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Beijing: Expat Children in Beijing
    2007-04-30 16:02:47     CRIENGLISH.com

Although expatriate kids look exotic, their behavior manifests their relationship with the culture of China: they eat salads with chopsticks; they listen to Rock & Roll while drinking Chinese tea; they may be crazy about a pair of sneakers, but they get even more excited over bargaining for a good price. All in all, they are foreign passport holders who call China home. Similar to Chinese brought up in western cultures who are dubbed Bananas, these foreign children growing up in China are dubbed Eggs, as they are said to be white on the outside, and yellow on the inside.

Fitting into the egg category, Charlotte MacInnis, moved from the U.S. to China with her family in 1988--when she was only 7-years-old. Growing up, she lived in a blend of two different cultures, for a significant period of time, before adulthood.

Ive spent much of my life here. I definitely feel China is my home. It doesnt mean I dont identify with America coz it is my heritage and where my family comes from. But I definitely feel more myself in China than in the States.

However, the identification with the host country doesnt come easy. In many cases, expatriate children need time to adapt and be accepted by the local society.

No matter how Chinese I feel or how perfect the Chinese I speak. People look at me and will say you are not Chinese. It is difficult for me.

And on the on the hand, when they go back to their home country, they are also perceived as being strange.

When we talked, I said something and they stopped me and said, wait a minute, you are not normal. (laughing) I had never heard of Rolling Stones songs, which is part of the pop culture all American students know.

But being stuck between two cultures and being different can also make ones life upbeat. Soaking up the local culture, Charlotte and her sister, Mika, are fluent Chinese speakers and culturally adroit. Their Chinese-related talents, such as singing Beijing Opera and doing rapid-fire comic dialogues, make the two sisters known to millions of Chinese people. They are recognized and addressed more in their stage-name of Aizhong and Aihua--put together becomes a pun for Love for China.

This positive attitude for the host culture needs to be nurtured. Charlotte owes her outlook on things to her parents.

For me, now looking back the first time we were in China, it was not easy. But for my parents, they always had positive attitudes and reinforced the idea that it is different culture and we need to learn it. For a young child, such positive attitude helped with my positive attitude about China as an adult. So Im really, really grateful to my parents for maintaining my open-out look on things--through my entire life here and growing up.

At the Lehtonens, the same principle is evident in the conversation at home. Matti, the father, believes in cross-culture families.

We are trying to pass on to them the idea that that you dont judge things by looking because you dont understand what is really behind it. You know, the China we live in is not the China of the Chinese people. It is still China, but we have our perception and thats the way children grow up.

This idea is also embraced by Lance Witte, a professional who has worked in international education for 12 years. He believes that both the school and parents need to work together to make the most effective transition for cross-culture children.

It is a partnership between school and parents. Weve gotta work on both fronts to make it the most effective transition for the children.

After all, to be a cross-culture kid and growing up in China give those children different perspectives in which to view both China and their home countries. As Charlotte MacInnis says, It gives you an open outlook when you are open to differences.

First of all, I think growing up here has had a great impact on me, up till now. Being Chinese and American allows me to have a better understanding of the two places. As you understand more you will accept more, and in the end, it makes you to be a greater person.

Thank you Manli. And with that we come to the end of another edition of CRI special series C Growing up in China. Ill bring you more stories about Chinese children at the same time tomorrow. Good-bye.
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