Only-in-America

10 Dec

I’ve lived in Japan for most of my life now, and I have only been back to visit America a few times. In fact, my most recent visit there was over ten years ago ( Click here to read about the reverse-culture-shock I experienced on that trip.)

I was thinking about some things that seem normal to most Americans…but are actually unique to America and kinda odd to people who don’t live there.

1. Flags everywhere / “Pledge of Allegiance”
Every country flies their national colors. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the American flag is flown everywhere, everyday in the U.S. Even car dealerships and in school classrooms.
Speaking of school classrooms, American children stand with their hand on their heart, facing the flag in the classroom, and recite and pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag.
A bit like North Korea.

pledge

2. “Sales tax” –
By this I mean, the price shown on the products in stores in America is the pre-sales tax price.
To be honest though, it was the same way in Japan when I first arrived here. At that time, sales tax here was 3% and the after-tax price wasn’t listed on the price-tags. (Just before I came to Japan, there was no sales tax here at all!)
But in 1997, the law was changed that all stores in Japan must show the after-tax price on their products (the sales tax went up to 5% that year too. (Currently, it’s 8%)).

3. “Toilet stalls” –
When people from other countries visit America, the public restrooms are quite a culture shock! The doors are too small! It’s disturbing when you’re using a public toilet but don’t feel like you have privacy.

public-bathroom

4. “Tipping” –
There is no tipping in Japan. When I visited America, I was never sure who to tip or how much! I had to check my guidebook. Waitresses, taxi drivers, hotel staff, bartenders, et al. It felt like, no matter how mediocre the service, I had to tip everyone! And after tips were factored in, the cost for many things in America were actually higher than in Japan.

5. “Guns” –
Besides the police and military, there are virtually no gun owners in Japan.
All of the gun-related violence in America that is reported in the news is sad and shocking.

6. “Alcohol rules” –
In America, beer can’t be enjoyed outdoors in public. And there are hours (and even certain days) that stores don’t sell alcohol.
Why?

There are beer vending machines in Japan.

I’m not putting America down.
I’m just pointing out some peculiarities about the culture of the country of my birth. Every country has them…and sometimes it takes stepping outside the country and experiencing a different culture to see them.

What are some unique cultural peculiarities about America, Japan or any other country that you’ve noticed?

14 Responses to “Only-in-America”

  1. kissman March 12, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    I know I’m late to finding this post, but I quite enjoyed reading this. I actually would enjoy reading further noticeable differences (if you can think of any).

    As for Flags and the Pledge — it’s always been a bit much in my eyes. We do have a cool flag, but it’s over-displayed. And while some here would get angry over that minor criticism, almost none of them abide by the rules of displaying the flag (taking it down at night being the main one) so it’s not like they show the ultimate respect for it either.

    The Pledge always felt like a chore as a kid. Saying that to certain people here would garner an angry “love it or leave it!” response, but these so-called ‘lovers’ have plenty they don’t love about America which they voice it all over social media, talk radio, etc. However, by plastering their houses, cars and social media pages with flags, soaring eagles and more flags, they use their overt patriotism as a means to pretend that their criticisms are done out of love while characterizing yours as dissatisfaction.

    I can only wish there will be a time when tipping will be outlawed. It’s not that I want to stiff people; I just want to pay for everything upfront. Businesses love tipping because there’s no risk for them. All the risk is on their waitresses, bartenders, etc. who may or may not get properly tipped which isn’t the business’ problem.

    Our gun laws are CRAZY. Almost anyone can have one and in some states, you can legally carry them almost anywhere. That being the case, you can see why people being able to drink alcohol anywhere and at any time in public could be a problem. The idea of people legally roaming around with liquor in one hand and a loaded gun in the other is a pretty scary thought. The thing is though, the law in Florida might be different than the law in Texas and the law in Texas may be different than in New York. I know that in my state, bars have to close at 2 AM while in the neighboring state, the law is 3 AM. They also have different legal levels on what they consider drunk driving. Unless something is federal law, it’s up to the individual states to determine and a lot of that kind of stuff falls under state law.

    Saying all of that, I imagine a lot of our two countries’ differences are due to our diversity here in America — and our diversity leads to so many different and varied beliefs on things. If we weren’t a ‘united’ group of states, a state like California could almost be a different country when compared to a place like Mississippi. I think if they were two separate countries, they would be two very different places — as different as America and Japan. Actually, maybe even more so! Yet, all 50 states no matter how different are stuck with one another and I think that makes things a bit of a mess here in some ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 March 13, 2015 at 9:13 am #

      >I know I’m late to finding this post, but I quite enjoyed reading this.

      That’s fine. I like to get comments on my posts regardless of when I wrote them!

      >further noticeable differences (if you can think of any).

      If I think of any, I’ll add them. I haven’t been in America for a long time…so what I remember of the culture may have changed.

      Your comment is really great! Very well thought-out, objective and interesting!
      (Great taste in music too!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ayvee March 7, 2015 at 11:45 pm #

    > “In America, beer can’t be enjoyed outdoors in public. And there are hours (and even
    > certain days) that stores don’t sell alcohol.
    > Why?”

    There are plenty good reasons for this.
    When Americans “enjoy” beer, they like to get quite intoxicated, and end up causing public disturbances. They can get drunk and it messes with their judgement and basic motor skills. It’s common knowledge that it’s not safe for both them and the people around them.

