Cultural differences

Even after living in China for over 10 years I still spot unexpected cultural differences every now and then, especially since we have kids. There are of course a lot of issues related to how to educate your kids, but my wife and I pretty much have the same opinion on that, so that’s not a big issue.

But Scott also goes to kindergarten and we recently had an interesting discussion there. The Chinese teacher told us that Scott was leading the class to behave naughtily. She told us this so that we would be were aware of it, sort of implying that she considered it a bad thing.

Although I did not say it, I see that a bit different. Scott is one of the younger toddlers in his class and he is already able to lead a group to do something that the teachers actually do not allow? I think that’s great, I am even a bit proud of him for showing leadership skills at such a young age already. And I also don’t mind that he is being a bit naughty, I actually like a personality where he does not follow all the rules right away and where he is not afraid to test the limits of the rules. The little boy just turned 2 years old, he will have enough rules to follow when he gets a bit older!

Another example, about two weeks ago I had dinner in a Chinese restaurant with some friends and I also took my family to the dinner. We had a lot of dim sum dishes and also ordered many kinds of vegetables. Scott loved the vegetables, he was especially fond of the mushrooms, the asparagus and the broccoli. The friend sitting next to me is a Belgian psychologist specialized in kids and he was surprised to see Scott eating so many vegetables. He told me that most European kids are not big fans of vegetables and prefer to eat less healthy kinds of food. It must be a cultural thing, because at home our cooking ayi prepares several vegetable dishes every day, so Scott is used to eating vegetables and rice for lunch and dinner. And although kids can be picky eaters sometimes, he is generally very happy with the choice of food that we serve him.

That reminds me that during last weekend my wife and I took Scott to Cafe Montmartre (a French bistro restaurant) where we had some salad and french fries as side dishes. And guess what Scott wanted to have? The salad! Of course he also enjoys French fries every now and then -so he knows very well what it tastes like- but he still went for the salad. I can’t imagine that as a kid I would have made the same choice. Maybe his eating habits will change when he gets a bit older, or is it really a cultural difference because he gets so many vegetables every day?

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  1. M, I am *so* sending this to my mother now!

    I agree, I think it’s about how you raise your kids. My parents were big proponents of healthy living and eating — not fanatics, just reasonable — when we were younger, and back in Toronto one could virtually find no trace of colas, deep-fried hydrogenated oily foods, or heavy meats (it wasn’t a matter of cost, just of lifestyle choice) in our fridge because that was just the tempo my mother set in the kitchen. Even today I’ll opt for the veggies instead of the salty meats, and I think much of it has to do with the training my sister and I received years ago. Not to mention that as we age — even with an active lifestyle — those meats tack on the pounds.

    My dad is the one who I’ve inherited my sweet tooth from, which explains why I’m so addicted to chocolate (wait, you mean chocolate isn’t a food group? For real?).

    Good to see Scott eating so healthily, and I think it’s going to last. Just look at my sister and I with our Eastern European parents…and we made it through…



  2. Doesn’t surprise me the preference for vegetables. My wife, the kids of her sister and brother, and all her friends all love vegetables. They eat tons of it during dinners, they eat it as candy and at every occasion. When I offer a ‘western’ candy to the kids, they often refuse. But vegetables they always welcome. I personally think the reason why in general Chinese are slim build is the reason of the vegetables. Nowadays more and more overweight Chinese appear. And that is because they switch to western style food like the famous fastfood chains. Encourage the vegetables.

  3. Loving vegetables and fruits is more a genetic or racial(I don’t mean to offend) thing. We seem to be born to love eating fresh things like vegetables and fruits. It just comes naturally.