Ever since my wife was pregnant back in 2013 we started to do research about having a baby. Of course my wife had her memories from her upbringing and I had my own and they had their certain differences. These differences came even more apparent after Nathan was born and we visited other Chinese couples who had children about the same age as our son. Now that our little warrior is already over 1 1/2 years old we heard and saw so many different things that I just have to share with you some of the major differences when it comes to raising a child in China compared to Finland/ Germany. Please note that these points are not a generalization for countries but in fact just what we personally experienced thus far. I don’t go too far into the details as it is just too much then for just a single blog post.
So you are pregnant, congratulations! Lets see what we have there already for differences. What we learned from my wife’s family, Chinese friends, Chinese forums and last but not least customers of my wife is that a pregnant woman should pretty much do nothing. You surely still can go and take a walk, go shopping and similar things but anything beyond that is life threatening for the unborn baby. When we were in China in 2013 (few months after we found out that there is little Nathan growing) my wife did something which shocked the entire neighbourhood in Xi’an. She did dare to step on a little wall surrounding some flowers which is incredible 50cm/ 1.6f high and also stepped down from it. All around old ladies came storming in and shouting that the unborn baby might just drop out! After this she was advised to stay in bed for several days to let everything settle again. Another thing was about the food and drinks she was allowed to consume. Cold drinks? Oh hell no! Cold drinks are anyways considered the root of all evil according to the Chinese we have met thus far. Food? Oh, the more the better as wifey needs to pound up in order to be strong enough for the delivery and nursing the baby. Advised was from some people around 30kg/ 66lbs weight gain during pregnancy.
Now lets see what we experienced in Finland/ Germany. Taking a walk was of course also allowed for my wife and she was actually encouraged to do some light sports such as to go swimming, fast walking or easy exercises in the gym. Only during a certain time in the beginning some movements should be avoided and that is basically it. I know someone who did still most of her professional swimming practice until few weeks before the due date but that is again some extreme case and I would not recommend it for others even though everything worked out for her and there were no complications. Now to the food and drinks. Right in the beginning we received from Neuvola a list of food and drinks which should be avoided completely or only consumed in a very very little amount. This list was easy to follow as most things were just common sense such as avoiding alcohol, smoking and caffeine. My wife was checked monthly at Neuvola and when she gained over 20kg towards the end of the pregnancy they just told her not to worry even though it was already several kg over the average of 15kg.
How to dress the baby
What we certainly learned from other Chinese, especially from MIL was that there is no such thing as putting on too many clothes on the baby. The more and the thicker the clothes are the better it is. The baby is sweaty and has red cheeks? No it is not due to wearing too much but it is a sign that the baby is happy! In case it is only +30 degrees Celsius/ 86 degrees Fahrenheit outside you better put on some thick clothes as it is really too cold for just t-shirt and shorts. For some nice depiction on how to proper dress a child in China check out Point number 10 on this post of Marta’s blog. Diapers are another thing best to be avoided as the little baby parts down there will just rot away from being compressed all the time so better just use split pants and let the baby do its business where ever it wants to (especially cute when doing so in the middle of the street or shopping mall as seen too often in China).
In Finland and Germany its been a bit different thus far. Of course the baby shouldn’t freeze to death by wearing nothing during winter time but it is very much different as the encountered Chinese way. Dressing the baby lightly was encouraged to us, avoid putting on too much as the baby has already a bit higher body temperature than adults. In case the little one starts sweating, remove some clothes. In Finland they even told us to take the baby out to the balcony or garden during nap time in the middle of winter. Not naked mind you but dressed accordingly warm so the baby could breathe in some fresh cold air as long as the temperature would not drop below -15 degrees Celsius/ 5 degrees Fahrenheit. To the topic of diapers nothing was really encouraged or discourage. We should just go with whatever worked best with our baby so we went with a mix of standard diapers and reusable ones (washable).
How to teach basics to the child
Now this one is a tricky one as in China it certainly suffered a lot due to the one child policy and hence the result of young kids being treated like little empresses/ emperors by their grandparents. This led also that many nowadays parents have not really a clue how to raise their spawn of evil. Too often we heard how exhausted some of my wife’s friends were because on how busy the baby kept them. You might think it is pretty much usual until you hear that there are sometimes up to 7-8 people taking care of the baby. Not only the parents would be involved daily but also the grandparents and specially hired nannies. Each person would have one task and…just wow I don’t know what is going on. Could be that my wife’s friends are just very special cases and it never ever happens anywhere else in China which I highly doubt after the 100% coverage of her friends doing this insanity. Whenever Nathan did something wrong and we gave a little punishment which usually led to him complaining a lot or even crying MIL just came in running, cuddling him, giving him some snacks and telling him that he can just go on and do this again. She fervently defended her position by explaining how strict she already is and that other grandparents in China are so much worse. Well, it is actually true as I had read in some other blogs and my wife found out more often than not in Chinese forums. More you can find out of course by counseling your friendly online search engine or also by reading some stories from Jennifer’s blog.
With Finnish and German families it is a bit different. The parents do most of the times everything alone and might get help from time to time by the grandparents. Here most people are kind of shocked about this so-called little emperor syndrome in China. I can’t add any other things to this as there is basically nothing else to it here. But once again I have to say that this is just what we have encountered and it can not be applied to the entire countries.
How are your experiences in your home country? In case you are in China, how much of our Chinese examples you have encountered yourself or are even totally different?
Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts.