Virtual Exchange

Globalization and the advancements in technology have lead to some changes in education around the world. The increased use of technology has made it possible to conduct virtual exchanges between people from different cultures without the need to travel. Virtual exchanges in this case consist of the use of video, audio, social media or other means to conduct programs that are grounded in existing theoretical methods. Virtual exchanges are special kinds of distance education and e-learning programs, which AFS has been using for our Intercultural Link Learning Program activities.

The motivation for people to participate in these is usually their desire to build intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes. Research has shown that large numbers of people do believe that virtual exchanges should be conducted and that they have a positive impact on intercultural competency building. Most people in the USA who have participated in a virtual cultural exchange come from a very specific, highly skilled group of research and doctoral institute members.

On the other hand, there are some negative perceptions tied to this concept. Despite all benefits of virtual programs, many still believe that they cannot and should not replace the actual physical contact and the experience of living in another culture. AFS exchange programs will always be a unique experience and an irreplaceable learning opportunity, but it can be well complemented by the appropriate use of technology – from preparatory language learning to intercultural adjustment tracking. The drawback of virtual exchanges is also the lack of knowledge about them, who provides them and when, as well as the limited participation in them so far. The fear of or the lack of knowledge about technology also deters many from getting involved.

The motivation for institutions to get involved in virtual exchanges usually lies in the need for gaining specific competences, such as the intercultural ones, which would not be possible in another way. The need for internationalization and creating international partnerships also ranks high on the list of reasons to get involved in a virtual exchange. This type of learning opportunities increase student engagement and can generate interest in study abroad programs. Finally, relatively low costs associated with virtual exchanges make them accessible to wider audiences that could otherwise be left out of the opportunity to improve intercultural competences.

What lies in future for the virtual exchanges is the need to use the existing or create new tools for assessing their impact on improving intercultural competences. Spreading information about them would improve how people perceive them and generate more interest and participation.

AFS Travel Scholarship for the Intercultural Development Research Academy

Are you a professional or seasoned volunteer with an interest in intercultural issues, a practicing interculturalist, or a graduate student pursuing an intercultural specialty? Are you interested in intercultural ethics, working across multicultural teams or diverse training designs? The Intercultural Development Research Academy (IDRAcademy), the educational branch of the Intercultural Development Research Institute (IDRInstitute), offers multiple courses on constructivist theories and sustainability as they relate to these issues and more. This year, AFS is pleased to announce that it will award one deserving AFSer a travel scholarship of up to US$800 to support their participation in 2014 IDRAcademy offerings. The scholarship applies only to travel costs, while the participation fee will have to be covered by the participant.

In 2014, IDRAcademy is offered in Milan (Italy), Denver (USA), and Sao Paolo, Brazil. The Institute will introduce new faculty this year, Charles Hampden-Turner, and also feature the return of Dianne Hofner Saphiere, Milton Bennett and Lee Knefelkamp. Dr. Bennett, one of the co-founders of the Institute and author of the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, is also a member of the AFS Educational Advisory Council and longtime supporter of AFS. To learn more about the Model and its significance in the field of intercultural learning, visit The Developmental Model of Intercultural Learning for Friends of AFS overview on our website.

 

The applicant sponsored by AFS must commit to represent AFS in the best possible manner during the IDRAcademy. If selected, s/he will be asked to help plan one or more AFS activities promoting the educational aspects of our organization and programs including:

  • Sharing reflections on your IDRAcademy learning experiences, and
  • Committing to aligning your IDRAcademy experience with key AFS Intercultural Learning projects and goals at the international, regional and/or local levels.

We invite all interested AFS volunteers and staff to learn more about the selection criteria and conditions and submit your application online by April 20th (click here).

I love you / Have you eaten?

We would like to thank Suyin Chia for submitting the following post. Find out who she is and enjoy her post:

I am the current ICL Responsible and Training Coordinator for AFS Malaysia who is happily tucked away in her mini cubicle dreaming up methods for social change and increased cultural awareness within the AFS network. I have been involved with AFS for 9 years now since my student exchange year to Japan. I am also an Intercultural Link Learning Program International Qualified Trainer candidate. Nothing delights me more than the sight of tail wagging puppies, a good read, the sound of ocean waves and interesting conversations. I believe that we need to learn to cut the cake differently.

* * * * * 

I love you.”

