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"Where is the hat?" (vent)

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
In the winter, I hear this time and time again. We live in Eastern Europe. It's snowing, but not really all that cold. They bundle up their kids excessively, in my opinion. At the slightest hint of anything cold, it is ski coats, hats and gloves. We went out for a quick stroll tonight, and once again, a random stranger felt the need to ask why my three and a half year old DD, with lots of hair, was not wearing a hat.

It happens all the time. On a daily basis. I've tried being nice about it. Normally, I reply "We're fine, thanks!". If I am feeling crabby I'll say "Please mind your own business" or "Sorry, I don't understand your language". If I am feeling talkative, I'll explain that where I am from, people don't put hats on kids when the weather is like that, and we're all fine .

I have tried seeing this comment in a positive light. After all, it shows they really care, right? I have tried putting a hat on my DD (who doesn't like it) to shut them up.

Tonight, I was already angry and took the kids out for a quick stroll so we could all relax and get some fresh air. Then came the hat comment. Again. I couldn't be bothered to explain to this random stranger that we were only out for a couple of minutes, that it was not even below zero, and that we were truly fine. I am not accountable to someone I never met before and will never meet again. So I snapped. "Perhaps that's what you do, but where I come from, we don't. We're fine".

"Oh yes, so where are you from then, if I may ask?" he replied. I answered. He then accused me of being racist, and asked me why I didn't go back to where I came from, then. That never happened to me before. I told him that, in fact, I really love this country, that it is a beautiful place, but that I just wished that people could accept that different people have different habits, and that there are all OK. That there is not one way of doing things that is right, and all the other ways are wrong.

"No, it is cold, your children are small. They need a hat."



This is so petty, isn't it? I really felt the need to come here and rant about this. I know that I should accept the local culture and so on, rather than moan about stupid little things like that, but for some reason this one really annoys me.

Anyone else? Any suggestions?
post #2 of 53
Ugh! How rude!!

This is really common here in Europe and a really common complaint us N.American expats have who live here so don't feel alone!!! On another forum years ago, they asked what was annoying where everyone lived. This came up about 10,000 times in different forms. It was finally dubbed "The Evil Wind Syndrome" meaning that the wind carries everything bad and we should shield ourselves from even the smallest breeze at every moment...

Here in this part of France, they are paranoid of open windows. Our ped supports me in the view that a little fresh air is GOOD for kids. I've actually had arguments with other parents over this in the waiting room. "No" I'll insist, "Stale air is BAD for your child. Cold air is not necessarily bad for him. Stale air is WORSE for them than 5 minutes of cold air..." One woman said "...for my baby..." and I answered "this IS for the health of your baby. There are germs in this room which need to get out..." The ped just laughs. He's not originally from here and I'll hear the lecture on "these people" again...

What I do now is as soon as I enter now, before anyone can say anything, I'll comment loudly "It stinks here!" in French and immediately open the window before anyone can move. No one dares say anything now because they're too embarrassed to be the source of the stink

Another annoyance is that they'll blame sicknesses on cold weather or weather changes. I'll say something immediately because this is just so wrong and I come from a medical family so it'll go something like this; "Look, if my nurse mother and my doctor father heard someone say that, they would lecture them for an hour about how viruses and bacteria cause illness, NOT temperature..." totally true. If that doesn't shut them up I add; "I'm from California. It's hot there. We get sick just as much as you all do here in France. Trust me, when I get sick, I'd rather have a temperature when it's cold out. Do you know what it's like to have a temp of 102 and it's 102 outside??" Again, totally true! Then I'll go to describe what it's like to have all your nasal passages dry up... and they're really regretting having mentioned the weather by then!

What I don't like is when I see babies under rain covers when it isn't really that cold out. Tiny babies wrapped up like Frosty the Snowman and they're breathing in the carbon monoxide... I'll even say something. "Oh no, don't forget to lift up that plastic. Not good for baby..." A bit of coldish air is definitely better than too much carbon monoxide!!

What makes this worse is that my kids are really hot-blooded. They never get cold. They refuse to wear their jackets once it's above freezing. They are always complaining they're too hot. I'll even say to them "Put on your jacket or everyone will think I'm a bad mother!" "Boil because this is your country and you're supposed to wear all this heavy stuff when it's not even that cold out..."

The problem is really the cultural norms. Here in Europe, they're much lower. When I'm in N.America, I can get rid of someone or shut them up with a "It's fine" or "I know". Doesn't work here. You have to go for the jugular.

I'll never forget a Swedish friend who found us Californians so annoying. "You're so cagey! I never know what you're thinking..." Here in Europe, the appreciate frankness. What would be totally rude and unthinkable back home is standard here (says someone who just argued with a French police officer today-hey, he WAS blocking traffic...)

In the same vein, he might have not meant to be as rude as he came across to you! True? Not? You decide!

