16 Surprising Things About Parenting in China



For our Motherhood Around the World series, our ninth interview features Tatum Hawkins, a writer currently living in Shanghai with her husband, Sam, and their daughters, Tess, 3, and Rue, 18 months. Here, she shares 16 surprising things about being a mom in China…

* Note to readers: This interview originally featured two mothers living in Shanghai, but it was brought to our attention that the other mother’s personal blog had some content in the archives that we found questionable. Therefore, we removed her interview and the link to her blog. We take great pains to make sure this blog is warm, inclusive and supportive of all cultures and orientations. Thank you so much for understanding.


On arriving in China: We moved here from Orange County, California, because my husband was asked to help build a Disneyland in Shanghai. We’ve been here for 10 months so far, and we absolutely love it. This is our first living-abroad assignment, and the other expat moms say Shanghai is the craziest place we could have gone first. So it makes me feel like if we ever move anywhere else, it will be a piece of cake.


On a diaper-free culture: Babies wear split pants, and they’ll pee and poop on the ground. My American friends say, “I’m so jealous that they potty train sooner,” but the definition of potty training is completely different here. Back home potty training means going on a toilet, whereas here potty training means going on command. It’s more laid back. Chinese moms will hold their baby and whistle, and then the child will go potty on the ground. The other day, while I was walking my daughter to school, we saw two older boys pooping on egg cartons. They’re potty trained to go anywhere—not to wait to hold it and go a toilet. One big bonus: When our kid has to go, we’re not scrambling to find a public restroom.

On the local cuisine: I’m usually pretty adventurous with street food. Jian bing (savory pancakes) are really, really good. They make dumplings on the street corner. I tried some fish head soup with my Chinese friend. She scooped out the head and gave it to me, saying “This is the best part!”


On the one-child policy: China has a one-child policy, which means you can have only one child, by law. There are some exceptions—for example, a new law says that if you’re an only child, and your husband is an only child, you can have two children—but it’s still very rare to see someone with two kids. Since couples can have only one child, families tend to dote on them. Young children are called “little emperors” because they rule their family. When families go out, it’s the parents, the grandparents and one child—so it’s six adults to one baby—and they’re all doting on the one child. People love children here. Having two children, we get a lot of stares and even our picture taken! People will say, “You have two kids! You have two!” I push a double stroller and people are always like, what is that thing?


On high expectations for children: Once kids get to real school, the dynamic shifts and it gets more hard core. I don’t see older kids anywhere; I think they’re studying all the time. For American moms, their biggest concerns for their children seem to be happiness and safety. Safety isn’t as big of an issue here because it’s so safe—guns are against the law, kidnappings are so rare, everyone just loves children. It’s wonderful. Chinese mothers’ biggest concerns seem to be success and stability—which encompasses education, getting a good job, being able to support themselves and having a good life with their families.


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On international school: My older daughter goes to an international preschool and loves it. The teachers are all Chinese. For each class, there’s an English-speaking-only teacher and a Chinese-speaking-only teacher in her class, and they teach at the same time. So if they’re explaining a project, they explain it in both languages. The kids are always hearing both languages all the time. It’s so fun to see my daughter picking up some words and phrases.


On quirky fashion: People wear the oddest outfits sometimes! Really chunky heels, bright colors, mis-matching, and lots of hair accessories. At the same time, since we live downtown, you see a lot of Shanghainese women who are so incredibly sleek and gorgeous, like hot off the runway. ​My personal favorite are the matching couples who wear the same exact outfits, and sometimes they are extra clever, like showing graphics of two halves of a heart. I always joke to my husband how we need to get matching clothes for date night.

On knock-offs: There are copy-cat restaurants of In-N-Out and Chipotle (pictured above). Fake iPhones. Rip-off movies (we are so spoiled here, we can buy DVDs for a few dollars that are still in theaters in the U.S.). Even fake food, which can be unsettling! Many Chinese people wear fake name brand bags and clothes. I love it, it’s so much fun shopping here. And you can buy fake stuff online, too! I’m learning to become a pro on Taobao, the Chinese version of Amazon.

On childcare: What strikes me most about living in Shanghai is despite the huge move and transition to a new culture, I feel surprisingly relaxed and calm, which I credit to the help I receive from our “ayi.” Here, a nanny is called an “ayi,” which means “auntie” in Chinese, which I think is really sweet, because everyone feels like they’re part of the family. She tells my girls that she loves them. I was coming from somewhere where I didn’t have any help at all, so I thought, oh my gosh, I have some free time! It is a very normal thing here, and I can see why. My eyes have been opened, so to say! Moms just aren’t meant to go at it alone. For some reason in the U.S., we have this huge expectation to be perfect and to accomplish that perfection all by ourselves. All those silly e-cards about stressed out moms who are drinking wine appear extra silly to me since moving to China, those moms just don’t exist here. There’s much more of a sense of a team effort around raising children. Grandparents also help raise children, and parents take care of the grandparents financially. It takes a village.

On post-pregnancy confinement: Confinement is a tradition that has been practiced for generations. When my Taiwanese friend had ​her ​baby, she was in confinement for a month after the baby arrived to rest and heal. She stayed in a facility with other new mothers, and she had to eat special foods and follow other interesting rules. It sounded a little nice—you have no other responsibilities.

On keeping babies warm: Chinese passersby are very concerned about the warmth of my children. They believe that if your feet and toes are exposed, you’ll get sick. Grandmothers are always badgering me, saying my child should be wearing socks or a sweater. I don’t mind because they just really care about my children. You see Chinese kids basically in snowsuits. They wear so many layers of clothes, it’s hilarious. If they get sweaty, parents will put a piece of cloth behind their necks to soak up the sweat. It’s like, what? Take off a layer!

On making local friends: I feel it’s important to make local friends out here, but it’s much harder than I thought. I don’t speak Chinese, but I’m taking lessons. I met a nice woman on the subway, and we started talking. Just before my stop, I was kind of panicking—I liked this woman and wanted to be her friend, so I blurted out, “Do you want to come to Old Navy with me?!” She said she couldn’t, and I thought, danggit. And she said, maybe I can get your phone number? It was like a date. Now we’re friends. I love her and really want to make more local friends.

On hygiene: People spit everywhere all the time. You know in the movie Titanic when Leo tries to teach Kate how to spit, with the whole throat thing? Everyone here spits, men, women…a cab driver will open the door and spit out the door. Dogs also poop everywhere and people don’t pick it up. Back home you’ll see poop and try to avoid stepping in it, here people just walk on it. I walk my daughter to school and see fresh poop everywhere. When I pick her up from school, it’s still there but flattened. I’m the only one dodging around!

On playgrounds: We live in the heart of Shanghai, and I was initially worried that our kids wouldn’t have much space to run around. But there are so many beautiful parks and zen spaces. Older people are very active here—I love that—they walk around, do tai chi, do dance moves all in a row to music on boom boxes. It’s really cool. Older people are very respected here. While there aren’t very many playgrounds, there’s always a fish pond or space for kids to ride their scooters.

On pollution: On the days where there is blue sky, people are like, it’s the best day ever! On more polluted days, I have an app on my phone that tells me how bad the air quality is. A bad day is 45 in the states, and at one point here it went over 500! The sky will be brown. On an especially bad day, I couldn’t see the buildings outside my window. The Mandarin Oriental hotel even has an “Anti Pollution Facial Treatment.”

On learning to love the adventure: As soon as you stop expecting things to be like home, you can embrace the adventure that you’re on. When you first move here, you catch yourself thinking: “Why isn’t it like home?” But you have to get past that. There’s so much about this city that is great. It’s really cool here, I just want to share it.

