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Mum freaking out about my travel plans


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I've been planning to visit china for a long time and i finally have enough to to it in my opinion (about $4500 AU). I am going to visit a girl i have known for 3 years now over the internet. Shes going to show me around her city. I do like her very much and i don't deny she is the main reason i am going.

The problem is my mum is freaking out about the whole thing. My dad is cool about it but since my parents are divorced all this does is cause more tension. I am 20 years old and i do admit i am inexperienced since i have never traveled overseas least of all by myself.

I plan to go in February so i think its time i started booking tickets and sorting out visas and so forth. However the last few weeks whenever the subject is brought up my mum just goes crazy and we start arguing, i can't satisfy her at all. This should be a good experience and exiting time but its not, its ruining the mood.

I'm not exactly sure why she is so against it. She comes up with all these things like someone planting drugs on me and getting the death penalty or winding up in a arranged marriage or getting her pregnant ... I just can't convince her

Is there anything i can do to make her feel better about the whole thing? Has anyone else had similar problems??

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First, if you're going, get started on the paperwork, unless you need her permission. I'd guess that's not the case, however.

Even if you get the paperwork, it doesn't mean you MUST go (in case you need to tell her this).

But, it seems like a simple vacation idea, etc. The money you mentioned sounds like you're actually planning on staying for a year or more... Not the same as "visit". I could see where that might get your mother a little more excited.

Why not come for a year, study some Chinese, etc? The language has a lot of potential for better jobs. Showing your mom that you're thinking about your financial and scholastic future should help to make her feel better about your future. That's what she's worried about, it sounds like.

Sometimes you can't completely please someone else. After you do your best, then its how you feel about yourself and your decisions that matters the most for how you fashion and decide your future.

Good luck

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I can understand a mother worrying when her son goes to a faraway exotic country, but wow, getting drugs planted on you or ending up in an arranged marriage... even my mother is not worried about that kind of thing.

You can try reassuring her on specific things: have your bag sealed at the airport (so no drugs in it); let her talk to the Chinese girl you're going to visit, so it's less strange to her, and also give her phone nr and address of said girl; assure her that you're not going to get anyone pregnant (bring condoms); bring the phone number of the embassy in case you get in trouble; tell her how safe a place China is in general (I traveled all alone from BJ to Yunnan, on trains and buses, and in the middle of the night, and nothing bad happened); promise to call her regularly (and then do it).

If you know anyone else who has been to China, you can perhaps invite them over to tell your mother about it, so she has an idea of what it is you want to do, and what kind of place China is.

In any case, good luck, also to your mother.

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First take the advice above and try to be nice to your mum.

If that does not work, go anyway.

If you are 20 and cannot do things like this on your own, it's really time to set yourself free from your mother. I don't know about your situation, but things like this do get a lot easier once you move away from home, I believe. (I take it that you live at home since your mum's opinion seems so important to you.)

At 20, I don't think it's your parents job to give you permission to do things. It's not like you are underage anymore, and if you don't learn to take responsibility for yourself and your own actions at this age, I just don't know when you'd have the opportunity to do that at all. Of course, it's really nice to talk to your parents and inform them about what you plan to do, and they may offer you some advice, but it's your choice whether to take it or not. Just let your mum know that you are well-informed, that you've got everything under control, and that you've thought everything through a great deal. Of course, being a responsible person who one can generally trust not to get himself into trouble will help a great deal.

It's obvious that your mum does not know very much about China, and it will seem very foreign to her. As a Swede living in England, I can say that I feel a lot safer going out late at night in China than in both Sweden and England. You will find that in China, there are people everywhere (some find this annoying). For instance, travelling to the most remote place you could imagine probably isn't an issue: there will always be someone around willing to give you a ride to get back (for a few yuan, of course). Moreover, as a foreigner, you are quite likely to get superior treatment: it's been said that Chinese don't care a lot for each other anymore, but they do care a great deal for their foreign guests. I personally don't know whether showing pictures or movies or the like would help very much, although it might be worth a try. If she thinks that a major Chinese city is still like a developing country, it could help though. Actually, Chinese cities like Xiamen are very similar to their European or North American counterparts, although usually with superior public transport systems. (If you want more poverty, you had better head for the countryside.)

