Notes on China: Relationships

Public Displays of Affection

An interesting mix of public displays of affection.

Lots of teenage and twenty-something girls holding hands. I suspect most of them were just demonstrating friendship, but who knows? For what it’s worth, there were zero guys holding hands with each other.

Male-female couples seemed to hold hands until mid-twenties, then no further contact. Older couples seemed to move like planets in parallel orbits… except, of course, when they were yelling at each other. Some of the “discussions” between apparently-married couples would probably get the police called in the USA.


I know China has a “One Child” policy… but, honestly, I didn’t see any evidence of it. Plenty of families with two or three children. I did manage a stilted conversation with my translator on this topic… he said the rule was less enforced in the countryside than in the cities.

I’ve read of the “little emperor” problem, but the children seemed no more than normally indulged with ice cream, toys, etc. No noisier than children anywhere else. (Except with a particularly annoying slidewhistle that was sold at all tourist stops, but that’s not the kids’ fault!)

No baby strollers. If they can walk, they’re expected to walk. If they can’t, Mom carries them.

A personal experience with a child: I was in line for a tourist attraction behind a babe in arms. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing one year old. Quietly, without any fuss, he leaned over mama’s shoulder and vomited onto my shoes.

No one made any move to clean up the puddle of vomit (or my shoes). No one made eye contact with me, either to challenge or to apologize. Another mother brought over a tissue and wiped the baby’s mouth, making soothing noises. And the line moved on…

Cute Kid

A more positive experience: On a nature trail, there was a family of four, with the younger son (maybe 2 years old) sitting piggyback on the dad’s shoulders. The mother came up to me with a camera, and made it clear they wanted me to pose for a photograph. Huh? Okay… I stood between the father/son and the daughter (probably 5 years old). She snapped a picture. I then realized that I was eye to eye with the son, so I was as tall as the two of them together. I must have seemed like a freakish monster, and they wanted a picture of the moment. (My beard probably helped, too. Except for teenaged boys trying to look like thugs with some peach fuzz on their cheeks, I didn’t see any facial hair on this trip.)

I gestured as if to take the son and put him piggyback on *my* shoulders for an even better photo, but they just giggled and walked off.

Finally, when pushing through the throngs, I’d frequently hear a shy “Hello.” Invariably, it was a five- or six-year-old kid. Old enough to have learned a few words of English in school, and young enough not to be shy about approaching the crazy foreigner?

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