Culturally Connected

Over the half term I returned to my family home in the North of England with my oldest son. I jokingly said I wanted him to engage in his “Northern” roots as I excitedly showed him Manchester city centre for the first time, pointing out the haunts of my youth and more importantly the proud industrial history of the area. I have to confess my Year 7 history classes were more engaged in my recent lessons on the Industrial Revolution than he was, but I am sure it will still sink into him eventually.

It got me thinking about the importance of culture and identity to young people. Until recently my two children had been typical third culture kids, having left Britain when they were too young to remember it in detail and spending their younger childhood growing up in the rich cultural traditions of South Korea and Hong Kong. And what an experience they had, from their ability to eat the spiciest of noodles with chopsticks like a pro, to memories made at wonderful festivals, visiting amazing temples, rice paddies, the iconic Hong Kong skyline, mountains, and beaches and so much more.

A photo captured by Mrs Gibson at the Guilin Longji Terraced Fields in October 2019.

Research has shown that third culture kids are often more flexible and able to cope with change. They also have a high probability of being university educated and speaking two or more languages. This makes them very attractive to employers. However, there are downsides such as often having to leave best friends behind and anecdotally some struggle with not having a cultural identity that they can strongly identify with. I believe it is important in schools to help every child find that sense of identity, as is building their ability to appreciate and celebrate others too. 

This is what I love about BGS; despite not being an international school, we certainly have the feel of it, with a number of our students and staff having lived in other countries and a  huge variety of cultures represented within our school community. We actively promote the importance of this diversity from our celebration of Mother Tongue Day this week to CultureFest, World Hijab Day, Jubilee celebrations last year or our annual Lunar New Year and Diwali lunches. We encourage all of our students to share what parts of their culture they feel is important to them. 

Every year I (remotely) interview prospective students all over the world either returning to the UK after a stint with their families to far flung parts of the world, or other families moving to the UK for the first time. I am endlessly fascinated by others’ cultures and experiences and am always proud to share my experiences too. I am proud to be Northern (famed for our friendliness, but also sometimes our bluntness!) and I am privileged to have lived and travelled all over the world. And I hope that all the students at BGS feel the same, that they are proud of what makes them who they are, their experiences and their culture, and that they seize every opportunity to learn more about what the world has to offer. 

So if I may I will finish on a quote from the world renowned Mancunian and Suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst: “Manchester is a city which has witnessed a great many stirring episodes, especially of a political character. Generally speaking, its citizens have been liberal in their sentiments, defenders of free speech and liberty of opinion.” I hope that I can live up to her views on the people of Manchester and that in time my children will come to appreciate their Northern roots as much as I do. 

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