America vs. China: The Life of a 5-Year-Old

Located on opposite sides of the world, it’s unsurprising to find the cultures of China and America to be vastly different from each other. Some evident differences may be found in food, manners, clothing, and lifestyle – with multiple Chinese generations remaining unchanged from societal rules implemented thousands of years ago.

The younger generations of China, Millennials and Gen Z, seem to be singing a new cultural tune. With the popularity of the internet shrinking the distance separating people from around the world, it is easier for anyone in today’s age to gain access to insight to new ways of life as well as knowledge on other cultures. It is quite common to see the young people of China listening to musicians such as Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, munching on McDonald’s, wearing clothes from Forever 21, and watching Marvel films – all pastimes that have been proven popular in America, too.

Having noticed so many similarities as well as contrasts between Chinese and American culture, I wanted to interview two people, one from each country, that were old enough to be culturally immersed, and yet young enough to reflect the modernness of today. Both my American cousin, Anayah, and my Chinese friend, Little Mike, turned 5 years old in recent weeks. Due to distance and their young age, I was unable to talk with them both specifically, but I did converse with both of their mothers, whom were kind enough to answer my inquiries of what life was like for their 5-year-old children.

Little Mike age 5.

1. What is a typical day for you?

Anayah: On a school day I wake up between 6-6:30AM, get dressed, and go to my Grandma’s house at about 7AM. My Grandma feeds me breakfast and gets my hair done. I go to pre-kindergarten at 8:20AM. In pre-kindergarten I am learning to write. I can write my entire alphabet, my name and a few other words (Papa, Delaney) and I’m also learning to write numbers. Recently at school, we are learning our phone number, address, and to tie our shoes. School gets out at 2:30PM. I have homework 3 to 4 days a week that has to do with the letter or number of the week, and it takes me about five minutes to do. Grandma picks me up from school and I go to her house until 4 o’clock; then, my Mom and Dad pick me up. We eat dinner, do homework, play outside, watch TV, then baths. Bed time is around 8:30PM and I’m usually asleep by 9 o’clock.

Mike: I wake up around 6:30 in the morning on school days, get dressed, and eat breakfast. My Grandmother makes breakfast for me on some days, while my Mother does so on the days she isn’t teaching. Monday through Friday I go to kindergarten from 8:30AM to 5PM. After school I like to practice riding my bike and I learn to draw for two hours every Wednesday. I usually eat dinner around 6 o’clock, then I like to play outside with the neighbor boys, ride my scooter around the flat, watch TV with my Grandfather or read a book with my Grandmother. Some nights my Mom will help me practice speaking English. Every other night I have a shower before I go to sleep, and bedtime is between 9:30 and 10 o’clock in the evening.

Anayah age 5.

2. What is your favorite food?

Anayah: Chocolate milk, cucumbers, tomatoes, and popsicles are my favorite foods.

Mike: My favorite foods are all of them. I love dumplings, noodles, chicken, pork, and anything else I can eat. I also love to eat candy and chocolates. My mom brings me home one chocolate everyday; but she says I cannot eat so much sugar anymore because I am starting to get cavities.

Anayah (center) with her mom, dad, younger sisters, grandparents, uncle, aunt, and cousin on vacation.

3. Who is part of your household?

Anayah: I live in a house with my Mom, Dad, and two younger sisters. I am also very close with my Grandma and Papa, and spend time at their house, too.

Mike: I live in a flat with my Mother, Father, Grandmother, and Grandfather. It’s a traditional Chinese household with my Grandparents sharing one bedroom, and I share the other bedroom with my parents.

Little Mike (far left) and his friend trying new experiments with a science teacher at his mother’s school.

4. What is your favorite television show?

Anayah: My favorite TV shows are: Mickey Mouse ClubhouseSophia the 1stPJ Mask, and Doc McStuffins. I also love Disney movies. Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Tangled are my favorites.

Mike: Most Chinese children my age love cartoons but recently I’ve only been interested in watching documentaries on the History Channel. The only cartoon I’ll still watch right now is Tom and Jerry.


5. What are some activities you like to do?

Anayah: I love to be outside, swimming, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and playing gymnastics on my gym mat. I have an iPad that I love to play with, but it’s not part of my daily routine and my Mom limits the time I play on it. I also love going to the park, playing with puzzles, and doing arts and crafts like coloring and painting.

Mike: I like to play outside with my friends, explore new parks, and go shopping with my parents (especially if they buy me a new toy.) I am crazy about traveling and I like to visit the science department in the school my Mom works at so I can see new science experiments in the chemistry lab. I like to play with my toys and games, and my favorite toy right now is a little plastic gun (my Mom doesn’t like toy guns so she would rather me not have it.) I also like sports and I am very interested in plants.

Anayah (left) with her younger sister.

6. Who is your best friend?

Anayah: My schoolmate, Gabby. Gabby had a sleepover at my house for the first time last week.

Mike: Wang Zihan is my best friend. He is a boy from my school.

Anayah on the left. Little Mike on the right with his dad.

7. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Anayah: I want to be a princess like Ariel or Rapunzel. Sometimes I’ll say I want to be a nurse like my Mommy.

Mike: I want to be a scientist so I can do fun experiments all of the time.


The content for this post was originally published in spring 2016 while I was living in Zhengzhou, China. Photos of Anayah came from her mother, Jenica. Photos of Mike came from his mother, Sonny. A special thanks to Jenica and Sonny for letting me interview you and your wonderful children.

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