China Culture Shock #1: Eye Exercises

Welcome to my latest series: China Culture Shock!

Part of the reason I was interested in moving to China in the first place was to experience a culture completely different from my own. I wanted to experience “culture shock” and challenge myself. I’ve been living in China for almost two years now, and I’m still constantly experiencing things that shock me, or just don’t make sense. Here is a collection of my crazy stories and cultural insights as I explore this mystifying nation.

China Culture Shock

China Culture Shock #1: Eye Exercises

As many of you know, I spent all last year teaching English to 1,000 crazy high schoolers in “the middle of nowhere”, China. Chinese high school is extremely different from high school in America (I could probably write 20 posts on all of the differences), but there is one thing that really surprised me when I first started teaching.

Rather than ringing a bell between classes, most Chinese schools play music. There is one classical song in particular that my school plays at the end of every class. However, on my second day I was walking on campus when I heard a different song. When I listened closely I noticed that the lyrics were Chinese numbers. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8″…. “2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8” and so on. “Why are they playing a counting song?” I thought.

The next day I had just finished teaching a class when I noticed I had a 15-minute break, rather than the usual 10. I decided to head to my next class because I didn’t have anything better to do. With five minutes of the break remaining, the counting music suddenly started up. To my surprise, all of the students stopped what they were doing and began to massage their eyes!

These eye exercises lasted for the whole five minutes, as students massaged different parts of their eyes and face in each section. While the students massage their eyes, the class monitor (a student chosen by the head teacher) walks around the classroom, making sure the students don’t misbehave. If they aren’t doing the exercises correctly, or are goofing off, the class monitor will give them a little smack on the back of the head. I’m not kidding!

It’s not just the high schoolers that do these eye exercises, Chinese students start doing them in kindergarten. Chinese people believe it’s good for your eyes, especially with the rigorous studying that lasts from 7am-9pm. Almost all of the students at my high school wear glasses, mainly because these kids destroy their eyes from studying too much.

Sometimes after a long day of teaching, I’d take off my classes and join in. It actually feels really nice!

What do you think: Are Chinese eye exercises crazy or clever? Do you wish you had them in school? 




About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

23 comments on “China Culture Shock #1: Eye Exercises

  1. Pingback: China Culture Shock #1: Eye Exercises | Travel Tips

    • I would assume a little head massage isn’t harming anyone’s eyes- I think it’s just all the reading they have to do without any long breaks. In high school, I had three hours of sports after school, whereas my students get an hour for dinner/shower/basketball. They need more time out of the classroom!

    • I agree! Studying 24-7 won’t result in better scores, especially if all of the students are stressed out. I know I study better when I’m well-rested and take breaks.

    • Exactly! I still think it would be better to let them have a longer break in the evening to do sports and activities, but at least they get to massage their eyes every few hours?

  2. I have no idea if it actually helps…though my eye doctor did tell me that I should take a break from staring at a computer screen for so long at work. He said that once every hour, I should close my eyes for a minute to give my eyes a rest. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for that…that’s kinda sad LOL. I should make more of an effort!

    • Every two hours or so, I would go into the dressing room of our office bathroom and do a handstand against the wall. Thank god no one ever walked in on me! It just felt nice to have all the blood rush to my head, and it helped wake me up. I should start doing that again when I’m studying and blogging.

  3. Wow, such an interesting thing that happens in China. I’ve heard it’s also a thing in Korea but not as a class. Really cool that there’s someone who goes around making sure all are participating and not messing around. Thanks for sharing this.

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