Privacy and public debate

For the past week, China’s social medias were flooded with comments on a private scandal. Former Olympic Badminton player Lin Dan had been filmed when giving some intimate gestures to a pretty woman before the hotel’s curtain was shut down. Anger and criticism went viral in the internet, especially because his wife, another former world champion just gave birth to their son two weeks ago.

Well, everyone believed to have right to comment on a celebrity’s life, where privacy and public image are confused. The majority expressed their condemnation on Lin’s betrayal, considering an extramarital behavior was the first sin of a man, especially of a successful man. His legends collapsed and people mocked about their ten-years’ true love story.

After first waves of criticism directed to the national idol, many began to point out the naive and aberrant action of all internet users, who were supposed not to take others’ privacy as an official trial. Some even claimed that all the emotions were just a show which reveals the emptiness of our social life.

The counter motion was triggered, refuting this cynic conclusion and justifying their roles in defending the moral duty. While men were accused of their compulsive animality, women were satirized though their increasing self-respect.

To many’s surprise, the wife tweeted a disappointing response several days later, claiming that she would forgive her husband since the later had acknowledged the fault.The internet went even crazier. Some cried on the typical weakness of women, some thrilled with the happy ending, some seemed  find justification of being wrong, some called love illusion and marriage a cruel trap and some just laughed at all discussion.

“You know, China is very interesting.” Many foreigners told me. A famous young writer also admits that life was even more interesting than some American TV shows because everyone seems so involved but the next episode is never predictable.

Then, one week later, other news began to top all social medias. The former champions can finally sit down and talk about their private problems while all internet users still suffer with their own problems and lose hope to seek an example to apply accordingly.

What is American culture?

Halloween is still far away but Claire incessantly plans to be dressed up as Elsa or Anna, the main characters of the famous Disney Film Frozen. Again and again, she draws pictures about them and never seems tired when we read books adapted from the film. She is always seduced by its derivatives, such as T-shirt, Swim Suit, Towel, Headgear, even insisting to buy crackers which has the same theme package.


“Crazy!””Boring!” “Naive!” These were the usual comments I received from my friends in China, who believe that America is a cultural desert, especially when we actually live in the desert. It’s normal to hold the stereotype. I’m also victim of biased opinion. I understood well the disappointment of my former colleagues and friends in university, who deplored that I would go to US instead of France. Now they seemed to catch enough evidence to ascertain their prediction, when I said that my girl, at school, was singing and dancing with Elle King or Pink on radio. “That’s American cultural, you see, that’s junk food.” The criticism was so fierce that I felt suddenly guilty and hopeless.


Claire does love princesses best. She wants to be beautiful every day, in skirt. She admires Elsa to have magic, although we have told her many times that Anna is more attractive by her kindness. “That’s silly! You don’t want your daughter to be a doll?!””Princess and prince, very banal dreams!” The concerns were overwhelming. So I replied:”She also loves Clifford, LadyBug Girl, even Peter the cat!”

However, when I see Claire so happy, singing, dancing and dreaming, all my concerns were blown away. We are so mean to a child and unconsciously want to formate him or her as a wise grownup with critical thinking and strong individuality. But we forgot our childhood and even our youth, when we were as much crazy as them for some other silly things.  I love Frozen too and the variety on radio makes me feel free to dance with Claire. Even she is now so narrowed in her taste, she is Happy and Hopeful.

What is American culture? I don’t know, pretending it’s a silly question.

Because I’m a Chinese girl

At playground, Claire is always reluctant to try the Monkey Bar while other kids seems so good at it. “You can do it, just try!” In spite of our encouragements, she turns herself quickly away. If we continue to push her, she would say, “because I’m a Chinese girl”. She has made a good reasoning, since in China, we hardly see Monkey Bars in Kindergarten and she had never tried them before.

She will soon turn 5 and we are considering to put her bed in her own room. When her friends came for a playdate, we felt embarrassed to explain that she was still sleeping in our room because the other room is downstairs which makes her feel unsafe. In fact, kids and parents co-sleep much longer in China than in other countries. Now she still sticks to this idea and refuses to embrace her freedom: “because I’m a Chinese girl”.

We call her grandma from time to time and each time she reminds us to protect more and better her granddaughter, because Claire is different and the only one. The other day, when we mentioned that American young people were all financially independent and that young couple had tight budget, she repeated that we should absolutely save money in bank for our daughter’s future, because we were definitely a Chinese family.

I never have considered seriously the question of identity, believing that American is after all a “cultural melting pot”. I’m never involved in any discussion about the competition between US and China, believing that nationalism is an evil. We didn’t see much olympic games, avoiding the discussion of national pride at table but cheering for the admirable beauty and strength of certain athletes.

