American culture seen in different perspective

Jack Cruikshank

I have always had a surprisingly hard time answering the following question: What is American culture?

Freedom might be one’s first answer. However, Freedom House, an “independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world,” currently ranks 89 countries as “Free,” with another 55 being “Partly Free.”

If not freedom, then how about a hamburger?

While it has been American-ized over the years, the original idea is derived from Hamburg, Germany, where the meat came from.

In the past month, I have developed a better understanding of this exact question.

I have done that because as I am typing this, I am sitting in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, as an exchange student for the semester.

I have learned that to Koreans, American culture is now integrated with their own.

To them, American culture is ordering McDonalds and having it delivered 20 minutes later by a man on a scooter.

American culture is having an area in their department stores devoted to clothing with the word Jeep on it.

American culture is being able to eat at a Popeyes when you are less than a mile from the demilitarized zone.

Since I now have a vague idea of what I think American culture is, at least to Koreans, I am now trying to decide if this permeating of other nations is a good thing.

Should I, as an American, be proud that Baskin-Robbins is available right next to a Korean BBQ restaurant?

The jury is still out on that one for me, but I can say that being a denizen of America, with all of its intricacies, has provided me with easy opportunities to take over a classroom.

Last week, I was sitting in a class called “American Culture in a Global Context,” and I got the entire class to stop talking about the day’s reading when I brought up the fact that the U.S. has no national language.

At that point, the professor changed the subject and for the rest of class we discussed the topic of the U.S. not having a national language.

Many of the Korean students were amazed, and the end of class swiftly transpired.

The largest clichéd culture shock did not actually happen to me but rather because of me.

In a different class, the professor was discussing gun laws, so I showed the person next to me my Firearm Owners Identification Card.

After that, all hell broke loose — she made sure every student in the class saw the card.

Even the professor was ever-so-slightly amazed such a thing existed.

Whether or not American capitalism expanding to the Far East is detrimental to Asian culture, I have not decided.

However, I do know that this entire process of being an “exchange student” is a success whenever the professor suspends his regular lecture to discuss our cultural anomalies.


Jack Cruikshank is a junior political science major. He is currently studying abroad in South Korea. He can be reached at [email protected]