And yeh, AU$4500 will sustain you for quite a substantial amount of time. This is perhaps what I would plan to use for a several-month trip if I were going to attend classes and pay tuition fees. I would suggest not spending more than your Chinese friend does when you're around her (which I'm assuming you will be most of the time), since this might create some tension.

And take it easy with the girl. I'm sure she's nice and honest and does not belong to that fair number of young Chinese women looking for someone to marry so that they can go abroad. :)

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It seems that the communication so far between you and your mom has been very limited. As you said in your post, “I'm not exactly sure why she is so against it.”

I have no idea of what it looks like in your country, while the fact in China is that boys at your age are still depending on the care and financial support of their parents. I can see some what your mom is worrying about, when knowing her 20-year-old son is going to leave for China alone with about $4500 AU to visit a girl with whom he has only kept a 3-year on-line correspondence.

It will be the first time of your visit to China, and also the first time of your visit to a foreign country. Unlike any of other western countries, China is entirely new to you, and everything here can be new to you, especially the Chinese language. The girl you’ve known via internet is your only friend in China. Does your mom think she is reliable and capable of arranging your travel in China? Are you getting ready to handle any possible unexpected or undesirable things while staying in China.

I used to live in Xiamen many years ago. If I recollect correctly, it is always raining during February, March, April, July and August. That is really annoying. May, June, September, and October can be the right time for tour.

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I'm guessing that since you've never traveled, your mother hasn't done much travel either or had a bad experience a long time ago and hasn't traveled since. This may have developed into a phobia - an irrational fear of perfectly normal and safe things. When people have such phobia's, the will say just about any excuse that comes to mind to justify their behaviour. This often confuses the issue. Many of the things she says will be such excuses and hide the real problem that may not even have been voiced.

There are two avenues I can think of trying. First one is to try to narrow down exactly what her fear is. It is travel in general or only foreign travel. Is it something specific to china. E.g. if you said you were off to Japan would she react the same way. Or is it connected to the method of travel, e.g. fear of flying. Only when you have identified the true reason for her fears can you deal with that and resolve the situation.

The second route is to talk to her about her experiences traveling. Where has she been. What did she do there. When did she go. By doing this you may come upon an event in her past that is causing her behaviour now. Then, knowing the cause, you can work round her behaviour.

Failing all that, your 20 years old, get on and do it yourself and don't even discus it with her. You can't let your parents run your life.

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Hmm... well you're living in Australia where I know some number of people think Asians are going to flood into the country by the millions and turn it into Asian-land or something. I don't suppose she is one of "those" people is she?

I don't know what you can do about irrational fears in anyone other than try to be rational with them. Point out how many people have gone to China without problems, point out how much research you've done on how not to get ripped off or otherwise get into trouble, etc. Unfortunately some people are just prone to irrational anxiety. People here can help provide evidence but I don't know that any of us are therapists.

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Someone said try to work out what's really bothering your Mum. How about this scenario: she thinks you might go and fall in love with this girl, eventually get married, then move to China, and she will "lose" her son and not be able to see you everyday. Maybe she's not so concerned about this one trip, but worried about the longer term effect. Plus she will want to protect you from getting hurt emotionally, which she can't do if she is in Australia and you are in China. So take your relationship with the Xiamen girl step-by-step, and try to find ways to show your Mum that you are doing so.

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I think your mum is overreacting a little. I headed off to China (admittedly with my Chinese girlfriend) a few months ago when I was still 20, and I managed to do everything with only a weeks notice. That included renewing my passport, getting visas, tickets, packing, and moving out of my flat. I only went for about (actually, exactly) 7 weeks, but I felt perfectly safe the whole time, and wasn't worried about getting drugs planted or anything silly like that.

Part of the reason she may be worried is that there have been some stories (several months ago now, but still...) in the news about people being landed in jail in Asian countries for drug-trafficking, despite claiming they were planted. Schapelle Corby comes to mind, and I believe there have been others. The ones I do remember were all Australians, which may have something to do with it?

It's also maybe the fact that you don't know this girl in any context other than online, and have no support network in China.

But yeah. You should really be looking into the root causes of this, just try and get to the bottom of it.

