No F-word please I'm English

23 August 2017

Dear friend,

One of the things that really shocked me when I moved to Holland was the lack of censorship. On one of my first visits here I remember listening to the radio in the car and trying to decipher what was being said only to be confronted  with the F-bomb more than once! Songs are not censored and neither are the presenters and although there isn't gratuitous swearing it does happen.

When I grew up the only swear word we were allowed to use at home was crap. Don't get me wrong I did go through a phase in my teens when I had a serious case of potty mouth but I would never have dared continue that at home and face the wrath of my dad. God forbid the F-bomb should pop out or we would be in serious trouble. There was definitely a time and place for swearing and it wasn't at home!

The UK censorship laws also prohibit the use of public obscenity. No swearing allowed before 9 on mainstream TV and radio. It used to be punishable to swear in public too, however, in 2011 a High Court judge ruled that people should not be punished for hurling obscenities in public because such words are now so common they no longer cause distress.

Has swearing lost the power to shock us?

I think living in a land without censorship did mean that I became desensitised to swearing, the shock factor had gone but that was until my children came along...

I felt that swearing around my kids was just wrong! People regularly tell us that kids are like sponges, soaking up their environment and copying the behaviour that they see. I didn't want my cute little darlings uttering obscenities and I knew it would give my mother a heart attack so we listened to children's CDs and nursery rhymes and avoided the radio.

But then my kids got older. The eldest got into music in a big way, he started DJ lessons and began following the SLAM top 40.  As certain songs appeared on the radio or TV I would flip the channel over or mutter about the inappropriateness of this language. Hubby however took a different stance. This is Holland, we don't censor. I don't understand the problem. This lead to many heated discussions at the dinner table.

For some time my little DJ would sit in the passenger seat of the car and when a 'bad' song came on would dim the volume at the key moment and smile at me. Job done - mummy was happy, papa would laugh! But then I started to think about my behaviour. Why was I so worried? Did I think that by exposing my kids to profanity they would start to use it? Did I think it was damaging them in some way? Or was my negative reaction actually causing my kids stress?

There is no research to say that swearing is damaging to children. Directing abusive language at children is of course damaging but hearing swearing? Lets face it who is going to allow their kids to sit and listen to swearing for research purposes so there probably isn't any research available?!

I started to look at my behaviour and communicate more with my kids instead of just shutting down or getting cross. We discussed the difference between growing up in Holland and England and we discussed how mummy felt uncomfortable with bad language because she never heard it growing up. We talked about the watershed in the UK. We discussed why people swear (when they are angry, to express something strongly, or to abuse others.) We were clear that using profanity as abuse is wrong.

I am confident that my kids know there is a time and a place for certain types of language. 

A few days later we had a party with friends and someone swore. My eldest explained that in our house we don't swear until after 9 because mum is English. It made us all laugh and the joke is now set - whenever anyone swears we say;  After 9! 

I don't think I will ever be totally comfortable around people who swear gratuitously but maybe I am becoming more Dutch as I find the censorship peep used in UK TV very annoying and I feel really patronised when UK presenters give the; We apologise for any offence caused... speech when someone drops the F-bomb on their programs.

Maybe the judge was right and because Holland does not have censorship, swearing has become more common to me so no longer causes me distress.

What do you think? Should we still be shocked by swearing?

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Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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