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Amber: Hey everybody! Welcome back to Amber and Victor’s Chinese Buffet.
Victor: 大家好 (dàjiā hǎo), I’m Victor.
Amber: And I’m Amber and this week on the Buffet, what do we have to serve up Victor?
Victor: We have a segment called ‘A Hamburger a Day’.
Amber: Yes! And there is a good reason why we call this thing ‘A Hamburger a Day’. Do you find hamburgers at Chinese buffets? Maybe, I think?
Victor: Sometimes.
Amber: I think I might have even seen pizza once.
Victor: Right.
Amber: But basically, this segment is about Chinese perceptions of the West. Or in some cases, maybe misconceptions about the West.
Victor: Yeah. I think it is very interesting.
Amber: Now today, we are going to talk about specifically, some Chinese perceptions that have been gained through TV viewing.
Victor: Right. TV shows. So, let’s talk about what kind of shows have been really popular in China.
Amber: Yeah. Victor is going to take us back in the day because this is when China was much more cut-off. There wasn’t all the pirated DVDs. This was the actual shows on TV. Which shows did you get?
Victor: There was a huge hit called Growing Pains. Yeah, I’m sure a lot of people find this surprising.
Amber: Wow, you were watching it the same time we were watching it. That’s pretty cool.
Victor: Yeah. They dubbed over the voices. You know, Mike Seaver, Kirk Cameron…
Amber: They were all speaking in Chinese?
Victor: They all speak in Chinese. It was a huge hit in China.
Amber: So basically, you’re all of China’s perception of the West up until they opened more… it was basically a two-growing thing. That’s very interesting.
Victor: I think the main reason is because they are very family-friendly show.
Amber: Yeah. That was probably why it was on Chinese TV.
Victor: Yeah. And it gives Chinese people a really good window into American-family life and people are very curious to see how Americans lived. They are just, wow. So curious.
Amber: Okay, Victor. So, I’d imagine you as a young boy. As you watch TV, what was your impression? What did you think?
Victor: Looking back, the main thing that stood out for me was that Americans change their clothes every day.
Amber: Really?
Victor: To me, that was just fascinating!
Amber: What? Chinese people don’t change their clothes?
Victor: You know, not really.
Amber: So, why don’t Chinese people change their clothes every day? They just think it’s like not necessary?
Victor: Well I think the main reason has a lot to do, at least during the time I was growing up, has a lot to do with economics. Most families aren’t really used to having a lot of clothes for each person.
Amber: So yeah, and then the truth is that there is no dryers or like some people think they have washing machine. So, you even have to wait for your clothes to dry.
Victor: Right.
Amber: It takes a long time. It’s a process. So, you want to get more use out of each washing, maybe.
Victor: Yeah. Now, things are different. People are getting richer. They have more money to buy things and you know, to take care of themselves. But when I was growing up, I just remember seeing and thinking, “Wow! They are Americans. They have so many clothes.”
Amber: And did you ever think like why do they change it every day?
Victor: Yeah, I did! I did. You know, I also came to the States and I thought maybe because people sweat a lot.
Amber: They sweat more than Chinese people?
Victor: Because deodorants is like relatively new thing in China now even. So…
Amber: Yeah, that’s true. I think Chinese people might smell us.
Victor: So why Amber, tell me please, why do Americans change so much clothes?
Amber: I don’t know! I think it’s cultural because I think I get bored if I wear the same thing every day. And I feel kind of dirty.
Victor: So, it’s kind of like a vanity thing?
Amber: Maybe a clean thing, but I definitely have too many clothes on my closet as well. So, I think I feel a bit guilty about that.
Victor: But that was the many thing that stood out for me. Because the character, sometimes in one show they have different outfits and it’s like, “Wow, that’s kind of cool.”
Amber: There is another cliché that I know about that I’m wondering if they got this from the Growing Pains or from TV shows, but literally every Chinese person… when we talk about food, they think Western food is disgusting and then they always ask me, which is the name of like the segment, “Don’t you eat hamburgers every day?” They think that we just eat hamburgers every day.
Victor: That’s the very typical perception. And salad.
Amber: And salad. Well, that’s true.
Victor: Like raw vegetable. Just eat it like that. You know, most Chinese people don’t.
