12 February, 2011

New American customs

We live our lives between three cultures. Not just the obvious ones of Japan and Australia, but with my husband working at an American-style international school and all our boys attending there too, a variety of American customs are barging into our lives.

Yesterday my kindergartner celebrated 100s Day. This is a fairly recent American custom (don't know the origin, but most Americans my age don't remember it as part of their childhood). It marks the 100th day since school started and is approximately the middle of the school year. On the day they do all sorts of activities related to the number 100. Like counting out 100 Cheerios (circular American cereal that has made a tentative entry into Australia, I believe) and then threading them onto a string.

At CAJ, only the kindergarten and grade ones celebrated this day. That confused me to start with as they had a half-day (presumably a celebration deserves a half-day holiday?). But my grade two-er didn't have a half-day.

Then we got a notice home alerting us to the fact that Valentines Day was coming up and that not only would both the kindergarten and grade twos mark the day, but that everyone was REQUIRED to bring cards for everyone else in the class! That makes exactly 38 cards for our household to somehow produce.

Well, thankfully there are websites out there where you can print out black and white templates for children to colour. And they aren't what we knew of Valentines Day in Australia - they aren't something you exchange between lovers. They say simple things like "Happy Valentines Day" or "Have tonnes of fun on Valentines Day". I don't know if schools have changed in Australia, but I've never attended nor heard of a Valentines Day party in an Australian school!

I've also learnt of another relatively recent American school custom: Staff Appreciation Week. It begins next week at CAJ and the PTA organises little presents for all the teachers all week. The American co-president of the PTA expressed frustration that most of the parents don't do anything during the week. What she didn't realise is that for most of the parents (the majority of whom don't come from America) it is a new custom. It is certainly not something we do in Australia. I know what the words mean, I didn't know it was a custom.

Oh well, I guess it can only go towards making us more flexible.


KarenKTeachCamb said...

I'm hearing you Wendy. The last 3 years I found all these "days" (and you might at Dr Seuss Day) to that as well a little frustrating. I think my classes "missed out" on some things because as an Aussie I didn't see them as all that important, while many of the North American (US & Canadians) did.
I'm currently thinking about Valentines Day, and maybe spending 15 or 20 minutes on it on Monday morning, with the children having a chance to share kindness and love with each other in a very simple way. Still thinking on that one. I think one reason I've enjoyed my new school is because there is less "pressure" to celebrate anything like this, especially where it's not really culturally appropriate. Mind you cultures seem to change too! It's interesting watching this developing nation change and grow, and unfortunately seeing some of the less helpful "cultural" things slipping in as well as the great things we're seeing happen.

Walking to China said...

ROFL! They don't say "Have tonnes of fun!" They say "Have tons of fun." American spelling!
We have all the holidays, too- Chinese, Korean and American. Not everyone but many. It's easier as they get older.

Wendy said...


They do too say 'tonnes'. I got them from: http://www.dltk-holidays.com/valentines/mvanimals.html Perhaps it is a Canadian site?

Melissa said...

Rolling On Floor Laughing

Wendy said...

Ken tried to leave this comment:

"I hope you celebrate Japanese customs as well. How many different nations are represented at the school? How complicated would it get to celebrate in all their manners?"

Wendy said...

Ken, I forget how many countries are represented, it is more than a dozen, maybe as many as more than 20. American customs definitely dominate. Japanese customs? I think that some are celebrated, just cannot think of which ones, off hand.

venzy said...

Cheerios (the circular cereal variety, not the mini-hotdog/frankfurter the butcher used to give you as a kid if you were lucky) have been a staple in our cupboard for 1-2 years.

Being _required_ to bring Valentines Day cards to school? Pfft! :)

Staff appreciation week - shouldn't that be every week?

Wendy said...

Venzy - the second two, I'm inclined to agree with you!

What was funny was seeing the realisation dawn in the sixth grade parents that not everyone was bringing Valentines this year (no longer a "requirement"). They were concerned about broken hearts.