My parents came to the US to seek graduate degrees and later established their career here. As a result, I was born and raised in the US. As a Chinese American, I see how differences and similarities have impacted my life.

Although I don’t really feel that I am being treated differently because of my ethnic background, most of my friends are Chinese Americans. I think that’s because there is a natural bond between us. We have similar experiences that we can relate to, such as we celebrate the same cultural holidays and we all have to learn Chinese at home. Usually these are the first friends that I try to make. Similarities make me feel safer and therefore I am naturally more comfortable with my own race. But due to this preference over similarities, people are naturally separated by the difference in race.

One way to quickly identify a group of people with similarities and yet different from another group of people is to use stereotypes. There are many stereotypes about Chinese. While some people may show some of the traits as described by the stereotypes, not everyone in the group can be characterized by the stereotypes. For example, Chinese Americans are considered by many to be quiet. That’s definitely NOT the case with me. I am very extroverted and like to talk a lot. I ALWAYS GET IN TROUBLE FOR TALKING TOO MUCH. When we are doing projects in school, I am usually the one in charge. People also think Chinese are conservative and very frugal. That is in fact the vibe I get from my dad. He doesn’t like to take much risk and he doesn’t want to waste ANYTHING. He can find ways to make use of things that would have been thrown away by other families. By contrast, my mom is more willing to take risk, but she’s also quite frugal.

Since I was born, my family go back to China every year to visit our relatives and do sightseeing, except last year and maybe this year also. I am very close to my grandparents and I have been to more than a dozen cities and provinces in China. Life is really different in these two countries. In China there are lots of people walking on the street and there are shops and restaurants everywhere. It’s just so much more lively. Everyone looks kind of similar and I can feel the community around me. People from other races would stand out immediately in the crowd because of their different appearance. The only thing that feels different about me is that I am from America. Many people in China ask me whether I like China or America more. I can’t really answer the question because they are very different and therefore not comparable. In the US, everybody drives and there are few people to none on the street. You just don’t really get the feeling of a community. But there are a lot more differences in culture and I like that I get to meet different people with diverse backgrounds. Also, I do different things in the two countries. In China I just go there for vacation, so obviously it’s really fun. But if I were to live there, it would be a whole different story. I heard it’s really competitive there.

Since the pandemic broke out, it kind of feels like everyone is blaming Chinese for starting the coronavirus and bringing it here. Fortunately, I haven’t heard anyone say that to me. I think we should assume the best intention in people if they didn’t say anything negative, and not let our fear divide us from others. A great example of community is the friendship developed during the lockdown between my sister and our neighbor. Our neighbor is Caucasian and is older than my mom. Despite the difference in their race and age, they have become very close friends bonded by similar interests in gardening, crafts and books. They would exchange letters, plant flowers together and have pleasant chats. Before this friendship, we didn’t really know anybody in our neighborhood. It felt like everybody was busy on their own and there’s no sense of community. But our neighbor’s appearance gives us a feeling of community. We also get to know some other neighbors as our puppy socializes with other dogs in the neighborhood. We finally feel that we know the people around us.

As I conclude this essay, I see that similarities can divide or bond, and differences can scare or enrich. It’s up to us to choose which way to go.

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2 thoughts on “Differences and Similarities”
  1. Lang, I like your observation of everyday life details through which you see differences and similarities beyond race. Each one of us is rich with characters, interests, aspirations, emotions…

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