Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /




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
  • I think every culture, even area, has its own set of ‘words’ and even ‘thought processes’. It’s interesting…

    Don’t forget the popular saying about how people are divided by a common language. My Mom and Aunt visited London (from the USA) and my Aunt said a word that offended someone badly.

    The word in the USA meant, ‘Oh, great’ or ‘Darn it’ but in London, evidently it was slang referring to something really crass.

  • Sylwia Presley

    When I was choosing school in our little town for my son I was told there are too schools to consider – one, very good one with lots of modern approach to teaching, where kids can relax and learn through play (no!) and another one where kids have to work really hard and hardly have any time to think (yes! that’s what primary school is supposed to be about – hard work!). So really I did the opposite to the local suggestions and I am really happy – actually kids learn through play a lot but bring home so much knowledge that I am shocked myself!

  • MuMuGB

    Well done for understanding what people really meant! As for me, I am still learning every day. I just don’t get what they mean…