That’s something we hear families say to one another in everyday life. This phrase of affection indicates the closeness of a relationship, be it in courtship, marriage or in a family. Growing up on a healthy diet of novels, American TV series and movies, I am very familiar with the phrase, and when and how it should be expressed to whom. I know that children and adults alike say it to their parents or loved ones. And yet, I have always struggled relating to such narratives, whether in fiction or in real life.

For an average Malaysian, and some Asians to a certain extent, saying “I love you” is simply a strange thing to do. This three word combination in the English language, or even in their mother tongue, is sometimes hard to find in Malaysian households. In the few attempts I have tried expressing it to my own parents for example, with the words stumbling out of my mouth in awkwardness, my mother would look either suspicious, skeptical or paranoid at my affection.

Generally a reserved culture, most Malaysians can seem conservative and stoic. Outward displays of emotions and spoken affections are uncommon and awkward, owing to the fact that there never has been a culture nor tradition for it.

That is, unless the topic is about your meal.

Perhaps this is because most Malaysians believe that when it comes to expressing affections, the concern for one’s food intake is more closely associated with love. And since one always has to eat, the regular phrases of “how are you” and “I love you” are oftentimes replaced with “Have you eaten?”

Nothing spells love more than ensuring you were well fed with the good food you wanted to eat. Most Malaysians would like to think that the best relationships are formed and kept around delicious food and mealtimes. Malaysians have always had a long standing love affair with food. Food is the center of Malaysia’s way of life, evident in the fact that you can find cuisines from Malaysia’s diverse ethnic mélange manifested in restaurants, cafes and street stalls that are open 24 hours a day. Malaysians take the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” very seriously, for here, food is the language of love.

Love is in the catch up sessions, news about our favorite coffee joints or where to find the best street food in social get-togethers over a meal. Love is in the many road trips for miles with family and friends, some even across the country just to satisfy a food craving for something spicy or curry-based. Whenever a Malaysian is hosting a visitor, love is in the great lengths taken to introduce the best food places in town. This is the Malaysian way of showing their hospitality and utmost respect to the visitor, since a visitor deserves only the best food the area has to offer.

At home, the life of Malaysian families revolves around the dining table. The daily grind is shared in stories over family meal times, where it can turn into hours long affairs. Children express their love by placing the best pickings on their parent’s plates. Parents tend to prepare everyone’s favorite home cooked meal. It is their way of subtly saying “I love you” when your favorite chicken soup marinade, lovingly tended to and marinated for hours, is on the menu.

Perhaps one could say that the Malaysian expression of love is simply pragmatic, or that Malaysians take the phrase “the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach” very seriously. Nonetheless, tonight I will arrive home after work and as I open the front door, I know for sure that my mother will ask of me, “Have you eaten?” I will shake my head, follow her into the kitchen with my nose, and know that I am loved.

A Beautiful World

Around the world and across times, people have different ideals of beauty and ways to achieve them. What is considered beautiful or desirable in one culture can be the exact opposite in another. Similarly, what some people do to achieve their ideals of beauty can be considered an extreme or bizarre body modification for others – so, where do we draw the line and how do we define beauty?

Some of the body modifications at both ends of the spectrum represent beauty. For example, in some Western countries, tanned skin is something many women strive for, subjecting themselves to anything from radiation to self-tanning cosmetic products. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about a million people used tanning beds each day in the U.S., with nearly 70 percent of them women between ages of 16 and 29. The market for tanning products is big too, with one industry report estimating revenue in 2011 at 516 million dollars.

On the other hand, skin as white as possible is the ideal in many places. This can be explained by the notions of social status and hierarchies, perhaps the legacy of slavery. Skin whitening creams are reaching record sales in India, even if some of them have been found to be toxic, with serious long-term damaging consequences. In some South American countries, like Brazil, racial aesthetic politics of skin whitening signal progress up the social ladder. This famous painting, “The Redemption of Ham” by Modesto Broncos, features a black grandmother, mixed-race mother, white father and white baby. The grandmother stands to the left with her hands raised in prayer, praising God that her grandson is white.

Other ways to pursue physical beauty can often include various kinds of plastic surgeries or use of make up. If you type in “almond eyes” into YouTube, you will find innumerable tutorials of how to use make up to achieve a more “Asian” (read exotic) look of your eyes. All of these are of course not dedicated to Asian women, quite the contrary. At the same time, some Asian women are trying to look more Caucasian, in order to progress in their careers or be more attractive. A stunning example is a Chinese-American TV presenter, Julie Chen, who has admittedly undergone surgery to make her eyes look “less Asian”.

