Cultural Differences

13 November 2013

The United States is a country with many great opportunities and a unique culture that many people love and enjoy. While there are aspects of the USA that I love, there are also characteristics that I find I do not like about my country. While we have a culture of efficiency and effectiveness, sometimes we let the sight of our goal overshadow our journey getting there. Let me explain.

Unlike Europe, we do not have streets built just for people. All our streets and roads are built for cars, for transit, for getting something done. Too often, Americans do not stop to simply enjoy what they have around them because they are so caught up in doing to “next thing.” We do not have many places to go where we can just relax and have time to think. The American culture teaches that you should always be doing something; that you should always be striving after the next goal. We have an idea of free time as being wasted time, where in reality free time is the best time to grow and develop yourself be simply having the time to reflect on things.

Americans are very individualistic. This can be a great trait for business, but far too often this trait prevents people from learning how to interact with their family, with their friends, with their society. We are far too often plugged into the electronic world because it is easier that the real world. Because of this, we see families break apart, societies in chaos, and organizations that cannot communicate internally and externally. Relationships are the most important thing in life, and too often we forget this.

It is true that the USA is a country with a lot of space. Yet we still struggle with how to allocate this space. We tend to use our space to distance ourselves from others, which is something that I do not like about the United States. The fact that we have a lot of space, that we are very individualistic, and that we are always in a rush, we tend to act more selfish than selfless. This characteristic of the United States is one that I do not particularly like. I would like the United States to integrate values of families, relationships, and time well spent (in the places and with the people that you love).

It is interesting that when you look at the different characteristics of countries and why a specific group of people are the way that they are and why they are different or similar to others, it usually can be traced back to one thing. That one thing is the food of that culture and of that people. Since the very beginning of time, life has revolved around hunting and gathering food to feed and sustain nations. This concept has changed quite a bit over the years, but we still find that much of the day’s work revolves around food. You go to work so that you can put food on your table, and often your job revolves around making food available to others. They way that people interact with their food tells a lot about their culture. The food culture of different places is the one thing that bonds the people of that place together, more than just at a gathering around the table.

Unlike many other places around the globe, it is not normal in the USA to sit down with friends and family for dinner that has been prepared together, and is to be eaten together. I do not like that families do not take the time to cherish an evening meal together, to talk about things that have happened during the day, and to bond over one of the greatest elements of every culture-food.

We eat food just to eat food and nothing else. We do not only miss the importance of why we are preparing meals, but also why we are with the people we are with when we share those meals. Whereas in places such as Europe, people sit down to socialize first and eat secondary, in the USA people sit down to eat and socialize secondary. We do not recognize mealtimes as the time to learn from and meet new people or simply bond with those we already know and love.

There are too many fast food restaurants and pre-packaged options for meals in the grocery stores. I do not like how easy it for people to eat unhealthily, quickly, and without a purpose. It is true that many Americans do not live healthy lifestyles. We choose not to make healthy choices at the table-often because our food never makes it to the table, and we choose not to be active, not to do things but rather just watch. While often it is nice to have the flexibility to grab something to eat when you are in a rush and do not have the time to pause and eat a lengthy meal, fast-food restaurants and prepackaged foods are preventing people from stopping their own personal interests and sitting down to share experiences with other people. I wish that we would take a step back and slow down to enjoy the people and places around us. There are so many wonderful things in the USA to experience, it is a shame that we do not take advantage of them all.

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