Raising kids abroad is full of funny experiences. There are so many ways in which their world view and mine differ fundamentally, because they are growing up in a different time, country and culture than I did. And so many times, I don’t even realize how differently we see things until one of them points it out. Language is one of the places that this is the most obvious — just this morning on the way to school, Liam noticed that “someone dropped their ‘schnuller’ on the ground”. Yes, they had — a ‘schnuller’ is a pacifier. Although, back when he was using them, we called them pacifiers or binkies, but he doesn’t remember that. He knows the word from the kids at school who still have them, and it’s become his only word for it. When Benjamin asked what Liam had said, I responded with, “Someone dropped their pacifier” and Liam got very angry at me for telling Benjamin the wrong thing. He literally has no idea what “pacifier” means. That kind of thing happens every so often — I say something, and they respond with a blank stare while I rewind what I said in my head and realize that I just used an English word for something we usually say in German (like pacifier, fire department, grocery store or playground). We’re developing quite the odd little Germenglish patois around here.
But there are other funny ways that the cultural divide within my own house comes out. Just before Easter, I was preparing eggs to dye. Then we were interrupted by calamity, which is why I forgot to tell this particular story back then. But once everything calmed down and we got ready to color our eggs, the boys happily climbed up to the table, took one look at the cartons of eggs I had boiled for them, and looked at me in disgust and surprise.
“WHAT are THOSE?!?” asked Benjamin.
“But . . . why are they WHITE?”
Yep, although I was completely unaware of it, it seems that my kids have been 3+ years without seeing a white egg. This was the first year that we found white eggs available at the supermarket, special for coloring for Easter. (It’s the only time I’ve ever seen them, and they no longer have any — it really was just for Easter.) I was so excited to buy them, because I’d always wanted to find white eggs to dye for Easter, but (as Benjamin demonstrated) white eggs are not the norm here.
And thus, I discovered another way in which I am raising poor, confused American-Austrian children who didn’t know that eggs come in white.