Family matters

I want to dedicate a tiny section on this blog to some cultural things that I want to share with who ever is interested in some Chinese culture.

My parents were early immigrants from Hong Kong. They moved to the Netherlands in the 1960’s to settle down. As a result I, youngest of four, only child born in the Western world learned to live a double life. When I was out with friends I was Dutch. At home I was Chinese. In my early years it was quite difficult to find a balance. As I grew up I started to found a way to live with it.

Although it sometimes was difficult to live between two cultures I do cherish the Chinese traditions and I’m grateful my parents insisted that I should know my roots.

Chinese traditions contains many ridiculous things. But most of the things have a background story. And that background story sometimes intrigues me very much.

Let’s start with family matters. Few weeks back a nephew of mine became father of a baby girl. As I am his aunt (his mother is my cousin so he is next generation) I am thus the baby girls great-aunt. Believe me, I’m not that old!

My daughter (8) is very happy with her little niece. The little baby is so cute that she couldn’t stop cuddling her. But most of all she’s more impressed by the fact that she has become aunt! She proudly announced at class that she is someones aunt now. Where as her classmates all look impressed at her.

Why is my little girl aunt of the baby? In Western terms the relationship between my daughter and the baby girl would be called nieces. But my daughter is of the same generation of the baby girl’s father, hence according to Chinese tradition she has to be called aunt by the baby girl.

Nowadays we all ignore the complicated family relationships. We are all just uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces to someone. But this ancient Chinese rule to call family members by their rank is still very interesting. Why is it so important to make clear the relationships? Why does the older generation still insists the young ones do it right? Well, it’s because in Chinese culture family is very important. You have to know your family and you have to help your family when it’s in need. Bloodline is sacred.

The other thing is respect. The younger generation has to show respect to the older generation. That is the first thing a Chinese child will learn from his or her parents. If you know how to show respect you will be a good human being.

Family and respect. The basics of life.