Monday, February 21, 2005

Observations on America- Outside looking inside.

Long may she wave!

As I pointed out earlier, I just got back from a week in the States, mostly for business , but I did take some time to go skiing up at Lake Tahoe. Since they have had the most snow in over 100 years, just could not skip the opportunity. It had been six months since I was last "in country". After 5 years in Japan, its always an interesting feeling returning home. In part a relief to be where I can speak the language and be understood ( except in LA!); able to move about , drive, and park with space to spare; and pay $2 for a beer in instead of $9 in a bar. (Again except in LA!). In part, though, I find myself missing the things my adopted country has: Trains that work for example. As I have said over and over again, not matter how long I stay overseas, I am an American through and through and I am proud of that fact. Nonetheless, its always interesting to look at the USA a little more dispassionately then I did when I lived there. This trip, here are few things that I really noticed while moving about:

Americans are fat! - Not all of them, but a heck of lot more than there should be. And I'm not talking about just a couple of pounds over weight, but honest to God blubber/spare tires being carried. Its one of the first thing one notices after you have been in Asia for a while, where even the women who are heavy are thin by American standards. I was out in a brew pub one night, and saw some pretty hefty women trying to flirt and strut their stuff. Scary is an understatement.
The food portions in restaurants are huge!- I'm not talking just in the fancy places, but in the average diners and fast food places. Its sad for me to order dinner and get a plate of food I know I am not going to be able to finish. The voice of my mother haunts me as I eat, as she guiltily reminds me that there are starving people in China who need that food. Trust me ma, I've been to China; We eat more food in one sitting than they will eat all day. There's a good reason for that too.
This particular phenomenon seems to have become more pronounced in recent years. I know the restaurant industry is quite competitive, but do we all need to really eat so much? I'll skip desert and have another beer.......

Courtesy is on the decline- Coming from Japan where I cram in to a car on the Tokkaido line with a 100 of my Japanese friends, I am also amazed at how uncivil my countrymen can be over things that, in the grand scheme of things , are trivial. People are just plain rude to each other sometimes. I saw it in the malls, on the street, and even in my business meetings. People complain that Japanese society is too structured and it probably is, but there is an understanding that there are rules of politeness that are the currency that allow people to live together peacefully.

American women are pushy- Too pushy in my book. Went to a dinner party with some other couples. One guy's wife was simply amazing. You would think she was working for the company instead of her husband. Its a sign of how spoiled I have become living overseas, that hearing women talk about what they will "allow" their husbands to do and not do really annoys me. My ex-wife had that statement down to a science, her signature line was , " Here's the deal!" (Maybe paying alimony is worth it, just to not have to hear that.). Talking to the guys, offline was illuminating too. Its bad enough having to put up with amazing stress at work, but to come home and have to deal with more at home ......While all the while doing it for the "privledge" getting laid once a week........does not cut it in my book.

Speaking of American women, who teaches these girls how to dress?- One thing that is always noticeable here in Japan is that women in Japan know how to put an outfit together. Evenings out in San Diego this last week were an adventure---every thing from badly fitting T-shirts to jeans to I don't know what. Come on girls, come over to the Land of the Rising Sun and ride the trains. You'll learn a thing or too about color coordination.

Not every one of my observations is negative. A few things I was in heaven to be back to:

American TV- Commentators point out how low the standards have fallen and what a wasteland the tube is these days. They don't watch Japanese TV or they would stop complaining. Just to be able to watch a SITCOM this last week was sheer heaven. From my perspective the news over in America is much better ( despite all the accusations of bias, its really not that biased in my book) , writing for the SITCOMS and Dramas is much better, and the plots tend to actually flow logically. Plus a 100 channels to choose from is something to get down and be thankful for.

American Cars- Just having room to drive and park, without performing major surgery was so great. Took the rental car on a high speed sojourn up interstate 80----HEE YAA!!!

Philly Cheese steaks and Hot apple pie for desert- Yes they are too big, but eating it was good for my soul.

There are probably those reading this who say I need to be grateful for my blue passport, and I am. However that little book has taken me on some amazing adventures. It would be good for us Americans to remember that there are things we can learn from other countries as well. That's why for me, its good to be back here fighting the home in Tokyo.


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