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Chinese Too Embarrassed To Utter The Words “I Love You” To Family

Posted: 06/17/2014 8:50 am

The awkward father and daughter relationship in the movie Eat Drink Man Woman. Photo credit: Daily Life

Did you know that 87% of Chinese college students find it embarrassing to tell their fathers “I love you”? It’s true, according to Guangzhou Daily.

It’s no secret that Chinese can be emotionally reserved. Although saying “I love you” is common in English, the phrase is rarely expressed among Chinese families, Global Times reported.

“I love you” in Chinese and English. Photo credit: New Castle China Town

Sure, college students might be embarrassed to say it; but, you might be surprised to know that their parents are equally as embarrassed to hear it.

In one clip taken from Anhui TV station showing college students telling their parents they love them, the parents’ responses were priceless: “What is going on?”, “Are you drunk?”, or “Are you pregnant?” One father seen in a similar video clip by Shanghai TV replied bluntly: “I am going to a meeting, so cut the crap.”

The Global Times interviewed Peking University sociologist, Xia Xueluan, who said Chinese parents are different from their American counterparts and are not used to hearing the phrase from their children. Instead of expressing positive emotions, they are more prone to express negative language when educating children, Xia added.

Things change when looking at the actions of those same Chinese students: a full 76% said they would send text messages or call their fathers on Father’s Day. Some said they would help out with household chores or give their fathers a shoulder massage, the report said.

At the end of the day, 98% of respondents will use Weibo or online forums to send their love to their fathers, which will probably be retweeted or seen by hundreds or thousands of people; but, not their fathers.

Photos: Daily Life, New Castle China Town 


Parents Block Traffic To Ensure Students Can Take Gaokao in Silence

Posted: 06/9/2014 5:38 pm

nanjing block traffic exam

The gaokao is nothing short of being the most important moment in a young person’s life. And as desperate times call for desperate actions, parents with only the purest of intentions have taken the extraordinary step of blocking the traffic outside a school in Nanjing, Jiangsu to ensure silence where an English listening examination is taking place, reports Nanfang Daily Report.

A full half hour before the exam began on June 8, parents blocked traffic in front of the No. 9 Nanjing Middle School as media and police looked on. Parents stood in the middle of the road and prevented any motorbikes, electric bikes or bicycles from passing through.

READ: Guangzhou, Shenzhen Gaokao Applicants Sent Off
With Emotion and Pageantry

The parents asked each of the cyclists to take an alternate route, but some of the drivers didn’t take kindly to the inconvenience as several disputes broke out, surely breaking the silence that the parents had intended.

We’ve heard a lot of wild gaokao examination stories lately: students arriving late in Jinan and Hangzhou and forced to take the exam next year; parents blocking an examiner’s car in Zhengzhou because he dared to use his horn when he was late; and, of course, lots and lots of qipao. But this is the one that shows the gaokao is a total family affair.

No words as to whether the tactic aided the gaokao-taking students, nor whether the resultant noise from the arguing disturbed anyone.

nanjing block traffic examnanjing block traffic exam

nanjing block traffic exam

nanjing block traffic exam

The sign above reads:

English listening exam for the next 15 minutes; please find another route, thank you

Photos: 163


Reasons to leave China: two prominent and long-term expats have thrown in the towel

Posted: 07/27/2012 5:22 pm

It seems life in China is always a bit of a balancing act: on the one hand, you get valuable international experience, meet amazing people, eat great food, and generally broaden your horizons substantially. Some who come to China find new skills, new careers, even a spouse. Then there’s the downside: polluted air, dangerous food, traffic, visa runs, and more. Usually the benefits of living in China outweigh the costs, but that has changed for a couple of prominent expats who wrote long essays this week about why they’re leaving China.

The first is Charlie Custer, who made his fame by blogging at ChinaGeeks.  Custer has spent several years in the country and was working on a documentary called Living with Dead Hearts, which delved into the sensitive issue of child kidnappings in China.  Still, he’s probably most famous for calling on CCTV Dialogue host Yang Rui to be fired after Yang unleashed a torrid vitriolic rant against foreign “trash” in Beijing. (You know you’re famous in China when Next Media Animation does a video with you in it.)

Still, Custer felt it was time to go, and left behind a blog post which was published after he was already in the sky and en route to the United States.  He said his two primary reasons for leaving are air quality and food safety, issues that became even more pressing as he and his wife discuss starting a family. But those weren’t the only two issues:

Of course, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t affected by China’s political situation. For someone who truly believes China would be better served by a system that afforded its people, at the very least, a free press and the true rule of law, this has been a depressing couple of years. Depressing, soul-crushing and occasionally terrifying. But if I’m honest with myself, even with the political situation, I really think I’d be staying in Beijing if I felt like I could breathe safely.

