I am not an Animal…

I have a terrible secret, which I am prepared to share for the sake of dialogue. I have a morbid fear of gangs of kids. When I see a gaggle of 11-year old girls in school uniforms, I cross the street. No, I turn, run and hide. In my time in London, I have been harassed three times by child gangs. Doing a short survey of friends and colleagues, only one had not been harassed by child gangs. She had only been here for 3 weeks.

Incident 1: I was on the bus with a group of non-British friends. Some were speaking Italian

7 Comments so far

  1. Sean (unregistered) on November 29th, 2005 @ 9:48 pm

    Daneeta you’re not alone. However, sometimes it easy to overreact. On my train to work for about 30mins of the 45min journey the train turns into a bloody school bus. They are loud, rowdy but never really threatening. Sure, I look forward toa quiet ride to work but i can’t always get that. These kids (mostly 16+age wise) almost always apologise when the crowd people or knock into them. Maybe you’ve just run into a bad crowd three times. As they used to say in Hill Street Blues…. be careful out there.

  2. Rebecca (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 6:16 pm

    Daneeta I remember this very well. It’s not just from children and is one of the reason I’ve not moved back to the UK, much as I miss it. I’ve been living in the USA (Washington, DC) for six years now and NEVER had that experience. In the UK, it was pretty much guaranteed to happen. I think it may be something to do with the cultural differences that in the UK mean that people don’t speak to each other directly, whle in the USA people feel free to do so – whether to compliment you on your shoes or complain about your behavior, thus you don’t get that “talking about in front of” that you get in the UK. Here, when I have to pass through a crowd of children, my hair still stands on end, but I am relieve to find that they say nothing, unless they want to address me directly, in which case they do. The same with adult. Recently I was in a “transitional” neighborhood in Brooklyn. The dog in our group did his business on the sidewalk. We immediately set to cleaning it up. The long term residents started commenting and chuckling, but the difference was that we were welcome to respond, which we did by looking up, smiling and sharing the joke, thus having a brief, pleasant interaction. In the UK, had we responded, it would have been perceived as an escalation. I also feel free to work in my front garden or wash my car, or indulge in eccentric behavior without fear of sarcastic comments from passers by. I’m not saying the USA (or my part of it) is better than the UK – in another conversation I could contrast it very badly – but just that I think there is something in the culture in the UK that lends itself to that kind of behavior. It would be interesting to know if this behaviour does occur in other parts of the USA and in what other countries it is and isn’t typical.
    (I also remember, when living in Hull, UK, having to make the most gruesome threats just to stop the local children vandalizing my car. It worked, but it shocked me that I had to say it like that.)

  3. Roger (unregistered) on December 1st, 2005 @ 3:33 am

    Actually, this behavior occurs quite frequently in the suburbs and rural parts of the US, and not just from children! With the influx of Hispanics and other third-world emigrants, with many non-English speaking, (if that’s what you Brits call what we Yanks speak!)many are accosted at the local Walmart by lower middle-class patrons and even employees with the typical “you’re in America now, speak English” or “goddam foreigners, stealing American jobs and still can’t speak English” statements associated with the US public’s isolationist immigration policies, largely due to the illegals from Mexico! You know, if you’re white, speak English, have a job skill, and are from Europe -welcome to America! if not, go back where you came from! Yes, even in 2005, discrimination and class hatred are still alive and well in the US; can you say that in French?

  4. Rebecca (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2005 @ 7:06 pm

    While I don’t disagree with Roger, there’s a difference between targetted abuse (still inexcusable) and general abuse. In the UK EVERYONE gets abused. People who are in the habit of being abusive to passers by will find an excuse to be abusive of anyone. NO ONE is exempt, unless they are too scary looking to be addressed. This is not about bigotry, it’s about bad habits. Again, I’m not saying that it is better or worse, I’m saying that it is a different phenomenon. (And, as Roger says, it may be that it is common in parts of the USA with which I am not familiar, but I don’t remember there being any part of the UK – and I lived all over – where this didn’t occur.)

  5. Eve (unregistered) on December 7th, 2005 @ 10:44 am

    I know this phenomenon from personal experience as well. but probably it helps when I tell you it is NOT a UK only phenomenon. I live in Germany and it’s the exactly the same here *without the school uniforms*. It’s probably even more weird when I am racially insulted by young boys and girls from a usually foreign background. but more likely are gender discriminating comments from these kids.
    but you’re right wondering about where this bad behaviour comes from. I guess it’s neither education nor parents they learn this behaviour from, it’s probably the lack of both.
    and somtimes it makes me sad that after long struggles for gender equality I see these children growing up with and articulating concepts that I thought already nearly abolished.

  6. K (unregistered) on December 11th, 2005 @ 5:21 am

    I have never personally experienced such poor behaviour in the UK but I certainly did in Ireland. I lived in Dublin for a number of years and there wasn’t a day that you were not confronted with group of what I can best describe as unruly street urchins. Some of the adults weren’t much better. The problem is both cultural and the fear they have instilled in the average person. If more people stop putting up with their stupidity and called them on it, they would think twice before being so rude and unruly.
    I’m from the U.S. and I never witnessed the type of poor behaviour I saw even in New York and I saw a lot in New York. Same for D.C. and Chicago. You have to put them in their place and not be afraid or intimated.

  7. garrett (unregistered) on December 24th, 2005 @ 7:00 pm

    one can never be too careful. better a little paranoid and alive than happy and dead, eh?

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