Thank you so much, Tatum! Read more from Tatum here, if you’d like.

P.S. Motherhood in England, Norway, Japan, Abu Dhabi, Northern Ireland, Mexico, India and Congo.

(Photos courtesy of Tatum Hawkins; split pants photo via this blog; matching couple outfit photo from here; interview by Caroline Donofrio and Joanna Goddard.)

  1. Alaina says...

    This article is great!
    Im a gestational surrogate for dual citizens of China and the States. They spend most of the year in China so I was looking around to see what raising their baby will be like. I look forward to them being able to have this for their baby.

  2. Since I’m from California and Fernando is Brazilian, ours is not a typical Swedish household. For one thing, we’re not particularly tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed (!) and, even after more than a decade in Sweden, I’m still not enticed by the caviar purée squeezed out of a tube that’s popular for breakfast here. But, in many ways we’ve completely adapted to the Swedish way of life — embracing the magical summers, cold winters and parenthood in this culture.

  3. great post…reminds me of my time in China. Wish you had also interviewed a mom who works. The dynamic is a bit different – in many ways more rewarding because China is a “working family” country, except for the very rich or the expats

  4. I love this post <3 It is so honest and it makes me miss China and the love they have for their children there. You are so right about everything here, positive and negative.
    I had tears in my eyes reading this and missed my kindergarten students I used to teach there :')
    Thank you for a great post!

  5. Hiba says...

    What a great read! I’m moving to Shanghai with my husband and baby at the end of the year. I would love to drop Tatum a note… is there a way of getting in touch with her? The links to her site don’t seem to work…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      For sure! She is @tatumh on Instagram– that might be a good way to send a note. If you email me at hello @ cupofjo dot com, I can also connect you over email. Thanks, Hiba!

    • Tatum says...

      Hi Hiba! I would love to connect and answer any questions you might have. I believe the website the post linked to went through a recent redesign (wow can’t believe this was originally posted about 2 yrs ago!), so apologies it didn’t work. My IG is actually @tatemh (I know, it’s confusing .. ahh. It’s supposed to read as tate (my nickname) + m (my middle initial) + h (my last initial) but when people start writing to me as Tatem instead of Tatum I face palm – totally my bad! Anyway! You are absolutely welcome to direct message me there on Instagram or you can email me at Hope to chat soon :) And hello, dear Joanna! Thank you again for the interview and hope you are doing well ❤️❤️❤️

  6. Katy Crow says...

    Our son attends NYU-Shanghai and is having the time of his life. His experience in China has been as positive as yours. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  8. I lived in Beijing for four years with my three boys ages 3, 7 & 10 when we first got there (7, 11 & 14 when we left). And I had many of the same experiences but many different ones due to the difference of my children’s ages. My children attended local schools for a year so they really got immersed in the culture on a daily basis. It was a huge shock for them especially because as children they had very little control over how much of the culture they wanted to experience on any given day. As an adult if we are uncomfortable or shocked, we can leave a situation and return after we are recharged. It was definitely an experience for our whole family. Many positives and many difficulties. There’s nothing like expanding your horizons by living in a country unfamiliar to your own. THanks for this series.

  9. This was such a great read, I’m not a mother but just seeing how different the culture is amazing. China is on my Bucket list of places to visit. The whole spitting and dog poop thing bothers me a time bit, but other than that it seems so adventurous and exciting!

  10. This is fascinating .. can’t believe those split pants! and the dog poop!

  11. Lovely post, so interesting!

    But I do want to comment on the idea that kidnapping is rare in China. In a culture where children are often seen as insurance (caretakers) in your old age (and also groomed to help earn money for the family), kidnapping is a very real threat. Chinese news/newspapers in California are always reporting about young children (mostly boys) being kidnapped and sold in to childless families. There are even organizations that work to combat this threat and to reunite kidnapped children to their actual parents/families.

    I think maybe it’s rare for children of expats or non-Chinese looking children to be kidnapped because they’re so noticeable since they look and speak differently. But kidnapping is a sad and scary reality in China.

    • Katie says...

      Yes kidnapping children is a huge issue. 149 children kidnapped a day. Stealing them off scooters when you are out is a common method. They break into houses as well so for poor families the safest way is not to leave them locked up at home but lock the small children up with a chain near them while they work. You might have seen photos of it online but it is a sign of caring for them. Very sad situation for parents and children. Males are preferred more but some buy kidnapped females to raise them to marry their son as their are less females now due to the one child policy and gender abortions.

  12. Now, I’m not a parent, but your post gave me a very good insight on the Chinese culture. I’ve never been there before, but I would really like to go someday – Thank you for sharing! xx

    Cindy |

  13. I read this article before the update, my perspective is coming from that POV.

    I studied abroad in China.. a lot of the “negative” things they posted are being perceived by the reader as negative. That is on the reader. Not the women living there and sharing their perspective. I don’t think the women made them sound negative, just different. China IS an entirely different world that the USA. Like, it really couldn’t be more different.. I witnessed kids peeing and pooping in the street. If you’re born and raised in the USA (or Canada) you cannot change that for your entire life you’ve been taught that is unhygienic. Living as an expat in China or the eastern hemisphere, for that matter, is going to be a complete 180 difference from living as an expat in Europe. China is just different, for better or for worse.

    While I was there I had TONS of pictures taken of me because I was blonde. People would hand me their babies to hold while they took a picture without asking. That would never happen in the US.. I also was invited by a university student to visit his hometown. The visit had to be arranged through the government and government soldiers accompanied us on the visit to make sure we weren’t up to any “funny business.” While in this town I met people who had literally never met white people and were scared of me. That’s not a negative thing, but it’s an experience that would NEVER happen in the US.. we are surrounded by diversity whether it’s a lot or a little, we’re exposed. Now, living in a cosmopolitan city, this would not be the case.. but that’s what is fascinating about China. Part of the country is very modern and the other part is very NOT modern, still thanks to Mao’s reign. It just is what it is for those people. I think from a political standpoint you could argue one way or another….

    The one thing I would have LOVED a more in depth mention of is the traditional Chinese medicine (beyond just being cold makes you get a cold).. I actually studied it while I was there and it’s fascinating. That and squatty potties ;)

    I actually shared this post on my Facebook with the comment saying “I miss China! That place was crazy awesome…” so I hope no one takes my comments the wrong way. I am not sure why this post received so much negativity..

    Love these posts, please keep them coming.

  14. I love this series & I’m so happy that you’ve got a perspective from China. I’m actually moving there in two weeks & although I don’t have children I may do some day & it’s great to have that insight.

    I’ve lived away from my home country for four years now, and it has been a fantastic experience. As a result it helps you to enjoy change & cultural differences & makes you realise that we are fundamentally all the same. I would encourage anyone to do it!

    Thanks Joanna x

  15. I find this series so fascinating and interesting, thanks for sharing!!!!!!

  16. Thank you for clarifying Joanna. It makes sense to me now. I guess part of me is used to seeing a final version of a post, across the internet. Anything else stands out. I’ll just be aware going forward that things may change. Thanks for your reply!

  17. As a new mama (5 months in) in Beijing (8 years in) I’ve found my experiences of life and motherhood in China quite different, but those differences are what make these motherhood posts so fascinating to me, as well as what binds us despite location.

    What did ring true was the larger, societal, sense of family which is something I will miss when the air quality forces us to run for the hills (soon, little baby lungs). I live in an old part of Beijing and the local community supports each other in a familial way and I really like that shared approach. It’s joyful, inclusive, and I rarely feel alone. Though the sock advice is getting tired…especially when it’s 35 degrees. My local streets are cleaner than many in British cities, incidentally. Cleaned twice daily. No turds. But lots of spit. Hearing is worse than seeing.

