Coming back to the USA there are some serious cultural differences between the USA and Japan. Some are arguably good. People in the USA are generally more individual. I think that’s good.
On the other hand, something I really hate about the USA (and many other western countries) is there is this attitude that I can only some up as “It’s fun to laugh at other’s expense” or maybe “It feels good to piss on other people”.
Simple examples are vandalism. Why do people key cars? Keying someones car, taking your keys and scratching the paint on their car has no point whatsoever. Most people don’t key the car of someone they know, they just pick some random car and scratch it. Why? What is it about our culture that compels people to do that?
It manifests itself in other ways. Men’s public restrooms are almost always trashed in the USA. Go to theatre, museum, bar and the men’s toilets will be broken, doors pulled off, paper towels all over the floor, coat hangers broken, doors kicked until they are bent and no longer close, seats are covered in urine or any number of other problems. We put up with it and I know I probably assumed it’s just a part of life but it’s not. Not in Japan anyway. The bathrooms in the train station might be stinky but in general I don’t remember any abused toilets in Japan.
What is it about western culture that makes so many people into assholes? Why is it I can’t keep anything in my car when it’s parked in public because someone will bust the window into the car and steal it? We take that for
granite granted. We just know it happens and we put our stuff in the trunk. But guess what, it doesn’t happen in Japan. In fact right now in 2007 the newest hot fashion in Tokyo for men is 8 inch long wallets that stick 4-6 inches out of your pocket. In the USA or many other countries that wouldn’t work because it would get stolen but not in Japan.
Want a perfect example of just how much better Japanese culture is in this area? In a 2 or 3 story fast food restaurant here is how it works in Japan. Walk up to the 2nd or 3rd floor and find a table. Leave your purse, sweater and notebook computer on the table. Walk down to the 1st floor and order your food. Come back and your stuff is still there. Is there any other country that would work in? Certainly not any western country I know of.
I’m not saying I’m not guilty of being an asshole. When I was a teen I did my share of prank calls and other more destructive things. Why was that cool? Where did I learn that from? Do kids do that in Japan? My impression is no. Or at least maybe their parents really displine them if they find out and work that feeling out of them.
Another example, I used to be able to laugh at the Jerky Boys. Most of our culture seems to enjoy that. Now through I just find prank calls sad and mean spirited.
Another example is vending machines. You could never have outdoor vending machines in the USA. They’d get abused, robbed and destroyed. In Japan they are everywhere, clean and unabused.
What’s wrong with our culture? If there is any one thing I took away from my 6 years in Japan this is the #1 thing. That all the bullshit we take for
granite granted in our culture is not in fact “the way things are” and that we just have to except it. People being assholes in these ways are not just “a part of life”. I know this because I lived somewhere where they didn’t exist for 6 years.