A typical “heated discussion” with my mother re China

In me, my mother has the daughter who is eager to learn Chinese and – to a lesser extent – about China from her. But, oh can it be so contentious between us! We still love each other but it’s the generational (age) divide and generational (first vs second) divide that shows up in spades in these conversations.

I think she lacks empathy, perspective, and recent real-world experience and is thinking of what to say next when I’m still talking. But I am 100% sure you could probably turn all of these criticisms back on me. :)

Below, the actual things she stated are emphasized in Bold. All other statements are me providing context, or my responses.


It started innocently enough. I was telling my mum about the kiddo’s progress with respect to writing his letters and she asked about his ability to recognize Chinese characters. It’s not great. I did use a whiteboard to show him some words but he’s barely interested in spelling basic English words so I don’t (remember) to push the Chinese characters.


And as if she has to remind me, keep up exposing him to Chinese character and she mentions sending him to Chinese school.

Well, duh. It takes effort on my and NPY’s part but that is part of the plan. We’re second-generation Canadian parents who still feel the pressure from first-generation parents and our own experiences learning Chinese at Chinese school or – in my case – at home.

Because, she mentions – at Chinese school, he will meet Chinese friends who speak Chinese.

Will he, though? While his classmates in Chinese school will have probably mostly second- and third-generation Canadians, I think there will be far fewer first-generation Canadians (kids born elsewhere) and of those, will he be friends with them? And will he speak to them in Chinese when he’s school-aged and shifting to all-English anyhow? Further, I told her, he’s not lacking for Chinese kids in his midst what with living in the same city as cousins (unlike myself) and seeing the kids of our friends.

Tsk tsk, my mother is so naive of this. Just because I wanted to learn Chinese, it seems like an anomaly amongst second-generation. I only expect it diminished by the third-generation.

Yes, yes – it is super important for him to learn Mandarin and it will be at school where he learns the characters and proper Mandarin (at the rate he’s not learning it now).

So then she mentions how she read or heard in the news – her primary source for written is Ming Pao, I don’t know if she has a television source any longer – that China will be at the forefront (economically? culturally?) by 2030.

Unspoken but obvious is her pride that he motherland will reach that point. Well, duh again. If the country with over 1/6th the world’s population on its current trajectory and bent can’t do it, that’s surprising.

And they are not backwards, she adds. They are so stylish. This said from the woman who gets her facts from the media and Youtube. Of course there’s plenty of backwater areas but the cities, are grand.

Yes, there is a certainly innovation and creativity. But gosh, mum, don’t forget that a large part of the economy is in ripping off other designs. There is a convergence in design/technology/science as tends to be, but maybe we can look at other art forms that reflect progress, like music and film. When I was writing the entry about
The Little Apple song, my main source was an article that panned the state of Chinese music not having the elements of sophistication to compete on the world stage (like K-Pop even has).

And so what if people are stylish and driving the latest cars? Money can get you anything – those barriers are knocked down. What are people like inside? What are people like in their homeland and what are they like in a foreign country. Last week, when it wasn’t busy in the least, a woman had the room to go around me but instead pushed by me because she heard the train chime that the doors were closing. She didn’t make it and when we stood side by side on the platform waiting two minutes for the next train, she didn’t reflect on the fact she made contact and pushed me. Maybe I expect too much because I’m Canadian. Later, I was talking and waved my hand and brushed a woman who was walking by or stopping to stand close to me and I apologized profusely.

My mum knows certain first-generation people in Halifax, a subset of “family friends” (too generous a term) but certainly doesn’t live in a city chockful of them or work in the same office. Of course what she sees in the media is polished.

She says they go away for school and learn about Western cultures and more and more these days they return to China, not eager to stay abroad and they bring the Western ideas home.

Um, yay. A generalization and I hate when she just has to be “right” by saying “a lot of people” or “the majority” – no hard facts. Is it a trend? Maybe it is. It is a significant trend?

Further, she wants to add, “outsiders” (外國人) can flip on you so fast.

She says this from a business perspective and not from having friends, or particularly knowing how to keep friends in my perspective. Customers and vendors (1) are out for their own interests and don’t want to see things your way (2) don’t have to be loyal to you in the least. Everyone of every colour has the same tendencies.

So we’ve gotten to the point where she exclaims that she hates it when people are picking on China.

Yup, that’s where we’re at. I’m the devil’s advocate but I don’t get credit (at my age!) to know what I’m saying as well. I think she’s a stubborn fanatic who sees what she wants to see and hasn’t been outside of this country in thirty years. Or spent more than three days where I live (over five years ago).