I don’t think I’m alone there. I know plenty of families in Beijing, and it’s not my intent to criticize anyone else here; I’m just trying to explain my own rationale. But these are issues everyone here struggles with. And for those Chinese and foreign who, like me, are lucky enough to have the means to move elsewhere, some are going to make that choice. As the data on pollution gets clearer, perhaps more are going to make that choice. And while China has made some strides in agreeing to report things like PM2.5 publicly in some cities, I unfortunately don’t see the pollution problem disappearing anytime soon.

This isn’t really even China’s fault. OK, yes it is, but it’s also a fairly natural (if disgusting) stage of development. I don’t know if industrial-era London every looked quite this bad, but I gather it wasn’t the cleanest place ever. The thing is, though, would you choose to live in industrial revolution London?

That choice, I think, is part of China’s problem. As Chinese salaries go up and the education system gets better — and here’s hoping those things do improve despite what’s looking like a fairly ugly bump in the economic road — more and more people are going to have the same choice I have.

In fact, at least one other expat has made the same choice. Mark Kitto originally came to China in 1986, and might be known (by the longest-of-long term expats in the PRD) as the founder of the That’s magazine franchise (which includes That’s PRD – formerly That’s Guangzhou). Kitto has had his ups-and-downs in the country, but has pretty much lived here since his college days.  His story of how he lost the That’s magazine franchise has become legendary.

But he, too, is leaving. In a multiple-page story in the latest issue of Prospect, he says:

I wanted China to be the place where I made a career and lived my life. For the past 16 years it has been precisely that. But now I will be leaving.

I won’t be rushing back either. I have fallen out of love, woken from my China Dream.

Unfortunately this story is behind a paywall, although I have read a PDF version.  In it, Kitto describes the air and food quality issues, and also the fact his business – he runs a coffee shop in Moganshan in Shanghai – could be taken from him at any time. His primary concern though, he said, is for his children’s education.  He painted a bleak picture of China’s gaokao system and says the country’s schools are nothing more than testing factories.

He also observes China’s growth over the years; he said in the late 1980s (before Tiananmen Square) there was a spirit of community and optimism that turned to consumerism and individualism following the crackdown.

Kitto and Custer aren’t the first two expats to decide they’ve had enough; the question is whether this is a growing trend. Or, perhaps, China is meant for the young: once a spouse and kids are in the picture, the negative side of living here begins to outweigh the positive and China loses its lustre.

The headline of Kitto’s column does make a good point though. No matter how long we stay, or how good our Mandarin is: “You’ll never be Chinese.”

(The front page image is of Mark Kitto and his family. The image originally appeared in Prospect magazine).


At 40,000 RMB a week, Spring Festival is looking more like Spring Disaster

Posted: 02/1/2012 12:38 pm

Monday was chuba, the eighth day of the new year. For most of us, it was the day to get back to work after a short but joyous Chunjie, and also the day to start collecting red packets from employers.

Reunions with family and loved ones aside, as Southern Metropolis Daily (SMD) reported this week, the lunar new year is increasingly a holiday of heavy cash flow and difficult to enjoy without handing out at least 10,000 RMB—or more, depending on one’s position in the family hierarchy. Younger PRDers, meanwhile, complain that between visits to friends and relatives, dinner parties and other outings and, for the married among us, the handing out of red packets, year-end bonuses now tend to be gone almost as soon as they arrive.

In telling this story, SMD profiled 30-year-old Wang, a media professional in Guangzhou who spent more than 40,000 RMB this Chunjie. The standard fare for a red packet, she says, has gone from 300 RMB up now to 500 RMB. People also have higher expectations for gifts. Keen to ‘save face’ as much as they can without going bankrupt, people now tend to guess the costs of incoming gifts and send more expensive gifts in return. According to Wang, all this back-and-forth has grown far too complicated: “To be honest,” she says, “I don’t really want to go home for Chunjie.”

A new kind of Chunjie—春劫, meaning “spring disaster”—is a term now used quite frequently online to describe people’s experiences around this time of year. Experts say this new “Chunjie” phenomenon represents a shift in the value people now place on traditional culture.

“Not only during Spring Festival,” writes Hu Qiuye, a well-known cultural studies scholar. “We can see one-upmanship in many other ways and customs; values have been twisted such that the first standard to measure a person’s success now depends on the amount of money in his pocket.”

As for Wang, here’s where her 40,000 RMB went this year:

Round-trip tickets for her and her boyfriend: 4,500 RMB
Gifts: 11,000 RMB
Restaurant bills: 2,000 RMB
Lucky money (red packets): 4,000 RMB
Cash for Mother: 20,000 RMB

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