Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nanny-tell-all in China

This article (Business Insider) is a first-hand account of a young English nanny who went to work in China for a wealthy local family and got schooled herself in the modern trappings of the Middle Kingdom. To frame the storyline differently, Mary Poppins went to China and got a spoon full of reality. Her account is packed with stereotypical elements, but it’s an amusing read nevertheless.
The plot goes something like this: idealistic English university grad who has read something about modern Chinese history and Mao’s “Red” China is shocked (shocked!, mind you) to realize how materialistic 21st century allegedly-Communist China has become. She encounters no little red books, no collectivist farms and factory complexes churning out everyday goods for everyday comrades. Rather, her host family’s possessions include stacks of designer shoes, a garage full of Porsche’s, kitschy Western furnishings, and more luxury brands than is displayed in a typical Vogue magazine. Naturally, the kid – her charge - is a bit of a spoiled brat. He picks his nose and wipes his hand on her, and exhibits a number of other princelingly ill-manners.
Yet, despite the moral ravages of wealthy privilege, including finding distractions in lavish banquets and shopping sprees, the kid’s Mom somehow manages to display love and affection for her offspring. She bathes the kid by herself, playing games while she does so. Amazingly, there is a sense of humanity and family values in this exotic Oriental land, after all.

This article may say more about the author's maturity and sense of professional propriety than shed any new light on what China is about these days. Perhaps she might have felt less discombobulated if she had worked in a household manned by eunuchs and rickshaw pullers, or in a farming commune in the hills outside Kunming. Surely, such vestiges of the "real" China still exist, at least in popular imagination.

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