Posted by: David Stewart | December 12, 2008

Difficult questions from China

When I come to China, I try to create an environment amongst my staff where they can feel free to ask me any questions about anything American. The results are usually pretty interesting.

I often get the question: “Which American TV show is the best one to watch to learn English?”

What a question! How do I answer that? “So, what shows are you able to see in China?”

Apparently, the local favorites are “Desperate Housewives” and “Prison Break.” No kidding.

This time, I got the question: “Is it true that Americans spend more than they make and have no money saved in the bank?”

I get this question a lot, and I don’t have a good answer. The Chinese newspapers usually present the official side of any issue and is does not seem particularly balanced. But in this case, they might be spot on.

My usual answer: “I don’t know what most people do, I’ll tell you what I and my family do. We give the first 10% of our gross to charity, save another 10% in a retirement account, and then save another 10% for shorter-term savings like our childrens’ college education, travel, and expenses. We try to pay off our credit card debt every month.” I figure that I can only talk authoritatively about what we do, and set a good example for them.

Finally, I did get a couple of interesting softballs this time – “What do you think of George W Bush now that he is leaving the presidency?” “Now that Obama will be president, do you think he will fix all of the economic problems?” “How much does a house cost in Portland? How about in Florida?”

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