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Cross-cultural parenting: on being changed by our time in Australia

When Elliot and I arrived in Australia, I had to give a tremendous amount of energy to thinking about how we would get along in Australia, since Elliot’s upbringing and my parenting had been influenced by our context in Tanzania. Since then we’ve both learned some things about how to operate in Australia, and that’s changed both of us. We’ve become more Australian. With about a month to go until the end of this period in Australia, I’ve been reflecting on how we as a parent-child unit have been changed by it.

  1. I’ve become more reliant on the scaffolding available to parents. I haven’t had to think about activities to do, because there’s always stuff to do in Australia, from visits to the playground to free museum seminars for 3 year olds. Elliot’s loved that outings are so much a part of our lives here in Australia, and that so many places have toys.
  2. Friendship has featured more for both of us. Having other mums around has been tremendous for me, but it’s also meant that Elliot has been able to develop ongoing friendships with other children. Perhaps he had these at school in Dodoma, but we didn’t go on playdates or have any children of his age whom we saw together regularly.
  3. Elliot has acquired new skills and interests. He learned to sing nursery rhymes at play group. He learned to ride a balance bike because my folks gave him one and he will soon be ready for a bike with pedals. He has developed gross motor skills he didn’t have before, like climbing and sliding, as he’s watched other children at playgrounds.
  4. I feel I’ve become more anxious as a parent. My relaxed attitude to supervision has been influenced by constantly being questioned about that, and simply by being in a culture that is more uptight about these things.

The things that were vital for us to learn for this season we may well have to unlearn for the next. Elliot will have to become used to a very limited set of toys again, and I’ll have to become more creative in our daily play. We’ll both find our friendship landscapes changed because friendship is different in Tanzania. I don’t know what opportunities there will be to nurture Elliot’s new found skills and interests. I’m wondering whether I’ll be able to relax as a parent once we’re back in Tanzania, or whether the busy urban environment of Dar es Salaam will actually exacerbate my parental anxiety.

This is cross-cultural life: I can’t flip a switch to return to Tanzanian mode because I’m no longer who I was when I left Tanzania, and neither is Elliot. And we’re not returning to the same place in Tanzania, but going somewhere different. We’ll be re-calibrating again, re-learning some things and learning others for the first time.

Categories: Cross-cultural parenting Tanzania Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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