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Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Old Apr 1st 2013, 3:06 pm
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Default Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

As per the thread title.

My wife said to me yesterday that when we have kids it'll be my job to ensure they inherit 'Britishness' from me. This got me wondering about it, what it even means, and how you would pass that on to a child?

To me Britishness is a shared history, shared experiances, but also character traits such as the 'Stiff Upper Lip' and self deprecation that dont really exist in the US.

So the question is - what is Britishness, and have you tried to teach your kids born in the US about it? How have you done so?
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 3:30 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Originally Posted by civilservant View Post
So the question is - what is Britishness, and have you tried to teach your kids born in the US about it? How have you done so?
My nephew is being taught proper use of a knife and fork :-)

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Old Apr 1st 2013, 3:40 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Originally Posted by lizzyq View Post
My nephew is being taught proper use of a knife and fork.
We're teaching little Miss P to use a knife and fork. She was fairly competent at 2 years old, but after 4 years of daycare, preschool, and kindergarten she has progressed little, other than develop an attitude and resistance to proper use of her cutlery. .... In fairness, she is fairly capable, just a bit lazy about it.

Last edited by Pulaski; Apr 1st 2013 at 3:43 pm.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 3:44 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Originally Posted by civilservant View Post
As per the thread title.

My wife said to me yesterday that when we have kids it'll be my job to ensure they inherit 'Britishness' from me. This got me wondering about it, what it even means, and how you would pass that on to a child?

To me Britishness is a shared history, shared experiances, but also character traits such as the 'Stiff Upper Lip' and self deprecation that dont really exist in the US.

So the question is - what is Britishness, and have you tried to teach your kids born in the US about it? How have you done so?
My daughter was 11 when we moved here...so she is British through and through.

My friend is from Belgium and her kids are now grown up but she taught them European ways. They always eat using a knife and fork, they speak fluent French etc...she made sure they spent most of the school holidays in Belgium and the UK.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 5:08 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Folks, I'm the daughter of a Hungarian immigrant. I have birthright citizenship under Hungarian law, much like children of British citizens have birthright citizenship in the UK. The reason I mention this is because people always wonder why I don't speak Hungarian, don't participate in Hungarian holidays, and so forth.

My father had been a refugee, fleeing from the Russian Communist occupation in 1956 and sponsored by the World Council of Churches. I don't know whether or not this all factored into his decision to raise his children without reference to our Hungarian heritage. He would often say "We are Americans now" and would refuse to teach us his language or anything about Hungary except a few dishes (that was what he knew how to cook after all, and since my mother wasn't much of a cook, a family must eat, heh). I remember him saying once that he didn't want us kids to be viewed as ignorant country bumpkin immigrants with no desire to make it in American society. My father was so committed to fitting in that even though he was an agnostic, he joined a Presbyterian church and became a respected church elder. I suspect he destroyed his Hungarian birth and citizenship documents shortly before his death, as none of us could find any evidence of them in his papers. He really did all he could to break ties with the country of his birth.

It's not that I can't see his point. He wanted to protect his children from prejudice and enable them to fully enjoy the benefits and participate in the social life of the country he chose. But we always felt impoverished and rootless, as if my father had accidentally taught us that our background was somehow shameful. We don't know how many important elements of his background we are missing; for example, I found out by chance that my father's family had been Jewish (which explained a few things about his relationship with my mother and her family).

For these reasons I urge all immigrant parents to let their kids fully explore their cultural background. There's no need to stress it or force it, but don't stifle it, either.

Last edited by Speedwell; Apr 1st 2013 at 5:10 pm.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 5:17 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Originally Posted by civilservant View Post
As per the thread title.

My wife said to me yesterday that when we have kids it'll be my job to ensure they inherit 'Britishness' from me. This got me wondering about it, what it even means, and how you would pass that on to a child?

To me Britishness is a shared history, shared experiances, but also character traits such as the 'Stiff Upper Lip' and self deprecation that dont really exist in the US.

So the question is - what is Britishness, and have you tried to teach your kids born in the US about it? How have you done so?
Don't forget bad teeth, endless preoccupation with property prices, joining queues - doesn't matter what for just join it, excessive tea consumption, obsessiveness about the weather, pinstripes, bowler hats, umbrellas, cricket, xenophobia and closet homosexuality.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 5:50 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

I never said it was an exhaustive list
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 6:29 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

So, he's not being taught the British way?

