Interacting with native Chinese students has given more opportunity to discover subtle difference between cultures and even more things for us to talk about. Something I brought with a few Chinese students is that each time I go to hug them it is very awkward. I usually hug after I have talked to someone or when I meet them and for a short time. After I bring it up, they usually laugh at it and shake their head, and then I show them step by step how to warmly hug someone. It is always very funny for us both. Now I make sure I do not make hugging a normal thing, especially when I am not with classmates, because it might make someone uncomfortable or it could just be rude/an invasion of space.
This week on Friday a group of students went to the English corner and spoke to a TON of Chinese students who want to practice their English. Most of their English was pretty good, but some were struggling a tad. There were not only young adults but older Chinese people as well. They were very kind and happy to make an acquaintance. There were also high school students, and I learned that many Chinese students learn English from a very young age. Many started learning as early as kindergarten. In the United States, I don’t think they will require a foreign language from that early on until high school because the government might feel it is a waste of money and because they feel we do not need to compete as much globally for jobs.
A lot of what the average person in the U.S knows about foreign countries like China can be very general information, both nonspecific and possibly dramatized. The same can be true for the average Chinese person’s knowledge of the U.S. During our chats in the English Corner, we exchanged information about each country. Before I came to China I assumed that most people somewhat believe in Buddhism; I did not know there were provinces and didn’t take into account the varying climates here. Likewise, many Chinese do not know much of the states in the U.S (except maybe New York). They are not familiar with the idea that many parts of the U.S are super diverse and live together every day (lots of them assume that some of us are African and that another student here is Chinese when we are all from the U.S), and their ideas about popular music in the U.S are very generalized, as well (specifically their ideas about who listens to what). Overall I think it has been important for myself and other students to notice these differences but also realize that they don’t really mean much and don’t change the value of the person because there a million different realities for every person and none are essentially “right”.