Quite often I am asked what I miss the most about the U.S. and American culture.
Being from the South, I’ll usually bring up the food, or the music, or the summer season because it is seen as a time to kick back and celebrate the outdoors. While I always find this question so fascinating, I am at the same time taken aback by it. Before answering, I’ll usually ask myself things like: What is the best answer? How can I respond in a way that doesn’t make me sound like the stereotypical patriotic American? Is it okay to be honest about what I love, and miss, about American culture? Does it mean that I love Japanese culture any less?
More recently, not only have I realized that it is okay to answer confidently, but I now see that by sharing my perspective, I could be giving others a glimpse into a culture that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Some of us may have heard of the term cultural ambassador as an official title, but I believe that we all can be cultural ambassadors. In fact, simply by default of being human beings in a world that is constantly interconnecting, I believe that we already are.
Sharing culture is such a powerful tool that can be used to transcend divisive differences and solve issues that have plagued the world for decades. By sharing our cultural perspectives and being open to learning about one another, we can better understand what makes each of us unique and valuable.
Having worked with Japanese university students in the past, I can recall one particular project where they had to plan a party. The topic was countries around the world, and each group had to select one country and plan a party based on its culture. I was so delighted to see that many of the groups made it a challenge and chose countries that they didn’t already know much about.
Although not using an entirely unfamiliar country, one of the most interesting presentations came from a group that chose to do the U.S. Right way, I could see that they did a lot of research. In their final presentation, they mentioned that their party would have soul food and BBQ, gospel and Motown, and dancing. Having some insight on what kind of party this would look like, when they finished I could only say, “Oh wow, this sounds like one soulful party!”
I now look at those students as an example. Being cultural ambassadors of Japan, they crossed a bridge by putting in the time and effort to learn about another culture. Maybe it won’t always take that much work, maybe it can be as simple as asking someone what they miss the most about their home country, and being ready to answer a similar question the next time it is directed towards us. It can go either way, but the point is to connect with others, to gain insight into ways of life and traditions different from our own.
I believe that each culture around the world is like a seperate color of the rainbow. But in order for a rainbow to reach its full potential, each part of the spectrum must be present. We can stand alone and keep our individual colors hidden, or we can choose to come together and bond by asking questions, sharing information, and learning from each other. Let’s all do our best to cross those bridges, and be proud cultural ambassadors!
Born and raised in Texas, USA, Chelsea from an early age took an interest in learning about people of different cultural backgrounds. After studying International Relations in college, she sought out various opportunities to travel and work in different settings. Inspired by the history and culture of Japan, she decided to move to broaden her career in the summer of 2018. Currently, her hobbies include cooking, hanging out in neat coffee shops, design, and continuing to study Japanese! She loves feeling settled in Japan, spending time with friends, and believes that every moment is a precious opportunity to learn something new.