Differences and Similarities
Warning: I am going to make some broad generalizations in this post, I know these statements do not apply to absolutely everyone but I do feel they are pretty accurate.
Having had a couple of days to process my trip to the United States, I have started to compile a list of ways in which the Japanese and Americans are different. Here are a few that I have come up with so far:
1) Americans are fat. Americans know this, the world knows this, even the cute little Martians know this because they can probably see some of the more robust Americans from their little red planet. The average weight for an American male my age is around 170lbs. The average weight for a Japanese male my age is around 140lbs. I think that American portion sizes have a lot to do with this discrepancy; we like big meals with lots of meat. The Japanese historically, are healthier eaters but unfortunately, I think that the Japanese are starting to like the "bigger is better" mode of thought.
2) Japanese people are roughly 21.8 times friendlier than Americans. On the Mogwai Friendliness Index (MFI) that is how much higher the Japanese scored over American test takers. Yes, the MFI is complete BS but just take my word for it, the Japanese are friendlier. The service you will get at a Japanese business is much better than what you will get from a comparable American establishment. If you look like you may need help, people tend to go out of their way to see to it you are taken care of. While Americans will do this too, it is a rarer occasion in my experience and the extent of aid offered is significantly smaller.
3) Americans have a higher alcohol tolerance. This is probably in part, due to our weight and diet but genetically, most Asians have a lower tolerance than their Western counterparts. They also tend to be more prone to alcoholism than Westerners. If someone wants to fact check this, go nuts but I am pretty sure I have read something along these lines from a couple of different sources.
4) The Japanese fake liking and doing their jobs better than Americans. This kind of ties into the whole better service thing I mentioned earlier. Take for example when I worked at Costco; I was a jerk. I didn't like my job or the people and I wasn't afraid to let it show. Japanese people hide their disdain for the daily grind much better than Americans do. They are also geniuses when it comes to looking productive while spacing off. In Japanese work culture, the appearance of productivity is oftentimes much more important than what is actually getting done.
5) This has also been touched on but the Japanese suicide rate is nutty.
6) Americans are MUCH more aggressive than the Japanese. Americans like confrontation, we are taught to stand up for ourselves and be individuals. The Japanese learn values that are almost the antithesis of how Americans are brought up. They are taught to behave and function well within the group, we are taught to do our own thing and become our own person. Sure, teamwork is important in American culture but not to the extent that it is here. Japanese kids do not like to be separated from their peers, this is why it is such an effective punishment to do so. Not kidding, I have never seen kids go into tears so fast when they are made to sit apart from their class.
7) Americans are louder. When speaking, the Japanese tend to mumble a little. Actually, "mumble" is not the correct word because that implies a negative connotation. It is probably better to say that the Japanese just speak softer than we do. Americans tend to be louder laughers and show their pleasure much more openly. When Japanese people laugh, especially women, they have a habit of covering their mouths. When Americans sneeze and this holds especially true for my dad and I, we sneeze loudly. Most Japanese can do that quiet "inside" sneeze that has quite frankly, always weirded me out. Americans have no problem yelling out to each other if they see a friend on the street, the most you will get from a Japanese guy is a medium volumed "Hoi!". The difference in volume isn't as drastic as I first thought it was but Americans are definitely a bit louder.
One similarity that both cultures do share is that they are both very consumer and materialist cultures. Japanese and Americans love to shop and I would argue that some of the best shopping in the world can be had in both countries. If you are a woman and you live in Japan, you can shop to your heart's content. I am not saying that to be sexist, there are just more shops and shopping areas that cater almost solely to women here than in the US, take shopping districts such as Harajuku and Ginza in Tokyo for example. They are crazy places to spend money...if you are female.
Both cultures are also fans of gadgets and gimmicks. One difference in this category is that Americans love their Bluetooth headsets for their cell phones, while Japanese people do not use them as often. This really stood out to me when I came back to the US, everyone has some goofy protrusion sticking to their ear. Either way, both countries like their gizmos; Japanese people have the opportunity to personalize them more than Americans do though. Cell phones and laptops come in a wider array of colors here. In America, it is usually black, silver, or white. Here, you can pretty much pick a color from the rainbow and find the gadget you want in that color. Gadget personalization is one way that the Japanese love to express themselves and there is a huge market for it here. Do Americans like to put fake jewels and stickers all over their cell phones? I think not.
To summarize, I do not think that they differences ans similarities that I have observed are bad things for the most part. Each country has their own culture and quirks and other people need to be aware of this. To be different is not a bad thing, it just makes for some unique experiences and fun blog posts. (^_^)
As a sidenote, that smiley face I just used is a Japanese smiley. Americans and Japanese generally, use different emoticons when typing or texting. Japanese emots focus on the eyes more, while Americans focus on the mouth. Example: (^_^) vs :) I find the Japanese emoticons to be much more effective at expressing the emotions that they represent but everyone has their own opinion. I must say, I did not discover this observation on my own. Click here to learn more.