I'd also be leery of ticking off my mother, as I had no other place to stay when I came back from China, and no job (hell, I was still studying at my local Uni...), and was thus pretty reliant on her goodwill for somewhere to stay (and somewhere to store my stuff while I was away).

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I can relate to having a mother that likes to obsess of things.

I think if you can, try to take apart your mother's stereotypes.

Get some information on Xiamen, it is a modern city with very developed infrastructure.

Show you mother that you have the contact numbers of the Australian consulate and hostels and other things necessary for the trip.

Explain the differences between Thailand with more drug issues and China, where hardly any one carries a gun, even the police.

Explain how safe China is that even late at night people can walk home and not be afraid of crime. The criminal punishment is twice as severe on criminals whose victims are foreigners.

Get a mandarin phrase book and learn a few words to show you will be able to get around.

And console your mum that just because you're going to China for a short time doesn't mean you won't come back, and you'll be able to call on skype once a week to tell her how things are going.

Also realize she probably has empty nest syndrome and whatever you do or say, she will still be emotional about you leaving the nest for the first time. Reassure her you will still have a good relationship but you have to do things on your own sometime.

Good luck, Mums always worry no matter where their kids go.

have fun,


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Get a mandarin phrase book and learn a few words to show you will be able to get around.

Yea, don't go anywhere in China without a phrasebook unless you speak Chinese extremely well or something. Even with a phrasebook you may be unable to pronounce many words well enough for anyone to understand you, but you'll be able to point at the written words and solve many basic problems much more easily.

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She comes up with all these things like someone planting drugs on me and getting the death penalty or winding up in a arranged marriage or getting her pregnant ... I just can't convince her

I think her main worries are about you and the girl. The other things about getting drugs planted on you and such are just her way of scaring you out of the trip. She probably thinks that you are unwise to invest so much feeling in someone that you haven't even met yet (Have you talked to this girl by phone even?). Since she's had relationship troubles of her own (such as the diviorce), she doesn't want you to make a mistake at such a young age. But I don't think you have too much to lose. Just try to think with your big head and not the little one.

I was thinking maybe let her travel with you if she doesn't mind the expenses, she'll get to know your girlfriend and visit the country.

You are obviously not a guy. Hehe.

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Your mum sounds like my dad. When I told my parents I wanted to IMMIGRATE to Hong Kong they said:

1) You'll get arrested if someone plants drugs on you

2) You'll get arms and body parts cut off

3) You'll have all your money stolen

4) She *my then girlfriend, now wife* only wants your Australian Passport - Even though I'm the one who went to her country and not the other way around

5) You can't speak the language and can't communicate with the locals

6) Too many triads and they'll kill you.

Just buy the tickets, tell your mum - its too late, you've bought the ticket already and that's it. That's what I did and now they are happy.

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I got an overprotective mom also. It ends up my brother and I never tell her when we want to do anything remotely dangerous or different. I think your mother's worry maybe caused by a few reasons:

1. She has no idea about China and ignorance causes fear, so gather as many info as possible for her and preferably some Westerners' testimony about China.

2. She has no idea about that girl you are going to meet. There are a lot of bad people on the internet (especially in the dating scenes) no matter it's in China or U.S. or Australia. How much do you know about the girl? I think you need to proceed with caution.

3. You might not have proven to your mom that you are matured enough to travel to a foreign country on your own. (Don't bring her along for sure! :roll:) Tell her you need to learn to go your own way. Let her help you plan a sensible and safe trip. Hopefully, with her involvement in the planning, she will feel calmer.

I think, with good planning and sensible head, you could have a good time. I would caution you a few things:

1. In China, people still use cash more than credit cards and bank cards. They also need to take your credit cards to places away from you to do it (many shops share one credit card machine) even in a decent hotel, so you need to be careful about that. You want to have a good supply of cash on hand, but not too much. There are a lot of thieves and bad people (including kidnappers) who want to take advantages from a foreigner.

You should take some traveller's checks and cash them gradually. You should not take a credit card that has high limits. You should not take a bank card that could let people access to your main source of savings or checking accounts. Most importantly, you should not exchange money in places other than the bank or at the front counter of a decent hotel. The exchange rate at the hotel is pretty bad. Some shops take U.S. dollars but the exchange rate is even worse than the hotels. Definitely use the bank. The crooks like to use the exchange cash tricks, and they are very good at it.

