As a Chinese national who has been in the States for five years, I was rather surprised after reading Arieh Smith’s article (“Lessons from Beijing,” 10/2/09). Of course, I agree with Smith: People around the world do share similarities; however, his insights would be much more convincing had he not portrayed the Europeans he met (in China) first, and subsequently cited the difference he encountered dealing with Asian cultures (in China). Some specificity would not hurt, either. Moreover, I would especially think twice before claiming that there is “[no cultural difference] so large to create misunderstandings.” I surely hope by now Smith is aware of some cultural details such as that gifting books or clocks in China would almost certainly lead to social disaster. True story: I took an American, Caucasian friend of mine back home last Christmas. Attempting to reconcile the cultural differences between my family, friends, surroundings, etc. and him constituted, with no exaggeration, the most stressful three weeks of my entire life of 20 years. The experience was so unpleasant that I have no desire to recount any of it. At any rate, I applaud Smith’s courage and initiative to study in a foreign country, and I sincerely wish him good luck and a good time in my home country. However, I do hope that for the rest of the year Smith would take more time to truly understand and appreciate the subtle yet crucial cultural differences between the East and the West, so that when we become friends one day, I would feel comfortable taking him on a trip home.
Class of 2012