So, how do you be frank and honest without coming across rude? Well, be frank and earnest but don't insult or belittle. Just spit out the facts. "Oh no, you're NOT going to tell me to put hat on my children. We're only out for ONE MINUTE. They never get sick and every time we step out the door and they don't have their hats on for a second, I get comments..." The Europeans don't think having an opinion is necessarily a Bad Thing, as it can be back home where we're all supposed to be cozy and friendly to each other every minute of our lives...

Or you can do the opposite. "Oh no, I forgot the hats again. They'll probably freeze. Thanks for pointing it out..." A little more wimpy but I've done it... But I'd take it in the same vein as "Your child should be wearing an apron while doing that art project" "You're right. Now he's a mess and I'll have to wash his shirt. I'll probably need a good soak. Too late now..." Sometimes they are right. I just confirm it and move on...

Then there's the simple not-understanding technique. Proceed with care with that one because my children speak French between them so they bust my cover. I'll actually not bother with it at all. Someone will be in process of saying something to me (or trying to) and I'll just turn around and say to one of the kids "What are you doing?!? Get down from there!" or similar. It's really, really hard to talk to someone in the middle of scolding or speaking intensely to a child... I'm not ignoring them. I'm shutting them out completely!

Also, don't answer stranger's personal questions unless they have a reason to ask you. They have no right to know where you're from. I'll even ask why. Or if I'm being more generous, I'll make them guess. First country they say, wins

I don't agree that different ways are necessarily all the same. In many cases, there are better ways than others. When I see the way they strap their children into cars, it makes my blood boil. Just because they're French, or European, or whatever doesn't justify their disregard for their childrens' safety. Sorry.

Every old wives' tale has a grain of truth. The cold can lower your immune system but usually this is a result of prolonged exposure. Another lecture topic if they mention the Evil Wind again...

I'd love to tell you that you'll get used to it but that wouldn't be fair. The truth is that you'll learn to handle it but while there are things you love about the country where you live, make peace with what you don't love and never will.

I lived in France before I had children and I thought I had these people all figured out and then I had kids, and I found myself drowning in various cultural pitfalls all over again...

Bonne courage, as they say here!
post #3 of 53
Oh that drives me insane, and I live in the same town/culture I was born into! It can be 60 degrees out and I'm 'freezing the baby to death'. Both of mine hate hats and socks so I hear it a lot!
I try to just nod and smile but it gets old.
post #4 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
"Boil because this is your country and you're supposed to wear all this heavy stuff when it's not even that cold out..."
That cracked me up!

Thank you so much for that long reply, Eclipsepearl, that really made me feel a lot better. I know I won't get used to it, and I know it won't get better. I have been here for nearly five years now . Still, these are the times that I feel homesick, as well as just annoyed.

I totally agree with you about not answering personal questions as well. People have no business poking into your lives just because you have a funny accent . Sometimes, I do what you do and let them think whatever they want to say. Sometimes I answer. Sometimes give totally silly answers.

The thing that worries me is, if they are so militant about small things like hats, then what happens when I have to enrol my kids in school and face the debate about not vaccinating, and similar issues?

Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just respect each other and each others' choices?
post #5 of 53
If I'm in a situation where a stranger is being rude and I don't feel like taking the time to set them straight, I don't hesitate to pretend I'm deaf or say "I don't speak your language" in a heavy accent and then get out of there without giving them another glance. I don't know if this would work if you have children in tow, especially if they were chattering in the stranger's language!

I like the PP's idea of just confirming what they say so you don't give them any room to argue. "Yes, they clearly need hats. Thank you."
post #6 of 53
I'm one of those people that bundless their kids excessively as you put it. We're at -12C right now and I see kids wearing thin sweaters or shorts I'm thinking OMG what the heck is wrong with Americans?? And my poor kids are all bundled up with mittens, gloves, big jackets, etc. And I grew up in Norway so people assume I must be used to it.
But honestly the cold wind feels different from the one back home but that's another subject.

Usually I keep comments to myself here, becuase then people find me extremly rude. But saying that you should go back to your country is stupid. Us Europeans should relax a bit

I find myself asking personal questions to strangers here and they've been nice enough to answer, but I don't mean wrong when I ask them. I just curious and want to know
post #7 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mami to 3 :) View Post
I'm one of those people that bundless their kids excessively as you put it. We're at -12C right now and I see kids wearing thin sweaters or shorts I'm thinking OMG what the heck is wrong with Americans??
Yes, that would be a bit over the top for me as well. I mean, shorts in -12? Do people actually do that? I'm shocked at the thought, but then, these people were shocked because my kids were not wearing hats. Genuinely shocked . FWIW, it was about -1C and my kids were wearing winter coats, good shoes, jeans and socks, just no hats or no gloves.