    On another note, isn’t part of the writing creative process recognising something can be better and making it so, if possible? I have read both the before and after versions of this post, and it makes no difference to me whether changes are announced.
    If revision and edits are part of what produced the posts that I’ve turned to for guidance/reassurance/a laugh in the last 5 months then please long may it stay that way. Fiddle on, Joanna! And thank you for creating a platform for such inteesting debates. It’s a treasure.

  18. Also, Joanna, I hope the comments haven’t stressed you out too much. I have a lot of respect for you for handling so many comments from people with different opinions, and know it can’t be easy. You are doing a great job!

  19. Dear Joanna and Tatum,
    I really appreciated your comments here, and it helps me understand your perspectives. It’s not that there are not negative things about living in any place, including Shanghai . I do love this blog and read it daily.

  20. thanks for your comments!

    i just wanted to share a bit about the process of these interviews. we are showing the women’s answers to our questions in a real and honest way. when you do long-form interviews for a blog or magazine, you have natural disjointed stream-of-consciousness conversations with people on the phone or email—and then pull out their answers into Q&A format. there is always some selection of what to include, and what not to include, because of course you won’t type out the entire transcript. (you don’t just email them questions and have them email back paragraph answers.) blog posts are constantly being revised; i revise and fiddle with blog posts all the time to improve them for many reasons. i always view posts as works in progress, always trying to make them the best they can be, whether they’ve already been published or not.

    in this case, the women loved shanghai and when commenters seemed to think they didn’t like it there, i realized that i hadn’t represented our conversations fully in the post—i hadn’t chosen enough of the answers that represented their love of china. so i needed to add answers to the interview so people would see the full breadth of their experience in china.

    hope this helps! thank you again for your honest and heartfelt comments.

  21. I think the article reads much better. Vanessa, I disagree with your objection.. As a writer you definitely have to write to an audience. That’s the first thing a publisher looks for…your audience! You don’t have to but then you risk alienating your readership… Writing is also about revision . There’s nothing wrong or sneaky about that. It’s not about being PC, it’s about good, balanced writing and representation of a subject.

  22. Hi Joanna,

    Thank you for your comments, letting us know why the interview perhaps seemed to focus on the “negatives” of living in China, and that it was changed. I always appreciate your transparency and openness!.

    That being said, if you make changes to a post, especially one like this, with so much feedback, would it be possible to show where the edits were made? That way people won’t feel like they are being tricked and commenters that have read it later than the first commenters will know why people had certain reactions.

    Also, in your second comment, you said you didn’t change any of the answers, but in Tatum’s response about food, hadn’t she said that she didn’t eat the fish head that was given to her?

    Thank you again for your openness and honesty!

  23. I didn’t find the article points shocking (maybe some commenters need to read more?) but I do find the responses disheartening. Calling a country gross is ignorant at best. I could say Americans are gross wearing their shoes inside the house (something many Indians / Japanese may find dirty) but realise it is a custom many people practice. It doesn’t stop me from visiting and enjoying the US! One small thing or one persons viewpoint on a blog should not colour your idea of a whole nation. Also the consumption of the US buying Chinese made goods is the reason it is so polluted, so turning your noses at this is somewhat hypocritical

  24. This was interesting to read! However, I kept getting confused between the two narratives because for the life of me I could not remember which mom was Tatum and which was Nicole. The narratives kept switching around so I couldn’t reliably assume the first quote in a pair of quotes was always from the same mom… they were interesting perspectives but hard to disentangle from one another.

  25. The post and the comments were interesting to read, as always, about people’s lives, experiences, and thoughts. A quick note: Shanghai does not represent all of China, any more than NYC represents all of America, for example.

    Another thing I am reminded of: not everyone is fortunate to have the chance to travel overseas as a child, as I was. First-generation ABC, travelled to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, and Europe before age 12 (and since).

    For those who have the financing and time to travel overseas as adults, yay! Go for it and have fun! And because there isn’t always time or money to see or travel everywhere, or read all the great books out there: thank you, Joanna, et. al., for this forum.

    Christine L., San Francisco

  26. This is a really enjoyable and enlightening series. However, there seemed to be an emphasis on the weird and gross aspects of living in China in this particular interview. I was really intrigued with the answers that dealt with the culture of the family dynamics and child raising and would have loved to have read more about that.

  27. Very interesting Joanna! Thanks for sharing, I love seeing how other parts of the world live.

    Jamie Herzlinger

  28. I feel like we live in a world where we are constantly being forced to be politically correct or nice in order to avoid any backlash instead of just being honest. I thought this post was amazing albeit shockingly so! And we have to keep in mind that these stories are through the eyes and experience of American/Canadian moms who are obviously going to see things differently (you cannot completely detach yourself from your own upbringing and customs). I agree that Shanghai would not be on the top of my list for relocations (this was my opinion even before reading this post), but I do not doubt that seeing Shanghai through the eyes of a local and other parts of China may make us see the customs differently. I highly doubt that this post was intended to offend anyone, and therefore definitely applaud Joanna for always providing us with stories/posts/topics that spur such great discussion.

  29. I’m always so interested in these, this one was totally wild and full of things I’d never have guessed. (SPLIT PANTS!?) If you’re ever wondering if you talk about parenting too much for people who don’t have children the answer is: NOPE. So fascinating haha!

    Dakota Barber

  30. vanessa, thank you for your note! i had included a note about the additions in the comments section—we simply added more content from the mothers’ interviews to make the piece longer, we didn’t change any of their actual answers. our gut yesterday (before posting this) was that the post could use more positive material, but we didn’t want it to run too long. so these edits actually returned the piece to our original version in many ways. hope that helps clarify!

  31. I’m genuinely interested why the article was edited later to include more positive facts. I read it this morning and then again in the evening to my husband and thought my mind was playing tricks on me. It seems strange to tailor an article throughout the day to a critical audience. Surely as a writer you publish things to reflect your gut instincts. I do love the article regardless, but the edits just seemed sneaky and dishonest. No mention was made of the edits either.

  32. Really great post! I’d SUPER LOVE a post on parenting in Berlin. We’re planning on moving there and having kids by then…I’m so curious.

  33. I read this interview this morning, I assume before it was updated to be a little more positive. I have to say I disagree with all the people who are complaining that it’s too negative. Welcome to the real world! Not everything is unicorns, puppies, and rainbows. For the record, I didn’t think it sounded ridiculously negative, either. I found the “auntie” thing fascinating, for instance. Culture shock is a very real thing, not everyone is going to magically fit in with new cultures and norms, and not everyone is going to like doing everything differently. Period. It’s nice to hear candid accounts vs. everything-is-so-awesome.

  34. Just wanted to chime in with my appreciation for two unique, candid perspectives on life in China. I am glad you mentioned the good with the bad, and I distinctly remember comments criticizing previous interviews for being too positive (the families in Congo and Mexico City come to mind).

    It’s silly and naive to expect expats to immediately assimilate to a new culture, especially a culture with very different opinions on sensitive topics like healthcare and sanitation. We would never expect Chinese mothers to move to the US and forego all their culture norms.

    Thanks again to Tatum and Nicole.

