Straight-Up Momma: The Tongue Tie

By 2018-12-20 23:26:08

Trying to be heard but hitting a brick wall

I’ve always been a rather loud and outgoing person. It’s easy to say I’m assertive, and if something isn’t going my way I make my voice heard until I get what I want. However, living here in Shanghai has made me lose a bit of my voice. And it’s not because I’m constantly screaming at someone and have laryngitis (although this is also plausible), it’s because I’ve encountered so many situations where I’ve tried to effectively get a message across and hit a brick wall. Whether that is a language barrier, cultural difference or other; I’ve become frustrated and complacent with a lot of my daily conversations I’ve had because I feel as though my hands are tied.


A lot of it has to do with situations with my kids. I remember, after only living in Shanghai a week, I took Kai to Century Park to let him ride the little roller coaster. While he was on it, the ride operator took out his phone and started to film him. This wasn’t at all something I was used to. So, I tried to politely (with no Chinese at that point) tell him to stop filming him. But he wouldn’t. So I waved my arms saying “NO NO NO!” and he then pointed the camera at me and said “Nihao!”. I lost that fight and I’m sure there is now a four year old video of Kai somewhere on Weibo.

Ride Century Park

Another time, my friend told me of a story of one of her flight experiences. She had tried to explain many times to airport staff that playing Suicide Squad during a daytime flight on communal screens wasn’t quite appropriate for her three year old to be watching. They didn’t quite get it and offered to find her child an iPad to watch instead, while ignoring the main issue of Harley Quinn swinging around a stripper pole. After trying to explain it to three different staff members, my friend finally gave up knowing she wasn’t going anywhere with her concerns.

Boy Swimming

Recently, I’ve been getting into very heated arguments about the boys changing for swim lessons in our clubhouse with me. Despite what I deem a safe age to change by themselves in their changing room, the management has made it clear that if they are over 100cm (a height they’ve both been over since the age of three) they will have to change by themselves or they will send in a member of male staff to change them for me.

Of course, being a mom alarms bells screaming “PEDOPHILES! PEDOPHILES EVERYWHERE” went off in my head. I complained, I wrote a letter, and I had heated debates half in Chinese and half in English on the pool deck for hours. Still my voice wasn’t being heard. And, eventually, I gave up because the language barrier, or the fact that I had little access to resources to help me, made me so frustrated I would dread taking my kids to swimming lessons.

Boy Reading

Although Shanghai is incredibly expat friendly, it’s not always easy living in a city where you don’t speak or read the native language. It’s not always easy when you’re expected to respect new cultural norms and abandon your own. And it’s not always easy to keep an open mind and laugh at the situations you can’t control. But the best thing you can do is try. And have a bottle of wine chilled and on the ready for the times that you still hit that Great Wall.