Japanese people often fantasize about America because of popular TV series (i.e. Beverly Hills 90210) and hollywood movies. I don’t think Japanese people are the only ones who dream about life in America. The most common fantasy is that American people freely speak their mind because it’s a “free” country. Before coming to America, I used to naively assume that everybody was made equal here in America and that people are so welcoming of others from different cultural backgrounds. Well I guess it is true to an extent. People in America tend to be more assertive than Japanese in general, and America is an individualistic society, in which people are generally encouraged to have their own opinions and views. But of course we cannot always speak up our mind freely in many situations. For instance, we have to almost always bite tongue at work. I think it’s the same everywhere..there are hierarchical status in every situation, so just because American people seem to speak up their mind freely, it doesn’t mean that they do that everywhere. At my work, many stuck up scholars get upset if we call them by their first name..we should call them “professor” “dr…” I do it anyways because we never call people by their first names in Japan unless we are close friends.
And again, this is a very genera opinion, and it’s very different based on the state but in California, people tend to be less straightforward than people from the east coast, and they are definitely more focused on superficial things. When I lived in LA, it was much worse..!
One thing that I’ve learned about America is that we definitely have more freedom and options to move around as women especially in terms of career but people still judge our age and someone in her 60s is much less likely to find a job compared to someone in her 30s. It’s a fact of life but in Japan, many companies still prefer to recruit new graduates to be their permanent career employees (rather than temp or contractors) and it becomes extremely challenging especially for women in their late 20s and older to find a permanent position in a large corporation in Japan..It is ridiculous because people in late 20s are often starting out in their career in America but Japanese society definitely seems to focus much more on age.
So that is why I feel more comfortable living in America because of the opportunities that I have. I like to be independent and having to keep track of everything in such a disorganized system isn’t a huge deal if I get to have more options. In Japan, moving to a new position, a new career is nearly impossible and I am just not willing to make that kind of sacrifice at this point. So people in America feel less restrictions in terms of job opportunities but there are two sides to every story..American society lacks structure compared to Japan, and people are expected to take responsibilities for their own actions. People are often punished harshly for not complying with rules and policies. American companies are notorious for firing their employees easily and their child protective laws are notoriously much more strict than the ones in Japan.
Another thing is that I used to take structure and high quality of service for granted when I lived in Japan but ever since I moved to America, I had to grow up to become more independent, individualistic and keep track of everything to protect myself and in that sense, there is less freedom..”freedom” may not be the right word to explain this situation but we have to be very independent in order to live comfortably in America. Someone isn’t going to look after you in this country. President Obama has implemented “Obamacare” but I keep hearing horror stories that old people losing their insurance coverage and have to follow up with their insurance agents and going back and forth.. Medical costs are outrageously expensive here so I would be horrified to lose my health coverage.
“Dependency” is generally frowned upon and I guess it is nothing more than “dependency” to expect the government to take care of your medical needs. They do have medical coverage for disabled or low-income people but again we have to deal with disorganized system and people have to be individualistic and assertive in order for their voices to be heard in a society, where people of different ethnic backgrounds live together. They are often segregated but are living in the same country.
People here often say..”It’s not my problem.” I still can’t think that way because of my upbringing. One of my old friend was struggling financially and although we all felt bad, almost all of my “American” friends felt that it was her personal choice not to take any job in order to make a living..and that “it is not their problem”. But of course I felt like I had to give an unsolicited advice like a typical Japanese person because I felt that that was the least I could do to help her but anyways I don’t know if it is a cultural issue. lol
Anyways there are different sides to every story and this concept applies to freedom in America. My Japanese friends often ask if life is good here in California..people are accepting of each other because there are different races here and people seem laid back and friendly so they are often surprised to hear my story. I try not to scare them but I am honest at the same time because I don’t want them sending their children to America thinking that people are much more laid back and it’s so much more fun..there’s more to it than that.