Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Karaoke and China

The Chinese are often described by Western observers as being shy and reserved as a people. However, there is one moment when the average Chinese person is certainly far less reserved than the average Westener, and that is when they are in the presence of a karaoke set. Karaoke (which is known as KTV here) is hugely popular in China, and an evening out in a restaurant between friends or colleagues will often end with a karaoke session. In my experience, most Chinese people feel absolutely no compunction about singing publicly on such occasions, no matter how well or how badly they can sing. I have found myself being asked to sing myself several times but I have always declined, since I am aware of how appalling my singing can be and I have no desire to show it off. A few times I have tried explaining to some Chinese students of my age that where I am from karaoke is not nearly as widespread as it is here, and so I am not used to singing in public. When I explain that people almost never entertain themselves with karaoke when they go out in the evening in Europe, I am usually met with surprise and disbelieve. "But then what do people do when they go out?" I am asked. The idea of going out and having fun without the aid of a karaoke set is obviously alien to most people in these parts.

It would be interesting to find out why the Chinese, who are usually more reserved and less keen to stand out than Westeners, are often quite happy to sing in front of dozens of people they may not even know.

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