American Insanity

I’m in Florida on vacation with the family this July. I’ve managed to get my kids to a respectable bilingual state despite them growing up in Shanghai, but American culture is one thing my kids just don’t get a lot of, and it’s probably one of the most interesting aspects of this trip. Kids adapt to new surroundings quickly, but their reactions to new situations and unfamiliar American culture is super interesting.

Unfortunately, it’s not practical to make a big long list (I wish I had one!). One simple example is wading pools, though. My parents never got a pool installed, but the backyard is plenty big, so we can do the old backyard wading pool thing (fill it up with a hose). Such simple pleasures are utterly foreign to Shanghai kids, but still a blast! (Coming up soon: backyard water balloon fight, “Slip ‘n Slide,” and playing in the sprinkler. Classic American middle class fun!)

Slide 'n' Slip
Image via Gordon on Flickr

Anyway, the insanity part relates to a conversation with my daughter (now 7.7 years old). It went something like this:

Her: Is America insane?
Me: …. Yes. 
Me: ….
Her: Why?
Me: ….

I guess maniacal laughter is better than weeping. I mean, “chaos is a ladder,” right?


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. From the opposite perspective, our kids have grown up in South Carolina, with occasional visits to Shanghai and Fujian. One of the things they love here that we don’t know how we’d do without over there is: Public libraries. The kids (ages 6 and 4) come home weekly with mountains of fun, age-appropriate books. If such a thing exists over there, my wife knows nothing about it.

  2. Your kids are just playing over the summer, what kind of crazy Shanghai parent are you?

  3. Carey Clark Says: July 18, 2019 at 12:24 am

    There are public libraries, but the experience is not the same as in North America, for sure! Our kids always missed public libraries, public swimming pools that aren’t just for serious swimmers but for “fun” swimming, and public playgrounds

  4. Shanghai had public libraries, including smaller ones in communities and larger ones in districts. Maybe it’s just a Shanghai team?

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