I have been hesitant to write another blog entry for fear that I didnâ€™t actually have something interesting to say. I donâ€™t just want to write about my misconceptions, how mind-blowing the culture shock has been, and how beautiful Germany is. I purposely waited until after we had the opportunity to be here a little while and get acclimated so I could have a better handle on some things I wanted to discuss. So here goes:
I have been living and interacting with students from all over the world. These students are from Singapore, Korea, The Czech Republic, and Hungary just to name a few places. At least once a week, we will get together for dinner and this is a great way to share our culture with one another. I have had the pleasure of tasting all sorts of Asian delicacies and then I was the judge of a Goulash competition. I tried my Hungarian roommateâ€™s Palinka, a traditional schnapps recipe that is made differently by each family by aging various kinds of fruit in a special distillation process. During these weekly endeavors, I have slowly come to this realization: America has very few traditions that have not 1) been stolen from other cultures and then changed to reflect our own tastes, or 2) been shamelessly exploited and marketed to the rest of the world.
When I tell people that I go to school in Kentucky, they donâ€™t recall that we have a beautiful landscape with rolling hills, they neglect to make note of the largest horse race in the world or the most spectacular fireworks show in North America. They ignore the things that make it so dear to us, but their minds immediately go to the eleven herbs and spices of the man in the all-white suit. Thatâ€™s it. To the rest of the world, Kentucky is KFC and Jim Beam, California is Hollywood and hippies, and Florida is Daytona at spring break. Itâ€™s really sad that our culture has been spread throughout the world so that there are so very few of the many things that used to make us unique.
When I visit a new place in Europe, I love the feeling of learning everything about it. Coming into this trip, I didnâ€™t really know too many of the nuances of my friendsâ€™ cultures so everything is brand new to me. I feel like I am learning so many things that I would never have been able to in the States. But when I try to tell them about the ever-evolving political landscape in the US, how LeBron James is single-handedly reviving the NBA, or any other thing that I would assume to be unique to the US, they have more to contribute than most Americans I know. I feel like I have nothing to tell them that they donâ€™t already know. America prides itself on its rugged individuality and its capitalist mindset, but somehow in â€œAmericanizingâ€ the rest of the world, we have lost many of the things that make us the non-conformists we pride ourselves to be. We have embraced this capitalist mindset to such an extent that we have mass-marketed our very best traditions to the global economy, and I believe in doing so, sold part of our identity. I am afraid that our culture no longer instills wide-eyed aspirations for the American dream in the hearts of those throughout the world, but instead we may have almost become a parody of ourselves. I often wonder what it would be like to come from a lesser-known country and have the opportunity to introduce others to all the things that make my land different. I would like to introduce the world to an America that they don’t already know everything about, and show them some meaningful traditions that haven’t been satirized. I guess the thing that makes patriotism so special is the fact that only oneâ€™s countrymen can identify with the things that make your home so dear. But when everyone in the world knows about your home, sometimes it loses a little of its luster.
America is the greatest nation in the world because of our freedoms, our opportunities, and our people. Itâ€™s noble to want to spread these ideals to the rest of the world, but I just wish that we had realized that itâ€™s okay to keep a good thing to ourselves sometimes because that is what makes her special and that is what makes our dream uniquely American.