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The book What’s up America? takes an international newcomer on a tour of the U.S by answering the most common questions posed by many outsiders. The author Asitimbay provides answers in a frank and fearless way. For example, some of the questions considered in the book include: besides hot dogs and hamburgers, what is American food? Why are there so many regulations in America if it is the land of the free? How does the healthcare system in the U.S operate? And how do we understand when an American is really friendly and when he is just a friend? The writer, who is an intercultural trainer and a teacher, discusses these and many other questions in the book packed with statistics, examples, and historical backgrounds. The following discussion explores how this book has helped me to better understand the American culture and society. In doing so, I will look at the broad themes that the author emphasizes on in her work and how those themes relate to my own experiences.
One of the topics that I can relate to my observation and experience is the theme of American food. The first thing that strikes me about the food is that Americans love fast foods, especially during lunch. They rarely have packed food nor do they buy a whole proper meal for lunch. They prefer junk foods throughout the day and take proper meals that I consider healthy only during breakfast and supper. The restaurants and the street stands are full of fast meals, and it is not, therefore, hard to see why a lot of Americans are overweight. The book has highlighted very well that the fast food phenomenon is an American thing and despite many people being on a diet, a lot of them are overweight (Asitimbay, 2009, p. 34). The issue of food is one of the major themes that the book dwells on and that I have experienced. As a matter of fact, the proper healthy meals served in the restaurants are very expensive, and one is left only with the choice of buying cheap snack without even thinking about its harm to the organism. In a nutshell, during lunches, the Americans are usually in a hurry to grab some food and finish it as soon as possible as they want to get back to their work.
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Another theme that Asitimbay explores in her book and that I have experienced is the issue of friendship. In this book, the author notes that many foreigners find it hard to judge whether an American is truly a friend, or he just acts in a friendly way (Asitimbay, 2009, p. 17). Friendship is one of the areas that puzzle me up to this day. In the course of studying and working here and there, I come across colleagues that become my close friends during that particular event or task. When doing something together, we talk and communicate, and share experiences for a long time. Often we can spend hours on phone calls and emails. However, when the task is concluded, we suddenly jump into new relations with other people starting the process all over again, and almost completely forget about the old friends that we have made in the last cooperation. A few months later, we meet, and it turns out that we have almost nothing to talk about. In other words, we become acquaintances overnight. That issue is one of those that I find weird after having spent so much time in the U.S. Frankly speaking, I feel a little bit awkward when I think about this issue, while the book observes that it is a part of the American culture.
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The last theme that I would like to highlight in this discussion is that Americans do not like learning foreign languages. A lot of the foreigners in the U.S speak more than one language, and to some English is their third language. However, the Americans hardly seem interested in learning another language (Asitimbay, 2009, p. 72). In my mind, there is always this image that foreigners are the outsiders, trying to look over the circle, while the Americans are the insiders, never interested in looking out in regards to a language. Many scholars have called America the mixing pot as far as the culture is concerned, but often these are the foreigners who come to the U.S. with the ability to speak more than one language, while the Americans speak and communicate almost entirely in English.
The American culture is interesting and sometimes puzzling. As shown in the discussion above, there are some fascinating tenets of the American culture that interest me, while others amuse me up to date. I have highlighted the issues concerning foreign languages, friendship, and eating habits as these topics are close to my experiences in America. The book has helped me better understand these peculiarities in the U.S. culture, and after reading the book, I am in the process of digesting and making sense of these features, despite the fact that some of them still puzzle me. This book is an important guide in explaining and uncovering the hidden values of the American culture that is both fascinating and informative.