Friday, July 30, 2010

Being A Bicultural Baby

Is it true that people can only have one child in China?

I think so, yes.

What happens if your family has more than one child?

I've heard that you have to pay a fine.

How much is the fine?

Er...I don't know. It can't be cheap, I'd imagine, if it's supposed to be effective.

So how much is that?

I really have no idea...I grew up in Canada, you know.

Oh...okay. But really, how much is the fine?

I've had many conversations like this, living in Europe, first as an exchange student and now as an intern. Being a bicultural kid is a big job, because not only do you have to represent the country you came from and grew up in when you're abroad, but you also have to represent your "original" culture.

Whenever people ask me where I'm from, "Canada" doesn't seem to be a satisfactory answer because I'm not Caucasian - but really, if they're going to assume anything, shouldn't they assume that all Canadians should look like Natives, who were here before any of us?

"No, REALLY, where are you from?" they press on. Many people have trouble wrapping their minds around the fact that Canadians (and Americans, as well as many Australians, for example) come in many colours.

I never know what to do or say when I get asked about Chinese government policies and foreign policies. I can go on about culture and food and even maybe a bit on history, but I'm totally clueless about how it's like to live there.

So now that I have Chinese-from-China classmates in my Spanish course, I decided to do some investigating and to find out the answers to those questions myself.

My classmate Gu told me today that apparently the tax for having a second child in China is a one-time lump sum equivalent to about 100,000€. A third sets a family back about 150,000€, and prices escalate for each subsequent child, so usually only very rich businesspeople have multiple children. If a civil servant has more than one child, their employment is automatically terminated. But being a civil servant is a sweet deal in China because you make a really good living, you have tons (as in TOOONS) of benefits and privileges the plebs don' people deal with it.

Someone else told me that the rule only applies to Han Chinese people who live in urban areas - so many people will hide their kids with relatives who live in rural regions. And then maybe emigrate.

Speaking of which, Chinese-from-China/Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan people see us bicultural babies as totally different and separate entities from themselves as well, so I kind of feel like we're in a category of our own.

I have another classmate from China who was utterly fascinated to learn that I grew up in Canada.

"You speak English?" he asked me in his most American accent and I explained to him that, yes, because I grew up in Toronto.

He seemed absolutely delighted at the sound of me speaking my strongest language, told me he loved my accent, and from then on has since spoken to me in as much English as he could in order to get me to answer in kind. It seemed to rock his world that a Chinese person could speak another language more intuitively than they speak Chinese.

So they're kind of like a variation of Yellow Fever Creepers, except for some reason I find them less offensive...I wonder why?

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