A Cup of Jo is one of my all time favourite lifestyle blogs. Her posts are consistent and the writing is just so likeable, for want of a better word.
As the queen of blogging prep she lined up a series of guest posts to keep the content coming whilst giving birth to her second child, including a series about motherhood in different countries. Parenting is not a topic I ever read about but learning about different countries and cultures through this perspective presented a unique take on different lifestyles.
I thought I’d round up the 10 most surprising facts I learnt about parenting, and life, in other countries through reading the posts. Here goes:
On appliances in Northern Ireland: ‘Priorities are completely different when it comes to home appliances. Washing machines are tiny. Refrigerators are tiny. I haven’t had a freezer for a year and half. But every home has an electric tea kettle. EVERY SINGLE HOME.’
On clothes in Congo: ‘Congolese women have serious style. Everywhere you look, they’re wearing fabulous, wild-colored, curve-hugging dresses. Old, young, thick, thin. There are no allowances for “mom-uniforms,” like workout clothes. If I wear sweatpants on a vacation day, the nannies all give me looks and suggest I have a dress made. Hiring a tailor for some custom work is not something reserved for the rich in Congo.”
On greetings in Mexico: ‘Mexican mamas do this really great thing where they teach their children to greet adults with a peck on the cheek. It doesn’t matter if the child is 2, 12 or 22. It doesn’t matter if the child runs into you at the local market or comes into your home for dinner. A well-mannered child will always saludar bien—greet properly with a kiss.’
On walking to school in Japan: “All the kids in our town meet in the road and walk to school together…as young as seven. The elder people in the neighborhood volunteer to make sure the kids safely cross the roads.’
On being a woman in Abu Dhabi: ‘while I was pregnant with Elena and went to the local hospital for routine visits, my husband would have to sit in a separate male waiting room.’
On street art in Mexico: ‘Diego Rivera, one of Mexico’s most beloved artists, believed that art should be enjoyed by everyone—especially the working class and the poor. So he dedicated himself to painting murals in public spaces. Mexico City is all about this idea of “art for the people.” ‘
On friendliness in Norway: ‘there’s no American pressure to be friendly and “on” all the time. It’s okay to be quiet and keep to yourself. I love getting a haircut here because I don’t feel pressure to make small talk with the stylist.’
On breastfeeding in Congo: ‘Mama NouNou told me that in her experience, if there is a baby crying on the bus, all the women on the bus shout, “Feed the baby! Give it the breast!” She explained it as, “Everyone wants the mama to know that she should feel comfortable feeding her baby—no matter where she is.”‘
On community in Japan: ‘Community is everything here. The town holds lots of events, and everyone goes. Once a month everyone gets together to clean the neighborhood and local Buddhist temple. When you’re out walking around you always have to “do greeting,” which is a formal bow and hello. It’s so nice, but also sometimes I think, leave me alone! In New York I could be anonymous and never know my neighbors.’
On school in Norway: ‘Most kids here start Barnehage [pre-school] when they’re one year old—it’s subsidized by the government to encourage people to go back to work. You pay $300 a month and your kids can stay from 8am to 5pm. They spend a ton of time outside, mostly playing and exploring nature. At some Barnehage, they only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees.’
On midwife visits in Northern Ireland: The absolute best part of having a baby in Northern Ireland (besides it being free) is that you don’t have to leave your house for any pesky doctor’s appointments. The first week I was home with Ollie, a midwife came to my house every day to weigh him and see how I was feeling. Once she finished all her visits, the “Health Visitor” took over, and now I never have to leave the house to take any of my kids to their wellness checks. It’s amazing. I’m still trying to figure out why the U.S. doesn’t do it. It would solve so many early postpartum issues.
On birth in Congo: ‘For a woman who gives birth in one of the many tiny maternity clinics around the city, the result of not paying the bill is often hospital lockdown—for mom, baby or both. We visited a friend’s charity clinic where women can receive care for no fee, but most American women would be shocked by the conditions. We wrote about them here.’ Please take a look at the photos – Carla.
Read all of A Cup of Jo Surprising things about Parenting around the world
I really encourage you to take a look at some of these posts. Living in the UK I found that reading the Northern Ireland one allowed me to see elements of British culture, life and politics so clearly. The 12 year old boys who sit around drinking tea after pushing each other around in the mud, the healthcare system which allows you to get whatever you need during pregnancy for free and the children’s books full of dark, adult humour that is just so typically British… it all made me smile.
These posts also gave me a glimpse into how others live around the world. There are cultural elements in practice that I adore and it felt like a privilege to learn about them.