The following account was given to the museum, as part of the forthcoming community exhibition with the Multicultural Friendship Association. We will be sharing more stories with you over the next few months. Many thanks to Cirlei and other participating members of the Multicultural Friendship Association.
I was asked to write about some of my early experiences I had when moving from my country to England. When you move from one country to another, you are exposed to a completely new experiences and lifestyle. Every day brings new discoveries around culture, people, food, places, customs, and language barriers, until you get used to your new home and know what to expect from their surroundings. So, these are some of my early experiences adapting to the new way of life in North Somerset.
I was born in Brazil and I came to England in 1999 with my two boys, 3 and 5 years old, and my ex-husband. We moved to Banwell, a village 5 miles from Weston-super-Mare. During my first weeks here, the biggest impact I felt was with the English climate. I came from a region in Brazil where the climate is predominantly dry and hot, with only two seasons, dry and wet seasons. Most of the time, it is so hot over there that you better avoid the sun between 11 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. My first house in Banwell was a 200-year-old cottage, dark and very cold, located in a very dark street, the Dark Lane. Though I arrived in July, mid-summer, I spent my first two weeks with the heating and fire on all the time. Two of my closed neighbours used to laugh at my struggle to acclimate with the cold wet English summer. My neighbours were nice and kind, and they brought me some warm jumpers, what helped a lot. They also helped me to connect with other people in the village and to understand the village way of life. I have to say I came to love the English countryside and the rapid changes of the landscape between the seasons.
Developing English language skills is an ongoing and hard process, and I am still not done. When I arrived here, my English was very limited. And, probably, as most people who come to live here and have English as their additional language, I could make a list of situations when or I was misunderstood or I would misinterpret what people said. Few weeks after I arrived in Banwell, I went to the primary local school to register my eldest boy. The teacher who was filling the form and asking the questions, asked me if my son had siblings. I didn’t know what siblings meant. My first thought was that could mean a childhood disease, so I said: “ he had chickenpox, measles, but I don’t think he had siblings”. Why didn’t she say brothers and sisters!? I think that teacher will never forget my gaffe.
Another difference between Brazil and England that I had to learn by doing the wrong thing was about children’s party. In Brazil, children’s party usually have a specific time to start, but not to finish. It usually finishes when the last guest leaves and adults are also invited for the party. My boys were invited for their first birthday party, which was on a Saturday between 2pm and 4pm. I wasn’t aware of the two hours restriction time for the party (which of course was on the invitation), and I went to pick the boys up at 4.30 pm. When I arrived at the house, the birthday child’s mother was outside the front door waiting for me with my boys, the last two to leave. Of course, she reminded me that the party was on only for two hours. My boys weren’t happy either. I apologized embarrassedly. So, I learn something that day and I thought that was a great idea! So, very soon I adapted the two hours limited for my boys’ birthday parties. Much easier!