chinese culture

Hey Tiger Mom– It’s Location, Location, Location

Posted on January 21, 2011. Filed under: Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, family life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Tiger Mom is all over the place trash talking us moms in the West.  Although I find her righteousness annoying, I do admire her business savvy. She clearly knows that in America, inflammatory insults are the fastest way to get tons of publicity.

I’m sure if she wrote a book that said, “Here’s one possible way to raise your kids, and parts of it worked for me and parts didn’t,” she probably wouldn’t have gotten so much attention.  But say you’re better than American culture, and there is bound to be blow back.

Tiger Mom’s techniques may work well (or not) if you live in Tigerland. If you raise your tiger using Tiger Mom techniques, and you live in, say Dolphinville, your kid probably won’t fit in too well and won’t develop necessary dolphin skills.

Every culture has great moms. They are great because they are lovingly raising their children to be successful in their own culture, by their own cultural standards. Parenting and culture are not one-size-fits-all.

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duck rectum or meat glue? whose cuisine will reign supreme?

Posted on March 11, 2010. Filed under: American culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, cuisine | Tags: , , , , , |

My nephew, who has spent considerable time in China, mentioned that on his last trip there he ate duck rectum, and that it really wasn’t all that bad. Granted, he didn’t know what he was eating until after the fact, which, I assume, removed any cultural barrier about what’s supposed to be delicious and what’s supposed to be gross.

I know the Chinese eat many more parts of animals than Americans, who tend to eat only the meat and a few organs.  Still, I thought, “Wow. That is totally disgusting.”

But Americans, too, are eating some pretty gruesome things.  The FDA has over 3000 approved chemicals that can be added in food processing. There are  colors, preservatives, thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers, anti-caking agents, flavor enhancers, and antibiotics to name a few.

Thrombin, commonly known as meat glue, was just recently approved by the EU as a food additive. Recently approved? American have been eating it for years. Thombin, which was originally developed to stop bleeding during surgery, is also used to hold together chicken nuggets.

Americans have no idea  the number and quantity of the chemicals that pass through their bodies each year. At least with the duck, you know it’s a duck.

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lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Posted on June 24, 2009. Filed under: American culture, chinese culture, education, Japanese culture | Tags: , , , , , , |

I see it coming, like a runaway train, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. The day after tomorrow school is over.  The kids will be home for the summer.

One of my kids’ favorite summer activities is  sitting on the floor behind my chair while I’m working, and fighting.  Another favorite activity is opening the refrigerator.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Americans go to school about 180 days a year.  We have more days off than in school. Other countries, of course, think this is ridiculous. European and Asian kids spend more hours each day in school. Many attend school Saturdays. They have fewer vacations.  If a foreign school has 15 days more each year (from K-12), that equals another 180 days of study, or another entire school year.

I’ve met many Japanese and Chinese expats who are amazed to see how little homework their children get in the US schools. Many teachers give 10 minutes homework per grade (1st grade:10 min, 2nd grade:20 min), so by 6th grade students have 1 hour homework. American kids are asked to focus less time, and in one study gave up on tasks faster than their Asian counterparts who focused on solving the problem for a longer time.

And why do American high school kids finish class by 2:00  in the afternoon? What are they doing the rest of the day and who is around to supervise them?

US kids get 10 weeks vacation from school during the summer. Since we no longer need the children to harvest the fields, they should be sent back to the classroom. 4 weeks vacation seems generous. As an American,  I don’t think cramming kids all day, every day is a good idea. I value free time for kids  creativity, self discovery and social development.  But the summer vacation is archaic. The teacher’s union, probably the biggest block to a longer school year, needs to realize 183 days a year won’t cut it today in a global economy.

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Pets: love them, pamper them or eat them for dinner?

Posted on May 7, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural conflict, cuisine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

The other night I was watching The Dog Whisperer (I have no idea why), which is a TV show about a man who has some preternatural ability to understand and communicate with dogs. He helps families whose pets are having emotional or behavioral problems. In this episode, Cesar, the Dog Whisperer, was explaining to a woman “your dog is jealous of your husband.” She nodded knowingly.

I have never understood people who are crazy for their pets, and think of them as their children. Americans spend about 10 billion dollars a year on their pets. There are pet therapists, pet cemeteries, and pet spas.  A friend of mine cancelled her vacation, losing her non-refundable plane tickets, because she couldn’t find her cat pre-departure.

Years ago, when I was a new ESL teacher, I did an exercise with students where they had to match a list of items with the store in which they belong —the hammer goes in the hardware store, the lettuce goes in the green grocer, the rolling papers go in the bodega, etc. When we reviewed the answers together as a class, I was amused to find that all the Chinese students had put the pets in the butcher shop.

Fish, rabbits and reptiles are often pets, but no one really complains about eating them. It is often seen as a personal preference.  Even horses, beloved in the US,  are eaten in some European countries.

The biggest battle lines seem to be drawn for dogs and cats.  It also seems to be an East/West divide.  It is not uncommon for these animals to be on the menu in China, Korea or parts of South East Asia.  Westerners, on the other hand, not only refuse to eat them, but find it horrifying that others do.

Why, of all the animals that are kept as pets–fish, birds, cats, dogs, horses, reptiles, etc–are there such strong emotions in this cultural divide? What is it about cats and dogs that sets them apart?

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Chinese teachers and American students

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

My company ran a number of beginning Chinese conversation classes for one corporation, with locations in 5 states. While I was at first concerned about coordinating the multi-state program, what turned out to be the biggest challenge was working with Chinese teachers.

The differences in teaching styles, as well as expectations surrounding classroom management, were enormous. The instructors were not very familiar or comfortable with a communicative approach to language instruction (emphasizing interaction and real life communication; not grammar focused).  The Chinese instructors were used to top-down instruction, and were not as skilled acting as facilitators.

The American students (all adults) expected to be active participants in the class. They wanted teachers who were knowledgeable in the subject area, dynamic, creative and energetic. For the Chinese instructors, being dynamic and creative were not as important.

Our beginning level language classes use a great deal of  Total Physical Response (TPR). TPR is a fast-paced activity that helps students develop listening comprehension skills and increase their vocabulary. In TPR, students follow the teacher’s instructions to complete certain actions over and over. (think Simon Says). Commands grow in length and complexity as the course continues. Students can feel immediate success without having to produce utterances.

All of the Chinese instructors were unfamiliar with this technique, which is standard in ESL, and had to be coached. They found it very useful, but I was stunned at the lack of creativity and spontaneity. After a few class sessions, I got calls from some teachers asking if they could purchase flash cards of different pictures to use for the TPR lessons. They said they had “run out” of things to talk about. Run out!  That’s the beauty of TPR–you can’t run out. Even if you use every single noun in the room with every possible verb, you still have pronouns to run through, not to mention all those prepositions. And all of these, in an endless variety of combinations. Run out?

All of the teachers were committed professionals. They were eager to learn new teaching methods, and were willing to try out new techniques. At course completion, they all recieved excellent student evaluations. I wonder if the results would have been the same if they had not been coached in American teaching methods and student expectations?

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