I've always believed that people are the same everywhere. My students have asked me many times, "What country has the nicest/meanest people?" I always say, "There are good people everywhere and bad people everywhere. For example, there are many kind people in Hanoi but there's also a handful of Ninjas who robbed me of everything I owned the first week I was here." Shockingly, my students actually know what Ninjas are. I think it's the 16th English word they learn.
That said, the other night, I had to rethink my belief that people are the same everywhere. About fifteen minutes after school ended, I was driving home and stopped at a red light. As I stared at the handy countdown clock (all the traffic lights countdown the seconds till they will turn green or red) I heard, "Hello, teacher!" I turned to my left and sitting on the back of a motorbike was Linh, one of my teenage students. I immediately noticed two things:
1. Linh's mother was driving her.
2. Linh wasn't wearing a helmet.
I looked at Linh and said, "Linh where is your helmet." She smiled at me and said, "It's right here." She held up her far hand, which was holding the helmet. I said, "Linh, put on your helmet!" Her mother then smiled at me and said in broken English, "It's okay. We live close." I quickly responded, "It doesn't matter. It's dangerous. Put your helmet on." Her mother quickly agreed with me (she clearly wants her to get a good grade) and made Linh put on her helmet.
As the light turned green and I rode off two thoughts struck me:
THOUGHT ONE: My mother would NEVER let me ride on the back of her motorbike (yes, this is EXTREMELY hypothetically speaking) without a helmet. So perhaps people aren't the same everywhere. But then the second thought struck me...
THOUGHT TWO: There are irresponsible parents in America too. And on top of that, there are also overly responsible/nosy parents. For example, I know one very well -- my father. As a child, whenever my father would see a kid in another car not wearing a seatbelt he used to pull up parallel to them and motion for the kid/parent to put on their seatbelt. This used to embarras the hell out of me. However, I now realize that I'm equally as overly responsible/nosy as my father.
So, yeah, my core belief is still true -- people are the same everywhere.