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 #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?