As most of the international students are now halfway through their student exchange programs, we are becoming increasingly familiar with the Nanchang lifestyle, which has resulted in some of the students being recruited to help some of the local Nanchang children learn English. As a result I was invited to assist with a children’s Halloween party with some of my fellow JUFE students.
This invitation required us to dress up in costumes which we hired from a local store (these included a geisha, an army general, Wednesday Adams and the Joker), play some traditional western party games with the children, such as apple bobbing and trick or treating and help them learn some of the English language. This experience was not only a lot of fun but it also provided me with some insight into some similarities between the Australian and Chinese cultures.
For example, I have been finding it rather challenging to learn the Chinese language especially the characters, tones and grammar. At the party I discovered that the Chinese students were finding it just as challenging to learn English as to them the letters and words were equivalent to the lines and squiggles of my Chinese characters and the pronunciation of the “r” and “l” sounds were also rather difficult for them. I also discovered that the students were as equally as interested in increasing their understanding of Australian culture asking lots of questions about the food, animals, landscape and traditional celebrations. This provided an excellent opportunity to explain what a kangaroo was and to clarify that the do not live and jump down the main streets of Sydney, tell them about Santa Claus and the various ways in which we celebrate Christmas in Australia and to compare our cuisines which are viewed as cold in temperature, bland in flavour and strange in texture by the Chinese people as they prefer warm and spicy dishes.
In turn, I discovered that some of these western traditions, such as Halloween, were finding a place in the Chinese culture. The Chinese now celebrate Christmas as well, however it is not the big family gathering that I am accustomed to in Australia but rather a time where young couples spend time with their boyfriends and girlfriends, enjoy a meal together and exchange gifts, a custom very similar to that of western cultures valentine’s day.
We ended the event feeling as though each culture was able gain greater insight into and harbor higher appreciation for the other and that we had also made some dear friends in the process.