  35. Love this series, and this one especially hit home as it gave me some insight to the culture my mother was born and raised in. I was born in the states, but after giving birth to my son six months ago and having my mom stay with us a for week, she was doing so many things in line with this post. For example, making me ginger soup, not letting me leave the house, shower, or basically leave my bed. She also wanted to put an absurd amount of layers on my newborn son because she was paranoid he was cold!! When I was pregnant, I was told to stay away from watermelon, foot massages and to NEVER use scissors in the bedroom. Can you tell the Chinese are superstitious?? :)

  36. This piece really resonated with me. My husband is half-Chinese and his mother is first-generation, from Taipei. She has lived in the U.S. for at least 35 years but still has a lot of habits and values that — I’ll be honest — seemed so different to me when I first met her. For example, she raised her two sons much more strictly than my parents raised us. My husband told me that the emphasis was always on success, being financially stable, etc. My parents message was to choose a career path that provided long-term happiness. My parents were also a lot more “warm and fuzzy” than my mother-in-law is. However, this is NOT to say her method was inferior or that my parents were “right” – because you know what? Her sons are very stable, financially self-sufficient and focused on long-term goals. And while she may come across as having more of a “formal” relationship with her sons than I was used to, that has diminished as I’ve learned more about her over the years. She is actually a “get on the ground and play” kind of grandmother to my kids, which I wouldn’t have expected when we first met. So I found myself nodding in agreement to the part about Chinese parents having as one primary concern stability and security.

    I also laughed at the Chinese habit of always being worried about babies’ feet being cold. I have a Chinese babysitter and she always tells me that my kids’ feet are cold – even though we live in Florida and many days the temp is in the 90s! (She also tells me my baby’s headbands are bad for her head.) Like Tatum, I don’t take offense — I think it’s really sweet that she is concerned.

    I found the postpartum confinement aspect fascinating. i Overall, it sounds like a wonderful, caring way to ease women into the new phase of their lives. I just had my second child a few months ago, and was bringing my older daughter to preschool with my new baby in tow a few days after she was born. On one hand, I was proud of myself for “getting out there” so soon, but after a few weeks, I realized it would have been so nice to have more family involvement. The “community” philosophy of parenting in China is a great idea, and one that I wish was more prevalent here. (On a side note, the confinement period sounds incredibly dull without at least some books! And I know after having both of my children, long, hot showers felt like pure heaven to me, so I wouldn’t like the “no bathing” part.)

    Like others, I am troubled by the pollution and the one-child policy, but those items, along with the lack of diapers, sanitation, etc., would not make me think “never go to China.” In fact, I can’t wait until our girls are old enough to make the trip, because I think we’ll have an amazing, fascinating adventure. Thanks to these ladies for sharing a snippet of their lives.

  37. This is so fascinating! i’d looked at teaching in china and air quality is a main reason why i’d be a bit hesitant to relocate. i wonder, do children ever stay home from school due to extremely high levels? i assume not given the competitive nature of education but wonder if it’s ever absolutely necessary

  38. personally i didn’t find these facts surprising nor find it negative or offensive. pollution, hygiene, family first, one child, amazing food? isn’t this all commonly known?
    i do envy the family though! if i had a chance to live in china with my family, i would so do it! what an amazing opportunity for these ladies and their family!

  39. I love this series! One of the things I appreciate most about this series is the unique perspectives of each of these women. It would be so disappointing to see that aspect change, just because some people don’t know how to take what’s said with a grain of salt. I think these posts will become boring and watered down if they don’t reflect the personality and opinions of the women. Just because some people didn’t agree with their views doesn’t make their opinion wrong, racist or invalid. These women were asked to give their honest impressions and they did. I think people reprimanding Joanna, Nicole and Tatum are out of line. Who are you to criticize or even call someone racist? The lack of tolerance and in some cases bulling led to Joanna to edit the post and I find that so sad. Isn’t this supposed to be a online community that promotes discussion, open-mindedness and support?

  40. I used to live in China, and they did say a lot of things that I considered tactless, but I think that their idea of tact is just completely different. Nobody is trying to be rude.

  41. At frist I was reading and thinking, “what a nightmare!” re: pollution and lack of hygiene, but I loved reading the parts about the broad sense of community and how children are raised up. Quite lovely! And of course the food…! I’ve had those soup buns when I lived in NYC, and they are AMAZING! If you haven’t, Joanna, there is a great spot down on Mott and Pell that does a pretty good job of them!

  42. Love love this series…and especially this post about China. My husband moved from Taiwan to California at age 9 with his family. He is fairly Americanized, but holds onto some of his Chinese heritage, thankfully. Having a house for his family is very important, good Chinese food, and the best education possible for our kids are just a few of the top priorities. We are fortunate to live in a diverse community that includes around 40% Asian people which means we have access to loads of amazing Chinese food, language classes for my toddler, etc. In the neighborhood, you see grandparents doing tai-chi in the morning and pushing the little grandkids around in strollers.

    I’ve discussed several of these topics and/or experienced them first hand. After I had my first baby, my mother-in-law wanted me to stay inside for the first month. I didn’t quite follow the rules…she’d see me outside with the baby and tell us to go inside so we wouldn’t get sick. At the hospital, she brought some soup that women typically drink after delivering a baby – I had my husband drink it!

    It’s amazing how I’m able to experience several of these ‘surprising facts’ living in California! I hope to one day spend a year or two living in Taiwan/China with my family so we can experience the culture more first-hand. Visiting a country just isn’t the same.

    Thanks again for the great post and to the women for sharing their stories.

  43. The split pants thing is pretty hilarious (and a little gross) and reading about it reminded me of when I was biking through Chinatown here in Toronto and saw this odd stream of liquid descending onto the street from the sidewalk. As I got closer and biked by, the stream became unobstructed and it was revealed to be a little boy peeing freely onto the very busy street with absolutely no pants on, as his father stood behind him. I was appalled at the time, but now it all makes sense! Really interesting and enjoyable interview, thank you Jo, Nicole & Tatum!

  44. I really enjoyed this post’s candor—and this series in general!

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that it is impossible to capture an entire culture—especially in one blog post—and that these are simply two perspectives.

    Of course it would be lovely to hear a local perspective – and maybe one day Joanna will choose to feature a series on local mothers, as well – but the point of this series (and Joanna clearly outlined this in the intro) is to compare/contrast motherhood around the world via voices with common experiences – expats, stay-at-home moms, etc.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing, Joanna! I continue to be fascinated by these interviews and hope to live abroad myself someday.

  45. Wow….you have added/subtracted & changed a lot of this interview!!!

    VERY VERY very different since I read it earlier today….much more diplomatic & positive and yes, quite a few of the (negative) points that people commented on earlier (mainly from Nicole) have been removed ….the power of editing ;)

  46. Such fascinating global differences. I applaud any family that embraces life’s adventure and gives their kids the opportunity to see the world. What a wonderful thing.

    And to diverse cultures and strange experiences, I say yahoo! This post is a great example.

    After reading this post, it took a minute to process everything. And like many, my first reaction was almost that it felt a bit, I don’t know, negative? Not negative, really, but not positive. But I think it more has to do with the editing/sequence then the content.

    These posts are so educational and great reminders that there are a gazillion ways to live life. Thank you so much for sharing your stories ladies!!

  47. i am not a mom, but my husband and i live abroad (in ecuador) and i LOVE this series because i’m at a time in my life when a lot of my friends back home are having kids and i think about it a lot… could i really have kids here? so it really hits home. i related a lot to the parenting in the congo article – a lot of similarities to where we live – but this one was even better! kids peeing and poo-ing everywhere… dog poo in the street, all of that. that is totally what life is like here, too, and sometimes it is SO hard to wrap my head around it, but for the most part i love it here. hats off to all the expat moms around the world, because to raise a family in a culture wildly different from what you’re used to is very challenging, but can also be extraordinary. THANK YOU for this wonderful series!