Physical human beauty is one of the visible manifestations of a culture – what lies behind it are those culture’s values and attitudes towards health, prosperity or aesthetics. As AFSers travel around the world on their educational and experiential exchanges, they may encounter notions of beauty quite different from their own. That is why it might be worth reexamining your own expectations and values of beauty and trying to understand where they come from. Finally, as many theorists like to put it, “Beauty is in the culturally conditioned eye of the beholder”.

Culture Shapes Our Brains

The following blog post is the second contribution by our fellow AFSer, Lucas Hackradt. Lucas is the Intercultural Learning and Communications Specialist at AFS Brazil and he has been involved with AFS for exactly ten years now – back in 2004 he was a prospect exchange student and after that he volunteered for the organisation in Brazil and Mozambique, and at times he joined the orientation camps in Belgium Flanders, the country he did his exchange in.

* * * * *

This week I came across a rather interesting study published on the Association for Psychological Science in 2010 and named “Culture Wires the Brain”. Psychological scientists Denise C. Park, from the University of Texas, and Chih-Mao Huang from the University of Illinois, have gathered some evidence that culture not only affects how we behave, but it also impacts the way our brains develop and its structure.

The fact that the place where we grow up shapes our opinions, taste in food, language and nonverbal communication is no news for anyone. People would hardly discuss the fact that Chinese are different from South Africans. What seems amazing about this study is the fact that this things that we learn in our childhood actually make our brains function differently. (personal note: would that mean that a true bicultural person does not truly exist?)

“There is evidence that the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures versus individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavior”, the researchers write. “There are differences between East Asians and Westerners with respect to attention, categorization, and reasoning. For example, in one study, after viewing pictures of fish swimming, Japanese volunteers were more likely to remember contextual details of the image than were American volunteers”.

What is even more interesting about this study is that, according to the researchers, although culture could shape our brains and determine how they work, aging, which is a completely natural process, makes our brain functions become more alike once again. In that sense, the older people from two different cultures get, the more culturally close they would be. “With age, both cultures would move towards a more balanced representation of self and others, leading Westerners to become less oriented to self and East Asians to conceivably become more self-focused.”

This all reminded me immediately of the image below, widely used within the AFS network.

 Y.Y. Kim’s Deculturation and Acculturation Over Time model of cultural adaptation, present in What Every AFSer Should Know About ICL® and very similar to the image above, explains how one can acquire new “mental furniture”, accommodating both new and old cultural values, through an intercultural experience such as that provided by AFS. This results in a new brain structure containing elements from both the original and the host cultures. With the new information contained in this study, we could go deeper in explaining and further using this model to better show participants how the process of adaptation takes place during an AFS year.

What I like even better in Y.Y. Kim’s model drawing is that it somehow addresses the possibility of different brain structures. The original model starts with a square form full of elements then goes to a square form with round sides containing two different elements and it finishes (the last stage of adaptation) with a round form containing a true mix of cultural elements.

Another study by researcher Denise C. Park “showed [indeed] evidence for thicker frontal cortex (areas involved in reasoning) in Westerners compared to East Asians, whereas East Asians had thicker cortex in perceptual areas”. Although still lacking more evidence to prove this, the research already points to the fact that the way we develop our brains is affected by the environment we grow up in and that, even if we undergo an immersive intercultural experience, some parts of our brain will remain unchanged – although the elements inside it, its functions, might change. Therefore, building intercultural competence, again, is not about reshaping anyone, but rather letting people critically view the world.

Going back to Y.Y.Kim’s model, I must tell a brief story to finish my post of today. Last year I was facilitating a Learning Program level W workshop in Brazil and when I asked participants to build the model to see if they understood it, the final result was like this:

I was intrigued and wondered why participants would suggest something like this. Their answer was that “during an AFS year, which lasts for a much shorter period of time than probably that of Kim’s studies, people’s brains are “compressed” by the amount of information, emotions and feelings going on, which is why the circle makes more sense in the middle. After the AFS year, when they re-adjust back home, they are not circles, which are completely opposite from the square they were before. Instead, it is just as if the “pressure” went off and the square tried to go back to its original shape. In the end they are squares with round sides: a bit new but still their old selves”. This approach to the model was unexpected and even though in the end they did understand the originally intended way, I was glad this kind of reflection was going on. As I am now glad to share it with you.

