cultural differences: humility

after living on the east side for 6 years it is easy to forget the differences between our home and host cultures. having kids in our host culture, however, has reminded us of a few.

as i think of sterling going to school here i remember the huge fancy banners hanging outside of the gate of the local school listing the names and scores of every high school senior who took the college entrance exam – from best to worst – every single name. when i went to high school my exam scores were almost top secret material and nobody was allowed to know – sometimes not even my parents. i always wanted to have my scores posted in public, but i never had a chance in the USA – we’re all worried about privacy and hurting somebody’s feelings. maybe i should’ve grown up in asia, then the whole city would’ve know my scores and i wouldn’t have had to “accidentally” drop my test paper face up for everyone to see so that it wouldn’t look like i was bragging…  ha!

i remember going to a local friend’s graduation party and her parents made her stand up in front of everyone and list all of the universities in order of prominence that she wasn’t able to get into and how she could’ve strived to do better. what a happy occasion…

i also remember going to a celebration dinner and listening to the parents talk about how ugly and stupid their kid was while she was the one being celebrated – with her in the room. granted, the parents were only trying to help keep her “humble”. i kind of felt like my friend once while going to high school in the USA. we had some high school beauty pageant thing, which is great for american high schoolers since they aren’t typically shallow enough, and i didn’t get picked to be a finalist. maybe the goal was to keep us all “humble” – it worked because I only felt like an ugly and stupid piece of meat afterwards – probably just like our friend…

today, i let sterling watch the local children’s channel and there was a game show on. the first girl had to try to roll a coin into a pencil and knock it over. entertaining and intellectually stimulating for sure!  she gave a valiant effort, but in the end she wasn’t able to do it. immediately giant characters were flashed across the screen that read “失败” which means “FAILURE”. she then balled her eyes out, with quivering lips and everything. the camera zoomed in on her contorted face as the announcer proceeded to interview her to see what she did wrong. i can only imagine Nickelodeon having a humiliate-the-children-and-zoom-in-on-their-crying-face game show. the ratings would be phenomenal…

apparently i have a lot to learn about how to stay humble from our host culture!


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