  48. This was totally fascinating! I LOVE this whole series and frequently go back and read old posts. This one is just awesome (and I think I read it after the more positive things were added in). I didn’t find it negative at all- just two women sharing the things that they found different about the culture there. Keep it up, I love this series!

  49. I loved this post! It was such an interesting read and I thought did a great job of highlighting the differences and new experiences of living in China. I disagree with those who are taking offense with the post. I don’t feel it highlighted negative aspects, rather, it just highlighted differences…and if you chose to take those differences as negative that is your personal view. I felt the overarching theme from both moms was that China is incredibly different, but also incredibly exciting, new and fun. And, as far as the pollution goes I’m unsure why some readers chose to assign “blame” for that. It is a fact of life there and placing the “blame” only on American consumers seems to me a bit too simple. Anyway, love the series.

  50. As an American living in Hong Kong, I echo the comments on taking a more open-minded view of living in less western places like China.

    There are lots of fascinating aspects of culture to explore, but it appears very shallow or naive to simply cite the differences, especially western-perceived “negative” differences, without seeking to understand the reasoning behind the difference in the first place. I think that showing an open minded curiosity to understand what makes cultures different is really what separates those who are looking to become a part of the community from the expats just passing through. Differences are amazing and teach us all so much – I really love these posts because I enjoy reading about our celebration and understanding of cultural diversity around the world.

    I had to smile at the comment about older people working out in the park with boom boxes – so true and such a joyful sight to experience while living here.

    @Amanda – great job explaining for everyone some of the logic behind split pants, hot water, etc. There are so many fascinating “new normal” things to learn while making a new home overseas!

    FYI – For those more interested in Split Pants, just read the NYT:


  51. I’ve never had much interest in living in China but I must say I felt this article was overwhelmingly positive. The whole point of this article is to get the POV of someone who grew up in a different country, so if course a lot of things are going to be shocking (come on, babies sans diapers is kind of shocking, everyone…). It would have been an odd, and disingenuous, piece if every single point was a glowing, positive review.

    Rock on with this series, I love it!!!

  52. Wow, what a cultural shock! I cannot get over the split pants and the peeing everywhere. But the food does sound good, and I like the idea of families helping each other in a circular way. Great job ladies, and enjoy the rest of your time, Nicole and Tatum.

  53. I LOVED this post. My husband lived in China for a year and still raves about it. I made him read this post and he agreed with their opinions completely. It’s a different culture, when you compare it to a Western culture, there will be a great number of differences. I think this article was openly honest about both positives and negatives. Thanks so much for such an awesome article and PLEASE keep them coming! :)

    Sarah @

  54. I loved this post! Thank you for sharing. Nicole, I’m especially impressed with your sense of humor about everything. :)

    It seems like such a culture shock….I’m still processing the split pants. I am envious of their family culture though.

  55. I find it so curious everyone having such strong reactions to this article. The PC police are out in force today! I didn’t find it negative at all – they were specifically highlighting things that are different. I have lived in an Asian country and there is definite culture shock. Anyone from a Western country (or any different culture) who thinks they’re not going to be shocked by someone peeing in a bottle while they stand behind their chair in a restaurant is kidding themselves. I am not native to the US either and there is culture shock living here as well. I just found it interesting so thanks for this great series!

  56. I had so many reactions to this post – shock at the different approach to hygiene, amazement at the fact that guns are illegal and kidnapping is barely a worry (although if I recall there were a bunch of knife attacks at Chinese schools between 2010 and 2012, still a knife does not equal a rifle), horror at the intensity of the air pollution, and so many others thoughts that I am going to need to process this for the rest of the day!

  57. Joanna, mind blown once again! Living in China sounds interesting but I don’t think I could get over the pollution issue and the lack of personal space. Spitting everywhere??? Pooping everywhere?? Loved this post.

  58. Love this whole series – and what a fascinating post!

  59. I actually think this post feels more honest than many of the others, which just seem to go “everything is wonderful and exciting!” without acknowledging any truly substantive cultural differences (or thorny issues like poverty or political instability in some of the places).

    Of course living/parenting abroad can be a great adventure, but I think expats should be able to admit that there are challenges (every place has some!) without people immediately calling them narrow-minded.

  60. Tatum and Nicole – thanks for sharing!! I live in central China and could relate to every single item you shared. Laughed out when you mentioned the AQI in Canada :) and was encouraged by how you said “you need tough skin to live here” and “As soon as you stop expecting things to be like home, you can embrace the adventure that you’re on.” That is a weekly if not daily challenge for me, particularly in cultural values that are so extremely opposite from the West – like if they care about you they force you to do what they think is best for you, as opposed to Westerners who back away and give you space to do whatever you think is best. Neither is right or wrong, but it sure feels that way in the moment. Hope you both can keep having awesome attitudes with the adventure you’re on :)

  61. This is my favorite motherhood feature yet. The two women had such wonderful outlooks on their experiences in Shanghai.

  62. Thank you so, so much for these comments. I really appreciate the honest feedback. Caroline and I actually talked yesterday about whether the final post had too much “shock value” and not enough positive elements, but it was getting so long with both interviews that we wanted to cut down as much as possible and leave the most intriguing and different aspects…in hindsight we should have listened to our guts there. We spoke to both women for ages—Nicole over a million emails (I think there were 40-50 total), and Tatum on the phone for almost two hours (and it would have been much longer had our children not needed us!), plus many follow-up emails—and both women raved about Shanghai and the people they’ve met and what an incredible culture it is. We should have kept more of those points in here, and I’ll add some back into the post today.

    Thank you again for your feedback. We have great respect and admiration for all the women and cultures we profile here, and I definitely want that to come through!

    Thank you again, Joannaxo

  63. I LOVE this series and am so happy to see it back! I’m a Canadian expat who has lived in Gabon (West coast of Africa) and now, Norway. Learning about other cultures is fascinating to me which I suppose is why I like this lifestyle so much. I’m expecting my first baby who will be born in Norway and I’m interested to see the new nuances this brings to light for me.

  64. Tatum – I really liked your comment above and I also enjoyed reading a few of your articles on Shanghai Family which I found when I clicked on your name in the piece above – to me, they show even more of what you are experiencing in Shanghai…and possibly, a more “rounded” view than was presented in the Cup of Jo piece above where you were possibly answering specific questions. I wish you well in your time in China :)

  65. @Tatum, thanks for your reply, I think it was a much needed one! These posts are a snippet of long conversations that showcase the things we (as foreigners to these countries) might find surprising (as the title suggests) odd, different, strange, funny etc… Personally I prefer the honesty rather than a travel magazine gloss. I love living abroad in different locales and this piece didn’t turn me off to China at all! It got me excited about the adventure of it. Give me the truth and I will embrace it.

  66. As many of the commenters above, I am quite disappointed with this story… I would have eally appreciated an interview with someone who has more interest in local culture and is more integrated in the society (obviously, it involves speaking Chinese!). Just imagine how accurate the vision of New York by a non-english speaking Soviet immigrant would be in the 1980’s…

    Also, I know this series is about motherhood, but I would really appreciate reading an interview with someone who does something else beyond going to school and to the grocery store – I mean, calming a Western child’s tantrum in China is pretty much the same as in France… It would be really interesting to read the story of a woman work works as an expat and is a mother, or someone who is integrated in the local arts scene, for example. So far, most of the mothers featured in this series do not work and have followed their husband abroad… A “family interview” would be very interesting if you are targeting these types of families with a working dad and stay at home mum.

