When I visited Hong Kong back in October 2014, I was already 4 months pregnant. I wasn’t really showing, although I guess my belly was a bit rounded as I did get offered a seat on the MTR a couple of times.
Whilst I was in HK, I talked about my pregnancy with my good HK friend, as well as with my Airbnb hosts, and there was one things that struck me about these conversations. They all asked about whether I had any plans for the baby’s kindergarten/education/schooling. I don’t think British people would ask this question until the baby was a year old, probably later, but at the very least not until the baby had actually been born. The top questions would be ‘when’s it due?’, ‘do you know what you’re having?’ i.e. the sex of the baby, ‘any cravings?’ and perhaps also ‘are you excited?’
My friend explained to me that this is the nature of HK’s focus on education and the need to compete for the best education and the best jobs. Apparently little Hong Kongers will have their names on the waiting lists of the top kindergartens when they are the size of a pea! It sounds like considerations for choosing childcare are also very different, as here in the UK parents would consider primarily the location for dropping little ones on the way to their workplace, and whether the child likes it based on a visit/trial session. In HK parents will travel further to ensure their child goes to the best kindergarten. The focus is on education methods, rather than on keeping the baby occupied and cared for whilst the parents work.
Another interesting thing I found out from talking to Hong Kong women was the trend for having external help. I knew that a lot of wealthier HK families had live-in housekeepers, but this also extends to when a baby comes. Hong Kongers still observe 坐月子 postpartum confinement, yet instead of having a family member (mother or mother-in-law) caring for the new mum, many wealthy HKers will hire a live-in 月嫂 postpartum doula for a month or two. My Airbnb host had recently become a grandmother, but her daughter had decided that instead of having her mother, who lives close-by, attend to her needs during the first month, she’d rather hire a professional. In fact the new grandmother also felt she wasn’t the right woman for the job, as both her daughters had been cared for in external nurseries as infants. Where the new mum is a high-flying career woman the baby may go from the doula’s care straight to a nanny’s care.
I know how fortunate I am that I am not currently working, I have had a very relaxed pregnancy and will not worry about returning to work for some time after baby arrives, but the whole concept of this competition for the ‘best’ sounds exhausting. In fact, I think I’ll go for a little lie down 🙂