Cultural Conflict

Jiachen Han

The United States is the third largest country in the world with a population of more than 320 million, and is the leading country in many fields – computer technology, medical technology, and military technology are all examples. The US leads the world in higher education, finance, and freedom. Therefore many people from the third world want to come here to live. I am one of them. I have lived here for ten years now.

I was unfamiliar with cultural traditions like the Halloween holiday and its strange costumes. Slowly I have adapted, and the American lifestyle has influenced my life in many ways. However, I still cook and serve traditional Chinese food at home, and I celebrate the Chinese New Year. I feel that Chinese food may be healthier than American food.

I remember when I first came to the US. Everything was new to me. I was curious about American food because it was very expensive in China. I tried different types of American food such as pizza, hamburgers, and french fries. These fast foods were salty and oily to me. I still think that hot dogs, fried chicken, and burritos can’t be healthy for us. The only new food that made me happy was salad.

Once, when my daughter was in elementary school, I went to the cafeteria during her lunch period. I was interested in what lunch my daughter was eating every day at school. I saw that the lunchroom was clean and the servers were good but the lunch I found was a surprise. The main choices were cheeseburgers, potato chips, pizza, fried chicken, and french fries. There were also some colorful jellies and fruit roll-up candy. There were some small servings of vegetables but not enough for the children, and what was there was gone in five minutes. That was the weekly menu. This type of food seems worse than a fast-food restaurant. I don’t think eating this type of food everyday is good for children’s health. I thought, why does the school give students so much fried food, artificially colored food, and candy? Also, everybody should have a basic idea of what is healthy food. If we give children a lot of salty fried food, they can gain extra weight and get heart disease. If they eat a lot of artificially-colored food, cookies, and candy they can have learning problems. For these reasons, I decided to make lunch at home for my daughter.

I got up at 6:00 AM every morning and I cooked traditional Chinese food for her. I tried to cook a different food each day and I thought that she would be happy to eat fresh food cooked by her mom. I eagerly did this job for her to give her healthy and high quality food, to make her life better. My daughter took her lunch every day. Sometimes she was not careful and she lost the containers and I had to go to the store to buy more of them.

One day when I was cleaning my daughter’s room, a cardboard box was under her bed and I brought it out. The second I opened it I was shocked by the bad smell from the inside. Seven containers full of food! These were the lost containers. I hardly believed my daughter would do this. Suddenly I couldn’t stop my tears. She threw away my love. I felt such pain. This was an unprecedented hurt from my daughter. Often when I finished taking care of her in the morning, I left for school with no time to eat anything myself. How did I deserve this reward?  

When my daughter came home from school, I suppressed my anger, sat down with her, and I asked her, “Why did you do that? Do you know how much you hurt me?” My daughter didn’t say anything. She just hung her head. It seemed like she felt guilty and frustrated at the same time.

After a few minutes, she cried and told me, “Mom, some students made fun of me because I eat different food than they do.” Suddenly I understood why my daughter threw away my food. I felt really sad about my daughter’s situation.

“How can I help you? However, I think it is wrong to throw away mom’s food. You should have let me know about this matter earlier!” I couldn’t believe this had happened. I urged and encouraged her to tell her teacher.

She said, “Mom, I don’t want to and I don’t want to eat different food. I want to eat the same food they do.”  I had no idea how I could fix this problem. She couldn’t eat my healthier Chinese food because of the different customs in America.

Soon my daughter finished the semester. My husband and I decided to change her school. When she moved to the new school, things were better than before. She told me that in this school more students were bringing food from their home so she could eat my food with them, and when she came home she always said, “Mom, I didn’t throw away your food today.”

I immediately answered her, “Thank you, baby. Good job!” I felt like there was a role reversal. She should be thanking me.