Having settled in quite well here, I have decided to experience more of the American life. So Lise and I (Lise, lovely French girl with an atypical romantic, Bohemian flair) decided to go watch some American football. We’re both new to the country and the sport, so we had no idea what was going on, why things were paused so often and why the cheerleaders looked so happy.
And then we met a lovely Iraqi man who was nice enough to explain to two completely lost exchange students what the sport was about.
And we loved it.
But being all foreigners, the conversation easily diverted to our views of the “Leader of the Free World (This is not a phrase I use)”, and despite how insightful or accurate they are I always feel less entitled to comment on the negative aspects of the U.S. because I am from the “outside world.” Or, known to some, the world where where Tanzania is Martian. (This actually happened)
It led me to think about America being known as the “melting pot” of the world. Sure, there are all sort of folks here, just the other day I met someone on the subway who traded three Wendy’s vouchers for a SEPTA token, but that’s not what the melting pot means. Sure, there are many ethnic, religious and other groups occupying the same region. But is it really true?
The divisions between socio-economic groups are so painfully distinct. And there is still racism, negative stereotyping and general ignorance. People can talk for hours about the best place to have a Californian roll but do not try to understand the concept of shokunin. The promise isn’t that you will be a place where everyone lives harmoniously together, but that you will find a group of people you identify with.
Although, of course, this isn’t all bad; preserving a cultural identity in a country whose culture is broadcasted everywhere can be a beautiful thing. I especially felt this during the moon-festival, which gave me the realization that sometimes the further I am from home the more I identify with my roots, and I believe that is universal to all of the people out there to whom America is a home from home.
All of the talk of the melting pot and cultural domination aside, there are many things I love about American culture and American traditions. So far it has all been so welcoming that even only after having studied here for about a month, I can sit down with some friends at a college football game, eat some crabfries and feel completely at ease.