Amber: I guess it’s true. That perception could come… where? Like come from TV shows too?
Victor: I think so. Yeah.
Amber: I guess they are eating hamburgers on the Growing Pains probably. I can’t remember.
Victor: So, I remember watching as a kid, watching the show Growing Pains. All the kids… what they do in their lives in America. That was interesting that one thing was, they would just wear their shoes and sit on couches.
Amber: Okay, yeah. This is a very big thing. Actually, even wearing shoes and sitting in your couch is kind of weird to me too but that’s the American thing right, where people wear their shoes in their house?
Victor: Yeah, yeah.
Amber: In China, it’s like the worst thing you could probably do, right?
M:That’s why there is like a shoes-off culture in Asia, in general. You know, like…
Amber: Like the slippers-on culture.
Victor: Right. Right. Slippers on but shoes off because it’s kind of considered dirty outside and you’d bring the dirt…
Amber: It is dirty outside! I can understand that because there is filth all over the street and I really don’t want to wear the shoes. But, there is filth on the street here too. That’s what I don’t really get but people don’t seem to mind so much. But, it’s true. Even that kind of extends into… a friend of mine is married to a Chinese girl. He is from America and he is at the worst taboo that he can do is come back from work or something and then just like, sit on the bed in his clothes. Flop on the bed. He said that would make her go ballistic. Because like those are your dirty outside clothes and the bed is sacred ground. That’s definitely a big difference.
Victor: Right. In America, I have noticed we’ll sit on the ground in public spaces like in the airports or in high schools or whatever.
Amber: Yeah!
Victor: People rarely… I don’t think people ever do that in China.
Amber: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think you’re right. I’m just picturing all you kids watching Growing Pains in China and you were all like, “Whoa –“
Victor: The shoe is on the couch. Unthoughtful. Another thing is all the three kids would date in high school. Even the smallest one, in middle school would have crushes and girls and stuff like that. And this is a big thing in China. Dating in middle school and high school is strongly discouraged.
Amber: Right. I heard actually… I knew a girl that was in college and she said that basically, there was a rule you are not allowed to date and they would secretly date. But, they couldn’t hold hands on the campus and things like that. Even when they were in university.
Victor: Yeah. If you got found by your parents or teachers, you’re in big trouble.
Amber: Yeah.
Victor: I think the reason behind that is first, it’s a more conservative culture and people would generally believe that you can handle that sort of relationships and so when you’re much older and secondly, has a lot to do with academic system.
Amber: That’s true. They might be distracted.
Victor: Right. People think it’s very distracting if you don’t focus on your studies. And also in high schools, it was interesting to see that they had lockers, this thing called lockers.
Amber: I think the space is at a premium. Maybe that’s why right? Well, it’s like wastage of empty boxes.
Victor: See, in Chinese high schools or middle schools, you don’t switch classes. The teachers come to you but you have a set number of people in your own class. You stay with them all day and for all the years. So, you have a desk with a little of space underneath to put your stuff in but that’s it.
Amber: Because you know, I do remember seeing a lot of students in Taiwan especially going to school and they’ll be carrying those little luggages that you drag along behind you like the flight attendants and I was thinking, “Maybe that’s like the portable locker.” They have so any books and things so that’s actually, like, pull mini suitcases to school rather than use a little backpack or something.
Victor: So, no lockers in China. I was really excited when I went to high school here because I had a locker. I was like, this is what I saw in TV!
Amber: Take some pictures and then hold on to your friends.
Victor: Not that excited, but I was elated to see the lockers and have my own.
Amber: I can see that. That would be kind of cool.
Victor: But the show is hugely popular and I have actually one very good friend from China. He chose his name based on the character Ben.
Amber: He’s like a cultic. People like made a religion of the Growing Pains?
Victor: Yeah. I think there was a report about all these actors went to China not too long ago and they were just treated like huge superstars. Because everyone knew who they are.
Amber: It’s like a red carpet for…what was his name again? He should move there.
Victor: Kirt Cameron? Yeah.
Amber: He should move there. He can do that. Okay, what is another clichés that you think, perceptions that came from watching these TV shows?
Victor: Well, I think more recently, some new shows like Prison Break, Friends and a lot of these more current ones...
