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Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Raising Girls in the U.K. so They Don’t End Up Pregnant at 15


I have lived in Germany more than half of my life. I spent almost seven years in France, and I have been living in the U.K. for eight years soon. Am I still a German? Not really, I guess. I am not an Englishman, either. So who am I? This question gets more and more difficult to answer.

I will never be an Englishman, I reckon. Or rather, I won’t ever feel like one. Would I want to? Maybe. So would I want to be a German if I had a choice? Tough one. I would like to leave some of our character traits behind, first and most importantly, our incessant drive to be a pain up the bum.

The difference between the generally polite and positive English social interactions and the rude barking that I encounter in Germany every time I go makes me hope Northern English attitudes rub off. I like the way my hosts behave and interact.

No Way Back

Most of my German friends and colleagues don’t notice the poisonous atmosphere in Germany. But I am pretty sure I could not move back to Germany without being depressed, or worse, falling back into the trot myself.

So are the British better people?

I don’t think they are, for they have their own share of flaws. I just happen to be able to live with their faults more easily. They are not as annoying.

The one thing I do struggle with, though, is thinking about what our little girls will be like when they are 14, 16 and 18 years old. There are a lot of stereotypes about English girls in my head that are less than flattering. What if my daughters grow up to be like some of those?

This goes way back!

My high school had an exchange program where some of us went to the U.K. and then later their hosts came over to Hamburg. I can still remember the bright neon socks. This was in 1986, when Kajagoogoo were big.

You don’t see neon socks anymore where I live now, but track suits and muffin tops are worthy successors, not to mention the “Croydon facelift.” Britain has avant-garde designers and a population that really doesn’t care.

And then there is the teenage pregnancies thing. I don’t even want to think about that! Makes me want to pack up and move back to the continent. Right now.

But Does it Matter?

At the heart of it is of course my anxiousness. I grew up in a pretty protected environment, much more protected than some of the kids that live in our neighbourhood. I simply don’t know how to handle three essentially English daughters!

How much will the environment shape them? What can I do to make sure they have reasonable friends? What does “reasonable” even mean in the U.K.? How can I know?

My wife and I will apply our respective experience. In her case, there will be a huge gap between her expectations and those of our surroundings and fellow parents. My cultural background is close, but still not the same, and I expect a certain amount of friction. Will we be able to make appropriate decisions? Good choices that guide our daughters into the best direction for them?

Then again, maybe culture has nothing to do with it.

I am convinced our parental influence makes a big difference and that our girls will therefore not turn into Vicky Pollard. Plus they are smart. But without the solid foundation of accepted, shared basic standards in our family, it will be interesting to see who they will be. I hope it will be easy for them to find out.

© 2011 – 2013, Jan Petersen. All rights reserved.

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Jan, who is German, works mainly from home as a software engineer. His wife, who is Algerian, stays at home to look after their three girls aged 7, 4 and 1. They live in the U.K. and are raising their children multilingual in Arabic, French, German and English.

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1 Comment
  1. CommentsGaspar   |  Tuesday, 11 October 2011 at 3:01 am

    Very interesting text Jan. Thx for sharing.
    I’m sure both you and your wife are going to find the exact perfect answers for your questions.

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