China Elevator Stories

“Will Your Mother Come Here When You Give Birth?”

An elderly Chinese woman talks with me about my life in China.


Ruth Silbermayr-Song


During one of my first weeks of pregnancy, I’m at a grocery store in Shenzhen. When I’m done with choosing the groceries I want to buy, I feel exhausted and find a corner with massage chairs where I can sit down to wait for my husband. He went to another store and has the backpack.

An elderly Chinese woman sits down next to me.
She inquires: “Are you living in Shenzhen?”
I tell her: “I am. How about you?”
“I live in […]”.
She has a strong accent and I can’t understand the place name.
“I travel back and forth all the time. My daughter lives here. Are you here with your parents?”
“My parents live in my home country. I live here with my husband.”

She’s curious: “How long are you planning to stay in China?”
“I plan to stay here for some time. My husband is from Northeast China.”
“Oh, your husband is Chinese. Do you have kids?”
“One is on its way. It’s still very little though, only a few weeks old and I’m not showing yet.”

“Will your mother come here when you give birth?”
“I plan to give birth in Austria. My mother would come here if I was going to give birth in China.”
“How about your in-laws, are they staying with you?” She is quick to add: “I mean, if they are still alive.”
“They are. They are currently staying in Northeast China, though.”

My husband calls and tells me that he just arrived. I say goodbye to the woman and get up to find him.

Have you ever had a similar conversation?