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What Americans Think

Popularity 2Viewed 2377 times 2019-6-23 13:50 |System category:Life

Today, a parent of one of my students came to my class for a discussion about her child's English learning. She said, "I know Michael is not Chinese, but, he needs to know how Chinese parents think." She went on to tell how 'Chinese parents think'. Of course, I know several Chinese parents who do not think this way, so, I know that 'all Chinese parents' do not think as she does. 

The fact is, she is only telling me what she thinks. She feels that it makes her case stronger if she can make me believe that 'Chinese parents think.........(whatever)'. I know that all Chinese parents do not think what she thinks. I know that most Chinese parents that I've met, do not think as she does. I'm smart enough to know that this kind of a statement should not be taken too seriously, because, in fact, it isn't true of 'all Chinese parents.'

I'm often amused when I hear statements like, "You know that Chinese think...........".  Or, I hear, "You Americans are......". 

Well, there are a few things that Americans do differently from Chinese (and other countries). And, there are many things that Chinese do differently than others. But, when someone says, "Chinese think that........", or, "Americans think that.......", you know that the statement cannot be accurate.

This is a practice that we call 'stereotyping.' It is an attempt to suggest that 'all Americans' think, do or believe the same way. Or, it is an attempt to suggest that 'all Chinese think, do or believe the same thing.' Any rational, intelligent person knows that all Chinese do not think the same way or that all Americans think, do or believe the same way.

China has nearly 1.4 billion people. They are all different people. They don't share one brain. There are a few things that they do, think or believe in common with most other Chinese people. There are more than 300 million Americans. Likewise, they have a few things that they do, think or believe in common, however, they are all different people and do not share the same brain.

It is neither wise nor intelligent to 'stereotype' people. You will be wrong most of the time.  This is common sense, however, people still believe that they can persuade you regarding what 'they' think by assuming that 'all' others (Chinese or Americans) think, believe or do something the same way they do.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report BlondeAmber 2019-6-23 18:48
Likewise non-Americans, like myself, find ourselves at the receiving end of many stereotyping comments: "all foreigner....blah blah blah', and these comments from some people who have never left China and base their knowledge of people from other countries on the internet - and we all know how unbiased that is.
Thankfully i have patience .
I take people at face value, as i don't know what they thing until they tell me.
Reply Report MichaelM 2019-6-24 03:22
BlondeAmber: Likewise non-Americans, like myself, find ourselves at the receiving end of many stereotyping comments: "all foreigner....blah blah blah', and th ...
You, my dear, are wise.  
Reply Report MichaelM 2019-6-24 03:50
One question that I heard a lot when I first came here was, "When do you foreigners take a bath?" I was very puzzled by the question and wasn't sure if it was a serious question. My response was, "Well, I guess that we take a bath/shower when we feel that we need one." I learned later that they were looking for an answer like, 'in the morning' or, 'before we go to bed.' But, the truth is, I really don't have a clue what the hygiene habits of over 300 million people are.

Another stereotype (that is wrong) that I hear here in China is, 'all Westerners go Dutch when eating out together.' Someone wrote a blog on here that stated this along with 'Westerners don't like to spend time with family and friends over meals like we Chinese do.' Again, another stereotype that is not just wrong, but, from experience, quite absurd. I've never 'gone Dutch' at a restaurant and I always have meals out with friends and family when I'm in the USA.  My mother had a friend once who insisted on 'going Dutch', but, she's the only one I ever heard of to practice this.

I think that this question has something to do with this situation I often see in restaurants here in China when two people walk to the checkout counter to pay and get into a friendly scuffle over 'who's going to pay.' It seems like an attempt to show yourself more generous than others. Seems a bit silly to me, but, I accept that it is just a different culture. I must admit that I've often not only paid for everyone's meal in my party, but, I come from a small town in Texas. When I see other people that I know in a restaurant, I've often picked up and paid for their meals secretly. They usually don't discover that their meal was paid for until after I'm gone. I don't think that is common in Western culture, but, it is true for me.

Oh, one last stereotype that seems to be believed about Westerners is that real life in America (especially) is mirrored by the television show, 'Desperate Housewives.' I really don't know what all the show depicts because I've never watched it and know little about it. But, what I've heard is that everyone is having sex with anyone and everyone every day. Of course, soap operas in any country, do not accurately depict real life. This seems like common sense to me. Seems a bit naive to believe that real people do the same as some fictional television show.

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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


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