Comparing China and the USA

Today was my last at Tongshenghu. It was definitely bittersweet–though I hate that school, I’ve had some great memories there and I can’t imagine not going there anymore. Who knows how many years it will be till I walk those campus grounds again? I truly have met some amazing people here. I got pretty teary-eyed at the end of the day cause it’s me and I cry at everything, but I managed to hold myself together.
I’d like to tell you all about some random things I’ve seen in China, such as a traffic light on top of a car. About three feet of pole was between the car itself and the light but there it was, sticking straight up. I just saw that going across an intersection once and thought it was so strange…I couldn’t help but stare. Once a taxi driver had his cell phone wedged into the wheel and proceeded to yell into the receiver while driving. It was annoying to say the least. Usually taxi drivers talk to me here though and I’ve had some good conversations with them in Chinese. I mostly speak in Chinese to my mom and taxi drivers. When I have to talk in front of Vala or someone usually I get nervous that I’ll mess up (which isn’t typical for me) and then I won’t want to speak Chinese at all.
Speaking of Vala, today she “fought back” against our complaints about Tongshenghu by interviewing a bunch of our International Department teachers and classmates…she told us all the bad things first collectively and then afterwards had a one-on-one conversation with each of us about the positive things. During the negative part I of course put up a fight because some of it was ridiculous or just a difference of cultures so not really anyone’s fault and it was quite a heated argument…it ended with all of the foreign students being pissed and Vala being..I don’t know, Vala. She tried to be nicer to us this time though, which was a good change. During the one-on-one part I started crying too (I just made a small river in the library today haha) not really cause I was super upset or sad but because she asked me to describe the main differences between China and the US and it just all became very clear to me why I’ve been having so many issues with the Chinese system and with Vala etc. I felt sort of bad after my realizations because it’s not Vala’s fault (entirely) nor is it mine, my American values and the way I was raised is just so much the opposite of China. Really, I don’t think there are two countries more opposite.
China focuses on the group, USA on the individual. This is both apparent on a large general scale and in little things you wouldn’t notice at first–in a Chinese classroom, the teacher lectures and the students never raise their hands to ask questions, there is never time to ask questions, the teacher never asks if there are any. They just teach. In America the teachers try to make sure every person gets their questions answered and in some classes, you’re FORCED to write a question just to make sure you’re asking one if you’ve got it.
In the US, you’re graded by yourself. You’re not constantly being compared to your peers, your performance is nothing but your own. Here you’re graded compared to your classmates, and ranked publicly. If you fail a test, everyone will know about it. You have to compete to get into higher level classes, and then within those classes to be the best. It’s…it’s…it’s China.
I don’t know, there were just certain things I remembered about the US that made me…I don’t know what. Like I remember that in the US when you’re walking down the sidewalk in your neighborhood people say things like “Good Morning” and “Hello”. People only say hello to me here because I’m white. If I wasn’t, there would be no recognition.
It’s little things like that that I’ll be looking forward to in the US. Really though, I don’t know how much I want to go back or how much I want to stay here. Most of us feel like we’re in some sort of in-between–we don’t want to be here but we don’t want to go home either. Oh well, I’ve got two weeks left. We’ll see what happens.


2 thoughts on “Comparing China and the USA”

  1. Miranda – I have enjoyed your blog. I’ve heard it said that American’s really are rather friendly. We get a bad wrap for a lot of stuff. I think you have correctly identified that we celebrate the individual and every one has the right to be respected and treated humanely.

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