School drop of line talk Episode 2

political correctness as an Expatparent

As we were waiting in the school drop of line one of my son’s teachers walked by ,he waved said:” good morning”, and told me that her name is Sandra. The other one with the chocolate face is called Karen. He said. Sharp inhale on Mami`s end.

Did he just say chocolate face?! He surely doesn’t have that expression from home!!!

So I couldn’t help but thinking about political correctness as an expat.

There surely is a massive discrepancy between what is acceptable in our respective home countries towards what is learned abroad.

As an expat we are the foreigners or extranjero, meaning the weired ones.

We do our best to integrate, meaning learning languages, we are open and respectful to traditions and while some things seem strange to us we try not to judge. Some topics seem absurd to us, it makes no sense to me why someone can get spasm from ironing or dishwashing with hot water. But in Latin America its a thing!

In return we also continue with our own tradition and share with others, such as Easter egg painting.

Along the way we have adopted holidays  such as Halloween, trick or treat is deeply rooted in the kid’s annual planning by now. They dont know the difference between yesterday, today and tomorrow but they know after Easter comes their birthday, followed by Halloween, Christmas and New Years.

We are following from a far the discussions in our respective home countries Germany and Belgium about Schwarzer Peter/schwarte Piet who no longer can be black as it might be offensive to some ethnic groups. My question is did any of the ethnic groups complain about the tradition?  Where is that hypersensibility coming from?

As far as I have learned the German “schwarze Peter” is black because he cleaned chimneys and if you touch his uniform it’s a sign of good luck. So we will wipe him out of our tradition just because he didn’t take a shower?

As a contrast, we live in Panama and my son learns in school to define people by their skin colour?! In general people here call you by tyour looks.

If I go to the hairdresser and ask for Johanna everyone looks puzzled. If I ask for gorda (the fat one) they all point me towards her.

We rarely ever call for the waiter we say joven (hey, young one come here). If I go to the fruit & veggie shop I say I go to the Chino because traditionally they are owned by Chinese looking families. I doubt they are offended. I never heard anyone responding hey I am not Chino I am Corean!

However people in Panama are a bit like Trump, while everything South of the border is Mexico, everyone, who is white and speaks with an accent is presumed to be Gringo. Surely to do with the country´s history, but this is no compliment.  I will immediately defend myself I am not a gringa I am German, which gains some likeable points and discussion about football.

But when do those definitions become judgemental? Where is the line?

Where comes sensitivity and political correctness in play?

Calling one out by ethnical group remains a sign of old school white supremacy and an indication of superiority in ethnic ranking. Words like indigenous always swing a perception of not the norm, different from the rest in them.Or so I believe. Take for example an Australian calling the Aboriginals native Australians now. Or Americans no longer calling the Indians as such but native Americans. A so called new form of respect, but arent they all Americans or Australians, their passports suggest that way.

Being expat and daily exposed to integration and how schools seem to handle all these different nationalities and ethnic groups here in Panama, I can´t help but compare to the topic in my home country.

Why is it politically acceptable in Panama to call them out as chocolate face but in Germany people would look in horror at my kids if they would say it out loud in public?!

I make no secret of it, that I am proud for my kids to grow up as third culture kids. I love that they have to opportunity to grow up multi-cultural and trilingual. They are exposed to national pride, flag rising Monday mornings, folklore classes and ethnic group days. Unthinkable in Germany. I have learned to let go of my German accuracy, or at least some of it and trade it for personal freedom and more tolerance.

Feel free to fire away your thoughts and experience below!

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