I want my children to feel rooted in the community they are growing up in - we have lived in the same tiny village for 7 years and don't have any plans to move until the youngest is through school (if we do move it would be locally, once they are all at secondary, maybe to a bigger town where the secondary schools are). Britishness is only one part of their identity and not their main source of roots. I feel I'd be doing them an injustice if they didn't have it though - especially the language at a proper native speaker level, as its a free gift they are entitled to, which can only help them in the future.

Great post MrTumblesBavarianFanbase. I might steal your idea about taking DCs for one to one trips to the UK around 7 years of age.

I would love to chat to other parents in this position and trying to pass on some essential cultural elements without making their children feel outsiders in the country where they live.

I am in Egypt married to an Egyptian Muslim so DCs are rooted in a wider traditional Egyptian and fairly conservative family on the one hand and being educated in the secular French system on the other. We also speak English between ourselves to add some extra confusion to the mix. I really hope that DD in particular will have a strong sense of who she is and will always know that she has choices in life and that they are hers alone to make.

Millytint Sat 09-Aug-14 22:23:12

Mmm a one to one trip to London would be bliss, and for me also Yorkshire and Liverpool, right, I am going to make it my mission today for dh to think it was his idea....

JessieMcJessie Fri 22-Aug-14 07:56:56

My DH's Dad is Norwegian, his Mum English. However they have always lived in the UK and DH was not brought up to speak a word of Norwegian as his Dad spoke perfect English. He has a fondness for Norway and a vague sense of Norwegian food and customs from holiday visits to family, and we threw in a traditional Norwegian toast at our wedding, but really he's English through and through. I think it's a real shame that he doesn't have a stronger sense of dual heritage but he is not at all bothered by it and his Dad takes the view that he adopted England as his home and so doesn't mind that his kids are English. But then I imagine DH would feel very differently if it were the other way round and he'd missed out on the chance to speak native-level English.

ginslinger Fri 22-Aug-14 08:04:53

I'm english and DH is German and my DCs spoke English with me and German with DH. We blended traditions by doing things like having presents from DHs family on xmas eve and having dinner with the family but gifts from English family were saved till xmas day. We had some english foods but the DCs saw a lot of english family and were never in doubt of their dual background.

LillianGish Sat 06-Sep-14 18:36:59

Just found this thread so hope I'm not too late to join in. I just wanted to add that it's is important to recognise that your children will not just absorb Britishness merely by the fact that are British. DH and I are both British, but the dcs were born in France, then moved to Germany (still in French schools) before coming back to the UK at the ages of 5 and 7. In spite of what I though was constant reiteration of our Britishness (dd even met the Queen in Berlin!) I was astonished to find how foreign they were when we came back. DS kept commenting on the fact that everyone was speaking English - I think he thought English was a private language spoken between ourselves and grand parents. He couldn't understand why our neighbours children went to English schools and could only speak one language. They found school uniforms fascinating (they stayed at the French school in London so never had a uniform themselves), milkmen, lollipop ladies and countless other ordinary things were a source of wonder. We are back in France now after 6 years with British credentials fully in tact! I think if your dcs never live in Britain then they probably won't ever feel British - even if you visit from time to time. I don't know whether that really matters as long as it doesn't matter to you. Very interesting thread though.

We just introduced DC (6&10) to fawlty towers and only fools and horses...they are loving it!

BioSuisse Mon 08-Sep-14 08:07:13

LillianGish snap. My DD was surprised to find people spoke English everywhere too. We were in a supermarket queue in UK and she said very loudly in her franglais "why does Madam at the till speak english?"

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