02 March 2006

Kyrgyz Teenagers and American Teenagers

Yesterday the law students and I talked about the differences between American and Kyrgyz teenagers. They were absolutely convinced that these teenagers are quite different from each other. They brought up things like looser sexual restraints in the US, more independence for American teenagers, and the clothes they wear. I thought the clothes issue was particularly interesting. They thought Americans were less concerned about their appearance because many Americans don't dress as nicely as people do here. I assured them than American teenagers are plenty concerned about their appearances!

Personally, I don't think the differences are big. If there was no language difference, I think American and Kyrgyz teenagers would get along well. They all want basically the same things- to have friends, to find a good job, to have a family that loves them, to fit in. Certainly there are some differences. But I think teenagers in both countries would be surprised to find out how much they have in common with each other.

It's hard to compare the two when there are only 4-5 million Kyrgyz in the entire world and nearly 300 million Americans.

We also, of course, discussed politics. One of the students who is particularly interested in politics is fun to talk to. For a long time he seemed to think I didn't know anything about politics and that my political views were just like all Americans (whatever that means). The only thing I possibly knew anything about was English. But for the last few weeks he seems to be realizing that I know a reasonable amount about international politics, that I keep up on Kyrgyz politics, and that I have my own opinions about it. It's been much nicer to talk to him and I've been able to get to know him a little better.


  1. When I was teaching at Tinostanova University in Karakol I was astounded at how many of the students assumed that every American refrigerator was nearly empty except for beer. For some reason they had picked up on sparkling clean refrigerators stocked with only one gallon of milk and many bottles of beer through movies and it took the longest time to get them to believe me that this was not usually the case. It's interesting how people of different cultures perceive each other and how often any differences are quickly noticed, however minor, but the things that make us incredibly similar are overlooked.

  2. Our movies and magazines are NOT helpful towards creating a realistic impression of the US.

    Also, people of these CIS nations usually see the US through a filter of their own, vastly corrupt governments. Our bureacracy is many things, but it is mostly a big dumb impassionate machine.

    Americans are accused of not knowing other nations of the world - but I am always struck with what a strange and incorrect image the rest of the world has of Americans.