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Cultural Differences

Focussing on Status
by Suzanne; March 9, 2008


Whenever I have a chance to meet some friends, relatives, or even strangers, I often find cultural differences between east and west. In general, most Asians focus on social status more than westerners. I prefer the western style.

Higher education and wealth are indicators of a better status in Chinese society. “Learning is the noblest of human pursuits,” is an ancient proverb. Therefore, many Chinese parents encourage their children to put all their efforts into study. They add, “You can find beauty and treasure in books.” People believe that diplomas and riches would help them to earn respect in society.

However, some people have over-reacted. Chasing a better social position has become the only purpose of their life. So, parents force their children to take several extra classes after school, even at night time and the holidays. Then, parents are also happier because children don’t have time to hang out.

In Chinese tradition, students appreciate their teachers by treating them to dinner in a restaurant on Teacher’s Day. During this event, parents often find themselves in a contest to establish their pecking order in educating their offspring.

Here are common conversations in many social meetings.

“Ha! Ha ha ha! do you know my son is in an advanced class?” Mrs. Chen boasted, and continued, “Our teacher’s son was in the same class.”

My daughter spends over one million Taiwan dollars (approximately CAD 50,000) each year on studying in Australia,” Mrs. Wong joined the bragging.

“I will let my daughter major in piano, and study abroad in the future.” Mrs. Tu tried to catch up with the Jones’s.

“Oh! Sorry, I have to pick her up from a piano lesson then drive her to English class.”

“My son won an award from the mayor when he graduated.” Mrs. Jeng said, but she complained that the teacher told her, “Actually, your son is not qualified to have that plaque. The honor is a kind of respect for your husband’s donation.”

The teacher felt the party was a show-off gathering instead of Teacher’s Day. The only thing to do was to remain calm, for the competitive spirit has been customary.

On the other hand, westerners like to talk about various issues, such as pets, hobbies, or sports. They sometimes talk about their work, no matter what kind of jobs they do, either in the field of technology or labor, people share their experiences in social activities.

Western parents seldom push their children to study as hared as Chinese parents do, so kids have time for other activities after school. If their children are excellent in school, they might mention it because the subject occurs in the conversation. Moreover, students contribute a certain amount of time to voluntary opportunities before applying to a university. Thus, family members have more time to spend together.

I prefer the western way of doing things.