This past school year, I had an amazing opportunity to host two international students in our home. The 15-year-old from China went by “David,” while our 13-year-old from South Korea preferred the name “Andy.”
Prior to their arrival, my home consisted of my wife, myself, and our three young daughters, ages 5, 3 and 1. Our girls were very excited about having more people live with us. Before the boys’ arrival, my daughters would ask, “When are our brothers going to be here?”
We all experienced culture shock in various ways. At first, the boys saw homework as a recommendation rather than a requirement. They didn’t understand why their grades suffered when they didn’t turn assignments in. Daily quizzes and weekly tests caught them by surprise as well. They said in their cultures they are tested less frequently throughout the year and that they cram for the few exams that make up their entire grade.
Bathrooms in eastern and western cultures can be quite different as well. In some eastern cultures, builders prepare the entire bathroom to be able to withstand getting wet (not just wet, drenched). They may have a shower hose protruding from the wall, and it’s used to douse yourself standing in the middle of the room. That’s your shower. The idea of having just one area of the bathroom (a shower or tub) to get wet was a new experience for them. Imagine my reaction when I saw the floor of our guest bathroom soaking wet.
American food brings different tastes for those coming from another culture. Apparently, American food is saltier than Asian food. We also put salt in nearly everything and put too much of it in, according to our students. Our food is also considered not as spicy. We saw them pour spicy sauce on most of the meals we served.
I drove the boys to school every day on my way to work. On our ride to school, we normally commented on the ever-changing weather in Michigan and how it compared to the weather in China and South Korea for that day.
One of our commute conversations stands out. We passed two gas stations along the route to school. I expressed how happy I was that gas prices had gone down that day.
The Chinese student wondered why an organization that was established to make money would ever lower its prices. He wondered why the gas station wouldn’t raise its price to $4 a gallon and just leave it there.
I told him that if that gas station did that, the one across the street would likely acquire most of the consumers and the one that didn’t compete would eventually close due to lack of business.
The idea of business competition thrilled him. He discovered that many products in the United States were less expensive than the comparable ones in China.
I got to teach a young man a valuable lesson. Competition is good. It benefits the public. I’m thankful that it’s not limited to gas stations.