2. You need to put your passport and some cash or traveller's check and maybe credit cards in a small bag and wear them around your neck and inside of your clothing. The pick pockets in China (and HK and Taiwan) are very good. They could get your stuff without your notice even if you are very alert. I grew up in Taiwan for 18 years and very alert, but I still got my watch stolen from my arm within one second of not paying attention on a bus! Be careful.

3. Don't show big stash of cash in public. When you buy stuff and need to give them money, go into the shop and face away from the doors and other people in the shop to hand over the cash, especially if the amount is big; i.e. over 1000 yen (or even 300 yen in some places). You have to remember many poor people live on 300 yen a month in China.

4. Don't wear flashy jewlries when you travel. It's a pain and a danger.

5. Pay attention to your surroundings, and make sure no one following you especially after exchanging money from the banks and buying things or after you came out of a club and probably a little drunk.

6. Always let someone know where you are and where you are going and when to expect you. If you don't show up, someone could contact police and know where to start to find you.

7. Make sure your mother has the girl's home phone number and address and Chinese name -- preferably in the Chinese characters, and her internet name as well as where she hang around on the internet.

8.Buy reasonable gifts for the girl and her family (if you are staying in her house or going to eat in her house a lot). However, staying away from buying very expensive stuff for her or her family or to give them a lot of money. Even you want to give them rent for housing and food, the price in China is very low. I was able to find hotels in Shanghai (much more expensive than Xiamen for $30.00 (or 240 yen a night). I spent about $10 (80 yen) a day for food eating in OK places (not western food). Even with western food or decent Chinese food, you need not spend more than $20-25 (160 - 200 yen) per day. The cost for home cooked meal should be even cheaper, but you could compensate them with eating-out prices. Be respectful for their customs in any case, but be firm when you are uncomfortable with something.

9. I believe it would be better if you could stay in a hotel and not her home. Ask her for suggestions, but check it out on the internet or travel books yourself. Ask her the reasons for her choice. The place should be close to her home or close to some major scenic area. Xiamen is a major city for a long time, and it should have a lot of good hotels with reasonable prices.

10. Personally, I would suggest you should go to the hotel from the airport by taxi (from the airport -they have good regulations) by yourself and have the girl meet you at the hotel. It would be safer. The girl maybe fine, but you do need to be careful. This is another country, and you only know the girl from internet.

11. You are young and that girl is young also. Proceed with caution in your relationship and bring condoms. In the forum, I saw some westerners had trouble finding good sized condoms in China to fit them.

12. Also, Chinese do have laws against prostitution and do check hotels for prostitution activities and would arrest johns, so be careful about what you do. Many prostitutes (and others) would call your hotel rooms and offer special services. Don't take the bait. Some are true prostitutes, but some might be people who want to rob you. Meet any of your new friends in public places, not your hotel room, just in case.

I hope you have a good time in China.

p.s. If you pack your own luggage, don't agree to take anything for anyone, and have locks (the one approved by airport security) on your luggage, no one could plant drugs on you.

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fireball9261, you make some very good suggestions there. But I'd like to comment on a few of them.

1. In China, people still use cash more than credit cards and bank cards.

This is true, but it is also changing. But for a foreigner, I second your recommendation of bringing a good amount of cash and travellers cheques.

3. Don't show big stash of cash in public. When you buy stuff and need to give them money, go into the shop and face away from the doors and other people in the shop to hand over the cash, especially if the amount is big; i.e. over 1000 yen (or even 300 yen in some places). You have to remember many poor people live on 300 yen a month in China.

I think this is a bit extreme, and also unnecessary. People are going to assume he is carrying a lot of cash anyways just by the fact that he is a foreigner.

Also, he's unlikely to meet these 300 RMB/month folks in shops where he's spending that kind of money.

6. Always let someone know where you are and where you are going and when to expect you. If you don't show up, someone could contact police and know where to start to find you.

First part of letting someone know where you are is a good idea. But I don't think the police are really going to take his missing person report too seriously.

8.Buy reasonable gifts for the girl and her family (if you are staying in her house or going to eat in her house a lot). However, staying away from buying very expensive stuff for her or her family or to give them a lot of money. Even you want to give them rent for housing and food, the price in China is very low.

