Despite with whatever’s that’s going in the news, the new president, and countless of other issues, I truly believe America is still pretty awesome! Is America perfect? Absolutely not. It has many of its own issues that could probably never be sorted out and many areas that are lacking compared to other countries. But overall, it is the most accepting, welcoming and progressive country I know.
My Fresh Off Boat Journey: During my college summer break in 2009, the year after I volunteered and watched court-side gymnastics in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I bought a round-trip ticket to visit my sister in the US for the very first time. I hit up LA and New York, did all the touristy stuff, then spent the rest of the summer in the Midwest with my sister.
I thought life was playing a trick on me when all of a sudden the green card my mom had applied for me way back when had finally been approved. I was faced with the choice of taking the green card and staying in the US immediately or to going back to China. It was a very difficult decision at the time, especially as I was midway through my studies in China and had friends, family and a life waiting for me. By staying in the US, I would have to start everything all over again. In hindsight, this decision was a no brainier. I really didn’t even like my college in China, plus I’ve always wanted to live in the western world for a little bit.
So I threw away my return ticket and just kind of… stayed.
I consider myself lucky in every way possible, and I am certainly grateful for it. This perspective is obviously from my own experience, but I believe if we can all open our hearts a little more and see what America has to offer.
Huge Land Mass and Diverse Landscapes
“Wow, the sky is so big and blue!” This is one of the first comments you’ll hear fresh-off-boat Asians make about America. You may think it’s funny but before I left Asia, I have never seen a sky this big or blue. Due to heavy pollution and tall buildings, the sky seen gray at times and the views are obstructed.
The quality of living in the US seemed to be higher due to the sheer vast land size of the US. People typically have pretty big houses and large living spaces (unless you are in places like New York or San Fran). Compared with Asia, people tend to live in tiny apartments. You can find many public parks with tons of grass area for different activities, and well-maintained public facilities such as sports parks and swimming pools. Did you know you always have to pay to use tennis courts in Asia? Simply because we don’t have enough land. I remember saying that the dogs in the US looked happier,and thinking it was probably because the amount of room they have to run around.
The beautiful landscapes and diverse geographical makeup in the US are simply stunning. The beautiful beaches in California, the Rocky mountains, the Grand Canyon, the great prairie in Texas and the Appalachians, the United States simply has it all. No wonder the majority of the Americans don’t feel the need to travel outside of the US.
Americans are very friendly, outgoing and nice people. When I first got to LA, there were two girls my age randomly waving at me from another car when we were on the highway. “Oh man, people are really nice here or were those girls giving me a pass?” I thought to myself. If only life were this easy lol. Unlike Asia, it’s weird to talk to strangers or simply strike a random conversation; it’s just not what we do. I believe this somehow hinders Asians ability to socialize as we may seemed to be quiet, shy, or socially awkward.
My girlfriend’s family is from the Midwest, and let me tell you, you will find some of the most friendly and welcoming people in that area. Not only do they stuff you with more food than you can ever imagine, they are eager to show you around and even welcome you to their homes. One of my best memories ever is still the fishing trip in this hidden trail that my girlfriend’s family took me to.
Many Europeans, Australians and people of other nationalities that I met from around the world would sometimes exclaim, “US is so dangerous!”, “Does everyone shop at Walmart?”, “Americans are so ignorant”. I get it, there’s definitely crazy and stupid people out there, but I would encourage you to scratch beyond the surface of what the media (remember: they are in the business of making headlines, not painting the whole picture) is telling you and you would be surprised.
Fighting for Social Issues and Supporting Different Causes
When compared to the East, the United States are ahead when it comes to many social issues and causes such as environmental protection, animal welfare, LGBT rights, gender and racial equality and many others. I agree that we are far from achieving our goals, and perhaps far behind than some European countries, but at least things are moving along.
Most Americans I know are involved in an organizations or two in something that they are very passionate about. It could be fighting hunger, education for kids, animal rescue, Alzheimer, breast cancer awareness, helping homeless people, minority-oriented projects,the list goes on and on. It is ingrained in the culture to donate, volunteer for different causes and make an impact. It is because of these social organizations and involvement from the public that awareness is raised and changes are being made.
Being involved with a non-profit or donating is quite rare in Asia. For instance, as an animal lover, it kills me to see how animals are abused especially in the tourism industry in Asia. The lack of awareness and active organizations are certainly not helping. This is part of the reasons why you see so many homeless dogs and cats in the developing countries in Asia. On the other end, The Ringling Bros are finally closing its doors after 146 years, and animal rights activist groups definitely played a big role in this.
The American Dream is Still Alive
Everyone has a different definition of what “the American Dream” is. Whether it is being able to buy a house, make a nice living for yourself and family, or to pursue freedom of any sort. Whatever your definition is, I believe the American dream is still alive and well.
No matter where you came from, no matter what your background, religion and race is, America is a country that respects and encourages you to live how you want to live. The Constitutions of the US created a framework that allows people to pursue their dreams. People come to the US for all sorts of reasons: religious freedom, business opportunities or better education. It is a country of immigrants from all over the world, and we learn to respect others while helping each other out.
Being a millennial myself, I hear many challenges that millennials are facing. Issues such as struggling to find good jobs, affordable housing and the rising student debt are all increasingly concerning. There’s no doubt that we are facing stronger challenges, but at the same time, if you were to compare it to the rest of the world, especially Asia or other developing countries, the US may not be that bad. For instance, did you know starting salaries in Taiwan or China are only around $1,500 USD per month (or $18k/year)? Yet an average apartment (i.e. 1200 square feet) in major cities would easily cost over $1M to buy? Granted that the cost of living and taxes are cheaper in Asia, but really not that much cheaper. It is often times a lot worse in Southeast Asia or other parts of the developing world. Compared to the US, average home prices are around $250k, and people could expect starting salaries in the $30k-$40k range.
Progressive and Innovative
One major difference I noticed is that you will often be asked by your US peers, “what do you like to do on your free time or what are your hobbies?” Tennis, fixing up cars, hitting the gym, hiking, writing, painting, reading… and the list goes on and on. When asked me a few years ago the same question, “hmm, shopping, movies and maybe restaurants?” I really didn’t have too many hobbies or passion which is quite typical with Asians. Many Asian parents are making their kids work and study incredibly hard so that they can be doctors or lawyers one day (yes, the stereotype is true), and it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for personal development or exploration.
I believe fundamentally it comes down to the fact that the west focuses more on individuality while the East focus a lot more on standardize testing and competitive advantages. When Asian people are constantly trained to think “inside the box”, this somehow hinders our innovations and creativity. A good example would be even though Asian countries lead the world when it comes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), some of the most iconic companies are in fact from the US (think tech giants like Google and Apple). The concept of Facebook and SnapChat were quite simple and yet Asian people didn’t come up with this, in my opinion, due to the lack of creativity fostered as a culture.
One thing I do like to point out is that there are a ton of nuances within the US as well as different Asian countries, thus I am only speaking in general terms. Follow my country or destination specific posts where I will be diving into more nuances and details. This post only talks about some of the major differences between the US and Asian countries and few of the many reasons why it makes America awesome.
What are your reasons why America is still awesome? Comment below!