From East to West: A Culture Shock
By Paul Childress
I walk through the door, happy to be home and done with work for the day.
"Hey Paul! You’re just in time to help cook dinner," says Mr. Tye.
Knowing it’s pointless to argue, not that I wanted to, I put down my bag and walk into the kitchen, where everyone is doing something to prepare the meal. Jay sets the table – plates, glasses, bowls, and utensils, and the all-important chopsticks.
David and Duke are preparing ingredients, Mrs. Tye sets water to boil, and I quickly grab a knife and start chopping the vegetables set out for our dish.
Mr. Tye grabs my diced veggies and adds them to the pot simmering on the stove, along with his special spices, and then he proceeds to mix the ingredients.
This scenario is a regular occurrence in the Tye household. The family coming together to talk, create and bond over the simple task of preparing a meal.
I did not quite travel the traditional path of a college graduate, and at the beginning of my freshman year, I moved into my friend David Tye‘s house, whose mother is German-Anglican and his father is Chinese. Although a pretty, typical "American" household in most respects, though during my time there, I still experienced a bit of culture shock once in awhile, for one, when it was Mr. Tye‘s turn to cook.
Another bit of culture shock came almost immediately, as I witnessed how strongly connected this family was. Each member cared and helped the other, working together, all part of one cohesive body. As I watched the Tye family interact, I knew I was witnessing something "different" from what I have been used to. Since then, I have opportunity to talk to Mr. Tye more about his background and culture, and especially later as an adult, I have come to realize and understand more reasons for things I saw during my time with the Tye family.
America has been described as a country where our parents teach us to be one’s own self, or unique. This is different from how Chinese culture is, as Mr. Tye explained. In China’s group-oriented society, the family is considered more important than the individual. Chinese parenting practices include strong parental control combined with expectations of obedience, discipline, filial piety, family duty, obligation, and the maintenance of harmony. Through the very nature of these practices, it’s easy to understand the reason for the family’s cohesive bond. Family duty is huge in Chinese culture, and it’s something Mr. Tye has stressed to his kids from day one.
Alternately, I was born and raised in a "traditional American household," as statistics state. I was raised to be an individual, to question things, to form my own ideas and opinions. To prepare me for the world, I was taught independence, much like most of my fellow, American friends were raised. Mr. Tye believes this "individualistic" teaching leads to something seen with most teens--rebellion. And from what I saw and from my own experience, I knew what he was talking about in terms of "rebellion," as I had experienced my own cringe-worthy "rebellious" stage.
I remember a specific time in my life when I began to believe (with my many years of teenage wisdom) some of my ideas and plans were better than those my parents had been taught and believed. And I always made sure to express these ideas to my parents, and really to anyone willing to listen (though I'm much more disciplined now). And because of some of my grand ideas, there were times I went against what my parents asked me, later realizing, maybe they knew a few things.
However, in the Tye household, things were run differently. Most of what Mr. and Mrs. Tye said was met with little debate, partially due to the way which Mr. Tye raised them, as in the teachings of traditional Chinese culture, where obedience is very high on the expectations of children. When Mr. Tye gives a hard No on a subject, then he feels strongly that answer is no.
But the Tye family is also a blended culture, as Mrs. Tye is American. So in many ways their home is as much an American household as it is Chinese, and even though there are times when certain extremes take place, Mr. Tye has always joked around with his children, and as they grew older he would relent at times to their ideas, or "pestering" as he called it, and times when he even asked their opinion in making decisions. And in my personal upbringing our families also shared similarities. My own parents would sometimes be unmovable on something they believed in strongly.
Whether preparing a meal I’ve never eaten before, to sharing a debate I had with my Mom, I felt very much at home in the Tye household – another important Chinese, cultural trait – being a good host and welcoming others into the family home. And my time spent with the Tye family forever changed my understanding and interactions with people from cultures different my own.
I believe no matter where we come from or the color of our skin, no matter our differences in ideologies or beliefs, we are also united in many ways as well, including the innate instinct to love and protect the family, and also the joy experienced in a simple act of preparing and enjoying a family meal together.
About Paul Childress:
While finishing his BA from MSU, Paul explored opportunities in many fields while working to pay for his education. These opportunities utilized and developed his interests and skills, including helping create a PR campaign for venues at Midtown Brewery, to writing online content and press releases for Supernova Industries, where he worked his way up from AP Lazer Warehouse to Tech Support, Software Setup, IT, Customer Service, Marketing, and was also provided hands-on opportunities to work in all areas of small business management. Paul continues his work as a freelance writer, editor, photographer, and content provider. Currently Childress Ink and Ink-a-Dink Product Developer, Photojournalist, Content Provider and Editor, Paul is passionate about journalism, photo-journalism, photography, and all things Arsenal!