Hong Kong is a truly international city (S.A.R.) and allows for one to mix with people from across the globe who have relocated here as well as locals who have always called this place home. Living and working here is teaching me what it means to be American. Not the “we are the single greatest nation on earth” patriotic kind of American but rather, and perhaps more interestingly, witnessing what defines the American point-of-view. Which of my actions, attributes, morals, opinions, and general way of being in the world do I have which has been created by the fact that I grew up immersed in the perspectives of the West, specifically the United States? My hope is to translate this as cultural observations rather than judgements or hard-and-fast truths which have no room to evolve or even change completely. I am interested in my own perspective maturing so that I can witness, interact, and empathize with people regardless of our obvious and less than obvious differences.
So, here it goes. A definition of what it is to be American created from my own self-observation.
Americans like to laugh and crack jokes. We like to keep things light and carefree. We like to “boost moral”. Negativity gets a smile plastered across it. Perhaps this is reflected in our obsession with the perfection of celebrity in everything from Movie Stars to Yoga Teachers. We place a Instagram’ed patine over the beautiful parts of our lives and share this with our massive online collection of virtual friends. Death, aging, and illness are not discussed and struggles are kept close. Yet, we are people who show our emotion- whether it be anger, pride, joy, or passion. We speak up when we see an injustice. We butt into other peoples business and try to be helpful, even if we aren’t. We offer advice, even if it’s not wanted. We are generally nice, friendly, and welcoming people. I think we smile more than most developed countries. Individuality is a virtue! We encourage people to seek happiness and find what job/life path or at least a hobby that lets a person’s individual talents and creativity shine through. It seems to be a fairly even playing field for those who are willing and able to play the game. We are collaborative in the way we do business and collaborative in the way we heal one another after disasters like Hurricane Sandy or a tragedy like 9/11. We are young, powerful, ambitious, and self-centered. The strong teenaged humans of the earth. We are idealistic without groundedness and have intelligence without wisdom. The world watches our lead in popular culture, in everything from the creation of jazz music to the inception of hip-hop. The world also watches as we max out our credit cards, close down the government because we can’t agree, and pick fights for the sake of sparring or sport. We are disdainfully wretched and at the same time a shining example to those who look upon us.