Perhaps my first post about family in Shanghai was too glowing. My relative, Juliana, who commented on the post, thought so.

She has a unique perspective, because she lived in Shanghai and knows the family I met here. Her experiences, obviously, were different from mine.

I had heard some of theses stories second and third hand. How greedy the relatives in Shanghai were. How shady, how uncultured, how uncouth. I’m lacking on the details now, but from the stories, these people aren’t too be trusted. They will take everything you have if you let them.

Well, perhaps that’s true. And perhaps they’ll try to take my measly wad of Yuan if I leave it out. But I can only speak from my own experiences, and all those experiences were positive. Maybe my perspective would change if I moved to Shanghai and lived here for a year.

But I am not so naive to believe that all my relatives here are good and altruistic people. Everyone has his or her own motivations, some for good, some not. And in a family as big as this, there are going to be relatives who are going to look out for their self interest, using others to get their way. That’s family, that’s life. I could also say some nasty things about my relatives who are living in the states. Splintered family relationships are universal.

Family relationships are a tricky thing, it’s complicated, fraught with emotion and history and expectations. But I’m going to give relatives, especially ones who I’ve only met for the first time, the benefit of the doubt. I can only take their interactions and actions on face value for now. I travelled to Guangzhou and Shanghai with no expectations, so the hospitality and kindness of my relatives touched me.

Perhaps if I had expectations — expecations for food, money, lodging, anything — my experiences would be different. Again, things might be different if I moved to China and depended on my relatives or had started a business and wanted their help and investment. Money changes everything.

But for now, no one has asked me for money (maybe because they know I have none) or anything else. Until they do, until their alleged evilness reveals itself, then I can only view them through my own prism.

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