  67. Thanks all for your comments, all of them, seriously! Joanna and I talked literally for an hour and a half about life here in Shanghai (while her boys were getting restless before bedtime and my girls were getting restless to get out of bed for the morning!), and I just wanted to clarify that many, many positive things were discussed. I think China is misunderstood, and it bums me out that it’s not one of those dream travel destinations like Europe or Australia, and I was hoping to share a little piece of my home in Shanghai with you to show what an amazing place this really is. The gorgeous city skyline, the Chinese people’s love for children (since most only have one), and how my concern for my kids’ safety from crazy kidnappers and random shootings has practically disappeared. I admit it hurt a little when I read the first comment about someone never wanting to live in China, because that was not the point at all of this post! My family and I chose to live here, and we LOVE it. I think it’s important to understand that not everything in our conversation was or could be captured in the interview that you just read — otherwise you probably would have been reading for days on end about Shanghai :) It is a shock, of course, to uproot from “normal,” shed that piece of you, and take on/embrace a whole new normal and new culture. I’ve had to learn for myself that as open-minded as you think you are, in reality it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that takes time, and it’s that process of adjustment that makes each day such a fascinating adventure. Anyways, just felt I should chime in. Thank you all again for reading, and thanks again to the lovely Joanna for including me in this incredible series. xo Tatum

  68. I love these series! Sooooo interesting! Will you do one for Istanbul Turkey?

  69. Well said Litrle Boss.

    I felt that I got slated (by some commenters) last week for commenting on the “American in London” piece where I said that I felt it was largely inaccurate….even though more commenters did agree with me as the comments grew.

    I felt the same about this piece – -and I’ve never been to China! I commented at the beginning that I wish the authors had shared more of the positives – since there must be many & one of the writers did state at the end of the piece that there are some.

    The view of a lot of people in this world is that Americans think they are superior & that they all think, not only the US is better in every way, but that the US is the best place in the world to live….as I read the responses to this piece, as I’m sure most readers do, I was continually reminded of that view & it made me uncomfortable…particularly those commenters who took the view that the piece only “confirmed” that China wasn’t for them. How sad….particularly as you are basing it on one person’s viewpoint.

    What about if the world thought every American was like the Kardashians & lived as they do?!

    My daughter’s school has a school exchange every year to China….it is very popular & a wonderful experience.

  70. I read every comment , hoping to find the answer to the baby poo because it was never explained in the actual article…do the parents pick it up afterwards & throw it in the trash? Bury it? Because human feces exposed & in public space is a health issue, isn’t it? Or am I missing something… :-). I found this feature fascinating and at first, not negative but just very interesting! But I admit that my conclusion was: never go to China…so perhaps the commentators are right when they said this particular series was more focused on the bad or shocking aspects of Chinese culture. Then again, I’m still super grateful for it because with how PC everything is nowadays, it’s impossible to get this level of candor from people unless you had a close friend or family member traveling! So I thank the 2 ladies for sharing honestly. The series isn’t trying to be an unbiased tour guide (I think) but about personal experiences…and that’s what this was.

  71. Also, I have to point out that Shanghai is incredibly clean for a bustling metropolis- especially in comparison to NYC!

  72. I normally love this series and was really looking forward to it coming back, but I have to say this is a big disappointment. I was lucky enough to live in Shanghai for a year and it was the best year of my life. I felt completely at home and loved my time there, and I would feel blessed to have kids there as well. I definitely give these women credit for living in a completely different culture, but this is the viewpoint of an outsider, someone who hasn’t really tried to understand the culture. The emphasis of this piece is that they see poop, pee, and smog- and that’s what people are commenting on. It’s disappointing and goes against the beauty that this series can provide.

  73. I loved this one! I lived in China during my first pregnancy so it was fun to remember all the quirks. I still have a cute pair of pink, quilted, split-bottom pants that one of my English students gave me for my daughter. In regards to the one-child policy, my experience with my 80+ students is that they were very saddened by the law and wanted to choose their family size (always more that one). It was a warm and lovely culture and I really miss the people (although not all the poop and pee!).
    I just loved this series! Please don’t stop!

  74. I love this blog, and this series has been really beautiful and informative so far. But I agree with some of the commenters above who reacted a little negatively to this post. It’s a different culture—it’s not that “they” don’t have hygiene (as if that isn’t essentialist enough), it’s a different conception of it. My parents had major culture shock when they moved to Wisconsin from Taiwan and found that some Americans would walk around inside their homes with their shoes on, and were amazed with how much waste was accumulated and how much food was thrown away, and that some parents seemed to just let their children do whatever they want once they became teenagers (which they argued was the time children make the worst decisions!). Just like some of these things may seem normal and acceptable to us, swaddling children tightly in multiple layers and not drinking cold drinks to keep the body from needing to make its own heat, or getting rid of the toxic phlegm from the body by spitting is normal to them. It’s really unfair, I think, to act and respond as if our ways are so superior when we are from the outside looking in. It’s okay to recognize that it’s different and that people who move from the US to places outside the developed Western world may have to go through a lot of adjustment and possibly a rough transition, but I think it’s unfair to ooh and ah at how “tactless” or “uncultured” a society is and to laud people who move there as some sort of sacrificial, more sophisticated individuals that tolerate living amongst uncivilized savages. China is a beautiful (albeit polluted) country with a rich, and lively culture, one that really emphasizes tightly knit familial relationships and a sense of loving interdependence and genuine respect. It’s unfortunate that this post did not focus more on celebrating the local culture besides a little blurb on street food, and it seems to have deterred a lot of readers from ever wanting to travel there to appreciate it.
    Also, if you aren’t willing to try the fish head soup, you’ll never know what you might be missing out on!

  75. I’d love to read an interview in this series Motherhood Around the World by local women (grown and raised) in Shanghai. I do like hearing the western point of view on motherhood in Shanghai, but this it may do more justice to their culture to hear from the local moms/women, too.

  76. I was disheartened to read such a negative piece on Shanghai. It’s easy for an expat to complain about things they find awful or freaky about their adopted country (I was an expat for two years in Taipei. For some expats it’s practically the only way they pass the time). But that’s why I’ve been a big fan of this series: it’s been very openminded, and it seems like the mothers find great joy in the place they live, warts and all.

    I’m of Chinese descent and was excited to see a motherhood post in Shanghai, but it left me embarrassed for the city, people, and culture. Among other things, I was surprised that there was a feature on the worst fashion trends in Shanghai. Wouldn’t that be like featuring just the fashion faux pas in Milan or Tokyo? Also, Chinese people have never seen what a two child family is like? Come on.

    There were a lot of potshots taken here, and had I not been to Shanghai before (or share a culture with its people), I probably would agree with a lot of the commenters that now want to avoid the city at all costs.

  77. I love it. This series is just brilliant.

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  79. Myself and my husband lived in Beijing for just over a year and our little boy was born there. China was an incredible place to live and there were many positives, but in the end the air pollution did for us. There were so many days we couldn’t go outside and the anxiety about what the air was doing to my newborn just drove me crazy. I feel really privileged to have lived in China. If you ever get the chance you must go, but I agree you should take your sense of humour, a thick skin and a little bit of Mandarin. It goes a long way.

  80. I’m so excited to see a China edition! I grew up in China in the 90s as the child of missionaries from southern california and so many of these things brought back great memories.

  81. I usually love these series. The interviews so far have been honest and revealing, and done without gawking at different cultures. They have also tended to focus on human stories — like how the mothers interact with friends and neighbors, or what their children are interested in — and one got a sense of a common bridge that all mothers can share across cultural divides.

    But the scope and content of this week’s post are very, very disappointing, to say the least. Instead of celebrating cultural differences, the interview is structured to focus on the exotic, or things that seem almost “backwards” in a country of which many of the commentors — and the expat mothers — seem to have a very narrow understanding.

