Lots of people may think they have a grip on the differences between the American and Chinese high school experience just because they’ve watched the two movies High School Musical and Tiny Times. American high school movies always focus on nerds or weirdos who fight their way to success. However, Chinese teenagers in movies are always dating randomly, cheating repeatedly, and getting tons of abortions… even though in real life they are the world’s biggest nerds. So let’s break it down and take a closer look.
American teenagers wouldn’t stop talking about how little free time they get outside of school work….even though your high school lets out around 3pm? Give me a break. Their Chinese pals are lucky to only spend 12 hours a day studying. The hardest part of high school life for American teenagers is choosing between the endless options of sports, interest groups, or family time. At least Chinese enjoy the simple life with just one choice – homework and then more homework.
“Hey Sam, can you gimme a ride today? My car is broken.” “Sorry man, I gotta pick up my girlfriend.” Typical American high school conversation. Now cut to China. “Hey Xiaoming, let’s squeeze into Line 1 together after school, and get a good whiff of somebody’s arm pit!” “Sorry, I’ll take the bus today and try to deal with healthy old men yelling at me for not giving up my seat.”
Football players dating cheer leaders make the perfect cool kid combination in the States. They demonstrate their coolness by drinking alcohol under 21 and fucking around at house parties. But the Chinese cool kids who don’t suffer from alcohol regulation play cool by downing baijiu and then starting fights in KTV parlors, starting fights on the playground, and starting fights in hot pot restaurants.
Americans who hone their dating skills in high school can become playboys in the future, but the skills you develop dating in a Chinese high school could get you right into the CIA. The shadow surveillance network of teachers, parents, and nosy neighbors are always on the prowl, and the slightest whiff of a relationship could get you into trouble. So while American teenagers are figuring out how to use condoms, horny Chinese kids are learning how to read lips, use Morse code and set up clandestine radio stations to organize secret rendezvous points.
Finally I figured out a similarity. Both American and Chinese high school students have a must-go event of their own that they prepared for months, or even years. They both get super nervous before the big day, and will most likely screw it up. Even when years later you ask people to look back at it, most of them would strongly agree that it was AWKWARD or HORRIBLE. When you really break it down – between Prom and GaoKao – which is really worse?