Opinion / Blog

What westerners (and Chinese) are like?

By MichaelM ( Updated: 2015-08-17 17:12

I've heard people generalize so often about Chinese and Westerners that I feel like I should write about it. What am I talking about? 

Well, I am often in a conversation with a Chinese person regarding something in America that appears, at least, to be different from Chinese or China. Something will be said that they imagine to be 'Western' when in fact, it is only personal preference. If there is one thing I've learned in China, there is no 'one' person who can speak for the other 1.3 billion Chinese people. Even when you talk about culture and ways of thinking. I find there are many diverse cultural understandings, ideas, opinions and such. I find that what some Chinese people have told me about 'all Chinese people', is in fact, only what that person thinks. It is certainly not true of all Chinese people. And, in most cases, not even what 'most' Chinese people think. It is the same for Westerners.

It seems that if we don't have to think too much, know each other too well or take the initiative to learn more about others, then, it is easy to put them into a box (a certain category) and say, "This is what THOSE people are like." 

Today, at the Binhe Park English corner, someone asked me, "What's the weather like in the USA?" Now I can blow that off as small talk and just respond, "Much like it is here." That would be a true statement. Why? Well, look at a globe. America sits closely to the same distance from the equator and from the North Pole as China. But, for me to answer this question I have to say, "America is a big place. The weather is different no matter where you go. Kind of like China. Yes?"

I remember a story about a couple of families that had decided to move to another city. They wanted to find the right city. They weren't in a hurry to settle down. So, they went several hundred miles from their home city and found a place that looked nice. They approached an elderly man in the city near the town center on a bench on the sidewalk. They asked him, "I'm sure you've lived here a long time. What is this city like? What are the people like? Are they good people or bad people?" The old man looked at the ground contemplatively and finally said, "Well, what are the people like in the town you are from?" They say, "Oh the people there were great. We just wanted to have a new experience and not just live in one place for so long." He said, "Well, you will find that the people here are much like the ones from the city you came."

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