Amber: Yeah. More and more shows are available now that there is like DVDs everywhere.
Victor: Right. Broke into the Chinese market. Although not officially on Chinese television but, more so I’d say through the DVD markets.
Amber: Yeah. These kind of shows don’t really make it to the censors to get on the national TV stations. So, when the Chinese people watch shows like Prison Break and so, I do find a lot of Chinese people are very paranoid about coming to America. They think it’s extremely violent and scary and I guess it is because they think everyone’s breaking out of prison all the time and covered in tattoos.
Victor: Their perception of America, yeah. You know, another thing that is interesting is how sex is portrayed in American television or media in general.
Amber: So, does that give the Chinese an impression… what? It’s like Sex in the City 24/7? Maybe it is, I don’t know.
Victor: Because in China, more are conservative and more traditional. Sex is a very private thing and you don’t have multiple partners and it’s not really…
Amber: Like broadcasted on a TV show.
Victor: Exactly! It’s not something you talk about openly all the time or you know, it rarely happens. So, the contrast of Americans being very open about their sex life or whatever. It’s not as much of a taboo as it is in China.
Amber: So, this translates into Chinese people kind of thinking when they get here they are just basically just like, “Orgies in the streets.”
Victor: But you know like, people think about like Las Vegas, the kind of shows that happen there. I think for most Chinese people, it’s a big mystery to them. Like, you know, ‘Is that okay?’ That just kind of creates a lot of mental questions I guess, in mind.
Amber: Fantasies?
Victor: I think it’s just very different culture. And when you see American popstars wearing very revealing clothes and thing like that, I think it’s released some dynamic there. But you don’t really see that at all in China in pop culture, rarely.
Amber: I think another thing too that I know some of my Chinese friends mentioned was from, certain TV shows, the kids talk back to the parents and they’re very sarcastic, that sort of thing? And they think that we are very disrespectful to our elders. Because of these TV shows, they think that that’s how we talk to our parents. We are like, “No, that’s not really real.”
Victor: It is kind of like a different belief system about how as young people treat their elders.
Amber: Yeah. But if I did that to my mom, she’d smack me so… again, that’s all they see. They assume that everything is like that… is the window to the outside worlds.
Victor: And another main thing, I think this is very common for any foreigner who’s been in China is that people tend to think you’re very rich.
Amber: It’s true. They think everyone probably lives in that Growing Pains house.
Victor: Because when you think about most of these shows that are going into China, they’re rarely reports of poverty or struggling people who live in America but most of this is people who, like, Growing Pain or Friends are well off, dressed nicely, who look pretty.
Amber: Yeah.
Victor: So, the general perception in China I’d say is that Westerners are very rich.
Amber: I do remember one Chinese friend I had that came to Australia. One day, she was on the tour in the bus. She looked outside and saw a white man like digging a trench doing road construction and she was like, “What?” She thought, in China, all the expats were all high-level businessmen. She thought everyone did that. She was like, “Who digs the trenches?”
Victor: Right. That translates into when you go into Chinese markets to buy things, they always charge up the price because they think you can afford it.
Amber: Exactly. So, now you can’t take it personally. It’s all the TV shows faults.
Victor: Right.
Amber: Well, I think that the truth is, because now Chinese are becoming more open to the world and so, Chinese citizens are travelling and have more access to foreign culture. But, there is still a lot of Chinese people that have no way to come here and see for themselves. And so, for a lot of Chinese people, maybe even the majority foreigners are kind of a little more than faces on the TV screen.
Victor: Right.
Amber: You know, unless they are in a big city. So, it is understandable.
Victor: It’s a very interesting dynamic for sure.
Amber: Yeah. So, maybe we can imagine ourselves that I’m like Sex in the City and what are you, Victor?
Victor: I don’t know.
Amber: You’re the Prison Break guy.
Victor: One of the Growing Pains people? I don’t know.
Amber: So, that’s it for the Chinese buffet today and if you want to learn more Chinese or about Chinese culture, make sure come visit us at chineseclass101.com We’ve lots of lessons there that can give you a lot of insights about China and also teach you to speak Chinese. 再见 (zàijiàn)!
Victor: 再见 (zàijiàn)