Us and them: Attitudes towards America

I think I’ve mentioned before a mentality found in Japan, that in the world, there is Japan, and there is the USA (or Gaikoku, if you like). China and Korea more or less exist, too.

Image: Softbank phone company

Image: Softbank phone company

In this post, I want to write about both Japan’s and Australia’s ideas about the USA, henceforth referred to as America for ease of typing. Some of this will be quite dot pointy. Please note that this is about widely held, general views, you know, stereotypes, not the views of any particular individual about any other individual. This is also not about Trump. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to write about that.

First, on Japan and America.

  • Japan’s official national sport is sumo. Its unofficial national sport is baseball.
  • White people in Japan, and people observed using English, are generally assumed to be American. (Black people might be assumed to be American or Indian, I’ve heard both, or there may be other assumptions.) English language study books have lines like ‘for when you go to America.’
  • American food is seen as being 1. big 2. high in calories 3. unhealthy and 4. delicious/disgusting, depending on who you ask. It’s both embraced in Japan and resisted in that education/the media/people have a strong feeling that it’s important for Japanese food to remain a central part of Japan’s identity and diet.
Image: Gigazine

Image: Gigazine

  • American people are assumed to be loud, big, funny or crazy, and Christian.
  • Americans are assumed to like hamburgers and hamburger steaks and not Japanese food. They are also assumed to know very little about Japan, such as any of the language or how to use chopsticks.
  • America has a large presence in the media. This is all the time, not just around election time.
  • Most Japanese kids, if asked what country they want to go to, say they want to go to America. They want to do things like go to Disneyland and eat a big hamburger. A few want to go to Hawaii (America) or France (to eat pastries and see Paris) or sometimes Italy or Brazil (generally for soccer). This is based on English classes I’ve been in, by the way.
  • America is seen as a winner. Japan is also a winner. We are Number 1! We are good friends! (Sorry, it’s Momotaro time in Hi, Friends at the moment.)
  • All this does not disregard America’s past attacks on Japan. As previously mentioned, Peace. We are Good Friends.

And now, Australia and America.

buzzfeed-oz-usa

Image: Buzzfeed

Australia’s attitude towards America as a country is pretty different to Japan’s. Australia sees itself as being in America’s pocket and resents this. Perhaps Australia sides with Canada – a ‘we are to America what New Zealand is to us’ kind of idea.

A lot of the media consumed in Australia is American, and there is a common view that’s been around (and disputed) for quite a few years now that Australia is culturally becoming more American and losing its identity. Australian English, generally more closely associated with British English than American, is purported to be sliding towards a more pan-Atlantic (yep, jumped totally out of the Pacific) kind of variety, with younger Australians sometimes using American pronunciations for words like route so that it rhymes with out, not with boot, and phrases like on accident instead of by accident, or anyways instead of anyway, which used to be the norm. And what about a ways instead of a way, as in, ‘It’s quite a way to his house from here.’ That one weirds me out. And what is a crosswalk? It’s a pedestrian crossing. I only learned about that one in Japan. Perhaps it’s safe to say that not all of Australian English has become American just yet.

Aside from media monopolisation, there is no real duality perceived between Australia and America. I was unable to find a single country that more Australian kids want to travel to more than any other. If I had to guess it might be ‘Europe’ which, yes, is a continent, not a country. Also, because of the ethnic and cultural melting pot going on in Australia, most everyone in Australia is assumed to speak English until demonstrated otherwise, and even if you hear someone speaking a foreign language, most of the time, it’s assumed they probably speak English too.

  • Australian has a stereotype that Americans are overweight (just like Australians), loud and brash. There aren’t too many illusions there, though, Australia is aware of its own obesity problems.
  • Americans are assumed to know nothing about Australia except that it has kangaroos and koalas. Americans are generally seen as ignorant of the outside world (some people are – ignore the offensive title and go to 2:00), not that there would be any Australians like that, right?
  • America is seen as revoltingly patriotic and full of itself, and obsessed with freedom, greatness, eagles and whatnot. Australia likes freedom well enough, but generally relates better to British-style self-deprecation. Speaking of which, Australians often enjoy British humour, which Americans are assumed not to understand.
  • American food is largely assumed to be oversized, high-calorie and very sweet – full of corn syrup. Maybe it’s just my family that knows about the corn syrup, but the other ideas are widely held. Americans also seem fond of Mexican food. It’s less common in Australia.
  • Americans sue a lot. At least on TV.
  • A lot of crazy stuff happens in America. There are lots of crazy people and strange religious people, a lot more than in Australia. There are also lots more people than in Australia.
  • Australia has a lot about America in the news and in general media, but also a fair bit about other countries – more than I’ve noticed in Japan, though admittedly, what I notice is limited.

 

How true, if at all, are any of these ideas? Have I missed any? Have I claimed something as a stereotype that actually you’ve never heard of?

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