Stereotypes

Posted by Alastair Poole on 4/24/2017

I am just five days away from the halfway mark of this trip in China, and am currently experiencing a stretch of time focused on academics, rather than sightseeing and traveling.  On the weekends I still partake in as much as I can; I just visited Bei Da and Qing Hua (Chinese Universities), the Olympic Park, and spent a day with Chinese friend I made at school.

On the subject of academics, there is a strong assumption in the U.S. that all Asians (especially Chinese) are extremely studious and do not wish to partake in any activities that don’t involve math and learning.  This stereotype is not anything that I’ve seen since I’ve arrived.  From what I’ve seen, students in China behave generally the same way as American students.  They talk during class, and fool around just like any other teenager.  When my host sibling, James, comes home from school he complains about the classes he found boring, the teachers he didn’t like, and how much homework he has.  It is almost identical behavior to what I did back in America.  

Additionally in their free time, Chinese students pursue their extracurricular hobbies, they do not just study.  For instance James and I play basketball, other students do art, and some would rather watch their favorite T.V. series.  These habits apply in home too.  I will hear James tell his parents that he’s going to his room to study, and then when his mom checks on him, she tells him to stop playing on his phone.  James sleeps in when he can, hangs out with his friends, and watches T.V. at home.  None of this is meant to criticize his behavior, but rather to showcase that teenagers in China act the same way Americans do.  

It is true that there are some Chinese students who probably will spend their time studying and learning math, but can the same not be said of any Americans?  Likewise there are some American students who spend absolutely no time or energy on their schoolwork, but I know that there are students in China who fit into that category as well.  In conclusion, the Chinese youth and the American youth essentially act the same.  A person’s race does not determine their interests or work ethic.  People are different, but teenagers across the globe have behavioral patterns that are consistent among all humans, and Chinese teenagers are no more or less studious than teenagers elsewhere.

Stereotypes aside, I have noticed that China has very little nightlife, even in a city as large and populous as Beijing.  People are in home early in the evening, and shops and restaurants quickly become deserted by 8:30 p.m., even on Friday and Saturday nights.  I was at a restaurant Saturday night, around 9:00, and the place was almost empty except for us.  I know that in Boston and other big cities, not just in the U.S., that people spend time out in the city at night, and many attractions stay open well into the next day’s morning.  Being out too late seems very taboo China, though I’m not sure why.

There is one last thing that happened to me at dinner this evening that I would like to take note of.  I asked for a glass of water to drink, and my host mom laughed, telling me I would use the water after dinner to wash the dishes.  I repeated myself, making clear my intention of wanting a drink.  Both of my host parents gasped, and were stunned that I would want something to drink such a late hour (we were having dinner at 7:45 by the way).  I then said a phrase I had grown accustomed to repeating, something along the lines of “in America I usually have a drink with every meal.”  When I then added the adjective ‘iced’ (which I knew by now was taken to mean ‘room temperature’ in China), both my host parents were impressed by how brave I was.  This doesn’t usually happen, my host family has become used to how I drink, and so this happening tonight really took me by surprise.

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