    A lot of people end up drinking at night time on the bar scene. Personally, I think that this puts everyone in more danger. Stores won’t sell alcohol at certain late hours — not sure if this is law or not, can’t remember. Those DAYS that stores don’t sell alcohol are different depending on the owner. Usually, if they don’t sell on Sundays every week, it’s due to a religious reason of abstaining from alcohol on the day they attend church. A lot of that has been abandoned in cities but stays prevalent in rural areas to my knowledge. It’s just regional difference.

    Alcohol is dangerous and toxic. Especially in the hands of some Americans. I plan on avoiding alcohol as much as possible even after I reach legal age.

    Now I’m interested — how much alcohol and drug awareness education is there in Japan?
    There’s quite a bit here, but it’s necessary, considering the things even some students do to their own bodies by abusing these substances.

    Like

    • ayvee March 7, 2015 at 11:56 pm #

      also, forgot to add – I find the pledge slightly creepy (every student in my time zone doing the same thing at the same time and even saying things that shouldnt apply to everyone, including God when we’re a country diverse in religion) and I’ve been skipping out on it for years.

      Like

      • tokyo5 March 8, 2015 at 12:15 am #

        You don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance? Doesn’t it cause trouble for you? Maybe some people are upset if you refuse.

        I never had a problem with it when I was a kid in America. It was just a part of life to me. It wasn’t until I came to Japan that I realized it’s a bit unusual.

        Like

    • tokyo5 March 8, 2015 at 12:12 am #

      >They can get drunk and it messes with their judgement and basic motor skills.

      Many people in Japan like to get drunk…especially at special times such as New Years. As long as they’re at least 20 years old, and not driving a car, it’s fine.

      >Stores won’t sell alcohol at certain late hours — not sure if this is law or not, can’t remember. Those DAYS that stores don’t sell alcohol are different depending on the owner.

      I’ve heard that both the hours and the days that alcohol isn’t sold is the law in America…depending on the individual states.

      >Alcohol is dangerous and toxic.

      Not if drunken responsibly.

      >Especially in the hands of some Americans.

      I don’t agree that Americans are less responsible.

      >how much alcohol and drug awareness education is there in Japan?

      It’s taught in schools occasionally.

      Like

  3. Nagzilla December 11, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    What was fascinating to me when we visited Tokyo is that no one jaywalks. Like, ever. Here, everyone’s in such a damn hurry they’ll go whether they have a green light or a safe crossing or not. I thought it was really cool how people just waited.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 December 12, 2014 at 1:00 am #

      I wouldn’t say that “no one” jaywalks in Tokyo…but, you’re right, most people wait for the green crosswalk signal.

      Like

  4. ddupre315 December 11, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    Interesting perspective. I never thought twice about the pledge of allegiance as a child, I was having more issue with the moment of silence/prayer that was forced on us.

    By the way, in the movie theaters on base we stand for the Star Spangled Banner before the movie starts up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 December 11, 2014 at 8:25 am #

      >I never thought twice about the pledge of allegiance as a child

      Neither did I. But I realize now, after seeing my kids’ schools, that it’s unusual…and almost seems like a kind of brain-washing!

      >I was having more issue with the moment of silence/prayer that was forced on us.

      I don’t recall ever having that when I was a kid in Florida. Do U.S. schools have prayer now?

      >in the movie theaters on base we stand for the Star Spangled Banner before the movie starts up.

      The entire song? Well, that’s a U.S. military base, so it’s expected to be “patriotic”, I guess.

      Like

      • ddupre315 December 11, 2014 at 8:32 am #

        Yes the entire song, it’s not that long really.

        Not all schools do prayer, I went to a Catholic school…which I guess prayer makes sense but many things like that about the school pushed me away from Catholicism.

        I don’t see saying the pledge of allegiance as brain washing, I think it’s just a way of showing we are grateful to live in a free country. (I don’t mean to take anything away from the Native Indians who obviously had a country there before being invaded) It’s also a very young country compared to most in the world, so maybe that has something to do with it as well as being a melting pot. People come to America and are proud to be a part of it, in general. Just my early morning thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tokyo5 December 11, 2014 at 9:55 am #

        >Not all schools do prayer, I went to a Catholic school

        It’s to be expected there, I’m sure. I went to public schools. I don’t follow any religion, so I wouldn’t know what to do if there was a “prayer time”.😉

        >I don’t see saying the pledge of allegiance as brain washing, I think it’s just a way of showing we are grateful to live in a free country.

        I see your point…and that’s why I think a holiday like “Thanksgiving” is good. We should appreciate how fortunate we are!
        I guess I’m not used to children reciting a pledge to a flag anymore…and it doesn’t seem so “normal” to me anymore!

        Like

  5. CrazyChineseFamily December 10, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Some interesting points. In Germany I don’t even know how much the tipping is, I would guess around 5%. However I only pay if the food and service was good:)
    Imagine school children in Germany would pledge their allegiance to the country and flag, I bet it would be huge news!

    Any country got some strange things and mostly you only realize them once you have been away for a longer time

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 December 10, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

      Yeah, there are no flags or pledges of allegiance in Japanese classrooms either.

      Like

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