The ONE thing that Americans can do better

The one thing Americans can do better Mao and Then


My brother Wei Wei sometimes says that I seem to identify with American culture more than Asian culture. While I have to say that my personality and beliefs tend to mesh better with American culture, there are a lot of things that Americans can learn from their friends in the far East.

One of my goals for Mao & Then is to bridge the gap between the Eastern and Western culture. I believe we can all benefit a lot learning from one another and combine the best of both worlds.

I have been in the US for 8 years now, and I have to say that there’s is definitely one thing that Americans can do better: cut down on excess consumption!



Let’s break it down

Americans tend to have big houses and drive big cars. This makes sense because the USA is huge geographically. At the same time, these tendencies have led America to become the highest consumption-driven economy.

According to an article by BBC, if everyone on Earth lived like Americans, we would need at least FOUR planet earths to sustain us!

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with consumption, however, excess consumption = wastefulness.

Let’s compare Asia with America in terms of consumption- here are a few examples:





Americans have a lot of Stuff

One of the first things fresh-off-boat Asians notice about Americans is that Americans have a lot of stuff. For instance, when you walk into the average Joe’s garage, you see tons of stuff in there: tools, gears, boxes, second or third fridge…you name it! Oftentimes there would be so much stuff that the entire garage is used for storage, and people’d just park their cars on the driveway.

Furthermore, people have so much stuff that they need to rent extra storage spaces. This is very rare in Asia. We typically live in tiny apartments in Asia so there’s not a lot of room for stuff to start with. Asian culture tend to also be more frugal and we like to try fixing things rather than buying new ones.


Americans buy so much food and the throw it away!

When I first arrived, I was shocked to see how much food people waste after meals whether at home or eating out.

At restaurants, many folks leave food on their plates without finishing. This isn’t really surprising, given American’s large portion sizes. However, it was shocking to me that they wouldn’t save these leftovers! And then, next meal, they would cook or buy a whole new dish!

As a bad vegan, this is especially hard for me to watch. American meals contain a high content of meats, and so, out of respect for the animal who gave its life for you, the least you can do is to finish eating it.

Asian culture always teaches us that we should cherish our food and finish everything on our plate. There’s even a poem every kids knew that says we should finish every grain of rice out of the respect for the farmers.


Mao and Then: Chinese poem
Here’s the poem! Click here for translation.


Americans use so much energy even when they aren’t around

In Asia, I can guarantee that you would get yelled at for leaving your lights on when you aren’t using them. Also in Asian schools, you would always see signs that you should conserve energy such as electricity and water. It is ingrained in our heads from a young age that we should never waste energy.

This is not the case in the US. People often leave their AC/heat running all day even when they are not at the house. It’s a great convenience that you can come home and be immediately cool or warm. However, it’s putting a dent on the environment and your wallet.



Final Thoughts

Americans are very fortunate to have so much compared to most other countries. I believe we can really use that to our advantage and do bigger and better things rather than be mindless consumption robots.

I actually had a short discussion with FireCracker of Millennial Revolution who stated that the US economy runs on consumption. If people all of a sudden stop spending, the world economy would come crashing down. While it isn’t necessary or even good for everyone to cut down consumption completely, being more mindful of one’s consumption practices can lead not only to a bigger bank account, but a more fulfilling, meaningful life.

What do you think? Comment below!





  1. Josh

    I totally agree Mao! Dating a Chinese woman and visiting China this year has really opened my eyes to the waste we cause in this country. Coupled with learning how terrible animal agriculture is for the environment, I am even more motivated to do my part to protect the planet and reduce waste. I’ve become much more frugal now too and I try not to buy anything if I know it will go into a landfill one day. I’m swearing off storage centers and excessively large houses as well! At this point I’m just an aspiring minimalist though lol.
    My fiance scolded me the other day for not finishing every last rice on my plate! I’m not so good with chopsticks so I hadn’t even realized I was wasting some with each meal. But out of respect for the farmer and the work it takes to grow each grain, it makes sense to eat it all.

    1. Post

      Thanks Josh! That’s awesome that you are cutting down waste and being frugal. It helps simplify things and your wallet would appreciate you too!

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