    This was a such a disappointment compared to the beautiful post done on motherhood in the Congo, for example. I think the mother from that post was quite proud of the fact that her children are growing up accustomed to local foods, including goats and snails. Being grossed out over fish head soup — after mentioning issues of hygiene and other cultural “oddities” — seems to be exactly the kind of thing that doesn’t get at the heart of what makes living in a different place truly special.

  82. I want to know how the Chinese mothers keep their kids from throwing tantrums in public! I think a post about Chinese toddler parenting & potty training is in order. :)

    I’m glad to read comments from people defending the more positive/clean aspects of China, because the split pants thing really disturbed me! Haha. Sounds like it’s maybe not as disgusting as I thought it was after reading this.

    Super fascinating series, I can’t echo enough of what others have said: this series is the greatest thing about the internet.

  83. This is fascinating. I can’t believe how different personal hygiene norms are there! Also, I don’t think I’d like a one-child restriction, but maybe that’s just the rebel in me. ;)

  84. This was interesting to read, especially since I’ve lived in Beijing for two years now. I’m originally from New Brunswick, Canada, but moved here to teach. I’ve also visited Shanghai. And I’m living with a Chinese man from Henan and have visited his family.

    A few notes from me:

    1. It’s true that people spit here, that babies wear split pants, etc., but I don’t think China (at least not Beijing and Shanghai) is as dirty as this interview makes it sound. I’ve never seen someone walk on poop and there are many “street-sweepers” whose jobs are to keep the city clean.

    And for the split pants… yes, it’s true that kids will pee or poo outside, the parents will usually make sure it’s in an area out of the way, like the very side of the road or an area with plants. And often, the parents can tell when their kids will poop, so they move them to a place other than a slide or cart… Yes, compared to North America, we think this is dirty, but if you can wrap your head around it, maybe it’s more clean? No poop getting smooshed all over the child’s bum, and less diapers being tossed in the garbage! (Although some kids do wear diapers.)

    2. The no cold drinks thing and wearing socks isn’t just for pregnant women! As a woman, I’ve been told this often, but especially when I’m on my period or if I’m sick. And, as a preschool teacher, I’m told by parents all the time to make sure their child(ren) drink lots of warm water.

    3. The one-child law is actually quite complex. And you CAN have more than one now, not only if your parents come from single-child families. You do have to pay for your second and subsequent children, and the cost is high, but families do pay, and not just rich families. The cost depends on things such as where you live (the cost is higher in big cities as they are more populated) and the sex of the baby, etc.

    4. Ooh! The candied fruit on a stick! One of my favourite things! And “jian bing”…yum! I’ve eaten so many different things here… pigs’ ears, sheep stomach, turtle…

    In the end, fascinating interview as always, but I wish there were more positive things shared. It makes me sad that so many commenters now have it “confirmed” that they could never/don’t want to live in China.

    Yes, living here can be difficult and it is most certainly eye-opening, but it opens your mind! It’s an experience for sure… I think a mostly wonderful one!

  85. To those commenting about pollution, you do realise Americans are by far the biggest energy consumers in the world? Also, as with the Living in Delhi post, by commenting “Oooh I could never live there – so dirty!” how are you contributing to a discussion? This is such a tiny aspect of two amazing vibrant beautiful cities. I like A Cup of Jo, but the audience is coming across as very conservative and sheltered.

  86. I have to agree with CS. Although I loved this post because you mentioned my hometown Shanghai, the comments are a bit too much.

  87. 1. No diapers = less landfill waste
    2. Few people use clothes driers= less energy waste
    3. In winter and summer heaters and air con are used sparingly-westerners would have a hard time in a shanghai summer
    4. Most stores charge for plastic bags= less waste
    5. I have yet to meet a Chinese child with food allergies and th kids are not that fussy
    6. Pollution comes from factories producing items that are being sold in other countries-the blame then, should go to those consumers

  88. CS says...

    I normally love these series, but being of Chinese descent, this one was incredibly upsetting. The view these women presented are incredibly narrow and close-minded. How about the incredible safety for children — there’s no fear of your children playing in the streets and being kidnapped. Or the strong connections between children and their “elders.”

    And the comments only make it worse, congratulating the women of having the fortitude to “stand” being there as if China were some backwards place to tolerate.

    Incredibly disappointed.

  89. I too am a Chinese-American and wish that more of the positive aspects of living in China were mentioned. I worry that someone reading this post who had never visited might assume the worst about living there. If you go to some parts of western China, such as Yunnan, or to the Huangshan area, it is incredibly beautiful. And Shanghai is an exciting, cosmopolitan city with a thriving art scene and friendly people. I find this series very interesting, but I also wish that a local person could be paired with an expatriate, to get a more well-rounded look at the culture and life of a place.

  90. I loved this post and speaking as an overseas-born Chinese, I found Tatum’s concept of what moms want for their children (as in, American vs Chinese, and happiness and safety vs success) interesting. I suspect actually that every parent wants the same thing for their children. It could be that Chinese (or maybe just Asian?) parents see success as a long-term, self-fulfilling route to being happy and safe, not just as a child growing up but also as an adult.

    Sure, not everyone agrees this is a priority, but I think most Asians subscribe to the “work hard now and enjoy later” philosophy.

    The confinement period thing is so true, even for a third-generation overseas-born Chinese like me!

  91. Joanna! I love this series!I am from Ireland and have lived in the U.S for 6 years.If you ever do a flip side series I’d love to participate and give my observations of living in the U.S as an expat! I can’t really imagine moving back to Ireland…as much as I miss my family :-/

  92. Another fascinating post from this great series! However, as an ABC, I echo another commenter who said she wished there was more discussion of the positive aspects of the Chinese culture – such as the incredibly close-knit families, the emphasis on success of society rather than individual success, the concept of self-sacrifice. Finally, to those who commented about the blatant disregard for the environment, I’d like to point out that per person, the U.S. still outpaces China in terms of carbon output by quite a bit… the rapid pace of auto ownership and building construction may have created pockets of awful air pollution, but in general, I find the lifestyle of individual Americans to be more wasteful – things like our need for constant indoor temperature control, gas guzzling giant cars, and hey, just look at all the diapers in the landfills. :)

  93. I’ve been living 2 hours away from Shanghai and so much of what is written here seems straight out of my life. Living in China is certainly an adventure! I have 4 kids ages 5 and under we are a total sideshow everywhere we go – thousands upon thousands of pictures have been taken of my kids. (signed in as Joel, but this is really Kristy)

  94. I just kept saying “oh my gosh! I can’t believe this!” and I laughed out loud at the question “How can you be Canadian when you’re not white?” that was posed to Nicole. Much admiration for these mommas taking on a new culture with tact and grace and cool!

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  96. I’ve been to China and while I don’t remember the hygiene being quite so bad (pooping in public I have not seen, though peeing in plastic bags and leaving the bags lying around I have), most of this stuff is spot on. Especially the Chinese idea that walking on cold floors is bad for you and thus always wearing slippers inside the house. And overbundling babies to the point that they look visibly uncomfortable (: The air pollution sounds terrible though–it seems to have gotten much worse over the past few years..

  97. I agree with Allison – these posts are fascinating, and I’d love to hear a non-American mother’s thoughts on living and parenting in the USA.

  98. Joanna this is such a fabulous series! I am not a mom but I love hearing about the cultural differences each country offers. Keep up the great posts!!

  99. Tatum’s last point about embracing where you are and how that leads to comfort and adventure is dead on. As soon as you start struggling to make this new place form to your old lifestyle and expectations you’re in trouble…!

