KTV: A Cultural Lesson

A few nights ago the local teachers (from the school I teach at), a foreign friend, and I went to KTV. For the readers in America who may not know what KTV is, it is karaoke. BUT it is different because you are in a room with just your friends, not like in America where you sing in front of the entire bar or restaurant.

In America, I hate karaoke. I mean H.A.T.E. it. It is awful, mainly because I’m a really bad singer. If you are trying to get people to leave, that is when you want me to sing.

Back to the point, KTV and China… Since you are in a room with just your friends, it is easier to let loose.

This is where I learned the difference between letting loose in China and letting loose in America. Typically the unspoken rule of karaoke in America is not to sing slow and/or sad songs. Yeah, not the same in China. There was a huge difference in the songs my foreign friend and I picked and the songs the local teachers picked. My friend and I picked songs from Usher, Katy Perry, Shania Twain, and Kanye West. The teachers picked the equivalent of the theme song for Titanic. Not really … but kind of. When they were feeling really adventurous, they would pick a song by Adele.

My foreign friend and I would get up and sing for our rendition of Pink’s “So What” and we would jump around and act a fool. The teachers, they would get up and sing barely moving at all. I felt kind of silly, but the teachers loved my goofiness. I’m pretty sure there are videos of me on QQ* and Youku**. I’m afraid of seeing myself on the Chinese version of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” that plays on loop on the buses.

I had fun eating new things, singing in front of people (which I didn’t even do with my favorites in America), and just getting to build relationships with my teaching partners from the school.

This experience has taught me something. Something I already partially knew, but something that seems to keep confirming itself over and over again. You can’t learn the culture, the way of life, the language, or who the people are unless you throw yourself in all the way. I had to put myself out there and show them who I really am in order for them to feel comfortable enough to do the same. They learned a little about me and I learned a little about them. It was so worth the time, the going to bed late, and having to wake up for work the next day.

*QQ is a popular form of social media in China. It is similar to Facebook.
**Youku is a Chinese site similar YouTube.



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