Thursday, August 2, 2012

I am having a Dragon baby.

One of my coworkers is Chinese. As in, came-from-a-Beijing-suburb-to-Tulsa-for-grad-school, is-applying-for-her-permanent-visa-while-working-with-us Chinese.

Before her, we had a different Chinese student working for us. I've learned a lot of interesting things from them, such as:
  1. You don't have outgoing mailboxes at home in China. If you want to mail something, you have to take it to the post office. The old worker wanted to know what the flags on mailboxes were for and was fascinated that you could just drop something in there and the postman would take it away for you.
  2. If you are an only child, and your husband is an only child, then you can apply to the government for permission to have two children. But you have to submit all kinds of paperwork to prove that each of you has no siblings and it's a long, complicated process.
  3. KFC is more popular than McDonald's in China because they have more successfully adapted their menu to Chinese tastes.
  4. Pizza Hut is a fancy restaurant in China--the sort of place you would take a girl for a nice date.
Completely unrelated picture. Though it makes me think I
should ask about nurseries and Chinese baby sleeping
I've really been enjoying our conversations about pregnancy, babies, and child-rearing. We both like seeing how our cultures do things differently.

Yesterday we talked about the foods you should eat during pregnancy. My coworker says that her mom ate lots of apples while she was pregnant, and that's why my friend has such white skin. I don't know about white skin, but eating lots of apples sounds like a good idea--fiber, you know. ;-)

She also said it was interesting because in China, you're supposed to eat lots of fish while pregnant because it's good for baby brains, but here, they tell you to avoid fish because of mercury and other contaminants. I bet fish really is a good food for pregnancy, and it's unfortunate we have to worry about the contaminants now.

Both the Chinese and Americans say you should eat nuts to develop baby brains, but in China it's pecans and America it's walnuts.

Beyond food, she told me that she and her husband would really like to have a dog because they both love dogs, but they're not allowed to because you can't have a dog and a baby in the house at the same time, and of course their parents would like them to have babies (the plural is one reason she wants to stay in the States) sometime in the near future. In China you only get a dog after the child is seven or eight. She's jealous that we have not one but two dogs and wanted to know what our mothers thought about that. When I told her that our parents all had dogs when we were babies, so they certainly don't care, and in fact a lot of people think it's good to have dogs because they help watch and protect the babies (obviously, lots of Westerners take the Chinese line on this topic, but think Nana in Peter Pan), she thought that was pretty much the coolest. I sense a rebellion fomenting. ^_^

And here is an interesting cultural take on the breastfeeding vs. formula debate: Here, of course, it's quite the debate, but even formula companies pretend to be breastfeeding advocates, because there's an assumption that "breast is best." Certainly the online community I frequent loudly advocates breastfeeding. Well. My friend has some friends in China with a baby, and for the past several months, my friend has been going to Target, buying American baby formula, boxing it up, and shipping it to China. Her friends want to give their baby the absolute best, and the absolute best, to them, is American baby formula. It's thought to be much superior to formula sold in China, and her friends are willing to pay American prices PLUS shipping to feed it to their baby. I haven't yet asked her what the Chinese think about breastfeeding; I'm hoping it will come up in the next few months.

She did point out that of course, if you're only having one baby, you are willing to spend a lot to make sure it has the best. You don't have to worry about spreading your money out over two or three or four kids.

My friend is also super excited that T-Rex will be a Dragon baby (which I will admit I think is cool too ^_^). Apparently Chinese couples plan to, as much as possible, have a baby in a lucky year like Dragon or Pig. She was reading on a Chinese website that the big hospital in Beijing has already had more births this year than in all of last year, and since they usually see more births in the last half of the year anyway, they expect this year's birthrate to be more than twice the normal. Her...aunt, maybe? a Kindergarten-equivalent teacher, and she told my friend that this year, instead of about twenty children entering Kindergarten at their school, there are forty-four--because all those lucky Pig babies born in 2008 are starting school this year. Correspondingly, many fewer kids are born in less lucky years, like Sheep.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the one perspective (or two violently dueling perspectives) I get on all this baby stuff, that I forget just how myopic this view is. I vaguely remember noting differences between the German and American approaches to children when I lived there, but it was all very distant and theoretical at the time. Now I'm learning about things the Chinese do (or at least things that the upper middle class, suburban Chinese do) right when I'm making those same decisions for T-Rex.

I love hearing about the things my friend takes for granted, because it helps me see the things that I take for granted, too. And even if I'm not going to be giving up my dogs or importing formula, it's good to know that others do those things--and why.

What things cause you to question your own assumptions about different topics?
Do you have any other fun cross-cultural baby trivia for me?


  1. I can't think of any fun cross-cultural baby info, but I do enjoy learning about it (and really anything cross-cultural)! This is so interesting- especially the part about the formula. I never would have suspected that!

    1. Right? It's really interesting. And luckily she doesn't get offended by my strange questions. ^_^