It‘s always good to get an outsider‘s opinion, because they can tell you things you may not realize. Like when Oreo cookies make your teeth look disgustingly brown or when you‘re just plain acting like an idiot. We Americans are pretty set in our ways; in general, we like action films, barbecuing and watching celebrities get DUIs. Other people may see us as more of the obese, stupidly conservative, pornophobic Evangelist bible-hugger type. I guess we kind of deserve it – we are the country responsible for the production of Eurotrip. But hey, it‘s all about perspective.
Which is precisely why so many like to pack it up junior year and venture into the great beyond. Visiting a foreign country gives people a chance to expand their cultural horizons and learn things about others through new, eye-opening experiences. It can also lead to stories involving drunkenness, strandedness, hitchhiking and lost shoes, but that‘s not the point. The point is that ethnocentricity is only okay to a certain extent.
My inspiration for this column came from a British chap I got to meet in the dark glow of a highlighter party who knew so much embarrassing American slang that I had to ask, “What do you think is the weirdest thing about American culture?“
“The dancing,“ said Daniel Godfrey, and pointed across the room, to a bunch of chicks grinding on each other. “I feel violated just walking onto the dance floor and I‘m a guy, so I can only imagine how girls feel.“ He added that while he doesn‘t care for American beer, he loves a good game of beer pong, is undefeated, and looking for challengers.
While we‘re on the topic of alcohol consumption in the U.S. of A, the 21-and-under American crowd isn‘t the only one that dislikes the law.
“One of the things that shocked me here the most is the strict prohibition of underage drinking,“ said Noem? Ortego, an exchange student from Spain. “Some places don‘t even accept my passport as ID to get into bars. It‘s shocking that you can drive at 16 but cannot drink until you‘re 21, since both acts are related to personal responsibility.“
She has a point; after all, we do live in a place where you can die for your country before you can go for an afternoon appletini. Martin Eyspach, a student from Germany, found the abundance of fast food and monopoly of big-name franchises to be strange: “Families in Germany just go to regular sit-down restaurants when they go out to eat,“ he said.
Charlotte Heinschild, who studies in Davis but is originally from France, also found the American diet to be unusual.
“It‘s very strange the way people view health here,“ she said. “People are very concerned about smoking being bad for you but they drink diet soda, which is bad for you, too, and eat a lot of junk food. Shopping for organic food at the co-op is much more expensive than buying junk food, and a lot of students do not have a lot of money to spend. The system doesn‘t make sense.“
People don‘t generally talk about this issue. Reports and studies have pointed out that there is an obesity problem, but there are always a million different reasons given as to why this is. Charlotte‘s note of the way our economy affects our health makes a statement about the way that our society is structured.
“Americans make everything big,“ said Dino Nicolosi, an Italian exchange student who hails from Sicily and is not (as far as I could tell) in the mafia. “It‘s typical to see huge cars in America, like SUVs.“
There‘s not much arguing that one, either. Getting stuck in LA traffic can seem, at times, like being marooned on the lot of a Hummer dealership. A couple of others also pointed out food portions in restaurants are abnormally large, fueling the obesity topic just a little bit more. In case you didn‘t already know.
As Dino observed, there aren‘t too many foods that could be considered exclusively American, but I think deep-fried Twinkies drip with national pride in addition to hydrogenated oil. Of course everyone knows that you can‘t sum up 300 million people in a few words, but it‘s fun to see what they really think.
MICHELLE RICK doesn‘t even have a passport but has been to Hooters in Canada. Send comments and money to firstname.lastname@example.org so this poor girl can vacay to Bratislava.