Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cultural Differences

Ok, so over here, I'm the weirdo and I'm cool with being a weirdo. I am accepting and embracing my weirdoness, trying not to be culturally biased (I'm afraid I am failing at this) and it's all good. Infact, we have been the oddity since we got here with our cute, blue eyed, blonde curly haired 2 year old (over a year ago) in tow. We have been pointed at, stared at, followed, photographed, mimicked and mocked. We get the piss taken out of us at frequent intervals, been misunderstood (intentionally and unintentionally), laughed at and with, ripped-off and beaten around the bush. We have even been refused several rides in several taxis, just because we're Western and it's too much trouble to listen to our attempts at mandarin and try to understand us. Just too hard.

And that was without the newborn.

Now add harrassment into all of the above. I get that the Chinese way of bringing up little ones is much different to the Aussie way of doing things and we're not in Kansas anymore. I also get that here, children and babies are so cherished and not taken for granted, thanks to the one child policy (they can have more than one - at a cost and multiple births are the only way around it). I get that people here are a little starved (it would seem) of bubba love. I also get that people generally are just trying to care/take an interest/help/be friendly.

We have had a couple of scenarios over the last couple of weeks where when we are asked how old our baby is and we give an honest answer. At first there is a shocked response, then there is the muttering with anyone in ear-shot behind hands (as if we can't hear or understand), or going to get random other people and coming back, to point and stare and be shocked with, then there is the shaking of heads and tutting, the pointing of fingers and what we can work out pretty plainly as being a general telling-off.

According to the lovely waiter we met (and some of our Chinese friends), babies should not leave the home until they are 100 days old. And neither should the mother.

Two words - Bugger and That. I mean really? You can't be bloody serious!

Then on Tuesday, I was heading off to playgroup at Lido with Jie-Jie (binks) and needed to get a taxi. It was a beautiful blue sky day and about 30 degrees at 10am. As you might imagine, Jie-Jie (binks) was in a summery skirt and t-shirt (and looking very cute and girly). I hail a taxi and wait for it to pull up. In the meantime, two Chinese women come over, poke their heads in my pram, look at me and look at each other and start ranting. I can see they are desperately trying to tell me something. I know what it is, but actually, I am a 32 year old mother of two and I don't need to be told, so I take the polite option 'Ting bu dong' (I don't understand) 'debuchi' (sorry) (excuse my pinyin, it sucks).

This seems to ramp things up a bit and they become more aggitated and in my face. Their communication skills improve exponentially, aided with miming.

At this point, I have to ask why does miming work for them when they need to tell me I am a bad mother for under dressing my children and why the hell am I even outside my home and not for me when I want 2 minute chicken noodles? Geez guys, throw me a frickin bone here...

Mei Mei had no Maozi (beanie/hat/coif) on (crime #1), no woollen cardigan (crime #2) and no socks (abomination unto Nuggan oh my god the world will end!). The taxi has pulled up while all this is happening, a security guard has come to see what the fuss is all about and me, I'm just wanting to be allowed to go on with my businness, get to Playgroup and have a nice day, ya know?

So eventually frustration kicks in, I tell them to piss off (and they pretend not to get my drift and get more in my face). I get Jie Jie (binks) in the taxi, Mei Mei next to her in her capsule, collapse the pram, get it in the (already full and that's another rant) boot and push them out of the way (they are now at the window pointing and yelling at me) so I can get in taxi and get the hell out of there. Resisting the urge to really let it fly and give a few hand gestures as we depart.

Then I get to where I am going and the guys on the door at the venue help me out of the taxi (angels, bless them). As I am walking along, there's more staring etc and a random guy walks along side me, staring in the pram, gets in front of me and then stops right in front of the pram, blocking my way, preventing me from going anywhere, just so he can have a better look in my pram. I mean FFS! So I look at him, smile, say Xie-Xie and Zai Jian (thankyou and goodbye) when he compliments me on my two beautiful babies and arrive 40 minutes late at Playgroup.

So you think I have it easy here?

Again with the wisful clicking of heels and no place like home. I'd seriously just like to be able to go out with my kids and not be hassled. Just for once. Too much to ask?


  1. Hmm, all sounds quite shitty really.
    The only thing I can suggest (and I'm trying to work out how it would best work) is to employ the tactics my Mum did when visiting Beijing in 2000.

    She had a shirt made up that says to the extent "I'm only looking, I have no money, please don't follow me" as she was so constantly harrassed in the markets. It was printed front and back.

    Perhaps a light cloth that you can drape over the pram some way (like here when there's a light blanket to shade the babe) with a polite comment to the effects of "Thank you for your concern. Being from Australia, we do things a little differently and I would like to keep to my traditions as you do to yours."

    So that might be a little wordy but you catch my drift. See if you have a friend who can help and translate and find a non-offensive way of saying fuck off ;)

  2. Bloody hell.! How incredibly rude!

    I'd be tempted to learn a few words that were less than polite.

    Perhaps you should start charging them money for a perve. Then maybe they'll piss off faster. Let's face it, they all rip you off at the first opportunity, they can start paying for their intrusion.

    And just remember. You do know what you are doing and don't even consider for a moment that their tutting has any footing in reality. Don't let them make you doubt your decisions.

    They do things differently yes. I bet our stats on children's health and growth walk all over their's.

    You know what's best for your kids!!

  3. I guess you grit your teeth and get on with it. Obviously you are doing something right, you have two absolutely gorgeous children.