Experiential Learning through Storytelling

 

Working with groups of AFS exchange students from more than one cultural background is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate diversity through the telling of traditional tales, seeing how these can have both universal themes and at the same time say a lot about specific cultural features. Storytelling has been used for centuries as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and for instilling moral values. It originates from ancient cultures, but still exists today, sometimes even in the form of digital media, including interactive web documentaries. When working with exchange students from around the world, talking about and celebrating diversity can be done through the telling of traditional tales. Whether they are universal or specific for a given culture, they will give people a vivid way to connect with each other, share and interpret experiences. In any case, stories can help bridge cultural, linguistic and age barriers.

AFS volunteers and staff work on a daily bases with exchange students and families from diverse cultural backgrounds. Using storytelling in orientation camps or other gatherings which involve intercultural interaction might be a useful tool and an interesting approach to learning. We know that learning is most effective when it is based on experience and when we have a chance to apply it. Sharing stories provides a tool to transfer knowledge in a social context, while also teaching ethics, values, and cultural norms and differences.

Stories are effective educational tools because they engage listeners, which helps them better understand and remember key messages. Listening to a storyteller can create lasting personal connections between the storyteller and the audience, promote innovative problem solving and foster mutual understanding, all based on this special sort of experiential learning. If you are a teacher and you want to incorporate storytelling into your classroom, we recommend visiting this link.

Traditional stories are usually based on values passed down generations to shape the foundation of a community. If you use them with exchange students, they can be a bridge for knowledge and understanding allowing different communities to learn about each other and connect. This way, stories can be used to manage or prevent possible conflicts, interpret the past and shape the future.

Overcoming Intergroup Anxiety

Researchers at the University of Essex, in collaboration with AFS, have completed The Impact of Living Abroad, an 18-month study that involved almost 2,500 sojourners enrolled in a 10–12-month AFS program, as well as 578 control group participants.

The project investigated four central components of intercultural contact: acculturative stress, cultural learning, intergroup contact and the effect of cultural distance. More information about this research can be found in the Intercultural Link news magazine or on our website.

This issue looks at how the exchange experience impacts the relations between individuals of different cultural backgrounds and the ease of overcoming intergroup anxiety in these situations. Such data can help assess the significance of intercultural exchanges and may predict the success of integration in culturally diverse workplaces.

Feelings of discomfort and uncertainty in interactions between different groups are labeled as intergroup anxiety. These feelings influence the general relations among groups and group members, and can lead to prejudice.

According to The Impact of Living Abroad study, before their intercultural experiences, AFS sojourners show the same average levels of intergroup anxiety as their peers. However, once beginning the exchange, the sojourners’ anxiety considerably decreases, particularly by mid-stay and the return to their home countries.

This research has found that the following factors are related to intergroup anxiety:

  • Personality: Intergroup anxiety is related to certain traits of personality, as it is defined by psychologists. More extroverted or open persons, as well as those who are less emotional, tend to feel less anxiety, as well as those who score high on the traits of honesty and humility.
  • Intercultural competence: Higher levels of intercultural competencies, the ability to interact effectively and appropriately with members of other cultures, have been found to lead to lower levels of intergroup anxiety.
  • Fluency in the host language: Speaking for the benefits of timely language learning, this study has found that intergroup anxiety decreases as the knowledge of the host language improves.
  • Motivation: The source of motivation to participate in an intercultural exchange directly relates to the level of intergroup anxiety. The more sojourners have their own, independently formed reasons for going abroad, the lower their levels of anxiety are.
  • Perceived cultural distance: Intergroup anxiety levels tend to drop when sojourners perceive their home and host culture to be more similar and the cultural distance between them smaller.

Why is this important for AFS?

Intergroup anxiety can predict how sojourners will behave or feel in other situations. For example, better socio-cultural adaptation, which is defined as adjusting to lifestyle, social norms, language use and other practical considerations in a different culture, and better psychological adaptation, one’s sense of belonging, feelings and other emotional aspects of being in a new environment, tend to be preceded by lower intergroup anxiety. This is also true for higher self-esteem and a more positive perception of personal well-being — both of these factors can be predicted by lower levels of intergroup anxiety. In turn, all this leads to a more positive general evaluation of their overall experience.

Findings of The Impact of Living Abroad study support the claim that intercultural exchange can foster more positive intergroup relations. This means that AFS sojourners acquire transferable interpersonal and intercultural skills that can help them integrate and work efficiently in diverse teams in the present and the future. In line with the AFS Educational Goals, sojourners are expected to be able to find workable solutions in intercultural workplaces, using their exchange experiences as a base example.