Regards, JEff


Originally Posted by lizzyq View Post
My nephew is being taught proper use of a knife and fork :-)

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Old Apr 1st 2013, 6:59 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

My wife and I both came here from The UK as adults. Until they started school, our three daughter had my wife's Yorkshire accent with a little of my London/Somerset mix in the house and an American accent outside. After a while in school, the British gave way almost completely. They did, and still do, use a knife and fork in British style.

We didn't overdo the English stuff because they had to learn to live in the current environment, we rarely thought of moving back there so to push Britishness would have been an academic study with no useful result. On the occasions when they wanted it, the information was there.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 7:07 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

I just think our kids should exude the superior culture.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 7:33 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

My wife (USC) is very supportive of recognizing British culture. It's important to embrace American traditions too though I think.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 8:33 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Our kids were 15-12 and 10 when we moved here and are very proud of being British and American. I don't think they will be that concerned about passing on that kind of Britishness apart from the part they will not be calling themselves Welsh/Scots/American (2 of them) or Scots/American (1) as they like me get fed up with that reference.

My youngest daughter had a classic example of this in the place she works. She often has a customer who comes in a goes on and on about his knowledge about Scotland and how proud he is, that way down the line he has some Scottish ancestry. On Burns night, Emily asked him how he was going to celebrate and when he didn't know what she was talking about, gave him a little history lesson (to be fair, she only knows the basics). Still he didn't bite and she didn't let on she was Scottish. Then a couple of weeks ago he mentioned a place in Scotland and Emily said something in reply. He replied something to the effect, how can you know, you have never been there. Whereupon,she replied, I was born there, in her so perfect Texan accent! One very red faced Scots/American

However, as Grandparents, we feel its only right we provide some British heritage to our one grand-daughter. So on our recent trip back to Scotland, we found a couple of baby reading books written in Scots dialect so her Mum can practise that long lost accent. We will tempt with haggis at the appropriate time and maybe the 'Singing Kettle'.

I am sure she will always be proud that her grandparents are from a different culture but in reality, the culture you learn is the one you are brought up in.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 8:37 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

jjmb - the whole *nationality*/American thing drives me INSANE too. Hello its been 200 years since your family lived there!

My wife maintains its because the US is such a young country, they feel the need to identify with something that is far older than they are. If thats true or not I dont know, but still it drives me batty!

Last edited by civilservant; Apr 1st 2013 at 8:46 pm.
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Old Apr 1st 2013, 8:40 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

As a baby born in the US with an English mum I unequivocally say YES!

No matter what you do, if you're both Brits or no, they are going to pick up, um, 'foreign' mannerisms or ways of thought or whatever from you regardless - they will be 'Half and Haff'. By trying to explain what this means they might actually know why they seem a little different than most of their friends and peers.

And there is a difference, I accidentally tick off some fellow Americans the way I've accidently managed to tick off a few here. If I didn't realise over time it's because at least to a degree I'm a child of both countries I'd probably be even worse off mentally than I am

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Old Apr 1st 2013, 8:51 pm
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Default Re: Baby born in the US - Did you/are you teaching them what it is to be British?

Originally Posted by Speedwell View Post
My father had been a refugee, fleeing from the Russian Communist occupation in 1956 and sponsored by the World Council of Churches. I don't know whether or not this all factored into his decision to raise his children without reference to our Hungarian heritage.
I think this is a Hungarian thing. The Hungarian half of my family assimilated into Australian culture completely (with the exception of anglicising surnames), all the way down to bringing potato salad and curried egg sandwiches to picnics! If I ever said "oh, I met a Hungarian the other day", the response would be "not to be trusted!"

Originally Posted by Speedwell View Post
But we always felt impoverished and rootless, as if my father had accidentally taught us that our background was somehow shameful.
Again, this mirrors my mum's experience. She became very curious about her roots and went on a bit of a pilgrimage back to Hungary/Romania with her cousin (whose side of the family had relocated to Sweden instead). She made a reasonable attempt to learn the language, researched the refugee camp where they were first housed, and tried to keep Hungarian dishes alive. She will now proudly say she is Hungarian, which seems fine by everyone, except for other Hungarians!

It's funny, because the other side of my family is Italian and by Christ, did they do the complete opposite! Italian grandmother has lived in Oz for upwards of 60 years and still doesn't speak English. It is no doubt partly to do with safety in numbers (the Italian population in Melbourne is gigantic), but there is certainly a very different view/appreciation of cultural background between the two groups. Good luck finding a Hungarian-identifying anything, anywhere; whereas there are always more Italian joints than you can poke a stick at.
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