July 7, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Love USA: The Conversation Continues

Having spent 3 years in the U.S. may not be enough to fully understand its culture and society. Christy gave me new insights into what the U.S. looks like through her comment on 10 Reasons Why I Love USA. I'm probably into the U.S. too much to see the reality with an objective point of view. And I might have praised the U.S. TOO much. This post is a very long comment for Christy.

Here's my feedback:

1. I never thought about the "praise too much" tendency from your perspective. You gave me a fresh insight. As you point out, if people feel pressure to praise each other, it must be stressful. They can also get skeptical when they get compliments, wondering if people are saying the truth or lie. When I was living in the U.S., I would often get tired of saying "Oh, I love your shoes!" or whatever.

I agree with your saying that it's gotten to the point where even constructive criticism is seen as offensive. That's a very good point. We don't have to always praise but mention negative points as well to solve problems. If a criticism is not derived hatred feelings but is based on objectivity, that's fair and positive.

I just wanted to say that we Japanese are TOO humble. Luckily, I'm not. I changed a lot after having studied in the U.S. My family says I've become less humble and more selfish, but I feel much happier about being myself. Showing that you are proud of yourself/your achievement to a certain degree is often considered as "He/she is too proud of himself/herself. He/She gets big headed." That was the way older generations used to be in this society. People are changing now and start praising each other probably because the Japanese have realized they should focus more on building self-esteem.

8. About Hollywood, you are right, Christy. The quality depends on the show/movie. For example, I don't watch Japanese TV shows a lot, but I liked a drama series, "Last Friends." I was so into the drama that I even cried when Sosuke killed himself. On the other hand, American TV shows like "Temptation Island" are a waste of time for me. And movies like, "There's Something About Mary" and "Knocked Up" are...you know, they suck. I don't understand why these movies were big hits in the U.S. (Knocked Up never came to Japan, btw.)

People are attracted to either something different from them or something similar to them. I'm interested in something different from my own culture. And so are you. You like Japanese TV shows better than American ones. This is very interesting.

By the way, did you know Aragaki Yui and Yama-P are appearing in a new drama, Code Blue?

10. About learning English, I totally agree with what you are saying. My college professors would tell me, "Karen, you'll be surprised if you read American students' papers. Their writing skills are terrible." Being a native English speaker doesn't always mean being a good writer/speaker. When I just entered the college, my listening skills were too poor to to be able to understand what my classmates were talking about and they all sounded smart to me. Turned out, I was wrong. As I got used to listening to native speakers' English, I came to realize that many of them were just BSing to increase their class participation.

I see what you are saying; however, being able to speak English means you are one step ahead of international communication and that gap is hard to catch up with. It really was for me, and I'm still struggling with it. It's a great advantage in terms of international communication, no matter how good or poor your English is, because you can reach a wider audience than Japanese speakers can ever have.

About college tuition, if a California resident goes to UC Berkeley, it costs $4,465.75 per semester. The tuition for nonresidents is $14,769.75. I'm not saying $4,465.75 is inexpensive. This tuition gap applies to American students those who come to Japan. But we don't have many students from your country. According to Institute of International Education Open Doors Report 2007, the number of American students was 4,411, while the U.S. hosted 35,282 Japanese students. People go to places where opportunities and worth learning courses are being offered.

I'd like to let you know that I'm aware of negative aspects of your country as well. For example, the U.S. is the world's biggest polluter with highest proportion of CO2 emission in the the world--22% as opposed to Japan's 4.7%. (Source: EDMC / Handbook of Energy and Economic Statistics, 2008 ) The U.S. has no national health care insurance system. Racism is still out there...and the list goes on. Sorry, I'm getting a bit sarcastic here.

Having said that, I still believe that being an American is a great advantage in the world. Japan is changing, but the speed is very slow...I often think about what I'm going to do to survive this society and live a happy and fulfilled life.Thank you again for reading my blog and leaving a profound comment, which reminds me of my college. It's really interesting that even if we see the same reality, the feelings we have about it turn out to be different, depending on the experiences and values that each has. I'm impressed by your deep knowledge of Japanese culture and society. I will try to write more entertaining posts on Japan. Please come back to my blog again and again!


Christy said...

oh wow...a whole post in reply to my comment!

Japan and America are two very different countries so there are very large differences between the two. And obviously the ways people act and what they believe is the right way to act and such will be different. There are good and bad things about each country.

That's really interesting about how your family thinks you're being selfish, but I'm glad that you are happy with yourself!

there are some American tv shows taht are really good! I really like the show House and I hear Heros is really good (I never watched it though...I always seemed to miss it...) but there are some that are reeeaaallly bad too. and i'm sure there are Japanese shows that are bad too along with really good ones too (I totally cried when Sousuke died in Last Friends too...)

I agree I do have an advantage in having English as my first language. Your English is very good by the way!

your college tuition was really expensive! wow...i completely didn't realize that you would be going as an international student. I'm going to be going to Japan for just a year as part of an exchange program so I will only have to pay to normal tutition for my school (plus some other extra charges for like...processing and stuff).

There are a lot of good things about being an American, and I'm really glad that I live here!

oh yeah! I have heard about Code Blue and I really want to watch it! I'm just waiting for subtitles so I can actually understand it! I've never taken a Japanese class before (there have been A LOT of circumstances that have prevented me from taking a class...) and I can figure some things out with the stuff I've taught myself (which isn't much at all really). I can't wait to watch Code Blue~! ^^

Karen said...

Hi, Christy! Thanks for your comment on my post for you. :)

Oh, you cried when Sosuke died, too? That was sooo moving. And by the way, you MUST watch HEROES!!

Are you going to be coming
to Japan as an exchange student? That's awesome!! While you are staying here, you can go to NEWS and Arashi and maybe KAT-TUN concerts as many as you want! That's a part of educational experience of Japanese culture and society, I guess.

Wow, you are teaching yourself. I'm impressed. Watch Code Blue and learn Japanese! Try to watch without subtitles and see how much you understand. I think you will be able to understand better than you imagine. (But the drama is full of medical jargon!)

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! And thank you for praising me for my English. I'm so glad to hear that.

Xtian said...

HI Karen :) I've been reading your blog for some time now, but never actually left any comments!

I just wanted to add that I find your enthusiasm about the USA to be quite refreshing, as the last few years in the USA have been quite embarrassing for the majority of us, thanks to our wonderful government and celebrities.

I often forget how privileged so many of us are, and just how hard people from other countries work just to move or study here. Thanks for reminding me of that. :)

Karen said...

Hi, Xtian,

Thank you so much for having been reading my blog! I really appreciate your comment because now I'm convinced that my audience are out there reading my thoughts despite the number of comments left. :) (I don't even know how to check stats such as the number of visitors. I'm going to try Google Analytics soon.)

As Christy says, each country has both positive and negative aspects. I understand what you mean by "the embarrassing years for the majority of Americans." It's just the government, which I'm sorry about. And some people just behave in a stupid way, which is hard to comprehend, but unfortunately, is being presented as part of American culture.

I must confess that I'm going to publish a post on Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007 for my Japanese blog some time soon. I find it useful for English-learners in Japan to learn from the bad example. This might sound sarcastic, but I don't mean to offend you!

Writing in English still takes me longer than in Japanese, but it's worth doing it because I can share my thoughts with non-Japanese speakers like you and Christy. It's just so much fun. You guys really motivate me to keep writing. :)