Adapted from one by Freda Chan

Materials Needed:

Sheet with cultoon drawings for each student
Teacher's script to accompany cultoon drawings
Explanation of culture points to be used after discussion

Title: Living with American Roommates (Female)

Teacher's script:

  1. Susan was a student from Hong Kong who just came to the U.S. two days ago. She found an apartment living with five American girls. In the afternoon, one of the roommates, Alice, came in from jogging. She slipped off her jogging shoes and put them in the closet that she and Susan shared. Susan was really annoyed when she saw that.

  2. After dinner, Susan was sitting on her bed reading. Alice, wanting to talk to her, came into the room still wearing her jogging suit. She jumped on Susan's bed, grabbed the pillow, and sat on it. Susan wasn't interested in chatting at all.

  3. The next morning when Susan got up and wanted to get ready for school, she found that the bathroom was occupied by one of the roommates who was obviously taking a shower. Susan was upset about that.

  4. Just as Susan was about to leave the apartment to go to school, Mary, another of her roommates, came out of the bathroom with just a towel wrapped around her body. Susan left quickly feeling very uneasy.


  1. Susan was annoyed because in Hong Kong people would never put their shoes in the closet, especially shoes which had just been worn. That would be considered a very dirty habit. In the U.S., however, people keep shoes in closets, especially if the people are tidy. Leaving shoes strung about the room would be considered messy, so Alice was really doing something which would be considered clean.

  2. In Hong Kong people usually shower and change into clean pajamas before they would climb onto a bed at night. In addition, pillows are for the head, a very important part of the body (especially in some religions) so sitting on the pillow was a real insult. In the U. S., however, roommates often climb onto beds with all kinds of clothes on, dirty or not. Roommate chats while sitting on the beds in a bedroom are very common and are usually considered friendly and fun. Alice used the pillow just to get comfortable. She would not see the pillow as having any more significance than any other part of the bed. If she had put her shoes on the bed or the pillow, she would have been considered out of line by most Americans, but sitting on the pillow meant nothing.

  3. Susan was annoyed not just because someone was in the bathroom in the morning. This would be expected also in Hong Kong. Susan was annoyed because the person war talking a shower. In Hong Kong, people shower in the evening so bathroom facilities need less use in the morning when everyone is trying to get ready to go places. In the U.S., however, showering in the morning is more common than showering at night (although most Americans don't really think there is any one special time when everyone should shower). Roommates do have to work out schedules of some kind so that each knows how to plan so she can get ready and arrive at school on time.

  4. Susan was shocked to see her roommate with just a towel wrapper around her. Hong Kong is still quite conservative in this matter and no one but someone who was very inconsiderate would ever leave the bathroom or a bedroom with just a towel for covering. In the U.S. the range of standards for modesty varies greatly from person to person. Some persons are as conservative as the people in Hong Kong. Others are even more liberal than Mary and may occasionally go from bathroom to bedroom, etc., with nothing on. Roommates who move about the apartment in nothing but underclothes are very common. However, the police in most cities try to discourage girls from such behavior as it attracts "peeping Toms" and other kinds of trouble.

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1998 © Dr. Lynn E. Henrichsen
Department of Linguistics
Brigham Young University
Last Updated: Saturday, January 24, 1998