In my quest to understand what British people really think, I have a secret weapon: my 11-year old daughter. She understands how I think and can explain to me what her friends are really saying with words that I can actually relate to. She attends a British school, which allows me to see how they are trained. It is simply fascinating. Children are taught to say things in a certain way from a very young age, and it makes it impossible for anyone who wasn’t brought up the same way to get what it is they really think.
When my daughter was seven (yes, seven), she bumped into an older girl from school. When you are in the senior school apparently you don’t have to wear a uniform, so this girl was wearing a mini-skirt with a very large red belt. Let’s just say that, if there is a fine line between originality and bad taste, this girl had clearly crossed that line, and the whole arrangement was of bad taste. In short, she looked like a pre-teen prostitute. My daughter just smiled and said “Hi! How are you? Nice belt ”. The older girl was clearly delighted and she beamed. As soon as the girl couldn’t hear us my daughter told me “ What a horrible outfit!”. I was amazed.
From then on, I started to question everything I was told. Is this school any good? I asked one of my friends. Oh yes, it is a good school, she said, very sporty. What she meant was that they were not very good academically. How could I have guessed it? Another example: anyone who has been in London for a while will also know that every kid has a tutor. But it is a complete taboo. No-one says anything about it but most teachers are finding it an easy way to earn some side money while at the same time denying they are doing it. I once asked another mum about it and she said “No, of course not, I wouldn’t take a tutor except if my daughter had specific difficulties in one subject” I later found out that the daughter in question had a tutor every day and trying to set up a play date with her is a little bit like asking for a papal audience.
In short, I am progressing but I still have a long way to go. More often than not, I still get a response that I don’t understand. I have come to the conclusion that, in some instances, maybe British people actually don’t have an opinion.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
Before I start, I have to admit that I love London. I love it so much that I have applied for Permanent Residence and maybe one day we will have a British passport.
That said, I keep wondering what makes British people that extra bit special. After the best part of 7 years I don’t have the answer yet, but I might be getting closer as I had an epiphany the other day during the school run.
I am always in advance -big mistake- and I had managed to park my Chelsea tractor just in front of the school for once. I was pleased with myself as I hate parallel parking. We were waiting and nicely listening to the radio, and my 5-year old was probably telling me something about Tinkerbell that, I must admit shamefully, I can’t remember.
Then, this woman parked her car just in front of mine. She went out of the car. She was still waking up, she didn’t have any make-up and was wearing an ample track suit bottom with what looked like Uggs shoes. She was middle-aged, very normal and I would normally have forgotten her immediately. But she decided to open her trunk and when she did, her trousers collapsed, showing her bottom. I am talking about the whole thing here, not just the start of the bum cheeks at the end of the back. For some funny reason -and this proves that the law of gravity can be deceptive sometimes, she ended up with her track suit on her knees.
Suffice to say that if it had been me, I would have been mortified. Not that her bottom was an awful one -it was average – not a star’s bottom, but just the normal, average wobbly thing…but, being French, I would have been so ashamed and embarrassed that I would have dyed my hair blonde, change car and basically entered the local equivalent of the Witness Protection Programme.
She did none of this. She didn’t even look around to check that anyone had seen her. She just pulled up her pants, closed the trunk, got her kid and brought him to school.
I was amazed. That is the essence of Britishness. Never complain, Never explain, Get on with your life whatever.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London