Posts Tagged ‘Didi Kirsten Tatlow’

I had just cut out this story for the blog, when a colleague from northern China stopped by my office. He said it was the fifth time he had come upstairs to see if he could find another friend who was getting laid off. He wanted to give her a hug. I said, “Hug? Look at this.”

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, who writes dispatches from China for the NY Times, had just filled me in on a change among my friend’s former countrymen: “Of all the changes to sweep China since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 — stock markets, private cars, fashion — one thing seemed not to have changed: No hugging. Chinese were physically reserved. That’s changing now.

“Recently, it seems like everyone is hugging. Friends are hugging. Family members are hugging. In hugging between Chinese and non-Chinese, it was non-Chinese who once foisted physical affection on the Chinese. Today it may be a Chinese initiating contact. The tables are turning. …

“Teachers are joining in. In Nanjing, the Liuhe District Experimental Elementary School began a class in emotional intelligence last fall, concerned that children lacked it and would thus be held back in the world, the newspaper Modern Express reported.

“The third graders’ homework: Hug your parents tonight. Sixty schools in the district now have emotional intelligence classes, the newspaper said.”

My co-worker’s first reaction to the news clipping was, “They are always trying to copy Americans.” But then he got a funny look on his face.

“Actually, the last time I went home, my uncle hugged me. I was really surprised. He’s my father’s generation. We were always taught to show more respect for older people.”

I’m happy to see hugs are catching on with nontraditional huggers. As they say of chicken soup, “It wouldn’t hurt.”

(A thank you to John’s family for all the hugs this morning!)

Photo:  Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

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