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I Wish They Knew

One of my dearest Chinese friends is an English teacher at the university where we met many years ago. Having both lived outside of our own countries we often swapped experiences. On one of my last visits to Beijing we met for lunch.  Teaching came up and she talked about her students, curriculum, and the new foreign teachers in her department.  

“You have helped so many of us,” I said.  “Do you have a list of things you wish foreigners knew when they came to your campus?”  She smiled.  “Maybe a few.” 

The next week I got her list.  

  1. We don’t use please and thank you in Chinese as often as in English. Close friends and family members usually don’t say please and thank you to each other because those words make them feel like strangers. 
  2. A considerable number of Chinese people don’t like Japanese. The word Japan is sometimes used in certain ways to insult people. 
  3. Taiwan is always a province of China.
  4. The 7th, 8th, and 9th of June are the days of National College Entrance Examination, the grades of which determine whether high school students could be accepted by a university and whether they could go to a good one. It is huge for both the students and their parents.
  5. Usually, the parents of college students pay for their tuition and their expenses on campus. Most of the students are an only child. Many of them have expensive cell phones and laptops bought by their parents. 
  6. I was born and raised in the northeast part of China. When I travel to the south part of China, I quite often have trouble in ordering food in the restaurants there. Part of the reason is that they use different words for the same thing.
  7. In China, it is often seen that grandparents take care of children and live with their daughter’s or son’s family. Chinese children usually go to all kinds of after-school classes like English, piano, football, etc.,  leaving them little time to play, and they usually have a lot of homework to do either from school or from their parents. 
  8. High-speed railway trains are very convenient and can take you to other cities a lot faster than before. It used to take about a night to get to Dalian from Changchun and now it only takes a little more than three hours. 
  9. In China everyone has yellow skin. Chinese women want their skin to be as light colored as possible. Cosmetics for light-colored skin are everywhere. Women holding umbrellas on bright, sunny, summer days can be seen everywhere. 
  10.  Children start to learn English from kindergarten. Parents pay a lot to help their kids study English. 

Did you learn anything? Is it what you were expecting?  It could be a conversation starter with Chinese acquaintances living out of their country now.  Be prepared to listen and learn!

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Barbara Kindschi

Barbara Kindschi

Barbara Kindschi has been privileged and challenged to teach English in China, Myanmar, Laos, and most recently, Mongolia. Her classes have been filled with undergrads, professors, accountants, hotel employees, monks, government workers, and beauty pageant contestants. They continue to be both her students and teachers as she now tutors online. Barbara …View Full Bio

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