Gifts are a good idea. However, her family will most likely refuse his offer of cash.

12. Also, Chinese do have laws against prostitution and do check hotels for prostitution activities and would arrest johns, so be careful about what you do... Some are true prostitutes, but some might be people who want to rob you.

I have never heard of johns being arrested here. But you do bring up a good point about the risk of getting robbed.

As for the mom issue, I don't have anything else to add. You guys all brought up some very good suggestions. People have their own perceptions of things, and these perceptions take time to change.

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I agree China is changing, but when I was there about 1 year ago most places are still using cash, and I was in Shanghai and Beijing. Personally, I am not comfortable to let my credit card out of my sight.

When I went to the tourist areas in China, there were a lot of people hanging around shops and outside some hotels. Some were looking at what I was buying and how I was paying -- They were looking into the shops, etc. A few followed me a bit. One even followed me back to my hotel and tried to get me buy some hush hush antiques. Fortunately, my brother was with me, and my brother is 6 feet tall. In some stores, when I bought large amount of stuff, the shop owner actually offered to acompany me to taxi, and I don't think it was because they want to help me carry things. I also read local newspapers and know that China do have robberies and other crimes. That's why I have such comment.

At the back of some of my hotels (3 & 4 stars), I sometimes went to a grocery store to buy cheaper drinks and other stuff. The people frequent there are hotel workers, and a lot of them work for fairly low wages, maybe not 300 yuan a month, but not quite higher than that. How did I know? I chat with the grocery store owner and became friend with her. If tombio5 is going to Beijing or Shanghai, I think I wouldn't be that nervous for him (because both places have very high securities). However, in some of the other southern cities, it's different story. I have heard horror stories from my friends who are locals in Shenzhen and Guangzhou. I don't know the environment of Xiamen, but it is a popular city for smugglers and gansters between China and Taiwan, so ... I would like to err at the side of caution.

Since tombio5 has a local friend to show him around, I would assume he would probably rough it in some cases; i.e. go to cheaper hotels or check out out places out of tourists' beaten paths. In those cases, he would meet people who earn about 300 yuan a month. When I visited Beijing's Hutong with a friend, I was in those areas myself -- I saw some very interesting older buildings and did not regret a second of it! The tourist groups would not take people there because they are just too run down and would be torn down soon.

Whether or not the police took the police report serious enough, if you have a son or daughter missing, you would like to have somewhere to start. When I wrote that, I was thinking of that American girl who went to I don't know which island to travel and gone missing. No one knew what happened to her, and her family had no place to start. Besides, that particular advice was given to me from my friend who is a business man in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. He is even more nervous than me when he arrives in China. He always calls someone when he gets on a taxi or goes anywhere. He is in China almost half of the time for the last 9 - 10 years and has been in many places in China, so I consider his advice is sound.

If the girl in China is legit, she and her family would not want the cash. However, if she is not ... they might ask for money. I have heard such situation in China as well as in U.S., so it's not impossible. I just want to make sure tombio5 is prepared. Besides, it's always good to offer cash if he is staying in their house for a while -- call it a rent or something, and not a gift. They might refuse at first, but offer it a few times. Only when they are definitely not wanting to have it, you can stop. Sometimes, they want it, but it's customary to refuse at first. Sometimes, they would refuse cash, but would accept something material in return, like food items. American nuts and chocoholics would be nice gifts, I think. If you eat at her house a lot, offer to treat her family to a nice restaurant dinner would be nice.

I have stayed in China a few months at a time for the past few years. I was in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou. I have cousins in Hangzhou and friends in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Beijing. In those places, I read Chinese newspapers. From time to time, there would be a report of such and such place, a group of Johns were arrested, and they were publicly humiliated when they were taken out of the hotel or underground brothel half naked. Well, if I were a man, I wouldn't risk it. However, if you are going with locals to some night clubs, that is another story. At this time, there is another trick people got played on again and again, and it is not a new trick, either. The trick is: A woman would come by and get to know you, and you decide to go to some place with her. In the middle of one thing or another, her boyfriend/husband would show up with some friends. Then, you have to pay up to appease the husband or boyfriend's feeling. This is a very common trick in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. We read about it on newspaper all the time. It is another thing to be careful about.

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