Then the topic slightly veered course. “You guys have prom, right? Like a big school dance during senior year?” “No, no, we don’t have anything like that,” my colleague said. “We don’t have school dances. We just study and work hard.” Ah, *mind ... officially... blown*
Oh boy, living overseas, one can truly discover just how different regions across the world can be, and that even the slightest systems, traditions, and even cuisine that you think to be so common—so minuscule in your home country, are a far cry from the norm on foreign soil, or even strangely enough, they don’t exist at all.
Take something like...microwave butter popcorn, for instance. In the USA, butter popcorn is as much of a pastime as baseball. We grow up eating it at home, at the movies, and even sports games. But in China? Well, let me tell you a funny story ...
I was teaching kids at an English training center in Shanghai. My students were between 4-5 years old, and I had a assistant, Cathy, that would help me prep the class and communicate with parents.
Cathy was about 5’9, wore glasses, and looked older than her actual age, which was in her late 20s. She very well spoken and inquisitive, but was also very much reserved. She was quiet and never raised her voice, even if our students were misbehaving.
Cathy was one of the most traditional Chinese people I had ever met, too. She strayed away from drinking, dressed very conservatively, and never ate western food. It was rice, vegetables, and meat or fish meals everyday for her—none of that "unhealthy and fattening” junk Americans tend to eat.
With that, when it came time for Cathy to help make some microwaveable butter popcorn for our students to enjoy a movie, can you believe she had no clue how to make it? What’s worse, she didn’t even know what it was that I handed it to her. *WTF* I mean, it was popcorn for Gods-sake!
So I gave instructions and left her on her own. Big mistake. Time went by, the movie started, and Cathy still hadn’t even returned, so I went to our school cafeteria to check on her.
I walked in and saw the funniest thing: The microwave was on, the popcorn was popping, and Cathy was hiding halfway down behind an isle in the kitchen. What in God’s-name was she doing?
Turns out, the ‘thunderous roar’ of the popcorn popping in the microwave had scared her half to death. Yep, she feared the whole thing was going to explode!
Ha! I tell ya’ I can’t make this stuff up. The shot of Cathy frightened by something as simple as microwave popcorn is something I’ll never forget.
And as she experienced the embarrassment of a lifetime—her face turned bright red upon being caught—hell, I couldn’t stop laughing for 3 days straight.
In the end, please hold this truth to be evident: Everyday things you experience, practice, hear, see, use, and eat in your own country aren’t always common in other parts of the world. And yeah, that includes something as easygoing as eating microwaveable butter popcorn!