07/20/16

What to accept in the name of culture?

At a friend’s wedding in 2015

I often get comments or emails asking if something is common Chinese behavior in a spouse or in-laws. They wonder if they are acting in a strange way because of cultural reasons and therefore should be respected even though you find it hard to accept.

For example shaving a baby’s head is a common practice in China. Some believe by shaving the hair will grow thicker, some simply think it’s cooler without hair in a hot climate. Would you accept this as a part of Chinese culture?

It’s easy to accept the things we agree about. Having dinner with the in-laws once a week gives me a break from cooking. Even though I believe women should earn their own money, I haven’t turned off gifts from my husband such as a bicycle and a MacBook laptop.

But what about the things we find hard to accept? The way of criticizing to show your love? In-laws giving you a bunch of unwanted advice and throwing a temper tantrum when you decide to hire a nanny?

I believe that instead of thinking “Do I accept this Chinese cultural custom” you should consider “Do I accept this person as my spouse with his or her habits no matter cultural or not”. The point is not that you are about to marry or already married to a Chinese person. More importantly you are committed to this particular person.

Let me give you an example. If my husband had to drink him self under the table at business dinners several times per week, I wouldn’t accept it. It’s a part of Chinese business culture yes, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable from my point of view. “But that’s just part of our culture” wouldn’t be a plausible explanation for me. 

One tricky trap to avoid is thinking “I wouldn’t accept this from a Western boyfriend, but he is Chinese so I must understand”.  I admit I have fallen to this pit in my previous relationships, accepting way too much in the name of culture than I should have. This reminds me of the book Good Chinese Wife, where Susan refused to believe her husband cheated even though the evidence was right in front of her. 

So what to accept then? I accepted that our daughter got my husband’s last name without a discussion. I also accept strangers touching our baby’s hands or even cheeks as I know it’s just a part of the child loving nature of Chinese people.

In the end intercultural marriage is still a marriage. If something makes you uncomfortable or angry, discuss it with your spouse. If you aren’t married yet, decide if you are willing to live with his or hers strange habits no matter cultural or not.

07/16/16

How to manage a 10-hour flight with a baby


Last Monday I took our 8 month old baby girl on a flight to Finland by myself. I was a bit worried how it will go as it was a daytime flight which meant most of the hours would be spent awake. Would she scream the whole way or would we receive unhappy states from fellow passengers?


At the airport my Manduca baby carrier was a life saver! I could carry Anna and still have my hands free to carry luggage, fill exit forms and buy snacks. I only took it off for the security check as the carrier needs to go through the checks as well. 

When we got to our seat I noticed the plane was almost full, but still the flight crew managed to arrange an empty seat next to us. Thank you for the man willing to change his seat!


I had reserved the first row seat so we could have more leg room and use the baby basket. We didn’t end up using the basket that much, except for our stuff, but I’m sure for the nighttime flight back to Guangzhou it will be very useful.

I brought a few toys for Anna, including the elephant you see in the photo, which was new for her (cousin’s toy) so it would keep her entertaint for some time.


But more than the toys she loved interacting with other passengers and luckily they liked her too. Chinese love babies, especially mixed babies!

For food she drank mostly breastmilk and some smoothies and snacks I brought with us. On my lunch tray there was salad and bread that were suitable for her as well. 

Only at the end of our flight Anna got too tired, it was 8pm Chinese time, and she cried a bit. Other than that our flight was a success! The crew was very helpful and made sure we had everything we needed so thank you Finnair.


Some tips for air travel with babies:

  • Baby carriers are golden at the airport and sometimes on the plane too.
  • Bring change of clothes for you and the baby. 
  • Bring warm clothes as the plane can get very cold.
  • Snacks for you and the baby are important too.
  • Bring a new toy with different functions, but water bottles are fun as well!
  • Book the baby basket seat if your baby is less than 70cm and 10kg or so. Or book it just for the extra legroom.
  • Be friendly to fellow passengers, they can be super helpful!

What other tips you have for flying with a baby? Please share your experiences in the comments.

07/9/16

From hot and humid to arctic North


Guess where we are going? Correct! Me and Anna are heading to Finland on Monday to spend the rest of the Summer a bit closer to the arctic circle. 

Today Guangzhou was scorching hot with 38 Celsius (feels like 40+) while my hometown in Southern Finland had only 13 degrees! I’m totally up for some cool and fresh air after being in a constant sauna these past days. 

This time it’s going to be a bit different trip back home. It’s the longest holiday I’ve ever had back home since I moved to China in 2010, a whole 2.5 months of Finnish goodness. It’s also the first time in 10 years I’ll be living with my mom for such a long time. And it will be the first time as a mother my self to go back to Finland. I wonder will I see things in a different light now?

The Summer will be for relaxing, totally need it after bringing life to baby and a thesis at the same time. But I do hope to get back to more frequent blogging as well. I realized I have so many ideas waiting to be written and published!

How’s everyone’s Summer plans? Taking the heat in China or escaping to cooler lands? 

06/9/16

What now? Student life finally over

IMG_5099

I’ve been a pupil or a student most of my life. I went to school when I was 6.5 years old, and besides taking two years off after high school, I’ve been student until now. After this month’s graduation ceremony my student life will finally be over. My exchange student years have gone by as fast as all these six years in China.

For the past half a year my main job have been taking care of our baby girl, it’s amazing to see her grow and learn new things every day. These two months I’ve also been teaching Finnish and Chinese on a relaxed schedule, allowing both me and our daughter to get used to the change.

In July our long waited trip to Finland arrives! Me and our baby will spend 2.5 months Summer vacation back home! Cant’ wait to let Anna meet my side of the family and show her where I grew up. If everything goes well, I’ll also be teaching a short course of beginner Chinese in Lahti before we head back to Guangzhou.

After a hopefully refreshing holiday in Finland it’s time to get back to business! Unfortunately staying at home longer isn’t an option as I won’t have any maternity benefits as I would if we lived in Finland, so work is calling. The rest of the year I’ll be working towards opening my own Chinese language center here in Guangzhou! I’ll be sharing more news about that as my plans go along.

My husband Alan has exciting news as well, he opened a Japanese bakery with other partners and they are all working super hard to make it a success. So far everything is going very well and their bread and pastries are delicious! If you want to try it ouy, you can find Fujio Japanese Bakery at the Utopia shopping mall at the Liede metro station exit A.

But now back to being a working mom and happy Dragon Boat Festival to everyone!

05/16/16

How to say I Love You in Chinese?

Our honeymoon

When a Chinese couple dates they often say Wo xihuan ni I like you, but the big word love isn’t used as much. I remember I used to lecture my husband (boyfriend at the time) that I’m not his friend so he shouldn’t just say like. Now he is very used to saying the three important words on a daily basis.

But in a Chinese family words of love aren’t heard in Wo ai ni I love you, but in other words completely.

Presenting Chinese – Western translations:

You don’t know how to do it, let me. Translation: I love you and want to help you.

Don’t move away from home, you will starve to death. Translation: I love you and want to be near to you.

Why you got such a bad score from the exam?! You need to study harder! Translation: I love you and want you to have a nice future.

Wear more clothes or you’ll catch a cold! Translation: I love and care about you.

A Chinese family member won’t say I love you directly, but often hide it between criticism, scolding or advice. I often get upset by the words I hear, but often thinking it through it translates into love. We just express it in different ways.

How does your Chinese family express love?