I’m very comfortable with the fact that my country is imperfect. I may even be the one to point out its deficiencies. I feel a responsibility to do what I can to make the
For some reason, however, I get quite irritated when people tell me about what I do in my culture, especially if they’re wrong. When the discussion starts with “you know how you guys do blank,” or “in the States, blankety blank happens,” there is a very good chance that I am going to have to spend the rest of the discussion defending myself and pointing out that all Americans (many times myself included) don’t do blankety blank. First of all, my country is big. Even within
So if you visited your brother while he was studying abroad in
I got into a discussion last night with a guy who told me that
My conversation partner gave me an example of a salary in my country that is higher than a European salary. “OK,” he told me. “If you go to school for law, you can make $200,000 per year, right after graduating.”
I tried to explain that lawyers aren’t exactly average Americans. And, if you’re one of the 27% of the people who graduate from university, only then are you eligible to apply to spend another three years (and tens of thousands of dollars) going to law school. It’s competitive and not many people can make it through law school. “OK, I have another example: doctors,” he was very matter of fact. “They make a lot of money in the States.” I was nearly exasperated. I couldn’t believe I was participating in a) such a boring conversation topic, and b) a conversation that required me to defend our state of poverty. We're not that poor, but we're certainly not all doctors and lawyers. I think it was his complete confidence added to his complete ignorance that kept me going. The number of Americans who are doctors and lawyers in my country is practically insignificant, when compared to the Wal-Mart checkers, fast food workers, and engineers, etc.
Where did this young man get his information, you ask? He got it from the television, my friends. That is what he told me. This is not the first time this has come up. There are many people that feel that Sex and the City is a documentary on American culture, not a fictional and logistically impossible story that was created to make money.
In my culture, I was taught that television is not real. Some of the major differences between what you may find on the average television show and real American life are:
- We age (unlike Bart Simpson).
- We’re not all rich. We have a distribution of wealth, just like European countries. We have poverty, homelessness, as well as wealthy people.
- We work an awful lot (unlike the characters in Lost and Friends). If we don’t work, it’s quite hard to find food and shelter. Work is not always dramatic fun (like in West Wing), though I usually like my work (I may be a minority).
- We’re not 99% white. There is ethnic diversity in the States that is not portrayed on TV.
- We’re not necessarily stupid (unlike our Reality TV counterparts), though I occasionally have my “not so swift” days.
- We have pimples, wrinkles and other physical imperfections. You know how we’re one of the most overweight countries? Well, it’s true, and it’s not portrayed on TV.
- We’re not almost all 25 to 40 years old. We have a distribution of ages.
- The portion of the day spent in high-speed car chases, shooting each other, and having sex, is actually quite small compared to that of our TV/movie counterparts.
- Most importantly, the
is a real country. TV is fictional; it’s an industry that makes money in a capitalist society because people enjoy watching it, not because it resembles something that is possible in the real world. U.S.