In the UK in the last few years there has been an ongoing conversation about whether young people nowadays have to grow up too quickly. Numerous news items indicate this is increasingly seen to be the trend, and additional governmental research appears to also support this.
This is naturally a subjective topic and one that can be too easily generalised. For example, what does it actually mean to grow up too quickly? Will young people have different responsibilities placed on them in the 21st century to that of previous generations? And, given there are lots of aspects to growing up, are they all now happening at an earlier age, or just a number of prominent ones we are more aware of?
But, that said, after spending a few weeks working in New Zealand it was certainly apparent there were some very stark differences between teenagers growing up in the UK and in Auckland.
Wearing make up
Very few of the female school students in New Zealand wore any make-up and seemed surprised when I asked about this given it has become so commonplace amongst younger British teenagers.
‘Make up doesn’t really interest us. A few of our friends might wear a bit but it’s just something that we don’t really think of.’
Playing sport… together?
During lunch breaks in a school programme I was supporting, groups of teenagers (both girls and girls) would readily play sport together – be it touch-rugby, football or volleyball. And this wasn’t a minority; they all very actively wanted to play together and were comfortable in doing so. No one seemed concerned that they’d build up a sweat before their return to class in the afternoon.
‘It’s fun to do all of this together. Boys and girls don’t play together in the UK? Why not?’
Young people are comfortable singing here – well, much more so than in the UK from my own experience. A large part of Maori culture is the Waiata – songs often sung to recognise guest speakers or to show appreciation. But alongside such formal occasions I would regularly see a couple of students carrying guitars around. This of course isn’t unusual – you see them in the UK; but rarely have I seen the guitar simply being then passed around a group as they were here, with many kids having at least a bit of a sing or a play.