Tuesday, August 16, 2011

American vs. European Perspective

Hi Everyone,
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!

God bless,
Sher :0) 

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chaplain.cz said...

Hi Sher,

"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". No! It isn't what happens, except in a few very rare cases. It is what the media has convinced people will happen, based on those few very rare cases. Similar 'brainwashing' has also taken place in the UK.

'Brainwashing' has also occured in both the USA & the UK in relation to children not being allowed to walk or cycle to school any more for fear that they will promptly be abducted by paedophiles who according to the tabloid press, lurk around every corner & under every bush. Instead, children in the USA & UK get driven everwhere in Mom's/Mum's 4x4/SUV resulting in many more injuries & even deaths in road traffic accidents & an ever increasing number of obese children!

Sher said...

@chaplain: Thank you for your comment! In the quote from the post, I didn't say the children would be abducted, but that they would be taken away. There's a huge difference. Many people in the US would consider the child had been abandoned and want to help get it care, etc. Or police or other officials would come and "rescue" the child. That is what I meant by "be taken away."

I'm sure at some point in US history parents did the same with their babies as this Swedish lady did. Over time, that changed. I know even when I was growing up and could go to parks unattended and walk to school and bike around our neighborhood, most people would never have thought to leave their baby unattended like that. And I'm not so young :0) I don't know when this type of practice changed in my country, but I am sure it was common practice at some point in US history. I am curious to know when this changed! It was before my time, evidently.

Even so, your comment made me look up some stats about missing children in the US, Europe and Czech Republic. You can find the stats at these sites:

National Centers for Missing Children: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=2810#1

Missing Children Europe:

Prague Post article from 2009:http://www.praguepost.com/news/1415-missing-children-cases-surge.html

I couldn't find stats for the Czech Republic in English, so am using this article to help show the stats from this country. Czech kids can ramble and play, walk to school, etc. I love to see kids here being normal, like when I was a kid. And I wish my country could once again be more free in this way.

You and I do agree that "brainwashing" is a major problem. It happens everywhere to some degree. Living as an expat has helped to open my eyes to the world and even my own country. When I first came here, I was shocked anyone would leave their baby outside unattended like that! Now, as I read that article in the news, I wondered what all the fuss was about--the Swedish mother was only doing what is normal. Normal for Europe, but not normal in the US.

Anyway, that was the point of my post--when you're an expat, you can't help but change in some ways. Sometimes you might be startled at how the expat life can change you and your thinking.

Thanks again--I hope some other readers will join in the discussion!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Karen said...

Ditto everything Ricky said! The United States media is working overtime to keep all citizens in the US from trusting each other and trusting people from overseas. They work to instill a fear of everything in US citizens. I don't understand why and I leave it to each US citizen to ask why this is so.

Sher said...

It's amazing when a post opens a can of worms! I really didn't intend for things to go this way! However, the conversation is interesting!

I'm not debating the fear factor being taught in the US, the UK and other countries. The fear factor is being promoted by all politicians on all sides, at least back home, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm looking forward to more input to this conversation! It's a grand one! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

PS @Karen,
I should have mentioned that you have a lot of experience with living in a place most Americans would not even dare to venture--Turkey. And yet, you are thriving there! Most Americans tend to view Turkey with extreme caution. I am not sure of tourist numbers there, but I'm quite certain it's low compared to the number of Americans visiting Europe.

Anyway, just wanted to throw that in--and congrats that you are thriving in your expat existence! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

chaplain.cz said...

Hi Sher,
I didn't mean to take the discussion away from what promted you to write this post in the first place. Just to reassure you, I think the changes in your ways of 'being, doing & thinking' have been very much for the good. And as always, congratulations for being brave enough to write about it here.

Can I also thank Karen for her very supportive comment. The media in both the USA & the UK are guilty of promoting fear. They much prefer to report bad news rather than good news because they believe it will sell more newspapers/attract additional viewers which means increased advertising revenue.This in turn, promotes & encourages fear.

Sher said...

You and Karen are right about the fear factor being promoted by news agencies and others in the US & UK. Unfortunately, the same is happening in other places, as well. It's a major problem.

Fear is a mega-dollar business, and is a way of brainwashing and controlling people. And it's not only done by our news agencies and other media, but also by our politicians. I'm pointing the finger at all politicians, for they all use fear--be they Republican or Democrat, or other. I'm not being cynical, but just saying it like it is.

I'm happy the post sparked some debate, and maybe I should have kept quiet to see what others might contribute. You guys were on track with the fear message, it was just not what I had intended. I just have to learn that sometimes it's better to go with the flow, rather than disrupt it.

What's happening with me isn't so important, but I do hope that people who are considering an expat life will not be afraid of the changes that might take place in their thinking, being and doing. Hopefully the process will result in your becoming a better person, or at least more well-rounded and experienced. You might also gain a broader perspective about the world at large if you only let yourself.

Along with that, I wanted to point out the difference in perspective that Americans and Europeans might have about this incident with the baby left in the stroller outside the restaurant. The difference in perspectives is due to the differences between the cultures. Czech kids ride the Metro alone, they ride bikes and play outside, etc. It is more like when I grew up than what we find in the US nowadays. It's great to see kids being kids. And that people don't fear leaving their baby in the stroller outside a shop for a few moments.

Thanks, again, for your comments, Chaplain. I wasn't taking them personally, and really was enjoying the conversation! I hope some others might join the conversation--I won't squash it!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)