However, even all ethnics can enjoy the equal rights and been treated fairly, we still face so many questions risen from identity. Some are pseudo-problems, like the Monkey Bar, some are traditions, like co-sleeping, some are just personal perspective, like the financement. There are not big deals. But some are serious, like the recent Chinese community protest demonstration in Paris. Living in this multi-culturiste society, I’m shocked everyday by the media focus on race hatred.

One Chinese mom has decided to change school for her daughter, because she is the only Chinese girl in her grade with the majority of white people. She supposed that there would be more bully and more discrimination towards her daughter. She is more concerned about her daughter’s feeling of others’ judgements.

Claire is only 5 and she is lucky. She hasn’t experienced unreasonable harm caused by her identity. When one of her friend told her that his parents would forbid him from going to China even when he was grownup, she just made a sound comment: “Yes, because you may probably be sick by the smog, like me.”Her daddy and me didn’t make any further comments on this story, although we were kind of disappointed by the image of China that these parents might hold.

But Claire does become more and more aware of her identity and attributes it as excuse, guilty, frustration and loneliness. What I want to tell her is: Everyone is different, that’s nature, but everyone can be good, kind and strong. Keep trying!

Small talk

I’m not good at small talk, although I’ve been learning foreign languages for years and always remind my students to be willing to begin small talk with foreigners.

For some people, small talk is easy and it hardly varies from one situation to another. Just say “Hello” and “How are you doing?”, and “good”, “good”, “it’s a nice day”, “have a good day”. That’s it. Whether your are in a hurry or available for a long discussion, the small talk is definitely necessary, especially when it helps to build up or maintain your positive image.

As many of my students, I sometimes feel embarrassed to answer others’ question with inaccurate information. When I am in a bad mood, even in a very horrible situation, I still tend to say “good” with a big smile to end the small talk, because I’m not sure if the greeting is just a polite routine or an expression of the person’s real concern. Maybe he has no time to listen to my problems. Maybe my unexpected answer would bring our normal greeting to an endless conversation. Imagine that we stand there, on the street, more than three minutes, both tired and frustrating. The more terrible is that when the conversation begins, we don’t know how to end it.

Last evening, when I got out of the car with Claire and my husband, we encountered one of our neighbors, who was walking her dog. We don’t know her much but always exchange smiles and greetings. However, each time, I felt a little short of words. One time, she asked us whether we had settled down. Since it has been eight months we are here, the question appeared a little strange. “Of course!” was really a bad reply but we had no time to rescind it. In small talk, when you are not ready to answer a detail question, it’s easy to make mistake.

“Have you had your dinner?” I added a question that popped out of my mouth without any further consideration. She was surprised and then nodded her head with a “Yes!” Believing that my Chinese culture would unconsciously drive me to silly behaviors, my husband made fun of me. In China, people always greet somebody in the street by asking if he has already had meals. I don’t know the reason of such a greeting expression, but for most cases, it doesn’t mean that the person is really talking about food. Even your answer is “no”, he would not invite you to eat something together. That is really a culture difference.

However, last evening, I wasn’t totally obsessed with the greeting formulation. I was just holding our pizza and had no idea of what to say. I supposed that she had noticed the pizza and the conversation would be normally turn to the food. I might expect that she would say “have a good dinner” at first, then I could  follow by uttering my stupide and rude question.

Whatever, I’m now considering to “save my face”-which is another culture issue, by explaining to her that my “dinner” question was simply a Chinese greeting.

Should I tip?

When it comes to tip, my husband and I are easily in disagreement. In China, we only thought of bargain and never have been bothered with this idea. When traveling in Europe, we were asked to pay a certain sum to the local guide. Since it’s an obligation due to the local manners, we accepted without any complaint. In restaurant, the bill would come with a notice on it, informing us that the tip was already counted into the total price. When we went to the theater, we followed others to give the seat-guide one coin.

In U.S, many situations confused and even embarrassed us. We spent our first days in a well-known global hotel. To our big surprise, after three days, the room was not cleaned up in time. “How could it be?” My husband insisted that it was our own problems, such as too many toys on floor…It was later that one of my friend reminded me of the tipping question. “Maybe we didn’t tip the room service!” concluded my husband, “that was a lesson.”

Since then, we became more aware of such subtle question and learned how to tip in restaurant. Yet, the question affects our meals. If the waiter is especially solicitous, we tend to wonder how much should we pay as tip,15% or 20%. “Hard working always deserves more,”we all agree. Even we prefer not to be interrupted by the waiter, we should show a friendly smile back from time to time. When the food is not good and the service is banal, we still tip the “called minimum 15%”. As my husband says, “Avoid mistakes!” Until now, I was a little nervous when picking up a take-away pizza without writing the tip sum.

