Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | November 27, 2012

Problems with prejudice

When we moved to Bolivia I was very aware of the possibility/danger of becoming judgmental, arrogant and prejudiced, of feeling superior when confronted with a different culture, language and way of doing things. Well, unfortunately this has been the case. I am frequently tempted to put down and pre-judge a culture different to mine. Obviously I am talking about the USA culture.

I didn’t realise when we moved here how close to the USA culture we were coming into contact with. Bolivia is hugely influenced by the States, however much the President would like to change that fact. But closer to home I teach with many teachers who are from or who have lived in the USA and many of the students have family there or regularly go there.

I like to think of myself as being goodnatured and open but I do have a natural snobbery to things to do with the States.

I thought I was getting better, but now this battle has invaded our house. Chloe has just finished her first year at my school, being taught American English. She has been taught the ‘hokey pokey’- I mean what is that? What ridiculous nursery rhyme style thing is that? It makes no sense at all- unlike the cultured and subtle hokey Cokey. Also apparently the wheels on the bus go round and round all through the town. They don’t. They go round and round all day long. Please. Now Chloe is telling us she has to wear pants to school when its cold. You’ll be pleased to know she also wears pants to school when its hot. In fact she wears them every day. Oh she meant trousers? Well they shouldn’t be called pants then. And a distinct American twang is coming out in her accent. As I try to teach her that the word ‘little’ does indeed contain not one but two letter ‘t’s I begin to understand something of the persistence my Mum had in teaching me that the letter H is not said haitch.

I do feel in this area of prejudice I have made some progress, and at times when I’m mocked as being a tea-drinking, crumpet-eating stiff upper lipped Brit I can take it. But what is possibly even worse is that Roz and I are being affected too. We use the word ‘done’ instead of finished, and we have been digging in the dirt recently. Not earth, soil or mud- all acceptable alternatives- but dirt.

Is there a middle ground between prejudice, snobbery and arrogance and still retaining a strong sense of pride in the country of my birth, the all conquering Empire…? (sorry, I caught myself humming ‘Land of hope and glory’ then). And what of Chloe’s accent? Her requests to go to the bathroom rather than the toilet?

I guess its all part and parcel of living away from the UK.



  1. I totally (completely) sympathiz/se! Same for us living in Canada. My kids (children) speak very differently now after ten years here, and so do we. What is so funny is that after so long, I now have trouble switching back to British English when we go back to England, saying ‘parking lot’ and ‘trunk’ instead of carpark and boot. It was a hoot spending time in Guadalajara recently where there were both Americans and British. It was easier when I was with the church and could just speak Spanish! Fiesta was amazing, and when we prayed for David & Sarah and the church in Bolivia, I thought of you guys. I’m so glad I got to meet you in Brighton last summer. So funny that I come from Danehill and Sarah comes from Piltdown! Love to you all. Les mando besos y abrazos, y que Dios los bendiga muchismo! Diana

    • I meant that I got to meet them (not you) in Brighton! I’d love to meet you and your kids… maybe one day. And of course I meant that I prayed for you, not just thought of you. I think the British/American thing is more difficult for you because you weren’t expecting it! We chose to move to Canada so we accept that we’ve had to change our language, but you only expected to have to learn Spanish! Tough one.

      • Thanks Diana! I didn’t realise you were a Brit. I hope that the longer we are here, the easier it will get. I’m glad Fiesta was good. Our friend Choong-Sil does a lot to help organise it and we hope to go one day. Thanks for your prayers, we look forward to meeting you sometime.

  2. Our hearts go out to you!……

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