Type to search

International Voices

Coming to ‘Murica’

The good ol’ United States of America; it’s the country I call home and also the country I find the most committed to being… ‘different’. All countries have their own identity. I’m pretty sure of this; I’ve met many people from various places all around the world and each one of them exudes a distinct vibe. Being an American student in Japan has molded my views towards what I even perceive culture to be. In America, there’s so much diversity, with many subcultures and communities that express themselves all differently. You could never point to one place or area and make a conclusion about America.

But in Japan, you could use the trains for a few months and get the gist of Japanese culture just off that. For starters, they’re typically clean and orderly on a normal day; it’s rare to see anyone even talking on their phone while riding. And while conversations happen between passengers, there have been times when a packed train I was in was so quiet, music through my headphones was actually attracting attention (much to my embarrassment). Now, while I don’t feel it’s totally fair to paint America as overtly rambunctious, I think most can agree that as the number of people grows within a space, so does noisiness… but that’s not often the case in Japan. Heck, at this point–it wouldn’t surprise me if their libraries all had secret sensory sound monitors that lock-on to loudmouths.

To put it in better words: there are accepted customs and ways of conducting oneself that stand as general rules everywhere you go in Japan. So in a sense, it’s the complete opposite of America.

America can be a fun country to be in if you head to the right places. Many of them are spaced out from each other, unless you’re in an urban setting. Walking to places of interest isn’t really viable a majority of the time. For readers who come from other countries, this may be confusing—especially those who’ve lived in Japan; getting from place to place is typically a few train rides away. But in good ol’ ‘Murica, driving is the way to roll… it’s the only the way… most of the time. Cars are just that important to us. With movies like the Transformers and The Fast and the Furious being released every year, our love for and obsession with cars speaks for itself. Seriously, one is a movie series dedicated to chases and the other doesn’t just have car chases– the cars turn into giant robots and beat the stuffing out of each other. Yep, we’re different. 

Speaking of driving, our roads are pretty wide; in fact, most things in America are larger than what others around the world would consider ‘normal-sized’, especially Japan. A good example of this is how American restaurants prepare and serve our food. What Japan offers is a serving that allows for seconds and maybe dessert. The plates themselves are even smaller than the ones in America. When you put that together, the portion sizes in the states compared to Japan could make a tourist wonder if we are serving food for human beings or velociraptors. Now, while in the states you may not finish your plate, but at least you’ll be set for lunch tomorrow… and maybe the next day.

Furthermore, on the subject of food, remember the driving thing? Yeah, so—America took the two things that are in abundance, (driving & food) and merged them together to create the quintessential American concept of fast food, and oh boy—there’s a lot of them: White Castles, Steak & Shake, Arby’s, Hardees (which also goes by Karl’s Jr. depending on the state), Churche’s Chicken, Chick-Fil-A, Chicken & Waffles, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeye’s (which also serves chicken), Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and generally every restaurant in Japan that’s imported from America has one. Food in the United States is convenient, especially when you’re in a rush, but it is definitely different compared to Japan.

Next would be our television and entertainment. There’s a lot to choose from, but there’s nothing distinct there. And what’s mainly popular in America are sports just like in most other countries: we’ve got Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, Bowling, Wrestling, Football… no, not that football, ‘American’ Football. A lot of it is based off of Rugby. Football has evolved over the many years since its inception, but now it has an identity and following all of its own. Football is televised virtually every week and makes billions of dollars nationally. It’s fun to watch if you’re into seeing people knock the stuffing out of each other over a leather ball that’s shaped like the inflated bladder of a pig (Google it).

Now, we do have that football. We just call it Soccer instead; it actually isn’t entirely our fault though, ask Britain – it was their idea. We could probably drop the name and replace it with the correct one, but it’s part of our ‘culture’ now and to change it at this point would just confuse the next generation, as well as the current one. So, we’ve kept it and probably won’t fix it for quite awhile…or maybe ever. Yeah, it’s not always easy being different.

When it comes to cleanliness and customer service, Japan certainly has America beat. But despite some fundamental flaws and a few gripes I have personally, I love my home country. Social issues aside, I believe that there’s true value in what our intentions are– to be inclusive, give people options, and encourage unity. Of course this isn’t always achieved, and oftentimes America m ay not give out directly the things you want or need at all. Instead, it can give the opportunity to attain them.

And honestly, we’ve come to appreciate that for what it is on it’s own. It’s in our movies, our songs, and even in bits of our history; hard work and merit equals success with the right timing. Not to say that isn’t in other countries, but my distinct experiences in America have made me see value in other cultures and be honored by the very opportunity to be living abroad.

The United States– not a place for everyone, but I feel it’s definitely a place worth seeing. The quickest way to be the most popular person in the room in America is to be cordial, different, and proud of it. So come on by folks from Saipan, Russia, and Japan. Be safe, have fun, and be yourself- cause that’ll always be something different. 

Savon Saint-Anthony Crisp — Just a quaint fellow from St. Louis, Missouri! Sophomore studying Communications at Temple University, Japan- Land of the Rising Sun. Aspiring Indie Filmmaker with a love for Martial Arts, D&D Geek, and Sci-fi/Fantasy Writer. Recent Works | Playset