In China, personal lives are a family affair. I’ve seen this playing out day after day in my family, even in my relatively short visit. Everyone spends time worrying about others’ situations. Is that nephew struggling to find a job? Can that granddaughter get into preschool? Does that niece have a significant other yet? Is a cousin’s marriage in the rocks? Does that uncle have financial troubles?
These all seem to be each other’s business. It even extends to the in-laws’ families, so it can get quite complicated. One person may be helping pull strings to get so-and-so into a good school, at any age. In fact, the younger children have a harder time just to get into a program. At least when they’re older, their grades play a factor.
Meanwhile other family members are discussing how best to interfere in a relationship that has gone sour. One aunt might go talk to the wife and another aunt or uncle would approach the husband. Of course the parents and in-laws have been heavily involved all along, often in the middle of the conflict.
Then there are those dealing with some crazy complex financial situation regarding property ownership or some business venture. Who lays claim to what? Should they engage in a lawsuit? How much money should each family give? It’s a big muddled mess.
These aren’t exactly what’s happening in my family per se, but you get the gist. I don’t think Western cultures put as much emphasis on meddling in each other’s affairs. It’s completely normal and expected in Chinese families though. Sometimes I wonder about my own sense of obligation to participate in family affairs in the future. In a way, I’m shielded from this because I’m so far and there’s little contact between me and my relatives outside of my occasional visits to China.
Yet, I can choose to engage. As a connection to the Western world, I can help those who want to send their kids to school in the US. Some of my cousins have expressed interest in this when their toddlers get closer to that age. We’ll see what happens when the time comes. Having Eastern and Western influences growing up, but slightly more from the West gives me some freedom of choice which way I want to lean. My heart has always been on the helping side!
What was your upbringing? How much involvement would you think is normal for an extended family?« Prev：My 5 Chinese favs My slang gives me away：Next »