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Cultural Differences

The Cubic Life
by Beatrice; March 21, 2009


"Beatrice's piece chronicles the life of Lily, a rebellious girl growing up in China, who later emigrates to Canada. Now, looking at China from the other side of the ocean, she finds herself "attracted by China’s artificial, orderly beauty."

“All of you should learn from and appreciate Xiao Qiang. He maintained the discipline without going to the toilet during class-time, although he peed in his pants . . . ” the teacher said.

Lily couldn’t help tittering hearing this.

“And you, Lily, you didn’t wear your uniform again. Stand in the middle of the yard! Now! I hope this will help you remember it next time.”

Seven-year-old Lily stood outside watching the catkins drifting from place to place; feeling the spring wind gently stroking her face. She felt so delighted to not be sitting inside the dark box.

Having an IQ of 150 and being a fast learner didn’t make Lily the favourite of most of her Chinese teachers.

In grade three, Lily was once detained by her teacher till 10 p.m. for talking without permission. When Lily’s mom picked her from school, she didn’t scold Lily as the teacher expected. This indifferent attitude towards Lily’s “bad behaviours” provoked the teacher. After that, she was criticised for any possible reason; for her hair, clothes or homework and declared “a hopeless, bad apple” and her mom—“an irresponsible parent.”

After entering secondary school, Lily got into trouble for breaking class discipline, refusing to wear school uniforms, having a brotherly relationship with boys, getting her ears pierced and not finishing extra homework.

She suffered for being herself. She didn’t join the Communist League when everybody else did in high school—this almost made her fail to become the Chairwoman in university. The instructor made her join the club one month before the election and this time, she compromised.

Being Chinese means she has to choose between her personal freedom and the adaption to the environment. She’s supposed to be obedient only. No exception is accepted or expected. The best personality is no personality. What you wear, what you say, what you think . . . anything different may cause extra attention or criticism, even disaster.

The Water Cube—Chinese National Aquatic Center—is a perfect symbol for Chinese society. Individually, everybody is squeezed into a shaped, cubic box contributing together into a massive cube -- the whole society –that is harmonic and easily ruled.

After she graduated from university, Lily had a permanent job in a governmental company arranged for her by her parents. She resigned within two years and set up her own business—benefitting from her “bad personality,” she did well. She still had to face many “cubic people.” Sometimes she thought she had escaped. But it wasn’t true. She found she was still inside, in a different layer only. The cubes outside were bigger, therefore she could extend slightly. The structure is unshakable and steady.

When Lily moved to Canada, she found Canadians very free and unshaped. But soon, she realized the Chinese might never be able to enjoy the same wildness and rawness. Having such a high population density, without robbery from other countries or replying to some charity groups, everybody has to be “cubic” so the benefits of the country and the survival of the one fifth of the earth’s population can be guaranteed.

Now Lily loves and misses China more than ever. Seeing it from far away on the other side of the earth, she’s attracted by China’s artificial, orderly beauty.


549 words