For more information about The Impact of Living Abroad study results, contact us at icl@afs.org or visit ilaproject.org.

How do you celebrate the Carnival?

The following blog post is contributed by our fellow AFSer, Lucas Hackradt. Lucas is the Intercultural Learning and Communications Specialist at AFS Brazil and he has been involved with AFS for exactly ten years now – back in 2004 he was a prospect exchange student and after that he volunteered for the organisation in Brazil and Mozambique, and at times he joined the orientation camps in Belgium Flanders, the country he did his exchange in.

* * * * *

I came up with the idea to write about this topic when I invited to contribute to the ICL blog two weeks ago. I was asked to deliver something already by last week, a task I had to promptly say no to. Not because I did not want to be a contributor to this blog, but because last week was the Carnival, a time in which the country where I come from literally stops. Having this in mind, the question naturally came up: how do YOU celebrate the Carnival and how important is it for different cultures?

As some of you may (or may not) know, the office of AFS Brazil is located in Rio de Janeiro, “the city of Samba, mulatto girls and football”, as stated by a popular Brazilian song written for one of the traditional Rio Samba School parades in 1993. The good thing about it is that every year we get to celebrate the festivities in what is considered the place to be  at the Carnival – the celebration is taken so seriously that the city of Rio literally stops for almost eight days. For us in Brazil, the Carnival period starts on the Friday before Carnival Tuesday and goes until Ash Wednesday – it actually goes until the Sunday after Ash Wednesday, but on Thursday we stop to take a breath and go back to celebrating on Friday.

Now, if you come from a country where Carnival is not really celebrated, you might be wondering why we take it so seriously. Apart from it being already an important part of Brazilian culture, Carnival is deeply linked with religion (and, although numbers have been shifting recently, Brazil is still considered a major Catholic country). It is said that because of the lent period that follows the Carnival – those 40 days of the year preceding Easter in which the religious should fast and commit to other pious or penitential practices – people historically gathered during these few days preceding Ash Wednesday (and us Brazilians even after that) in order to do everything what they could not or would be religiously forbidden to do during the following month. The result?

)

Today, the Carnival is more of a cultural trait than it is a religious celebration. In Brazil, the huge country it is, you have very different types of Carnivals depending on the region you are in and depending on the local culture. Up in the north, in Bahia state’s capital of Salvador, influences of the slavery times and of black African culture have created one of the world’s biggest street celebrations of the Carnival, filled with Axé music, a style deeply rooted in Yoruba traditions. Down to the south of the country, in Rio and São Paulo states, Carnival takes the form of both Samba School Parades, which you may all know, and of street parades called “blocos” which are big gatherings of people all dressed up in costumes and dancing all kinds  of music remixed to the beats of Samba.

But Brazil is not the only Carnival country as many believe. It is certainly one of the countries where it is very important, but other places such as Italy, Greece, the USA (with its New Orleans’ Mardi Gras) and most of Latin America also have very traditional celebrations. Who has never heard of the beautiful masquerade of Venice or of the Carnival Parade in Cologne?

Carnival may not be a big deal for everyone, but in the places where it is important, it grew to be a deep part of local, regional or even national culture. Is it as important to you as it is for us here in Brazil? I would love to know how you celebrate Carnival in your country! Do not forget to leave your comment on this post and share with us what is it that you love the most about Carnival!

(In)Direct Feedback

There are many ways to describe and classify communication styles. One that is frequently used among theorists and practitioners in the field of culture is the dichotomy between direct and indirect communication styles. Looking through a lens of problem solving, indirect communicators prefer to solve interpersonal problems by paying close attention to the other’s needs without directly asking about them and by observing and understanding the overall situation. On the other hand, direct communicators approach interpersonal problems through frank discussions, in which opinions are openly shared and respected. Understanding that these are just two extremes of a spectrum, people can usually assess where their preferred communication style is along this scale.

Charts like the one above have been circulating the internet for a while. Often presented in a humorous tone, the British or some other culture’s predominant communication style are explained better to the outsiders. Entertaining as this may look, most people have been in situations where they had a miscommunication due to different understandings of the necessary directness. Communication styles can be particularly important when it comes to giving feedback, both positive and negative.

