Traveling with the family

Traveling and visiting some beautiful sights can be both stressful and relaxing. The stressful part is obviously the journey itself when travelling in an old Volkswagen Santana and the relaxing part is when arriving and finally being able to stretch out the legs.

On one of our trips to China we went with nearly the whole crazy Chinese family to the mountain range near the Qinghua Mountain 清华山just south of Xi’an. At least I think it was near that mountain, you see the trouble when traveling with my Chinese family is that they have absolutely no clue at all what places are called, so it’s mostly “We go the mountains” or “We go to the lake” or even “We go to the tall building”. You see those information are not really useful so I have to do always my own research about it.

Mountains
Traveling to “the mountains”

So where did I left of? Ah right, trip with nearly the whole crazy Chinese family. This means that beside us two and the in-laws also my wife’s aunt joined with her boyfriend and her daughter (Who is similar age as my wife) and the mom in law’s two dogs. Doesn’t sound so much but if you split this now into two cars of which is one an old Volkswagen Santana 2000 it is not so nice anymore.  So I had the luck to sit in the back of that old VW Santana, with my wife and one jumpy dog. That little monster (the dog…) was so annoying that I had to hold it in something like a death grip until the animal got tired enough to fall asleep on my lap. However this wasn’t yet the stressful part of the journey.

Have you ever traveled in such an old car up a mountain? No? Don’t do it! Let’s just say the car struggled a lot and I have still video material of bicycle riders passing us by on those mountain slopes. Oh, before I forget, of course the cars AC was broken, I lost feeling in my legs because they were stuck so badly behind the front seat, there were no seatbelt, the roof of the car was so low that my head had to be tilted the whole time and there was no headrest in the backseat. Overall it was a cramped and physically very straining journey.

Nevertheless I survived that journey and we arrived “In the mountains” with a nice mountain river passing through a valley. We spent rather much time near that river and I still have a few words of advice in memory given my mom in law.

Don’t go into the river, you can drown!

Yes, the deepest point I could find the water went just a bit over my knees.

The fishes will bite you!”

All I could find were baby fishes the size of my fingernails.

Wash your hands we you come up again!

The water we washed our hands with was straight from the river and we got no soap.

Don’t go to the river after eating, it is bad for your health!

I guess she mixed up walking in a river with doing actual sports.

"The River"
“The River”

I still wonder what the other people were thinking about mom in law when she shouted her knowledge about the dangers of rivers to us.

In the end it is a nice experience to travel around with your family (even if it’s a crazy Chinese family). It was a great day except the journey there and back again due to the issues described above. The best part about traveling with Chinese is that you do not have to worry about food yourself. As Chinese love their food they also take great pains to take a lot of it to a journey and look non-stop for places to eat. This again results that an average European person such as me will never get hungry.

Remember my journey to Hua Shan and my backpack full of food? Thanks to dad in law and aunties boyfriend I only had to carry a manageable amount of food, YES!

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Communicating with the family

I remember when I spent my first holiday in China. Preparation for that trip had been going on for a long time but of course I was still nervous. Not so much about the trip itself but how I would communicate with my future parents in law and the rest of the family. The language of choice would be Chinese as none of the family speaks English, or any other language so to say.

I had been going to Chinese language courses for over a year prior to that trip at my university but all knowledge didn’t pass much beyond “ni hao” 你好 and “xie xie” 谢谢. Sure, I have learned more besides those common terms but they quickly left my mind once we arrived in China. As soon as more than one person talked to me it just sounded like an angry beehive and to complicate matters even further they often switched into Xi’an hua 西安话. Thus I was utterly lost during my time there. I had even trouble understanding other basics such as “hao chi“好吃 either due to their insane speed of talking or the local dialect.

Chinese has not gotten any easier for me. Oh no, every day of more studies make my life even harder and increase my desperation with the language. However I reached now a level that I normally have a clue what my in-laws want from me and I can (sometimes) give a short reply which makes sense to them. I am by no means even close to becoming fluent in Chinese but I improve little by little more each day. I don’t go to any courses anymore as here it is mostly hopeless to learn anything when having classes once a week. No, I changed to study on my own. I can set my own pace and see where I have to improve (actually everywhere…).

Where do I see myself in, lets say, 2 years of studies? I am pretty confident that I will be actually able to have real conversations with people. Each and every single day I study Chinese, mostly going through vocabulary again and again but I am such a dense person that this might be actually the only possible way to learn it. Yeah, I watch Chinese TV shows with my wife but the pace is normally so fast that I can only understand the beginning of the sentence or read the first few characters of the subtitles. But this is something I really want to do, I want to learn this language and I am going to stick with it (how I might regret saying this in 10 years…)

And guess what, all my excitement, preparation and practice with this language will be again repeated once my mother in law will arrive here in three months. Each time I visit there I set myself a goal I want to reach with my communication level. Each trip marks a step forward with my skills and I am looking forward to show of my new set of vocabulary and comprehension to them.

 

 
What about your experience with Chinese language or any other new language you are learning? How was your first experience with that language in a native environment?

 

Names

This article is less about stories about my crazy Chinese family and more about some other struggles. It’s about names, to be more precise, family names and children names.

 

Family Names

Up till now I got to know several “mixed” couples, most of them where the women is Chinese and the man is European. Of all of those couples who married, the wife kept her Chinese name. Nothing wrong with that as in China it is usual that both partners keep their own family names. In Europe it’s another matter, it’s still not that common that the wife keeps her own name or that the husband changes his family name (Still I know several cases).

My wife didn’t want to change her name as well as she wanted to keep her “Chinese” roots but also wanted to have something more “European”. In the end she decided to have a double family name, with her old one first and then the new one added to the back. Those double family names are not that uncommon either, especially in Germany where you can find nowadays a broad variety of those added names, sometimes resulting in very funny combinations. (For example “Große-Flasche” translates into “Big-Bottle” and many more I better not list here).

When asking our friends about the reasons they kept their own Chinese name they normally said that they don’t want to have any silly European name. But then again, there is still a high discrimination in Europe towards foreigners. For example when applying for jobs many applications are never being opened due to a foreign sounding name. Sad but true.

How to name your child

This is another tricky topic as we are also awaiting our son to be born soon. His name? No idea yet. Okay, this is not entirely true. We have some names already on our mind but we haven’t decided on any specific one yet. We are aiming for a name which can be used both in German language and in English language. Reasons? Well, we plan to move back to Germany later and we want at the same time that the name is time usable for English speakers. (Oh, English speakers have often trouble with my name…). So finding a good sounding name, which can be pronounced in German and in English is very important to us.

We also wish to give our son a second given name. This name will be a Chinese one. As we are more than troubled enough to decide on the first name we have outsourced the task for the Chinese name to mom in law. Just imagine how happy she must be, tinkering each day on possible combinations…

None of our friends in Chinese-European relations have children yet, so we shall be setting a naming example for them. Better be good though 😉

 

 

What are your experiences with family names or about finding a great name for a child?

My crazy Chinese Family I married into…

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