German Girls and Chinese Babes
Istayed at a friend’s house for a week when I was in Cologne, Germany. My friend has two daughters, one fifteen and the other twelve, both in high school. The day we arrived was the last day before their summer holiday and they came home happily from school.
The next morning, there was no alarm for school so they slept in. Later, after enjoying a home cooked breakfast in the yard, they began making a gift for a friend who was having a birthday party that evening. Their parents would never pay for those presents—they had to do it themselves.
The elder sister created a birthday video using iMovie on her iMac. She collected photos of her friend through the years, with their favorite music as the soundtrack, and added in it birthday wishes in different languages given by people she “interviewed” on the streets.
The younger sister’s present was an environmentallyfriendly bag she made using her own sewing machine. She enjoys making clothing and accessories by hand in her spare time, and her parents happily supported her hobby by giving her a new sewing machine.
The costless, yet thoughtful, gifts made by the two sisters were a hit with everyone at the party.
The third day, when I got up in the morning, the twelveyear-old was already in the kitchen, preparing breakfast for
everyone. She enjoys cooking and can cook a wide range of dishes for the family.
After breakfast, the two sisters cooked again, this time for a refugee boy from Syria.
Last semester, the elder sister took part in a program at school to help this boy, Ali, integrate into German society. Every week, she’d spend a whole afternoon with him teaching him basic German, introducing him to the neighbors and taking him shopping. She received an “A” in the program and got along well with Ali.
Even though it was holiday, the sisters didn’t want Ali to fall behind in his learning, so they took lunch to his house and gave him a German lesson, as usual.
They ride bikes whenever they go to school or go on an outing, and never ask their parents to pick them up.
In two weeks, they’re off to southern France with their parents for a vacation. It’s nothing luxurious, though: they are going to drive there and stay in an old farmhouse. Every day they can go shopping and cook in the farmhouse, and then take a walk, cycle, swim, read books, or just stargaze.
I figured that, except for the cost of the farmhouse and petrol, the two girls wouldn’t spend a cent on their summer holiday.
By contrast, my friend’s ten-year-old daughter in Shanghai would spend a couple of months’ worth of her parents’ salary on her summer holiday.
She registered for a swimming class, which isn’t cheap in a crowded, big city like Shanghai. She also signed up for English and math classes, which cost them a small fortune, and forced her parents to drive her back and forth to class in the blazing summer heat.
Moreover, her parents applied to a “Model American University Summer Camp” for the purpose of getting her to “learn about western culture and expand her horizons.” Undoubtedly, such an international camp shall ask for an international price to match.
I told my Chinese friend about the two German girls. She sighed and said the Europeans are lucky.
Then I told the story of the Shanghai girl to my German friend, who also sighed and said, “No wonder they say the future belongs to China.”
(From Oriental Outlook, Issue 29, 2016. Translation: Liu Lili)