The China Birthday Enthusiasm Gap | Speaking of China

8 Responses

  1. melanie gao
    melanie gao October 25, 2010 at 4:52 am | | Reply

    One day in July last year my husband and I were in the process of moving out of a house before the tenants came to move in. We were in the garage up to our ears in boxes and Buddy suddenly said he wanted to go to Todai for lunch, which is this expensive restaurant that’s way across town and we only go there on birthdays because the birthday kid eats for free.

    I was so mad at him for suggesting that because we were way behind on our work and this was no time for kidding around. He just stood there looking at me, smiling, like he could see a tidal wave behind me that was about to crash over my head.

    And suddenly it hit me, it WAS his birthday! I had completely forgotten. And he was trying to gently remind me. 🙂

  2. Bill Campbell
    Bill Campbell October 25, 2010 at 6:47 pm | | Reply

    Wow! I’m speechless!
    warm regards,

  3. Li Lan
    Li Lan October 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm | | Reply

    It’s a Western thing. It amazes me how obsessed Westerners are with birthdays. The secretary I have here even seems to spend a good amount of time compiling and sending out birthday-of-the-month lists of faculty members having a birthday in some particular month. For decades my mother was forcing me and my brothers to do something for each other’s birthdays until I very bluntly told her to stop being our birthday bookkeeper because quite frankly it wasn’t getting fun anymore.

    Yet when I ask my Chinese friends when their birthdays come, they all shut up and won’t say anything. I notice that if I ask a Chinese child when their birthday is, their parents seem to become anxious and change the topic quickly. So I’ve learned to just ask the age, never the birthday date. Asking their animal year is always ok though.

  4. Laura
    Laura October 28, 2010 at 12:09 am | | Reply

    Both my husband and I have birthdays in November, and the last couple of years I’ve planned parties to surprise him. This year he made me promise not to do anything on his birthday. I think us Westerners want to make people feel special on days like birthdays. And you need people around to make it feel like a celebration. I know his parents didn’t really have any parties for him when he was young, I feel like its my job to make up for it. But obviously he doesn’t feel any loss. With our daughter growing up in the U.S. it will be different. If she sees all of her friends have birthday parties and she doesn’t have any what will she think? I guess I hold on to my American viewpoint on this subject. This year I promised not to do anything but I never said anything about the future…..

  5. Holly
    Holly February 18, 2011 at 5:54 pm | | Reply

    No wonder when it was my friend, Li’s birthday, I asked him, “Are you doing anything special for your birthday?” he replied, “Nothing.” I actually gave him a card(that I made myself) and she said to me, “This is the 2nd gift I have received for my birthday.” The next day, I asked how his birthday was, he said, “Just like any other day.” I think, Chinese New Year, is more of a celebration for birthdays? I know in the Vietnamese culture, kids do not really sometimes remember their birthdays, or they don’t celebrate them.

    Jocelyn, thanks for posting the cultural views on the Chinese, and the differences of culture in China and America. It’s really helping me a lot, to understand my friends.

  6. Holly
    Holly February 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm | | Reply

    ah mistake, not she, he.

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