Monday, June 20, 2011

American Ways

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Why do we have to ‘prepare’ foreigners to visit our country? By providing a book about American ways, alone, we are setting ourselves up for destruction. It is admitting to the fact that our way of living and our take on things are very different from any other country and that to survive or be accepted, one had better learn about and/or change to accommodate for ‘our ways.’ Of course we are different; no country is alike. Is a book detailing the differences really necessary though? I remember wishing there was a book titled British Ways before I left the states to study abroad in London, and maybe there is something similar out there, but thank God I did not find and/or read it. I would have been so intimidated and would have thought that I needed to change myself in order to be accepted or to fit into another culture. That is what American Ways is doing; the book seems to be a manual that all visitors to our country should read in order to operate efficiently.

Going to London with an open mind and not knowing much about British lifestyle made my experience amazing. The only thing I heard was that the British are known to be ‘not so friendly,’ and this was mentioned in American Ways as well. Thank goodness that I was pleasantly surprised by not finding that true at all. I was completely set up for and worried and stressed about something that I did not need to fret about. Had I read all about the generalizations, communicative styles, male-female relationships, and family life of the British, I may have been unpleasantly surprised, disappointed, etc. Reading about London and actually going to and experiencing London is like thinking about pizza and actually eating pizza. There is no comparison. There is nothing, including reading a book, that one can do to really know and understand what something so different is like other than to actually do, see, or experience it firsthand.

The book is making generalizations, and it is stereotyping. Yes, I agree that almost everything mentioned in the book is true for the majority of Americans, but what about the minority? It is unfair to put every single American into a cluster and write about their ‘ways,’ and that is what American Ways is doing. “Americans suppose that people born in other countries are less fortunate than they are, and that most foreigners would prefer to live in the United States.” Oh really? I do not think so and am sure there are others who do not as well. The reason there are different countries is to have and experience the differences. An individual should be able to come to America and learn something different about every person he/she encounters without having a preconceived notion about that person. If an individual wants to live in America permanently then, yes, maybe he/she should read the book and become accustomed to our way of living-otherwise, no. Why can one not experience and see the differences for himself or herself rather than having one person reveal his opinion about American ways?

In the introduction to the book, and throughout, it seems as though the author is making excuses for our actions.

Custom Essays on American Ways

“If Mohammad understood the way in which Americans are trained to behave as independent…” “Americans are often criticized for being so ‘materialistic,’ so concerned with acquiring possessions. For Americans, though, this materialism is natural and proper. They have been taught that it is a good thing to achieve.”

No it is not proper. So, we have been taught that materialism is a good thing to achieve. Well then, we have been taught wrongly, and why does an author have to make it seem okay to act this way? It does not matter if it was how we were trained or from some other reason. Why can foreigners not make their own judgements as to why we act the way we do? “Misunderstanding them can eliminate opportunities and produce negative feelings that are inappropriate or unwarranted.” Why are negative feelings inappropriate? I have a negative feeling toward the European education system. Why is that not okay? Whether or not there is a reason as to why the system works the way it does is irrelevant. I still will have a negative feeling for it but can let that go. I do not need anyone to make an excuse as to why the education system is, in my opinion, lacking.

I will admit that there are certain things one should know about America before stepping foot here-things regarding safety and where absence of such knowledge would be detrimental to foreigners. Each individual, visitor or permanent resident, should learn the things mentioned in American Ways, though, firsthand rather than through another individual or book. Had I been a foreigner reading this book, I would already have had negative feelings toward Americans, especially when good things, “Americans have a deep faith that in some fundamental way all people are of equal value,” are turned into bad things, “…at least all American people.”

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