Tuesday, August 16, 2011
American vs. European Perspective
After reading a news story today, I realized how much some aspects of my thinking and feeling have become more European. When you move overseas, and live away from your home country for a while, you begin to adapt to your new life--even in ways you don't realize. Today the realization hit pretty hard.
The news story that caught my attention was about a Swedish mother, in Amherst, Mass. She had left her one year-old baby son in his stroller, outside a restaurant, while she ran in to order some food. The baby was alone for about 10 minutes, and now the mother is being investigated by state agencies for possible child maltreatment.
My first reaction to this story was wondering what all the fuss was about. Then, I had to step back and think back to my pre-expat ways of thinking, being and doing. My pre-expat self would have been horrified by a parent leaving their baby in a stroller alone outside a restaurant. People just don't do that back home--it's not safe. Leaving your child or baby alone outside is like asking someone to come and take them away, which is unfortunately what happens to some unattended children in the US. However, in Europe, the situation is very different. Europeans are shocked that babies are not safe in such a situation, and this can be looked at as mistreating a baby.
When I first moved here, I was horrified to see mothers do the very thing this Swedish mother did. It is very common for a mother or father to run into a small shop for 5 or 10 minutes and leave the baby and stroller/carriage on the sidewalk, near the door. This way, they can usually keep an eye on the baby as they shop. I have never seen anyone leave a baby like that for long--it is usually no more than a few minutes. This is common practice in many parts of Europe, including the Czech Republic. Europeans don't see this as maltreatment of a child.
My time here has been close to 5 years, and now I don't bat an eye when I see such scenes as babies left in strollers outside of a small shop, or young children urinating in public, etc. It was quite interesting to realize this change in my thinking and compare it to when I had just gotten off the plane here, in Prague. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of things that shock me and European ways of being and doing that I will not adapt to. Even so, to see my thinking has changed on such a matter as this news story was a startling realization. I can fully understand this Swedish mother's dismay as this is typical behavior where she comes from. It's just not done in the US, but I'm sure no one explained that to her.
I hope and pray all will turn out OK for this Swedish mom, and that no charges will be filed--and she be allowed to keep her baby. She made an innocent mistake--and I'm sure had no intention of harming her baby. And now, for me, I'm wondering if there are other changes in my ways of being, doing and thinking that will come to light one day. It's an adventure to see and realize such changes are occurring within yourself. I don't know if this change is good or bad--time will tell. But I'm hoping it's for the good.
That's all for today! Have a great day!
Photo credit: maillewlder
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