Chinese Family Life,  Living in China,  My Life

Us balinghou

While been living in China for almost four years, and especially living with a Chinese family most of 2013, I’ve noticed the big gap between generations. I have also noticed how some children follow in their parent’s foot steps but some feel themselves so foreign in their own families.

The whole extended family is worried about me and my boyfriend moving to the old family house. They are worried that the stress would be too much for us and we won’t be able to take care of ourselves. They can’t understand why anyone would want to live in an old house where there is so much space in the new house where we live at the moment.

To be honest, my boyfriend probably wouldn’t be moving out if it wasn’t for me. He was quite accustomed in his own ways inside the family. Working late, doing his own things during the evenings and weekends. He has a lot of non-traditional ideas, values and hopes, but perhaps even more so after I came to the picture.

My mother has always given me the freedom to do what I love. I choose my own high school, my major in a Finnish university and to stay in China. I’m sure it haven’t been easy for her, but she has always encouraged me to do what I want. And because of the education I was brought up with, I can’t get back into a cage anymore. Some might see me as an idealistic, but I’ve happened to achieve many of my goals.

It looks like we can’t move to the old house before I go to Finland in January. And what’s worse, my boyfriend will be away during Christmas for business. Experiencing Chinese family life have been amazing, but I’m already waiting for the next phase of my life, and to get my independence and freedom back. The move will be even more exciting for my boyfriend who is moving out for the very first time (if you don’t count living in a dorm while at university).

What is traditional in my boyfriend is that he wants to be the breadwinner for the family. Not that he would make me to stay at home, but that he very much prefers to earn more than me and also share his money with me. I can see many Chinese girls taking an opportunity of this, demanding expensive hand bags and gifts for example. But what I like to spend my money recently is to have a delicious lunch or dinner in a restaurant.

The generation gap between my boyfriend and his parents is so much wider than between me and my parents. I remember a friend saying how a gap as big as generation gap happens in China every five years, just count how many gaps that is between a son and a father!

These thoughts today were inspired by an amazing article by James Palmer. I really recommend you to read it: The balinghou

Balinghou 八零后 means the generation born in the 80s.


  • Julie

    Thinking of you Sara…having had the experience of renovating an apartment, it is a lot of work but completely worth it to gain some space/independence! Better to be idealistic than to be content with mediocre things…that’s what I am always telling people in my Chinese family who also think I’m weird because I have goals beyond cooking and cleaning every day, haha.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I also believe it will be worth all the work, and independence and freedom are just more valuable than anything else!

    Speaking of cooking, I made some past today for my boyfriend and his father. I’m sure it didn’t fit his taste, but he just said “If I eat more, I’ll get used to it”. I think it was very sweet.

  • Kaiser

    虽然我在你的博客上总是写中文但是我的母语是英文。依我看你的英语棒极了!如果你的中文比你的英文更好的话你的中文肯定极其好!我也想非常感谢你用英语和说英文的世界分享你在中国的兴奋冒险!因为你的英文那么好你可能应该考虑搬家到英国住几年。我建议英国因为英国比美国离芬兰更近,你和你男朋友可以很快从英国回芬兰去看望家人和朋友,更何况因为当时你是一名从中国大学毕业的,所以你会有能力找到一个与中国有关系的工作,。 。

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    嗨Kaiser, 很高兴收到你的评论。你的中文非常好啊!很可惜,我的英语口语一年比一年差,这边很少用英文聊天,平时都说汉语。其实我从来没去过英语是母语的国家,希望一天有机会去看一下。

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    呵呵 Reply:

    According to what i know dumb english is normal .In china most of the people do not have the chance to talk with foreigners.but they can read english books or read on the internet easily.If one day i do not go on with my online chinese study,my chinese will be dumb chinese too!plz forgive my grammar problem.I work hard today,I am tired to die 。呵呵,翻译完了,翻译的过程中发现有几个单词都忘记了,还查了查。另外问一下,你们为啥不直接都用小写,每次开头都得改大小写不嫌麻烦么?又不是耽误使用,而且又不是正式文章,在网上直接全部用小写不是更好?

    Kaiser Reply:

    上面第一个句子使我大笑了!因为它让我想起每次听自己说中国话的时我候立刻就听出来我的口音一点儿都不像任何地道中国人一样!谢谢你指正我的汉语。我下次会说哑巴英语没什么奇怪的。幸运我不太敏感了,从来没害怕犯语法错误。若不犯错误怎么知道如何进步?对不对?关于你的翻译,很不错! 只是下次依我看你应该把哑巴翻译成 “deaf-mute” 因为“dumb”虽然是最准确的词汇但它有点过时的。关于大小字,我想知道亚雪芳的看法。请告诉我们!

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    p.s. 我的中文名字是亚雪芳 :)

  • alex

    Sara, I am not surprised that you see the broader generation gap between young Chinese with their parents than comparing with the similar social phenomenon in Europe and in the US. In western world, things have developed more or less in a gradual and balanced way. The impact of western culture was poured into china in the very short period of time. We are not suppose to expect people like our parents to adopt or react as quickly as we do. One thing very critical, which most of them missed, is the proper fundamental education during their youth. That’s why we can educate them with our best knowledge of understanding and experiences to convince them why positive world view from western culture or any other constructive cultures can make us to be a better human being and make our world a better place. And vice versa, eastern civilisations to westerns. It can be VERY difficult depending on their willingness of acceptance, but it is not impossible.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Alex! It’s really a totally different world in China than it was when the parents’ generation grew up. I can understand that Chinese parents think in a totally different way than me, as besides generation gap there is also the culture gap. I guess it must be harder for the kids who try to explain their lifestyles to their parents?

    alex Reply:

    So for you, Sara, the challenge is doubled compare with your boyfriend where he only needs to deal with the generation gap caused misunderstading with his parents:)
    As every parents are different, we might need to have a good feeling and judgement to approach to them with our thoughts at the right moment. There are mutual respect and trust involved, again this requires each one of our ( both parents and children) educational background and life experiences. If there is lack of educational background, at least try to put our (both parents and children) feet in each other’s shoes – this requires strength of understanding, which can be critical in almost every type of relationship! Because every seemingly irrational behaviour has its rationality behind of it. while taking about strength, you should be proud of yourself for what you have achieved today!