  100. I love, love, love this series. I’m glad you are doing it again. I look forward to opening my computer on Mondays so i can read it.

  101. This is so fascinating!

    I, too, cannot wrap my head around the seemingly dichotomous attitudes toward the environment in China. The 1-child policy is great for the environment while the air pollution, the mass produced junk that will end up landfills, and the taking dumps all over town…not so much.

    I agree with the above comment – it’s sad to see a country as powerful as China display such a lack of concern for the world we live in. That said, it sure makes for interesting reading.

    Kudos to these moms – China is a country I’m interested in, but this definitely confirmed what I’ve always assumed: I’d NEVER want to live there.

  102. Joanna, this is a bit off subject, but have you ever thought on doing a motherhood mondays post on single mothers? I grew up in a single parent household and I thought it might be interesting to have a post from that perspective. Just an idea!

  103. This is a great and honest article with a humorous tone to it. It makes you want to be open minded about living there and excited for their experiences.

    After reading I did connect with hit and I did feel like I could be open minded and have a thick skin about the spitting & pooping, keeping in mind that every culture has something that other’s find bizarre. But I could not get past the smog. I didn’t realize that anywhere in the world had smog that got to such dangerous levels. It sounds horrendous. I’m not sure why there isn’t outrage and activism there about this.

  104. I’m so excited this series is back! The rules about being pregnant seem similar in Japan. Everywhere I go old people will remind me to wear socks and lots of layers so I won’t get cold. And they tell me not to reach or stretch up high or it will hurt the baby! So weird bc every prenatal workout video I’ve seen allows stretching…my friends said the nagging will only get worse once your baby is born, then directed toward how to take care of the baby.

    I can’t wait to see what other countries you chose!

  105. This is awesome! I’m an ABC (American-Born Chinese) and I had some serious culture-shock when I went to China pre-baby. The pee-puddled slides would unnerve me! lol

    xx Viv at JoieDeViv

  106. This series is the best. I lived in China for a year in 2012 and this post is spot on.

    They really do believe that being cold will give you a cold, so babies are always bundled up, even in the summer! It’s nuts.

  107. Yes, the babies definitely poop on the street. Mothers will even hold their babies like squeeze bottles (with their legs up) to facilitate their BMs. It’s nuts.

  108. Wow what an interesting post! I can’t believe how different life is in China.

  109. This was an incredibly insightful read. The whole split pants & spitting everywhere thing seems so unsanitary. But I must say, I’d love to try out some of the street food. :] // ☼

  110. I’m so enjoying this series… just can’t get enough of them!!
    China’s customs with the poop and spitting in public is just too much for me. Kudos to anyone who can handle that.
    The postpartum mothers issue striked me as kind of punishing at first, since the women have to stay inside, but do you think it’s more freeing? Maybe in America we pressure postpartum mothers too much to get up and going and working again. (Actually I don’t think that’s a “maybe”).

    Joanna, after this installment of the series is complete, I’d love to see certain aspects of all of the mothers’ experiences side by side, almost like a chart or maybe just a conclusive post. Just an idea :)

    Thank you for writing such marvelous accounts of your own experiences, ladies! Love them :)

  111. I love these! I love reading about how motherhood is perceived in different nations by locals. It seems that there are so many “rules” to follow, and they are different everywhere. It’s really eye-opening considering that Americans probably have certain rules that people from other countries find bizarre. I’d be interested to hear (from an insider) what those are!

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  113. Normally i don’t comment, but read your blog daily, however i have to say, love these series even though we don’t have children yet, but it’s so interesting to see all the insights into different countries it’s amazing and fascinating! thank you for sharing.

  114. I love this series! Very interesting interview. I love travel and adventure, but I don’t think I would do well in China. It sounds so dirty :-(

  115. i love this series! and what would be SUPER interesting would be an interview with a foreigner who moved to the U.S. and what THEY think is weird/interesting/different about living here in the States. Just an idea! :)

  116. I have loved this entire series but this one is the most fascinating. It also makes it abundantly clear why internationals living in the US tend to interact with others of the same nationality. I would love to hear from some mothers with that perspective (hint hint!).

    Also I’m guessing that the mother’s quarantine means that breastfeeding rates are very low?

  117. I agree with everyone here…these are my favorite posts EVER. I don’t have any kids, but I grew up in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Ghana, and it’s fascinating to read the parents’ point of view! All of these kids are going to be so grateful for their experiences!

  118. I couldn’t get past the air pollution. I’m a runner and not being able to run freely outside would drive me bonkers! It’s just beyond frustrating that a culture with such a rich and vivid history would now take such a careless attitude towards the environment.

  119. I had to google the split pant concept. I have so many unanswered questions about the logistics. I am wondering whether the fresh dog poo Tatum mentioned may actually be coming from the babies in the streets!

  120. Wow, the food sounds amazing… but not much else in China. I think for me the culture shock would be too much for me! These ladies are amazing for embracing a culture so different from their own.

    Despite that this interview has confirmed that I never want to visit China, I am LOVING hearing the stories of mothers around the world and can’t wait to read the next one.

  121. jm says...

    This was so interesting! Thank you for sharing your adventure! (And thank you, Joanna)

  122. LOVE these motherhood posts…but in this one, all I can think about is how much “fake” stuff is being produced only to be thrown into landfills days later when broken. It boggles the mind and I find it really distressing…with China’s economic power growing, and India and Africa close behind, how will that trend ever be balanced out?

  123. Wow soo different! We went abroad and lived in Holland for awhile when my little guy was just 7 months old – it was a great experience!

  124. This is really fascinating. I’m not sure I could handle the culture shock though. After years working in a microbiology lab I really would be afraid to touch anything with all that poop and pee.

  125. Fascinating reading! I had never heard about the pooping & lack of nappies (diapers)!

    The only thing was that I wished that they had in fact shared more of the positive, having stated right at the end of the article that there are some….there did seem to be quite a lot of emphasis on the things that don’t seemingly compare as well with the US.

  126. I absolutely love this series! I can’t wait to read more!

  127. Oh my goodness, I love this series so much!!! My brother lived in Beijing for a few years, and I always thought he was totally lying when he said Chinese babies didn’t wear diapers but instead had a hole in their pants. I straight up did not believe him, but I guess it’s true. Her description of this is hilarious and priceless!

  128. This one is fascinating! My husband’s job has often offered us the possibility of living abroad and I truly enjoy reading insights from those moms who are doing just that today. Thanks for another great series. The motherhood around the world is definitely one of my favorites so far!

  129. I can’t get enough of these interviews. As an American expat in Spain, I find all the cultural differences fascinating. I was wondering, Joanna, do you do the interviews by sending questions via email? Or Skype? Or some other way? Just curious :)

  130. This was so interesting to read! I lived in China for a year in ’02-’03, and everything rang true, with the possible exception that the food should get a bigger shout-out. I still miss the amazing food there :)

  131. Fascinating! I love how they treat postpartum mothers! I wonder if postpartum depression and other postpartum issues are less of a problem there because of the custom of taking such care of a mom after birth.

  132. This one was SO interesting… China is extraordinarily different from the US, much more so than England or Mexico. I’m fascinated by the stark contrasts in eastern and western cultures. These ladies are amazing!

    I think the one-child policy is very sad. :(

  133. I love this one! When my now husband and I had only been dating about 4 months, he took me to Shanghai to meet his dad and his dad’s wife. It was so amazing and overwhelming and something I will remember forever. And oh… the food… so insanely delicious!
    I think everyone should have to take an international trip with a significant other. Showed me that we could handle anything, even me crying in the middle of the Tokyo airport on a layover.