It was Valentine’s Day yesterday. In Finland it’s also known as Friend’s Day. As a temporary single parent – the other went to a country where electricity and water don’t come for granted – as felt entitled to post a picture on FB stating: Roses are red chocolate is brown you’re getting neither so calm the fuck down.

Talky, who was ready to get to his Valentine’s Day date, saw that. And found it absolutely hilarious. Mom, you’re using the f-word, I have to take a picture and send it to my friends. 

That brief moment made me very grateful for taking Talky to South Africa. Firstly, because even after a year and a half he still finds use of swear words upsetting. Secondly, he had bought a heart shaped box of chocolate to his Valentine’s date. That moment also made me grateful for placing him in an international class instead of a Finnish class. Neither would have happened had he grown up just in Finland and gone to a (culturally) Finnish class.

In South Africa ANY use of swear words was – is – totally bad manners, and tells everybody that you have serious issues. In Finland more or less everybody uses them all the time. In teen talk as often as every second word, in business once a sentence.

What comes to the box of chocolate, I found it so sweet. However, to protect his innocent excitement, I had to ask him if he’d like a plastic bag for the box. Because the idea of an 11 year old black boy walking out there carrying a big heart shaped box of chocolate to me felt like asking for trouble. How sad is that?


A (not so) long story short: Talky has tasted wine. He can even pour wine as a pro. He was taught – the pouring part – by his best friend’s father. To impress the ladies.

Well. In Finland they do health checks at schools. Often accompanied with a questionnaire. One of the Grade 5 questions was have you tasted alcohol? Talky, obviously knowing alcohol and minors is a big taboo in Finland, asked what he should write there. Eventually we agreed that yes, in South Africa was a good answer. Not lying, hopefully not getting social workers knocking on the door.

I recall Talky having lovely table manners before we moved to South Africa. Restaurants with playgrounds quickly washed them down the toilet. Yet what comes to people manners, South Africa beats Finland 6-0. Unless it’s a racial confrontation. Then we’re equal.


The lollipop in the picture was given to Talky by his Valentine’s date. As she goes to a Finnish (language) school, I’ll remain hopeful things and bad or ignorant manners can change. In the meantime, I’m just pleased when Talky refuses from being friends with boys his age who swear or talk rudely, especially to their mothers.


Comments & questions