People always say that Suzhou is full of famous gardens. I say Suzhou is full of expat housewives, or tai tais as they like to refer to themselves as. Visit Starbucks around midday, any time of the week, and you'll know what I mean. Starbucks seems to be meeting point number one for housewives, as the combination of gossiping and extra-cream-frappucinos and muffins is particularly popular.
I am normally not invited to join the tai tai gangs in my hood. I suppose mainly because I am not a tai tai. Also, I am younger than most of them, I often come accompanied by my Chinese books, and, I don't drink frappucions. (So no, I don't take any offense. Obviously we don't have that much in common). During my 2 years in China, however, I have had the occasional 'tete-a-tete' with a Suzhou housewife, and I have been surprised to notice that many of them, despite having great lives, still seem so...angry.
Despite the fact that they don't have to work (thanks hubby!), don't have to do housework (thanks Ayi!), don't have to look after their kids (thanks Ayi/school!), don't have to cook (again, thanks Ayi!) and don't have to worry about money (thanks hubby!), many of them seem rather... unsatisfied? In some cases it makes sense, like when the wife initially didn't want to come to China but did so for the sake of her husband's job, or when she's feeling lonely and lost in her new country (I've been there too). However, the tai tais that I don't understand are those that HAVE a great group of friends in Suzhou, a lot of spare time since they have chosen NOT to work, a great gym membership (with a personal trainer 3 times a week of course), and plenty of lazy lunches in the sun, and STILL manage to complain about the fact that 'it's such a hassle sometimes to take taxis' or 'that Chinese people should speak better English' (are we living in the UK or in China?) or that 'You never know if you can trust the health care here' or (this is my favorite) that 'their friends back home don't understand how BUSY they are over here in China and shows a lack of understanding for their new life.'
Sure, we all like to complain at times (I am very good at doing it here in my blog) but sometimes I wonder what people need in order to be satisfied/happy? Do we have to get an approving nod from every one around us so that we can feel happy with our lives?
Another interesting complaint is the one about health care. When I broke my foot in Scandinavia one winter I spent 4 hours in an emergency room waiting for an x-ray, a doctor and a painkiller (yes I was screaming our loud but nothing happened still). Why are we forgetting that the systems 'back home' are not so perfect just because we live in a country with a not-so-developed social security system? Every time I have had a medical condition in China I have got 'served' very fast. Actually, most of the times when I have called a dentist or a hospital I have been told that I can come straight in. One angry tai tai kept on saying to me that she had small kids and that she lacked trust in the Chinese medical system.
-What about private Western hospitals then? I said. Here's plenty of them.
-Well .... if there is an emergency maybe u don't have time to go to a private place?
-Well if there is an emergency, no matter where u are in the world, isn't it always then a bit critical?
-I still feel safer in my home country.
Safer yes, sure. But if you are so scared of emergency situations u should basically be afraid to leave the house. No matter where u are.
Having said this, though, I am obviously not a mom and I don't kow how it feels like to worry for your children. Maybe I am being too harsh towards those tai tais. Am I? What do you guys think?