When you help a stranger or someone outside your Chinese home, they would always say “thank you” to you. “Thank you for opening a door for me” or ”thank you for helping me with this”. However, at home, when your host mom passes a tea pot to your host dad, he would take it without saying “thank you” and you would notice this wouldn’t make your host mom angry which is completely different from what you’d experience in your own home. Sometimes, your host family would say you don’t need always have to say thank you as it makes you seem like a stranger at home.
Chinese people tend to say, “Thank you”’ to someone depending on how close they are to each other. For instance, in the early stages of a relationship between a boy and girl, they would appreciate each others support by saying “thank you”, but as they get closer, they wouldn’t say thank you but just smile at each other or hug. However, when they get married, when the wife receives a gift, she may just hug her husband without saying “thank you” as they both understand how appreciative the other person feels without having to say the words “thank you”. Some couples feel strange when either party thanks the other, even the children tend not to say “thank you” to their parents or each other.
This may seem very strange to you at first, but once you understand that it is just a cultural difference, when you notice your host family don’t thank you when you’ve helped out, you’d know then that you are part of the family and not just an au pair to them.
In some traditional Chinese family homes, family members tend not to say “sorry” to each other. Back home, when you make a mistake, it is the custom to apologize, saying “sorry”, but you may not find this to be so in your host family home. For instance, if your host dad comes home late the previous night, he would prepare breakfast for the family to apologize for being late. Though in most modern Chinese family homes, parents teach their children to say sorry when they do something wrong.
“Please” in mandarin, is “qing”, as a word used to politely request for something or to show respect. You will hear it used between strangers, for instance, when students need a teachers’ help, they will say “qing” Or when a worker needs help from their boss. However, most Chinese families do not use this word as “qing” can also mean, “to invite”. As a note, if you say “wo qing nin chifan” that is “I invite you to eat”, you need to be responsible for paying the bills at home.
“I love you”
This may be a surprise to you, but most Chinese families do not say, “I love you” to each other. Even the children don’t say, “I love you” to their parents or the husband to his wife. This is because, Chinese people tend to hide their hide their feelings for each other with having to say how they feel. Due to the population control policy on Chinese families, married couples are only allowed 1-2 children. Even though Chinese parents are very protective of their children, they tend not to say, “I love you” to them.
Though nowadays, this is not the custom for Chinese people anymore as they are more open. So if your host child loves you, he will hug you and say loudly “I love you”.
As an au pair living with a Chinese family, you will come to understand the cultural differences that exist between you and them. These relationship philosophies will benefit you a lot even after your au pair experience in China, as you would become more accepting of others and have a more open-minded view of the world.