Seven lovely months ago, our little baby Sasha entered into the world in pretty dramatic fashion.
Since then, she has been filling our lives with nappy changes, lullabies, giggles, and more than a few sleepless nights. In other words, a normal baby.
But what makes her different is that she is a foreign baby living in China.
And this is where things get interesting.
1. Celebrity status
How would you react if one day you came home and found a wicker basket full of puppies at your doorstep?
Your reaction will give you some idea of how the Chinese act when they see my baby munchkin’ in the street: they go freakin’. ga.ga..
Being a white foreigner, living outside the major Chinese cities, already means I have a degree of celebrity status. (White privilege is alive and well in Asia, folks. Unfair and ridiculous? Yes).
But since having a baby laowai, this ‘fame’ has cranked up about a hundred notches.
Now, whenever I leave the house the ‘Sasharatzi’ are there and I become a momma bodyguard, fielding a circus of smiles, questions, camera phones, and selfies.
But I have to admit, it’s a real boost to the ego to have full grown women (and men) literally gasp and shriek when they see my offspring.
“Tai ke ai !” (Too cute!)
“Hen piao liang!” (Very beautiful!)
Others will run up to her smiling, playfully clicking their tongues, pulling out their phones and snapping photo after photo.
While grandmas will literally pinch her cheeks.
2. Babysitters everywhere
Any parent knows that going out for a nice meal at a restaurant with an infant is a total nightmare.
My advice to them? Move to China.
Whenever I eat out, Sasha usually attracts all the restaurant staff who offer to hold her while I eat.
Free babysitters? Uh, yes.
At our local supermarket, everyone knows Sasha’s name or “Sha Sha” as they pronounce it.
They sing and clap at her as I stand in line and then help me to pack my shopping trolley (I assure you, this is amazing).
But it’s not only grandmas who love her.
We recently visited the hot springs for my birthday and parked Sasha by the side in her pram as we went for a dip (because I’m a great parent like that).
In no time at all, staff and clients alike were crowding around, taking photos through their plastic water protected phones for over 15 minutes.
3. Christmas everyday
What you might not know about Chinese people is that they are generous gift-givers.
I’ve received lovely gifts from Chinese friends and coworkers almost everytime we meet.
What I didn’t know is that Chinese people – complete strangers I meet in public – would be so willing to give gifts to a baby they don’t know.
Over the last few months, we’ve collected a booty of dolls, blankets, toys and even a gorgeous handmade beanie.
4. Need a hand?
China is not known for shining particularly brightly in the politeness department.
I have a few infuriating instances when people have stolen taxis from me, pushed in line, ripped me off, yelled at me for being a dumb-dumb laowai.
But having a foreign baby here is a game-changer.
And thus, the red carpet is rolled out for baby and me.
People hold doors for me, help me with my shopping, even once getting a taxi FOR me.
5. My Chinese has drastically improved
I often feel like I have the same conversation about a hundred times a day.
“Oh, what a cute baby! How old is she? Where are you from? Can I hold her? Where was she born? Why is her grandma not taking care of her?
The great thing is that I can practice listening to the same questions and prepare a response, expanding on it each time.
People love talking babies, as I do. So I’ve really learnt to speak more Chinese with minimal effort.
Here are just a few of the photos she took of us…
Though, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows
While it pretty much rocks to have a foreign baby in China, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some drawbacks.
Occasionally, the interest is too intense and a fun conversation with one person can quickly become a photo circus with a group of people.
I feel like there is also a big lack of social and physical boundaries. People won’t mind to tell you that you’re ‘momming’ wrong. No socks? She will get sick! They also prod and pinch Sasha’s chubby face and legs without hesitation.
I think, most importantly, I’ve got to watch out not to get an inflated ego and avoid raising a spoilt expat brat.