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Social Observations - A Typical Life
The aim of this section is to give those travelling to China for the first time an insight into the lives of ordinary Chinese People
A Typical Person's Life

Rural Life

In a rural community, a baby will normally be looked after by it's Mother, and Grandmother + associated other family members. It is not unusual for the real Mother to work far away (or even abroad), so most toddlers are reared by their mother's mother.

Low income families, mainly migrant interlopers, will have their children educated at local community schools. Most established village families will send their children to the best school they can afford - often this requires week-day boarding. Fortunate and/or astute parents will scrape and save in order to send their children to city schools, and later to University.

This is where Eastern and Western thinking and practices diverge. In China, parents will put their children's education before all but starvation. State education is free, but the best schools are private; and even state schools in cities require payments for boarding. University is not state funded, and is very expensive. Most Cantonese parents will pay for their child's University education - even to the third or fifth child., regardless of sex. Once the child enters the workplace, their job is done - although children are expected home at sowing and harvest times to help. Exceptions are those with very good and secure (Government) jobs

For those who at 16 (Sometimes as low as 14, or never schooled officially) finish education and return to the farm - they are groomed and educated to take over the Fathers work. Here the immediate goal is lower, but the longer term aim is to send the sons children to University

By contrast, daughters are expected to marry wisely. They are taught to work the fields at busy times. Otherwise as wives, they rule the household on a daily basis; cooking, cleaning, rearing children etc. In a rural community, this is their job - and whilst we Westerners send each other email jokes along similar lines - today in rural communities (Not only in China), this is how life is actually lived.

As generations pass, so daughters become mothers, and later the family expects to support their parents in old age. This is again very central to the Chinese psyche - just as they can't imaging why you would leave your precious baby with a babysitter, neither can they comprehend why you would want to put your very own parents into a home? It simply doesn't happen, and they cherish looking after their own parents in sickness and in old age. It is the very least they can do for the two people that gave them life!

What I need you to take away from this section, is the fact that Chinese think about people and family in a very different way from Western cultures.

Most Westerners are highly individual - even into old age, and resent being looked after by their children. They have made their children into opinionated individuals also. My own parents are into their 90's, and still live alone together on a rural farm. This is what they want. They detest it when my Sister and I try to look after them!

This would be a primary insult to Chinese parents, and their children would rather die than allow it! - so at this point in later life, expectations and reality, are virtually opposite between East and West

When parents pass-on, the children will of course take care of the honours and details. On 'Grave Cleaning Day', all Chinese will honour the family graves. However, each home includes a Family Shrine which is not dedicated to any arbitrary religious beliefs - - contrarily, it is dedicated to their own ancestors. They will regularly (and for reasons I do not fully understand yet) make offering to the family shrine. This is to honour parents and other family ancestors. It includes official dates, personal dates, and moments of passage - such as my own wedding day,when I was asked to seek a personal blessing for our new marriage from 'The Ancestors'

City Life

Life in a modern Chinese city is virtually Western style in everyday appearance. However, the goals and aims of a city Chinese are quite different from their Western counterparts - lets start with a baby, yet include rural kids from their time at University...

Scenario: A young couple have a baby in a modern Chinese city. This is the only baby they are allowed by law (Unless they are very, very rich). This Baby represents all their hopes and dreams, and is central to their lives. Being city dwellers, both partners need to work, although the Mother does have a few weeks leave from work - or more normally for regular people, is forced to give up her full-time job for a few months. Unless they can afford it (Unlikely), she will return to work as soon as possible. Parenting toddler duties normally fall to the wife's Mother. Nothing very different so far then...

Well, yes there is actually. The Grandmother probably lives a long way away, and even in another province. The parents may individually travel abroad. In this scenario the toddler will be almost exclusively reared by the Grandmother. Otherwise, the normal route is for toddlers to become full-time kindergarten students = 7am to 7pm, or longer. Kindergartens do provide these services for minimal fees, inclusive of meals - Ages range 2 to 6, as 5-years old is normal school entry age
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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