Monday, July 7, 2008

Cultural Differences

Last night I taught a class on cultural differences between China and the US. This was my conversational English class so I encourage the students to talk and share their thoughts, but unfortunately they don't know much about American culture so they weren't overly talkative. Except for one guy... who was adamantly defending China. He failed to realize that I was not in fact insulting China, just pointing out some things that I thought were funny that are different here. Some of the things I find rude or just gross... but most of it are just quirky little differences that I experience here as a laowai (foreigner).

There are a lot of things that irk me about China... and there are definitely days where I don't want to deal with them. For the most part though, I realize that it boils down to cultural norms and that theirs and mine are simply different. Here, spitting is not frowned upon. Littering is commonplace. Squat toilets are considered to be the cleaner option and you don't put toilet paper in the toilet, but in the trash can next to the toilet. Traffic laws are completely ignored and yelling isn't rude... but draws a crowd. We talked about all of these things and more... and most of them just were entertained by my playful banter about the Chinese ways... and I poked a little fun at American customs as well.

One person, though, just wouldn't let anything by me. He kept disagreeing with me and saying that he didn't think that was how Chinese people are. Sometimes they're so proud. I don't get offended when Chinese people say that all Americans are fat and sleep around. Or that we all look alike.. so I'm unsure why some of them get offended when I point out things about their culture and societal niceties. Oh well. I hope no one took any real offense to what I said, because it wasn't meant to be offensive. I like China, and support the fact that we are a very different people with different expectations and habits. Not good, not bad, just different.

1 comment:

DD said...

Well, if a Chinese teacher said the same things you did to an American class, there would likely be one person who was offended. It's not cultural differences, it's more of just sample size.