One Couple's Stumblings Through Parenthood and Marriage

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Passing Judgment

I will now pass judgment upon an entire nation of people based upon 18 days with two 16-year-old Chinese students, and the conversations my family had with their Chinese housemates over the same span of time.

Let me start by saying that both Kevin and Seven were good kids. Though we had some run-ins with their manners and boredom, they are fine young men and will do well in life. I genuinely liked them, as did my daughters (which counts for a lot in my book). Also, in their defense, Annie and I hadn't prepared sufficiently for the demands that two teenagers would place on our meager resources (time, money, patience).

That said, I have some observations to make on the Chinese culture and nation. We have had plenty of experience with Japanese students, so the contrast was pretty sharp.

I shall lay them out in bullet points. To my family, if you have additional observations to add, let me know, and I will revise this post.

- Chinese parents are allowed one child. To have an additional child, you must pay a hefty fine. A third child on up is 'right out.'
- Many Chinese youths spend their teenage years living at school, 5 to 6 days a week.
- These first two factoids allow for both parents to be in the work force.
- This next generation of parents (my students would be in this group) will be allowed two children.
- Given the preference of the Chinese for sons, there are quite a few more males than females in China. This will no doubt lead to a lot of trouble as these boys turn into men and begin looking around for wives.
- One of the biggest concerns in China, as in Japan, is the aging population.
- They are very focused on the saltiness, sweetness, and quantity of their foods.
- They do, in fact, love rice and ramen (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). That was a shocker.
- Electronics such as portable DVD players, MP3 players, video games, etc., are profoundly cheaper in the states than in China - even though they are made in China. The same went for shoes and clothing. Our kids seemed to have plenty of discretionary cash to spend.
- They are seemingly force-fed the mantra of "study hard, get good grades, get a good job, and get rich." That is exactly how Kevin explained it. I know this doesn't sound like a communist ideal, but it is the ideal in China.
- Some of the students in the group were of fairly humble means. Others had servants and had never washed a dish or done a load of laundry in their lives. Some preferred to do their laundry by hand.
- Smacking and slurping of food, when enjoyed, is good manners. Ugh.
- They were very impressed by the cleanliness of Valley air. They commented many times on it. Air pollution is rampant in China (at least in Sichuan and other over-populated and industrialized areas).
- They love shopping, even more than American teenagers.
- One of my folks' guests had been shown a video of the man in front of the tank in Tiananmen square. She didn't believe it, saying it was a fake, and thought my family was odd for thinking it was real.
- There is a difference between being communist, and being a Communist. To be a Communist (party member) is to be an elite in Chinese society. The same guest at my parents' house was quite proud of her status as one.
- One of my students was dismayed that his fellow classmates spend so much time studying the books that they have little to no knowledge of their own culture.
- My students had seen all of the big western movies, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. They seemed very keyed-in to western culture. They all own PCs.
- Despite pretty dramatic cultural differences, I was struck by how kids are kids and teenagers are teenagers, no matter where you live. These students all seemed bright and eager to learn. I believe there is hope for China.


Ian said...

If only China could learn to mass produce many plastic consumer items...what would our world be like then?

Raging Wombat said...

A utopia, my friend. One big plastic utopia.

Would that it were. Would that it were.

Anonymous said...

I am only wise enough to comment on one bullet point. China already is in big trouble with thier population ratio of males to females. On 60 minutes several months ago there was a professor from BYU that had just concluded a large research project on this same subject. What I gained from her was that China is going to have a problem as none of the young men can find a wife which is going to cause a bunch of rowdy young men which may cause a civil war

Raging Wombat said...

I'll agree with that one. I could picture Seven picking up his axe handle because he can't find himself a woman.