Friday, April 11, 2014

Thoughts on the United States of America

I started making penpals, and have been describing America (and Japan). I have an inside/outside perspective of it, as a person living abroad.

Hi, you want to know about the US and Japan, eh? My description of the US changes the older I get. I've lived overseas almost 5 years now, and I realized that 'freedom' isn't all of our rights, like guns, driving and education. It's more the fact that mentally, most Americans I know don't trap ourselves with cultural/social limits. Living in Japan, I notice that people choose a career at age 19-20, and start working for (often the same) company until they retire at age 65. Other countries choose a skill and get highly specialized and never consider doing something else, because it's such a risk.

None of that applies to Americans. We change jobs, apartments, lovers, schools in a constant search of what's "better." I put that word in quotes because we often don't consider all the details, and end up with lots of problems in our new places, but it's such a large country that if you REALLY want to, you can create a new life in one of the 50 states, and not have to learn a new language. I have a feeling that foreigners consider us pretty reckless, with all this uncertain moving around jobs, schools, and houses, especially leaving your family when you're 18, but we are probably the most hopeful culture on the planet, and the majority of us have lots of room to both fail and succeed.

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That is a much better description of Saitama. Usually, I get the same enthusiastic reply from Japanese people that I'm from a city they've heard of, but no one REALLY knows what Seattle is like. It's not super exciting to visit for a week, unless you're American. As a foreigner, you don't really know what small cultural differences to look for between American cities, states and communities. That's why I'm so disappointed that most people I meet have only been to Hawaii, New York or Los Angeles. I think they just want to say 'I went to NYC or LA' because it's cool, not for any kind of cross-cultural exchange. Seattle is one of the best American cities to live, study, or work in. Something long-term. We have top-notch schools, an incredibly strong economy, and friendly citizens, and (outside of Downtown at night) it's very safe for an American city.


The biggest complaint of foreigners is that the bars close at 2am, and the busses stop running around 12am, but what foreigners DON'T know is that the good parties are house parties, which go later, and cost a whole lot less. Seattlites also tend to like other drugs than alcohol, and you can have a good quiet night on good marijuana, or a loud night of dancing on other stuff. Of course, if you don't drink or do drugs, you can still enjoy night life and live music at a lot of bars. My favorite part about Seattle is that people only judge racist or mysogynist people (皮膚と性別). So, you can talk about drugs, tatoos, religion, your romantic life, etc and people don't really have a problem with it. The older I get, the more I realize that THAT is true freedom.

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