China is very rich in culture partially because, geographically, it is a very large nation. Its population of 1.35 billion people constitutes around 50 ethnic groups with customs and traditions varying accordingly. Such diversity can be unsettling for a foreigner and can be quite difficult to adapt to, especially when you’re raising children in China. An unfamiliar environment can cause culture shock in young children.
Cause of shock
Children adapt to changes more rapidly than adults do, but they face their own set of unique problems. For raising children in China, you have to deal with these problems to minimize culture shock. One of the major causes for culture shock is improper communication between parents and children. If you are moving to China and aren’t going to be returning to your home country any time soon, then be sure to convey that message to your child. Children often think they will be moving back “soon”. It is important to prepare them so that they know what’s coming.
Another major reason is the language barrier. Different languages are spoken in China according to different ethnic groups. Though China is changing and becoming more international, only a relative few people speak English. So, if you are a native English speaker, then your child will have difficulty in communicating with other children of his/her age in China.
Different climatic conditions and different food can adversely affect a child’s health. The temperature in China varies greatly between summer and winter. Rice and pork is the most preferred food in China. Children may not get used to such food habits and climatic conditions.
Dealing with it
Raising children in China can be challenging, but starting out positively is important. Discuss issues with your child. It will help him/her get comfortable with the new place. For example, children may think that their friends from home can visit them any time. If it is not possible, let them know. Be honest with them. Do fun things in your new home and neighborhood to promote positivity towards new home.
It’s important that you learn a bit of the local language as soon as possible, even beforehand in you can. Help your child learn the new language as well so that when you reach your destination, he/she may not completely feel unfamiliar.
Depending on the climatic conditions in China, decide the type of clothing that is suitable. Purchase the necessary clothes so that you and your child can adapt accordingly. If you know a Chinese family in your home country, try to get to know customs. Maybe they will even cook you some authentic food! All of this is an effort to give your child an idea of what life is going to be like when you get to your new home in China.
It may take a while for children to get adapted to living in China. But after settling down, the culture is very joyful and enjoyable. Taking steps in reducing culture shock will help your child get used to things as fast and as positively as possible.
Founders of havingababyinchina.com, Jeremy and Jacquelyn have four children. The first three were born in three different hospitals in China and the last was born at home in the US. Jeremy and Jacquelyn created havingababyinchina.com in 2009 after they found little information for foreigners having babies in China. They love connecting with other foreigners having babies. Learn more about them on the about page.