Kimi is now in possession of a brand new car, a Skoda Fabia. Skoda used to be an embarrassing brand to own and I remember many jokes being told about them when I was at school. Since Volkswagen bought the company a few years ago things seemed to have improved immensely. Kimi's car is no exception, some even say VW built a better Polo with the Fabia.
Kimi's mother has recently retired from her job, and with some of the money she was given she decided to buy this car for her daughter. This seemed outrageous to me, but I have been continually told, "this is how things are done in China". I can't comment on all of China, but in Wenzhou it's quite true. The parents buy a home for their child and then their child will buy a home for their child etc. Very few people get mortgages here because they simply don't need to, but they still need to save for 20-30 years so that they can give their child the home they so obviously deserve. In some ways this way of living is great, you don't owe any money to a bank and you don't pay any interest. On the other hand, this tradition is part of a long list of other traditions which completely control the lives of the sons and daughters of Wenzhou (especially daughters). In a very generalised nutshell the trend is this:
- School - as normal as ever. But if your parents want to you to go to a good kindergarten/primary school/middle school/high school, then they will probably have to pay money for it (under the table). That is unless they're best buddies with the headmaster.
- University - it's quite possible your parents have told you what course to take. Usually it's business-related. In one year of working at Web I've only met two students who are studying Music. Most creative subjects are red areas. Maths, business, foreign trade = good.
- Job - again your parents have probably lined up this career path for you. They might have even paid a substantial amount of money to get you the job, or they may have taken advantage of a family relationship inside the company. With the right kind of relationship (Guanxi) you will get the job regardless of your qualifications and skills.
- Marriage - if you haven't already found the love of your life then you'd better get a move on, especially for the girls. Most people leave university at the age of 24 and parents expect their daughter to be married by the age of about 25-27. For the boys it's much more flexible, you can be a bachelor in your 30's without too much stress from mama and baba. If you're single after university then your parents will arrange "suitable" blind dates for you (whether you want it or not). One of Kimi's female cousins went on a some of these blind dates a few months ago. She was engaged to a man within a month and married within four. The other criteria for marriage is that the spouse should be local, no Hangzhounese here please.
- Home - once you're married your parents will have bought the house you will start a family in and a car that you will drive to the job they gave you.
- Baby - as soon as your married you must have a baby, and it must be before you're 30 if you're a woman (I won't even go into the "tradition" that takes place once you've had the baby, I'll leave that for another blog).
- Now it's your turn - yes, now you can control every millisecond of your babies life.
It's strange how Kimi's mother has not followed the norm. I was trying to think why, maybe it is because if Kimi was with a Wenzhounese boyfriend she would probably be married by now. Or maybe she has just given up all hope because of me (I'm not Wenzhounese).