The question became inevitable and controversial when we were traveling this summer. In our fist hotel’s shuttle bus, I noticed a band saying that “Gratuity is not necessary but appreciated”. My French tricked me, because in French, “gratuit” means “free”. We understood quickly that it refers to tip. For our 4 rides on the shuttle bus, we paid the first go and back. After noticing that others didn’t pay, we followed naturally but still felt embarrassed when passing by the driver.

The first day, we left one dollar in the room for the cleaning service. The next day morning, when I was busy preparing to check out, my husband was seeking all pockets and purses for a coin. “No need! we are leaving!” I was direct. “Be polite! We stayed two nights and only paid one time!” he refuted.”What? but it’s a new day and the cleaning is beneficial for the next guest!” I continued my reasoning, which got an other unfriendly comment,”You are so mean!”

The same kind of quarrel occurred when we checked in a hotel which has a valet-parking. It was in a crowded tourist area, near the beach and the commercial center. The hotel was expensive and we never expected to pay an even unacceptable fee for the parking-30 dollars per day. It was our first time to encounter the valet-parking, which made us bewildered. We quickly searched the internet for a proper decision, and only got vagus answers: “Tips are very personal,””It’s nice but not necessary,””There is no rule”… For me, the parking fee was already huge, while for my husband, tip or not tip doesn’t need other arguments than the custom. “Why did you pick such a hotel!” finally, we threw our anger to some other further issues.”You know what is called racism? Don’t give up your deserved respect,” my husband went serious.

We were ravenous after the check-in and quickly found a restaurant near the beach. It turned out that the bill nearly passed 100 dollars. “What? that means another 15 dollars for tip?”I grumbled, especially because I was not satisfied with my fish, ” besides,we waited too long!” My husband didn’t want to talk any more and wrote down his signature. To save our holiday, I kept the silence.

I’m not mean and it’s not a question of thrifty. But is it a question of culture?

We are all educators

Claire and I were lining up, waiting to get on a Fire Engine, one of the most popular attractions in the local Children’s museum. Kids can hold on and turn the steering-wheel. A simulated road view appears in front of them, making the driving experience more realistic. Claire had put on a fire fighter’s costume, already in an excited mood. The line was not long, with only two girls and their mom, while in the vehicle were seated two other girls who apparently  were much more older.

The big girls enjoyed a lot their new roles, forgetting others. More kids and parents came over and the line became longer. Claire nearly lost her patience while the little kids behind us pushed her. I calmed her down, showing that the two girls before her were just waiting quietly.

Another three minutes passed without any turn effected.

The lady on the head of the line moved towards the girl who was holding the steering. I could not hear what she was whispering. However, all parents in line understood that was related to the turn. The girl said nothing while her friend hurried to get down of the engine. After walking back to the line, the lady waited again.

One minute passed with nothing changed. Her girls turned their face and made a sign to leave. I was staring at the girl who now became the center of attention. Was she really innocent or mean?

“One last minute!” said seriously the same lady.

At the end of this last minute, the girl finally moved away. She got a “Thank you!” when the other two girls climbed up. Claire was excited, seeing that she was the next one. One minute later, she got her turn. At that moment, a little boy behind us jumped in and climbed into the big seat. He was about two years old but moved quickly as a squirrel. I suddenly held up Claire, who became confused. The lady was surprised too, “It’s her turn!” She was about to get the boy out while I just smiled and said, “it’s ok!”

The boy’s mom was two feet away, busy with his brother. I let Claire climb to sit beside the little boy. “Let him drive first, it’s a small boy.” I tried to explain but Claire just stared at me. The lady said nothing and left with her daughters.

I suddenly became guilty and angry with myself. I admired that lady who was bold to educate others’ kids. Most of the time, I do nothing to kids, pretending that thy are still kids and even unconscious about their wrong behaviors. I have more excuses: It’s their parents’ responsibility to correct them; It might be misunderstood by other grown-ups; It’s non of my business; I don’t want to make kids cry; It’s shameful to argue with a young kid…

My indulgence is really good thing for kids?  Is it another form of cynicisme? Regardless their age, kids should learn to share and to obey social rules. My tolerance to the little boy seemed a crime and I believe it was not appreciated by the lady, who showed me what was more important than being polite and generous.

It’s education! and the lesson might be beneficial not only to the kids who were educated on the scene but also to all others who were witnesses.