The comment this guy made about me being a racist (!) probably had something to do with me making a reference to not being from there and not doing what they do because of that. Then, he felt offended and like I was dismissing his whole culture because of the no-hats thing. Or alternatively, the guy was angry because NATO bombed his country 10 years back.
post #8 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post
This is really common here in Europe and a really common complaint us N.American expats have who live here so don't feel alone!!! On another forum years ago, they asked what was annoying where everyone lived. This came up about 10,000 times in different forms. It was finally dubbed "The Evil Wind Syndrome" meaning that the wind carries everything bad and we should shield ourselves from even the smallest breeze at every moment...
This is just too funny. I love The Evil Wind. I can appreciate it with the snow that we got hit with!
post #9 of 53
FWIW, I live in the United States and I get the same comments from Americans too. I'm not sure it's a cultural issue. Maybe a nosiness issue. LOL
post #10 of 53
Cold enough for snow=cold enough that hat and mittens/gloves are necessary.
post #11 of 53
I wanted to add something; do any of your kids play soccer or rugby??

Those kids will be out there in thin clothes, even shorts in freezing weather for hours and no one says a word. Outdoor sports seem to be exempt from the Evil Wind idea here in Europe. I can't really figure it out. Is it because they know that as long as you keep moving, you'll be okay? Are team-sport parents less gullible to the Evil Wind Theory? Are they just hardier souls who know that a bit of fresh air can't do their children any real harm?

It's funny how they make an exception for sports.
post #12 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post
I wanted to add something; do any of your kids play soccer or rugby??

Those kids will be out there in thin clothes, even shorts in freezing weather for hours and no one says a word. Outdoor sports seem to be exempt from the Evil Wind idea here in Europe. I can't really figure it out. Is it because they know that as long as you keep moving, you'll be okay? Are team-sport parents less gullible to the Evil Wind Theory? Are they just hardier souls who know that a bit of fresh air can't do their children any real harm?

It's funny how they make an exception for sports.
You are absolutely right about that. My kid does judo and they have to wear fluffy warm slippers while they are not on the mat, because their feet would obviously freeze without them. On the mats, they have bare feet though, and then their feet won't freeze .

Hardier souls, hahaha... One of my friends keeps calling me "Protestant" and says the no-hat thing is all about hardening the soul
post #13 of 53
Too funny! My son just started judo and what did I do?!? Go out and buy him slippers for going between the locker room and the mat room without getting his feet cold. Then he takes them off when he does his class...

They're corrupted me! Oh no!!

For the record, I'm Jewish so they can't pull the "hardier soul" routine on me
post #14 of 53
Thread Starter 
I just came across this while looking for links between sugar and hyperactivity. Scientific evidence that most body heat does not, in fact, leave the body through the head.
post #15 of 53
LOL! I noticed this when I was visiting my host family in Germany over the summer. I brought a hat for DS because I knew they would freak out if he didn't have one. Of course, he didn't want to wear it, so they decided he needed a hat that tied on so he couldn't take it off. *sigh* So, we bought one of those. He still took it off. Then, once when we were out, we encountered a little girl the same age as he and she was wearing long sleeves, long pants, a jacket...and a hat. In June. In the middle of the day. I've often wondered if European kids ever get heat stroke from all those layers!
post #16 of 53
We have had abnormally intense storms here in Maryland where I live, the last time they got storms like this was in 1922. My children are so over wearing thier huge coats and hats that we have negotiated, wear a sweatshirt from here to the car, and here to the store. Its what 2-5 seconds? A woman said something to us yesterday in the parking lot and I looked at her and said, "Thanks for your concern, but we are fine." but what I wanted to say, "Get your nose out of our business, we firstly aren't from here and haven't had a need for ski gear, secondly we are outside for seconds...not hours!" I feel you...people love to give thier opinion, oh how I would love to give mine half as much!!!
post #17 of 53
I get that a lot too, mostly from MIL. If it's not the hat then it's the socks. Never mind that DD feels toasty warm and will only be outside for the 10 seconds it takes to get from the car into the house.
post #18 of 53
I live in *Texas* of all places and I get it a lot. I think it might be a nosy neighbor thing, not a Eastern Europe thing. How hard is it to keep your opinion to yourself?
post #19 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by MittensKittens View Post
"No, it is cold, your children are small. They need a hat."
Honestly, I agree with him. But I would have just thought it instead of saying it out loud.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mommy2maya View Post
Cold enough for snow=cold enough that hat and mittens/gloves are necessary.
100% agreed. I admit that I would (silently) judge a mom who had kids out in snow without hats/gloves/coats. But no vaxxing is fine with me!

Bottom line is that each of us gets to decide how to parent. I think if we go "against the grain", we shouldn't be surprised to hear comments though. I had a homebirth, and lots of people had comments about that.
post #20 of 53
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirsten View Post
I had a homebirth, and lots of people had comments about that.
Yes, me too - two, and one UC. Fortunately, that's not something people can see when looking at you, unlike the hat thing . Sure we all have different opinions, and that is fine. When I see a kid in a snowsuit in September, I might think that is crazy, but I would never comment. It is safe to assume that the parents have thought their choice through, I think.
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