Day 65: Us Versus Them


Originally uploaded by ryanocerosk.

After going to this weekend’s Cuba vs. China Women’s Volleyball match, I have an idea of “us versus them” means in China. I decided I should root for Cuba because…well, why not? Everyone in a hundred mile radius would support China so I might as well give a cheer for our American neighbors down south.

Little did I know that China is pretty serious about their volleyball. Cheers of “Zhong Guo Dui — Jia You!” (literally translated: China Team, Add Gas!) were heard loud and clear (too bad the Chinese have a hard time coordinating their cheers, or “the wave” for that matter…).

But all this patriotism in sports brings me to the real point of today’s cultural lesson: Us versus Them. In the Chinese language, the way to compare China and America is often “us Chinese versus you (plural) Americans.” And Chinese is a language where generalizations are the norm. You rare hear something along the lines of, “I often eat with chopsticks at home and, while lots of Americans like Chinese food, most do not know how to use chopsticks.” You’ll more often here, “You Americans aren’t used to using chopsticks.”

And it is the “you (plural) americans” part that gets me laughing every time because it is as if I represent all of America. It’s easy to refer to yourself in the “national plural” (“us Americans”) but I find it a little impolite to use “you Chinese.” This goes along with just plain wrong generalizations like, “everyone in America has a car, or two.” No, not everyone in America has a car, just not every Chinese person knows Kung Fu…

I too find myself slipping up sometimes…

Picture of the Day: Taken in Ningbo, this photo is of a worker at the brick factory. Hard life and makes it easier to make comparisons like above…


One thought on “Day 65: Us Versus Them”

  1. Dude, Ryan, it should be “we Chinese.” Didn’t Kate Garrett teach you anything?

    My mom always refers to Bush in Chinese as “your president,” even though I certainly didn’t vote for him. In fact, my mom did her very best to keep him out of the White House, even refusing to drive my grandfather to the voting station when he said he wanted to vote for him. Yay for disenfranchisement!

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