Chinese and Americans are similar in many ways

“”When I first lived in China, I was mostly struck by the differences, but over time the similarities became more obvious. Americans and Chinese shared a number of characteristics: they were pragmatic and informal, and they had an easy sense of humor. In both nations, people tended to be optimistic, sometimes to a fault. They worked hard — business success came naturally, and so did materialism. They were deeply patriotic, but it was a patriotism based on faith rather than experience: relatively few people had spent much time abroad, but they still loved their country deeply. When they did leave, they tended to be bad travelers — quick to complain, slow to adjust. Their first question about a foreign country was usually: What do they think of us? Both China and the United States were geographically isolated, and their cultures were so powerful that it was hard for people to imagine their perspectives.

“But each nation held together remarkably well. They encompassed a huge range of territory, ethnic groups, and languages, and no strictly military or political force could have achieved this for long. Instead, certain ideas brought people together. When Han Chinese talked about culture and history, it reminded me of the way Americans talked about democracy and freedom. These were fundamental values, but they also had some quality of faith, because if you actually investigated — if you poked around an archaeological site in Gansu, or an election in Florida — then you saw the element of disorder that lay just below the surface. Some of the power of each nation was narrative: they smoothed over the irregularities, creating good stories about themselves.”

–Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones (2006)

Posted by | Comments Off on Chinese and Americans are similar in many ways  | May 17, 2006
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

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