Are you one of us?


I was told many times the silence of Chinese students in an international classroom. ‘Why don’t you (Chinese students) speak?’ is a constant puzzle to western instructors and students.

cat groupsI am able to list a few reasons, historical or cultural. Last night, a conversation with my high school friend revealed another possible answer to the ‘silence’ phenomenon. We were actually talking about another topic then my friend commented ‘ (Chinese) people usually start with a few testing questions to see if you are one of them. If you are perceived the same, they will gradually open up to you. If you are perceived as ‘not one of us’, this will not happen.’

Aha, how come I did not think of that before. The initial silence in a classroom might be a testing for people who grew up in a social environment where conformity is preferred to diversity. A student would need to assure people around him/her think or act similar before he/she is willing to speak out his/her mind, to feel comfortable.

Are you one of us?

2 thoughts on “Are you one of us?

  1. JJCohen

    This reminds me of a story a friend told me: He was teaching a class in which among others there were four Korean students. None of them ever said anything in class. One day he saw three of them talking, and went over to them. “Why don’t you ever talk in class?” he asked. “Are you shy?” “Oh no, we’re not shy,” one of them said. “But it’s our custom never to talk before the oldest of us has spoken. And he’s too shy!”

  2. It is very true. I remember Japanese and Korean friends who shared me this tradition. It is a respect to speak or act based on age seniority. Good story.

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