Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be Chinese, but when it comes to family, I just can’t keep up with it all. We have names for every person in the family tree, and it’s so complicated. When I’m speaking to a relative, I have to take 5 seconds out to try to remember how I’m meant to refer to them. When I used Google Translate to write an email to an uncle, he was too polite to point out that I was using the wrong name for uncle, until my mother called me an idiot. Whenever we’re watching the news as a family, my mother is constantly frustrated by the fact that name captions simply say “brother” or “sister”, and not “older/younger brother” or “older/younger sister”.
“Are they older or younger than their sibling?” she demands.
Scrutinising their faces, my sisters and I try to guess how old they are.
“But they look so young!”
“Fine, they’re younger.”
The words for your siblings is easy enough to remember since you’re constantly
arguing with them talking to them. I was so grateful when I went on YouTube and found Off The Great Wall. A guy and a girl called Dan and Carmen discuss stuff to do with China and Chinese culture. I have to say, some of their videos can get a bit tedious, like when they’re acting out stereotypical situations, but some of it can be quite funny. They made a video explaining the Chinese family tree, which you can also buy as a poster. It’s quite impressive to see how many different names Chinese people have for their relatives. I’m not sure if I’ll ever remember all of them though!
You can also buy the poster (in Cantonese) here.