I am what a person of Hawaiian origin would call a ‘hapa.’ Hapa, meaning a portion of, can describe a mixed descent. I am part Asian from my mother’s side, and part Caucasian from my father’s. I started going to Osaka, Japan every year since I was born to visit my grandparents. However, I was able to finally recognize the differences from American culture during my last visit in late May of 2010. I had reached an age where I was willing to observe and learn from my surroundings.
The two cultures vary from many ranges on several topics. The first difference I noticed was in something as simple as a greeting. When I walked into the baggage claim area, I immediately saw my aunt and hurried over to unite with her. She seemed frightened when I outstretched my arms toward her. I later asked my mom why my aunt did not hug me back, and my mom said ‘they are just not used to it.’ Despite being related, I had forgotten that a handshake in Japan is equivalent to hug in America. In Asia, public displays of affection are not necessarily improper, but they are very uncommon. I was relieved the reason wasn’t because she didn’t like me or wasn’t happy to see me.
I had a lot of free time to do whatever I wanted, so I often walked through nearby markets with my sister. There were many young students riding their bicycles or walking to the subway stations unaccompanied. I admired their independence and their obedience- all of them being dressed in uniform. My sister and I decided to buy some donuts in a small bakery before heading back to my grandparent’s house. I watched the customer ahead place the money in a small green tray. The cashier took the money from the tray and then put the customer’s change in the tray. They did not physically exchange the money at any time. When it was my turn, I felt silly for placing the single bill in the green tray, for the cashier was not even a foot away from me. I was confused but accepted that Asians are very neat particular people. Later that night, my cousins met with the rest of the family at my grandparent’s house. My mom explained to me that our cousins arrived later because mostly everyone attended private studies after school. They take their education very seriously for themselves and for their families.
On the day we were leaving to go back home to Arizona, we rode on an airport bus with both Asians and Americans. The Americans were undeniably loud and interactive with the people around them. They talked about anything and everything- weather, shoes, work, and gossip. The Asians kept to themselves, making it an objective to avoid eye contact. They were the only ones who seemed uncomfortable. My mom and I laughed as we watched each individual within the awkward environment.
From my recent experiences, I have come to the conclusion that Asian society is reserved, considerate, and instinctually polite. Also, the younger generation is more mature and responsible in comparison to American teenagers. It is important for Americans to learn about and personally experience Asian culture, so that the knowledge can be utilized. If we inherited the positive aspects of Asian culture, we could be more ‘civilized.’ I believe that we could better manage our lists of priorities and determine which are of highest importance. A greater level of respect also has the potential to be achieved. Countries can greatly benefit from studying one another’s cultures.
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