Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cross Cultural Collab Part 2: What Life is Really Like in the US

A few weeks ago Apoorva from Girl in a Whimsical Land and I posted the first part of our two part cross cultural collab, where we both wrote a post detailing what we thought life was like in the other's country. You can read my post on life in India here, and her post on life in America here!

Today we are sharing part 2 of our collaboration by each posting what life is actually like in our respective countries!

So first of all explaining "life in the US" is really kind of weird and impossible, because this country is freaking huge. And there are huge disconnects between regions of it *cough cough* that make life in one state very, very different from life in another state. I have lived in the US my entire life and I have not even traveled half of it. I think I've maybe been to 12 of the 50 states, and that is only if you include driving through states, not actually visiting those states. In terms of states I've actually visited and done stuff in, I've only been to 7 or 8, depending on your definition of "visited."

As Apoorva suggested in her post, life in the US is absurdly convenient. It is kind of our thing in a way. I live 10 minutes away from a Meijer, where I can buy food, clothes, housewares, video games, movies, and health care products all in one trip. Most of this stuff is pretty expensive as a result of being so convenient, but what you gonna do? If I don't feel like cooking one night I can make a frozen pizza, order pizza, or drive 2.5 minutes from my house to any number of fast food restaurants. Healthy? No. Convenient? Yep. It is also pretty awesome to be able to consistently get food from all over the world. I know it is not super environmentally friendly, but I really, really love pomegranates and it is nice knowing that I'll usually be able to find them.

We live in a very face paced culture, which I think is probably why we've sought to make things as quick and convenient as possible. Everything is scheduled. We live our lives at the mercy of the clocks here, and any time lost is treated as time wasted. This is something I am personally very aware of and I really, really struggle with it. Like I am very aware of how much time out of my days and weeks I lose just driving to and from work. Or during the school year I am constantly aware of how much productive time I lose going to and from campus. It causes me quite a bit of anxiety to be honest. It really is not healthy I don't think, but I also don't really know how to escape it because it is what I've grown up with.

High school in the United States is, to be frank, kind of awful. The education system in general here is, in my opinion. I had fantastic teachers for the most part, don't get me wrong, but the system itself is highly flawed. The expectations are determined by people with no educational experience (i.e. the government) and the amount of pressure put on students is suffocating. Not to mention the fact that the emphasis in schools is not even on actual learning. Rarely do you really engage with any material or, heaven forbid, learn to think critically about anything. In the US schools teach to the test. They teach you to repeat information that the government decides you must be able to repeat, which is not the same thing as learning.

For all my issues with the education system, there are a few things I am grateful for. In the US you are 100% able to choose what direction you would like to go in so far as your college major goes (barring any un-supportive family, personal issues, etc). There is no test that tells you which degrees you do and do not qualify for, which is something I know some countries, such as Turkey, do have in place. I cannot imagine desperately wanting to do one thing and being told that my test scores disqualified me from even trying. Of course some people do find that they are unable to pass the classes required for their desired careers, but you are at least given the chance to try.

I did laugh a bit at Apoorva's comment about cliques in American high schools. They do exist, but the lines are not so strict as Hollywood makes them appear; they do blur quite a bit. I will say that I was in marching band in high school and as a result 99% of my friends were band geeks. Because you simply did not have enough free time outside of band to even meet anyone else. And in my school band and choir were pretty much one entity; music kids stick together I suppose. But that was just my high school, so I can't really speak for anywhere else!

The other thing that really made me chuckle was the idea that it is accepted drop out of college and work in the service jobs that don't require an education. While the issues might be different between here and India, it is certainly not something that goes unnoticed in the US. We are currently having huge issues with our minimum wage because people honestly believe that if you work in those service positions (fast food, retail, etc) you do not deserve to be paid a living wage. People will flat out say that if you want a wage you can live off of and support a family off of you should have gone to college; which completely ignores the fact that many of the people working in those positions did in fact go to college, but were unable to find the better jobs that an education was supposed to offer them. Americans are kind of famous for having very strong opinions about things they don't actually know anything about.

Race and sex are still huge issues here, obviously. In the south people are currently fighting over whether or not southern states should still be allowed to fly the confederate flag. That's right, in 2015 we are fighting about whether or not the symbol of slavery and the white supremacy movement should still be allowed. That is a thing that is happening here. And in 2015 a woman deciding to go to college means she also increases her chances of being sexually assaulted, because 1 in 4 college women will be raped during their time at university. And most of the time absolutely nothing will be done about it. But we are at least allowed to go to college, so we are supposed to take that as a win and be quiet about the rest of it.

Okay so obviously I have some issues with my country. But there are many things that I am also grateful for, maybe the biggest being that I can post all of this about my country and my government and know that I won't get arrested or disappeared for it. There are many things that need to be addressed in this country, but step one to solving any problem is acknowledging that it exists, and while not everyone in the country will acknowledge these issues exist, those of us that recognize them are free to speak up about them and raise awareness, which makes working for change that much more productive. I know there are activists elsewhere in the world who put themselves and their families at risk for being willing to speak up, and I am fortunate that, for the most part, that is not something we are forced to deal with here, at least from the government.

I am also very very proud of my country (and that is something I never thought I'd be able to say) for finally legalizing same-sex marriage nationally. Of course there is still a long way to go on the path to equality, but this was a much needed and long-time coming step in the right direction. Seeing all of the supportive posts and comments since the the decision has been really refreshing and has really helped to restore some of my faith that the problems and inequalities facing my country can be solved.

I will also be forever grateful for the stability of the internet and internet connections in the US. We had a bit of a scare for a little while with Comcast trying to take over the world and all, but that is another thing the government surprisingly got right. And as a citizen of the internet, and someone who really appreciates the community and opportunity it offers, I am so, so happy and lucky to know that I will consistently have access to it. This is something that some countries around the world are still working to accomplish, so I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a country where it was never an issue. That might sound like a weird thing to be grateful for, and I really wish I could properly explain why it is so important to me, but it just really is.

Holy crap this post got entirely too long. Sorry about that. And sorry if it was a bit pessimistic! I don't want to make it sound like I hate my country; it is the exact opposite to be honest. I am so very aware of how much potential this country has and how much better it could be. I am so, so very aware of how many people in this country desperately need many of these problems to be solved, because right now so much potential is going to waste because of the inequalities still plaguing this country. I do not want to sound pessimistic, because on the contrary I am very optimistic that these issues can be resolved and that this country could actually be as great as so many people like to say it is. But first we have to talk about it, you know? And as someone who is constantly so aware that these inequalities are operating around me, it really kind of defines my experience living here.

American friends please share your thoughts on life in this country! There are so many more things I would like to say, but this post is quickly turning into a small novel. Be sure to pop over to read Apoorva's post on life in India!

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