In the process of raising three cross-cultural daughters, Connie Berger has unexpectedly created an expat community of their own in Dongguan.
Why did you move to Dongguan, when was it?
In 2004, my husband said “Let’s move the family” because it was getting too tiring for him to commute back and forth to Hong Kong.
How is parenting in China different than other countries?
Most of it is the principles and values of the parents, but because we were out of our element, we really didn’t have a lot of connections in this new city that we were living in. [Our children] lacked cultural input and entertainment, so we constantly had to create friend groups since they were young and we had to find friends that they could play with. [Eventually,] we just created an expat community ourselves.
What is your opinion about education in China?
I think it’s the choice of the school and it’s challenging in the beginning. We first put our first kid in private school when there were no international schools, but luckily we [enrolled into] TLC International School, so our kids were very happy and steady for their whole education career.
How important is language in your children’s education?
English is their first language—we speak it at home, but my mother asked me to speak Cantonese with them. They are not keen on picking up Cantonese. The school is teaching them Mandarin, so they can speak and write Mandarin.
I think that it is not simply about a language skill—it is also how you think and understand a culture. Once you speak a language, then you will be more receptive with everything that’s happening within that culture. They will also have more compassion for the people in that culture and interested in the arts, literature…
Do you and your husband bring different parenting styles to the table, especially with one Western and one Asian background?
Definitely. I think if I am married to someone at the next street, we will still be very different. We constantly have conflicts and different ways and values. We both value education a lot, but still in a different degree. With Asian moms, they will feel that academic achievement is very important for success. However, I am just a little different because of my beliefs. [My husband and I] had a big discussion during a trip, because he has a way of doing things and I got very upset. I suggested that we separate our roles—for domestic roles, I will take charge, and [he will take charge of] other big decisions regarding our family and big plans.
What are the impacts of raising cross-cultural kids?
Their worldwide views are much bigger. Not only because we are mixed culture, but we also have the privilege to travel. Traveling is really eye-opening. We spent time in Thailand, Japan and New Zealand… all these [experiences] will give them a much better understanding of different opinions and different ways of living. I think this is a very important education.
You are relocating to the US after living in China for 17 years. What are your thoughts regarding leaving China?
I prepared [to leave and relocate] for the first couple of years since we arrived in China, because we are always not sure about what tomorrow brings. So, this is not a shock to me. But when I have to uproot these 17 years of my life, of course there is a lot of emotional connection… the friends that I meet here, the food and restaurants that I go to, my habits, and Taobao is so convenient… I really have to reestablish my whole life again.
What is your family going to miss about living in China?
Friends. We have a group of people that we have associated with for so long. Even though this year a lot of friends are leaving, it’s still heartbreaking. But I’m very grateful because we come here and we all leave our family behind, so we need each other even more.