As they say, sometimes it’s the little differences that are the most surprising when you’re living abroad. Not that the big stuff doesn’t throw you for a loop (it does) but the biggest differences are ones you adjust to, or at least come to accept, pretty quickly (because you really have to).
This past Halloween (yep, still writing about last October) was our most successful trick-or-treat experience yet. There were no tears during the dressing up process (though we did have a last minute costume change), we arrived at a reasonable (early) hour (before the slightly rowdy Austrian teens arrived and coated everything with silly string), we found our way on the first try, we had some very fun and friendly stops at a couple of super festive houses, we met a lovely Corgi named Wellington, and we met up with some friends … which gave us a good excuse to wander back through the neighborhood a second time. Both boys had an excellent time and kept up their manners and enthusiasm for the whole event (which was a first). It was a great evening, and the most I’ve been reminded of a true US Halloween since we’ve been here.
With one little exception.
On average, the costumes here are very much like what you’d see in the US, but skewed slightly less scary — more princesses and fewer witches, more Spider-Men and fewer mummies — I think at least partly owing to the fact that Halloween is just becoming a thing here, while Faschings (aka Carnival), is very popular and has children dressing up in fun but non-scary costumes, and many kids just wear their Faschings costumes for Halloween.
And, as often happens, kids’ costumes sometimes require props — wands, swords, lightsabers, broomsticks, etc. Several of the kids (mostly boys) were carrying realistic looking guns and weapons with their costumes. And that was the difference. Some kids, dressed as cowboys, police officers, or bandits, were carrying realistic looking toy guns. And I, with my American cultural background, was absolutely shocked. Actually a bit horrified. Here were young kids and teenagers carrying realistic looking weapons. Didn’t their parents know how dangerous that could be??? Weren’t they worried that someone might think the guns were real and, just maybe, hurt their kids?!?
And, in that horrified contemplation, I truly looked at my own perspective and realized what I was thinking. No, the parents here don’t “know” that those toys might be dangerous, and, no, they weren’t worried. Because they don’t imagine that anyone would mistake the weapons as real in a child’s hand, and that, even if they did, no one here is going to shoot their kid. There actually isn’t anything dangerous about those kids carrying toy guns with their Halloween costumes. NO ONE HERE IS GOING TO SHOOT A CHILD FOR PLAYING WITH A TOY. And sadly, that’s just not true where I am from.