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!