Ever since I was young, I heard stories about the excellent education that is offered in the US and it developed the desire to study in this country. The opportunity came years later, when I was offered a place to study in the United States. However, having been born and raised in China, studying in the US heralded different uncertainties because of language and cultural differences between the US and China. These uncertainties were exceptionally high especially at the early stage of my stay when I did not know how to communicate or behave appropriately in this new and entirely different culture.
Language is the most significant difference between China and US; English is the official language in the US, while standard Chinese, a dialect of the Mandarin language is the official language of China (Smith 34). As a Chinese, I was well-versed in standard Chinese language and could write, speak, read and comprehend the language. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the English language. After getting the opportunity to study in the US, I took English language lessons and attained high scores in TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), thus had excellent English reading and writing skills. Unfortunately, I found it quite challenging to comprehend English speakers, perhaps due to their pronunciation and accent. Additionally, I experienced various conversational challenges since my pronunciation and sentence structure had a heavy mandarin influence. The inability to fully understand native English speakers took an enormous toll in my studies and affected my participation in class. Conversely, the inability to speak English fluently affected my social life and I could not interact efficiently with English speakers. However, over time, my English communication, and comprehension skills have improved thus reduced challenges.
Besides language, China differs from the US in terms of culture. The Chinese culture expects individuals to treat each other with humility in all aspects of their interactions. In discussions, Chinese people are likely to nod at other peoples’ opinions even though they do not agree with them as a way of showing humility and respect for other people’s opinions. On the contrary, American culture encourages people to defend their ideas, a factor that often leads to confrontations (Hernandez 76). Coming from a culture that encourages humility and respect of other peoples’ ideas and opinions, I sometimes found myself agreeing with other peoples’ opinions even when I knew they were wrong to avoid confrontations. However, I was ridiculed since my humility was perceived as a weakness rather than a virtue by the American culture. However, this is slowly changing and I am learning to defend my opinions in a non-confrontational manner.
Chinese is a collectivist culture; it places significant importance on the wellbeing of a group rather than individual’s wellbeing. As such, it is common for Chinese people to feel obligated to ask about the welfare of family members of the people they meet. Additionally, there is little privacy concerns in Chinese culture since Chinese people live together in large social circles. Conversely, American culture is highly individualistic and places significant importance on individual wellbeing (Hernandez 65). Unlike the Chinese culture, the American culture places utmost importance on individual privacy and requires everyone to recognize and respect other people’s privacy. As a new student, I had difficulties recognizing and respecting privacy a factor that sometimes burst into social conflict. However, with time, I have adjusted and recognized privacy rules even amongst my friends a factor that has promoted my social life.
As noted above, Chinese and American cultures are significantly different from each other in terms of language, communication styles, and privacy laws among others cultural issues. Being born and brought up in China and now studying in US, cultural differences between the two states had a significant influence on my stay. At the start these differences heralded different challenges language that negatively influenced my studies as well as social life. However, with time, I have adjusted and can now interact with Americans despite my Chinese background.