It's Not Just Me, Is It?


So there’s this article from the Wall Street Journal about an American family’s struggles in adjusting to expat life in interior China. Is it just me, or are the family’s attempts to adjust, to put it very politely, half-assed?

I know that moving to an entirely alien environment is extremely tough, stressful, etc., but the best way to handle these kinds of challenges seems to me to look at them as opportunities. Seriously—how many families from the midwest get the chance to go half-way across the world and experience entirely new cultures and ideas?

Instead, they barricaded themselves inside the Hilton for nine months and refused to eat the local cuisine (hey, if it’s good enough for 32 million Chinese, it’ ain’t gonna kill you to try it). Food needs are handled by a closet full of Hormel cans. Chinese lessons are two hours a week, which might be good enough to learn jive but is essentially useless for learning Chinese.

So instead of embracing a 5,000-year-old culture, a country with a population four times that of the US, and trying to learn from it, they’ve instead retreated and tried to recreate a simulation of “normal” life behind the walls of an exclusive gated community. I somehow think that they’re not getting everything they could out of the experience.

Rick Bruner reminds me of a Calvin Trillin story: his wife once said that she likes chinese food but she doesn’t think anyone could eat it every day. Trillin fired back that that only a billion people do so, every day.


Hey,they're from the MIDWEST!! It was the MIDWEST that "re-elected" Bush. *I rest my case.*

I find the idea of barricading myself inside the Hilton for nine months kind of appealing, and I haven't even gone anywhere.

If they don't want to live in China why are they there? Is this another dumb survivor show?

The dad is a manager for Ford in China, and he actually does have plenty of familiarity with Mandarin. I think part of the difficulty for them is that the sense of being foreign is heightened by others' reactions to them. I speak the language spoken in, say, rural North Dakota, but I'd still feel strange based on how the people there would see me.

Still, I'm surprised the kids aren't starting to do a little better; whatever happened to that famous resilience?

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