Archive for July 27, 2012

Chinese Students’ Questions, My Responses

My 38 Chinese students have made interesting observations on the Moodle site about the U.S.  I’ve left off their questions but you will get an idea of what they asked by my answer.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know these young individuals as they prepare for the rigors of university life this fall. Thankfully their English names below in the quotes make it easier to call on them in class. Several names in the group are funny like Limosine (Limo for short) and Meow who promptly changed it to Jason as soon as he found out that it wasn’t an acceptable male’s name.

Jason, I think you are going to find that Americans are generally friendly and most particularly here in Minnesota, where people from small towns tend to say hello to complete strangers. There is much trust in a small town that you’d never find in a big city like Shanghai.

Candy, I’m not sure who the most popular star is among American college students.  I’m not of that generation to be up on the latest.  I suppose Lady Gaga for some, Madonna for others, maybe Justin Beiber for the younger crowd like in middle school.  I really don’t know, I think it would be fine for you to ask Americans yourself and you would find a variety of answers. If you mean movie stars I really don’t know.

Cynthia, I am sorry that you experienced that rudeness by the sales clerks about your toy dog.  I don’t think they will make many sales with that kind of attitude to a potential customer.

Leo, you are absolutely right, the way to go with talking overseas is to go with the free Skype instead of paying a lot of money for cell phones.

John, not sure what you meant about the cold weather, Minnesotans like to talk about weather and we have our fair share of cold weather which is a safe topic to talk about.

George, you bring up a VERY important point about Americans not knowing their own history and ignoring their traditions.  It does not become the Americans well to not know their own history.

Jeff, I think you are right that you will see the younger generation give high fives and bumps but it is still appropriate to shake Americans’ hands.

Amber, you bring up an important issue about Americans giving grace to people by saying that they are tired instead of chastising them by saying they did something stupid.  I think you will see many Americans giving grace and forgiveness instead of scolding for doing something stupid.

Juliet, I want to mention that Americans have a bigger bubble of space that we like to have around us when talking to people.  I remember when I was in China in the late 1980s that my university students would get closer to me and I would keep backing up (until I hit the wall) because they were violating my space.  The prairie is a good example of what Americans are used to – S P A C E!!!

Joe, I’m not sure that Americans eat beef every day, they DO like their hamburgers and maybe it is to be stronger, at least American football players will eat a LOT. I think it comes from our agrarian traditions.

Flora, you will notice that Americans like to give praise and encouragement to each other by saying “That’s cool” read my earlier comment to Amber.

Roger, I think that Americans are a bit nervous about fires with errant fireworks.  That’s why it is strictly prohibited in places and in some states fireworks are not even sold. Like Minnesota, for instance, during the 4th of July which is all about fireworks, we have to go to North Dakota to buy fireworks.  Too many people have been seriously hurt by fireworks because they did something stupid.

Angela, don’t worry about showing respect with being on time with 5 minutes early or on time or 5 minutes late.  We as Americans are time conscience but if you are within that time frame, you are okay, but you better be on time or early for class.

Gavin, you might be over worried about small talk with Americans.  Let them take the lead about what questions they will ask you.  You can always talk about the weather with them or sports if you feel comfortable with that.  Small talk will happen when you are more confident in your English language skills.

Momo, I think you bring up an important point about people in Morris not using umbrellas when it rains.  This is a drought period and I think the people in Morris are just glad whenever it rains so it is welcome and they don’t even think about having an umbrella, the rain is so rare.  If it rained every other day and the rain was a nuisance I think you would see more people here use umbrellas.

Sunny, I think that is a GREAT observation about Americans not eating out of bowls like they do in China.  In the winter time, you will see a lot more soup being eaten but with spoons and not out of the side of bowls.

Iris, I am not so sure that it is accurate to say that Chinese don’t have racial discrimination and only Americans have this problem.  What about the Xighurs out in western China?  Or how about the Tibetans, is there not some kind of discrimination against them for not being Han Chinese?  I think whenever people have different customs, you will have some kind of tension or at least wariness.

Kevin, I’m not sure what you mean about showing passion with talking to foreigners, I think that you need to show you are being sincere and that you can reveal what you think or feel.  It is not good to be emotionless.

Tina, you are right about American food being so sweet, we DO use lots of sugar and I don’t know why that is true.  You will also observe many fat Americans as a result and that is not healthy.

Mewtwo, it is not considered impolite if you don’t ask the question of Americans “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” just be prepared to be asked that by an American and to realize they don’t really want to know your answer, you just have to say, “fine.”  Always appear optimistic and upbeat even if you are down.

Jessica, it is too bad that the American guy who was bowling with you looked so grim, he probably doesn’t have many American friends either.  Some people are not too sociable and maybe he felt pressured to be there at the bowling ally.  Don’t take it too close to heart, as the Russians like to say.

Emma, I am glad you brought this up about American doing things that are difficult with confidence.  I think we are bred on the “can-do” optimism even if things look way too hard.  Our ancestors on the prairie had to have this kind of confidence, those that didn’t have this trait, did not survive.

Zoe, I think you are seeing a lot more gestures from Americans who are trained as ESL teachers, hand movements help to get the point across.  You can use more as a Chinese person even though it might seem foreign to you, but especially if you want to make yourself understood.  Hand gestures help in communication.

Ryan, yes Americans like to sunbathe, well some of them do but it can cause skin cancer later on.  So I don’t think as many Americans are doing this now as they used to. It also creates early wrinkles.  I think though that Chinese people don’t want to have a darker skin, so I’m not sure you want to be out there sunbathing with Americans.

Frank, you know Americans are funny about that, they don’t like to reveal what they earn for various reasons.  Why it is a taboo topic is a mystery to me.  But I think it means that we really don’t want to boast about how much we earn OR we want others to think that we are not doing the job that we have for the money but for the idea of serving other people.  I really don’t know the answer to that except we don’t like talking about our weight or our age either.

Allen – Yes, books ARE expensive in the U.S. and if people want to become better educated in China there is now the Internet to learn from that.  So, I think that books are on the way out and will become more affordable for everyone.  That is my personal opinion even though I still like holding a book in my hands, it may soon be a thing of the past.  We want to save trees and cut down on the use of paper.

Comments (1) »