One way to understand what a dominant feedbacking style in a culture is is to listen carefully to the language used. More indirect communicators will never criticize someone in front of the others. Even when they deliver negative feedback, they will try to use the so called downgraders, words to soften criticism, like kind of, a bit, maybe, slightly. More direct communicators will use upgraders, words which will amplify the feedback given, such as absolutely, totally, strongly.

In order to be an effective communicator across cultures with different preferred communication styles, there are a few tips to bear in mind. According to Andy Molinsky of Harvard Business Publishing blog, it is important to know what the others’ dominant communication style is. Assuming that your style is universal will probably get you in trouble, while it is more effective to be informed and carefully observe others. Another useful tip is to find a cultural informant who can advise on the communicational behaviors and preferences. Finally, customizing your behavior to adapt to the situation and meet the interlocutor in the middle will produce the most effective results.

If you want to read more about Intercultural Conflict Styles, we recommend that you visit our website and download the file ICL for Friends of AFS with that topic.

Family Education in China

The following blog post is contributed by our fellow AFSer, Margaret Yang Zhao. Margaret is the ICL Responsible and Volunteer Development Supervisor at AFS China, and a candidate for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program International Qualified Trainer. She was an exchange student to Japan and holds a Master degree in Intercultural Communication at Communication University of China. She facilitates intercultural trainings for target groups of volunteers of all ages with a focus on cultural awareness, cultural adaptation and cultural values in non-formal education settings. We thank Margaret for her contribution, and hope you enjoy her post!

* * * * *

I recently had a lunch with one of our volunteers who has been the liaison of several AFS students in a local chapter. During our conversation, he told me that one of the European students, Benjamin, had asked him several questions and was puzzled by the family life in China, even though the he had attended AFS orientations where he learned more about Chinese culture. Benjamin thought that it was strange that his host brother only had to do school-related work at home, while his parents did almost all other chores for him. The parents criticized the host brother if he didn’t achieve the best results in school tests and exams. Benjamin also noticed that his Chinese brother didn’t make his own choices even on relatively small matters such as picking out clothes or food. He was shocked when his host mom opened his door and came in without a knock for the first time, while for her, it seemed like a very natural and common thing to do. Benjamin’s liaison explained to the boy that what he had observed could be put down to the difference between the approaches to family education in his home country and China.

Family education is an education given by parents to children after they are born. In China, parents are seen as the first educators of their children. Therefore, family education is the most basic and important education model of the society. Given the importance of family education, parents put more and more effort in educating their children and helping them grow as persons.

Most Chinese parents will demand that their children get high marks in every exam and even encourage them to attend various kinds of specialty classes to learn arts, dance or musical instruments so that they can earn extra credits when they take entrance examinations. Usually, the children don’t have much of a say in these issues, but rather parents exchange information among themselves and make sure their children belong to the right club or a group. As a result, Chinese children tend to strongly depend on their parents while growing up. Even as college students, some of them still rely heavily on their parents’ support.

Chinese parents tend to care so much about their children’s studies that they don’t ask them to help in any other daily tasks. The primary requirement for children is to study hard, do well in exams and graduate from reputable universities so that they could have successful careers. The reason for this on one hand is children’s own good, as in a populated and highly competitive society like the Chinese, good academic scores can probably guarantee a bright future; on the other hand, it is a traditional value orientation that parents will be respected if their children have great achievements in society. Therefore, Chinese parents are willing to self-sacrifice and give up their own time, hobbies and interests in order to provide better conditions for their children.

It is also important how many Chinese people interpret the parent-child relationship, where children’s individualistic traits are not cultivated. From the social point of view, China was governed by feudal regimes for thousands of years, and the ideology of hierarchy penetrated into every aspect of Chinese people’s lives. It is considered that ideas such as hierarchy and other values of Confucian ethics help coordinate interpersonal relationships and the power disparity of feudal society, and construct appropriate communication order, which is the precondition for good interpersonal relationships and the foundation of the feudal country. Even now, such an ideology still has a great impact on parent-child relationships in China: since early age, children are taught that parents stand for absolute authority and dignity, and that the young need to be obedient to the elderly.

With the rapid growth of social economy, China has become a more popular destination for visitors and foreign exchange students. The encounter of different cultural backgrounds and ideologies has become inevitable and sometimes may lead to clashes. Family education is an integral part of culture, which also shapes one’s social and interpersonal orientation to some extent. Understanding key factors of Chinese family education and other cultural norms helps to understand and appreciate the Chinese way of life.