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Expat's Eye
Print Edition> Expat's Eye
UPDATED: August 19, 2013 NO. 34 AUGUST 22, 2013
My Return to China
By Duncan Cole

HAPPY FAMILY: A grandmother with her daughter and granddaughter at leisure in Shanghai (XINHUA)

There is no doubt in my mind that I will return to China to live. This may evolve to being a 50/50 arrangement with my other home in Australia, but I will return!

I am not a big believer in lists, as they seem to be the hackneyed territory of gurus and spotlight seekers, but here I am going to make an exception! These are the top 10 reasons that I will come back to my second home :

1. Family comes first. This may be a by-product of a pervasive state-controlled system but the cause is of no consequence. The Chinese will do anything to help family members. As the middle class continues to grow—forecast to be 650 million by 2023—the traditional family model is fast disappearing. Many women are becoming financially independent, and the divorce rate is sky-rocketing, but this does not detract from family values with respect to providing for children.

Anecdotally, and from my own observations, I have learned that this move toward independence is actually fuelled by disaffection with that traditional model. It gave no guarantee of financial support for spouses and children. Extended families now play an even more important role in caring for pre-school children while both parents work. It is not unusual to see a playground full of young children during the day, with a group of grandmothers and grandfathers chatting and keeping a watchful eye on the youngsters.

It is also not unusual to see grandparents living at home to assist with things while both Mum and Dad are at work.

2. Your society reveres age as being synonymous with experience, knowledge and even wisdom. Rarely is an important decision made without consultation with the elders of the family. There is no scrap heap of over-50's who cannot get a job because the young bucks are filling them all. You respect your elders. A good example of this is that the dean of my faculty at the university where I was recently working, in Fujian Province, was 74 before he decided to retire. An interesting phenomenon that I have noticed back here in Australia is that it is usually a young Chinese person who will be the first to offer up their seat on a bus for an elderly person forced to stand.

3. Your younger generation still has the innocence of a bygone era in the West. Even though this is changing rapidly, your exposure to violence, blatant sexuality and profanity has not yet completely affected the young mind.

4. Your communication style is a challenge! You discuss the periphery before the issues. Our straight line, "plough on through" methods are not always pretty, and do not always deliver desirable outcomes. You like to get to know and trust the party with whom you are doing business before the event. Our tendency is to do the business, and make sure there is a raft of lawyers standing by.

5. Sarcasm and cynicism are not parts of your credo. Humor tends to arise from situations, not from poking fun at prominent people.

6. The public decency of your women is enviable. There is no gratuitous flouting of the female body—yet.

7. Your youth is thirsty for new knowledge. Ours think they already know everything. By and large the work ethic is very strong in the students. My own step-daughter who is Chinese, is a living example. She worked extremely hard at high school to attain university entrance, and at the university of Queensland graduated with a bachelor's degree. She was accepted into the University of Sydney, and is currently undertaking a master's degree at that highly regarded institution.

8. You have belief in your government and public institutions. The cynicism that pervades Western society about anything 'government' is a blight on society.

9. As a teacher/ lecturer I am looked upon as a professional, who is doing something positive for society, instead of someone to be accused of every possible form of perversion.

10. (Should have been number one) I can buy a large bottle of Tsingtao beer for about 45 Australian cents!

Bonus—11. My students are always respectful, and they love me! I suspect some of them are also scared of me! When I am not in China I really feel a sense of loss, and I miss them sorely.

See you again soon, China!

The author is an Australian living in China

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