Allow me to let you in on a little secret…
I am an karaoke fiend!
My love of karaoke began when I was 18 or 19 and I was FINALLY old enough to go into some of the local karaoke clubs. One of my favorites was a tiny place in DeWitt, AR. My husband took me there when we were dating. It was a small family joint that didn’t allow smoking or drinking on the premises, but it was a lot of fun with people from age 3 to 73 sharing their talents–or just having a good time–on stage.
Most karaoke joints in the U.S. are set up similarly, with singers taking turns going on stage and sharing their favorite songs. But the Chinese style of karaoke is much different. Instead of one public stage open to many singers, the Chinese have KTV buildings. At KTV, you can rent one of many private rooms to share with your friends–which means no embarrassing yourself in front of strangers! Plus, you can also bring your kids since it is a private room. You also get to control the music selection yourself. There’s a computer on the wall with thousands of songs in Chinese and English. Plus, you can sync your phone with the computer and pull up karaoke songs from your QQ account (think Chinese iTunes).
Not only is this version of karaoke super convenient, but to me it’s a lot more fun–though it does depend on who you go to KTV with. One thing all foreigners can agree on is that each KTV experience is as different as the group you go with AND the Chinese and Americans experience KTV differently.
Americans at KTV: What to Expect
Going to KTV with Americans is COMPLETELY different than going to karaoke clubs in America with Americans. As I previously stated, in America, karaoke clubs are very public. You are performing in front of strangers with a DJ who helps you with your song choice, and each singer takes turns singing solo or in a group.
At KTV, this is NOT the case! Be prepared for LOTS of dancing, loud singing (with the music turned up as loudly as it can be), and for primarily fast-paced party music. In some groups I’ve gone with, slow songs have been skipped completely with people claiming that they were “bringing down the vibe”. Also, just because you select a song to sing does not mean you’ll be singing it alone–or even singing it at all. There are usually 2 to 4 microphones floating around the room, and if someone–or a group of someones–get to those mics before you, you will not be singing your song selection.
Chinese at KTV: What to Expect
Going to KTV with the Chinese is the complete opposite. Some Americans are fond of it; others don’t like it all. Yet in my opinion, I always have more fun going to KTV with my Chinese friends than with my American friends.
You can expect the Chinese to politely take turns singing. In fact, if they notice you haven’t sang a song yet, they will stop and help you select one so that you get a turn. Then, they’ll ask if you want to sing alone or if you would be more comfortable if they sang with you. This is just another way the Chinese try to make foreigners feel more comfortable in their country–it truly is a priority to them. In between songs, you can expect quiet conversation, encouraging words directed toward the previous singer, and applause for the next singer taking the stage. There is no dancing, and the music is soft enough that you can hear the singers voices over it–and of course, there are LOTS of slow-paced, love songs, many of which are entirely in Chinese. But don’t worry; your friends will explain what they mean to you.
No matter what your style (or cultural) preference, KTV can be a great way to relieve stress and wind down after an intense work week or a long semester. It’s definitely comforting and fun to this karaoke fiend’s heart.
Meet the author
Kayla Dean is an Arkansas native who moved to China with her husband and son in 2017. Kayla graduated from Arkansas State University in 2011 with her M.A. in English, and she currently teaches English Composition for Fort Hays State University at Sias. In her free time, Kayla enjoys singing, reading post-apocalyptic novels, writing some poetry or fiction of her own, and spending time with her growing family in the great outdoors.
*Author photo credit to FHSU*