Taking time off and ironies…

Now, I need to make a reminder that I live in Shanghai. I don’t live in some rural area, so my observations are kind of limited. It would be like saying New Yorkers represent all of America.

I can’t tell you how many of my students are in between jobs. It’s not like America though. It’s by choice. “I was bored,” “I couldn’t move up.” “I want to look for something else.” “I took this time to learn English or to travel.” They could be married. They could have a child. They could be a short time out of college. I am not sure how they can afford to take time like this; if other family members pay for them, or if they save up so much that they can take a year or so off, but I have never seen this in America.

But I would also like to address pregnancy and maternity, because it’s most surprising to me. I guess if you only get one child, and it’s so well-planned, then the mother is pampered –but to the extreme. I have seen women who are 6-7 weeks along, wearing big maternity clothes, which I find funny. I didn’t start showing until about 5-6 months with my first. Also, they get tired easy and they don’t feel well, so they often quit their jobs immediately. Or if they keep their job, they get a doctor’s excuse to not work until after the baby is about 6 months to a year old. Keeping their job is beneficial, because they still get their full pay.

Pregnant women don’t exert themselves at all –I mean getting off the couch, nothing. And they have C-sections, because “it’s too painful.” And they don’t breast feed because they really believe it’s not as healthy as formula. The irony isn’t lost on me. Any natural process has turned into the “wrong way” to do things. I keep hearing Chinese women are just more “fragile” than Westerners. If this were true, then evolution would take over or they would die out.

The other irony is the use of Chinese medicine over Western medicine in almost every realm EXCEPT childbirth. Everyone has a cure, herb, tea or natural process for everything that could possibly be wrong, but NO ONE has natural child birth. After giving birth, the mother leaves the hospital within a few hours, because they are so crowded. A nurse will come visit her and take care of her at home. There is a custom that the mother does not wash her hair or take a shower for a whole month after giving birth. No one can explain why to me, just that it isn’t “healthy.”

But then no one can understand why I don’t get a stomach ache from drinking ice water. Everyone here drinks hot water, and never anything colder than room-temperature.

There are other completely unrelated ironies. One I always think is funny is that you don’t get shopping bags in stores, you either bring your own, or you pay for one. Great. Score one for the Earth, but if it’s raining, EVERY building will have a doorman that puts your umbrella in a plastic bag (for free) to keep the floor from getting wet.


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