American pandas have culture shock in China

Published 10:50 PM EST, Thu December 8, 2016

Story highlights

Atlanta-born pandas Mei Lun and Mei Huan are adjusting to their Chinese home

Trainers say the twins prefer American food and don't respond to the Chinese language

CNN —  

Transplant American kids to the land of their ancestors and things can get tough. They don’t speak the language and they don’t like the food. Apparently, American-born pandas have similar feelings about their homeland.

Panda twins born and raised in Atlanta are struggling to adjust to their new surroundings in China, a Chinese newspaper says.

Mei Lun and Mei Huan, 3-year-old siblings, are having a hard time understanding commands from trainers and prefer American biscuits to their new food options, said People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party.

The pandas left Zoo Atlanta for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on November 3, 2016.

People’s Daily published an interview with Luo Yunghong, a breeder at the panda’s new home. He said his biggest concern is Mei Lun and Mei Huan’s love for the American biscuits they grew up with. The pandas’ trainers have been mixing up the biscuits with other food as a way to get the twins to try new things.

The pandas and trainers are also experiencing a bit of a language barrier, People’s Daily said. While Mei Lun and Mei Huan respond when their names are called, other commands given in Sichuanese fall on deaf ears.

Rachel Davis, Zoo Atlanta director of communications, told CNN these transitional issues are normal and trainers are confident Mei Lun and Mei Huan will continue to adjust to their new surroundings. Davis said Zoo Atlanta sent a 375-pound supply of bamboo and 25 pounds of the panda’s favorite biscuits along with Mei Lun and Mei Huan to help ease the transition. Davis also stressed that pandas use other means of communication with their trainers.

“Language is not the only means their care staff have of communicating with them. There are also a number of hand signals, learned through positive reinforcement training while here in the US, which are universal to both their US and their Chinese care teams and don’t rely on language,” Davis said.