Moving out is a rite of passage

By Michele Rich Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/12 18:13:40

Illustrations: Luo Xuan/GT


Hardly a week goes by when someone doesn't ask me, "What made you decide to move to Beijing?"

Almost every time I give the same answer, "Because I lived with a host family, and like living with your own family, you eventually reach a stage where you just can't wait to move out."

For one, my host family, with whom I lived in the summers of 2009 and 2010, was a considerably large one, at least to me. The family was spread across three separate flats in an apartment building close to Beijing's center. In one resided the grandparents, who would religiously come over to where I was staying to prepare morning and evening meals. Across the hall from me lived the aunt and uncle on the dad's side, two children, another grandma and their nanny.

The apartment I stayed in had my host sister, her mom, occasionally her dad, when he wasn't on business trips, and their nanny. The family expanded even further in the second summer when my host mom gave birth to her second child, which also meant a second nanny came to live with us.

I grew up with parents who kept to themselves, and I have only a sibling, a younger sister. I was used to quiet holidays with at most six to eight people gathered around the dinner table. In my China family, celebrations were much more chaotic, involving lively banquets with friends and extended family.

The dynamic, while fascinating, often became overwhelming. It brought the mixed sense of joy and dread that many people feel when gathering with their in-laws for Christmas.

Then there was the fact that I had already moved out of my parents' house by the time I came to live with my host family in China. I still remember the day they took me to college and the excitement I felt as the taste of freedom finally approached.

I grew up in a fairly strict household where curfews were often several hours before midnight no matter how old or mature I thought I had become. Asking permission for things was a given, and house rules were rarely, if ever, bent.

My host family wasn't exactly strict, but there were similarities between their rules and those I had with my own parents in high school.

Every time I went out, out of respect, I needed to tell my Chinese parents where I was going and when I would be home. I didn't have a curfew. But once the baby was born, coming home late was out of the question.

One night I went to a few bars with some friends after the World Cup and found myself sneaking into the apartment in the early hours of the morning. I vowed to myself I would never do it again.

While I would never trade my experience living with a family abroad, I still yearned to see the side of Beijing that my 20-something-year-old friends and fellow interns were seeing. So, the next time I came to Beijing, I effectively "move out" of my host family's apartment, got my own apartment and never looked back.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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