Friday, June 25, 2010

10 Surprises for Foreigners and Asians who think America is very open, expressive and wild (like in the movies)


It always amazes me how many foreigners, especially in Asia, still think that America is very "open, expressive and wild" simply because of Hollywood's bald faced lies and false portrayals of reality. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are so many real life testimonies by immigrants which testify to the exact opposite, that it's amazing that this myth persists.

This perception in Asia obviously comes from Hollywood movies, which portray America as a fun, carefree culture where everyone is expressive, emotional, wild, loose, having a good time, very sociable and communicative toward others.

But movies tend to portray the opposite of reality, especially in this case. In reality, yes, America is great for getting a good paying job, as foreigners believe. However, when it comes to dating, love, romance, human connection, social inclusiveness, America is one of the WORST places for such things. For some reason, this fact isn't well publicized, even though most immigrants in America know about it and share it by word of mouth. (See what many immigrants and foreigners have said about it in their own words) Thus, oddly enough, the mythos continues to persist that America is very open and expressive, even though it's been long debunked.

So for all those Foreigners and Asians who think Americans are like the actors shown in the movies, here are some revealing links and videos to show them about the real America - a land of isolation and social disconnectedness, where people in general do not like each other, prefer to be alone, and do not like to be bothered.

1. First, check out my friend Steve Hoca's video rant about me called "Winston Wu is right: Americans are socially disconnected" where he expresses his frustration at the complete lack of human connection in modern day America:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REKN7y53OCI

2. Next, see these video clips by my friend Kyle from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he shows firsthand with a hidden camera, how hard it is to talk to strangers in America or say hello to them. Watch him try to greet people on the street. See how different the reality is compared to the movies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REuWyftROA4

3. Here is a short documentary about "The Seattle Freeze" and about how difficult it is to make friends in Seattle, Washington. Several people in the film talk about their experiences there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roC_nsdyi1I

4. In fact, the major newspaper in Seattle, The Seattle Times, did a story about how hard it is to make friends in Seattle, documenting the "Seattle Freeze" phenomenon as real. You can read the story at:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2005/0213/cover.html

5. I also have personal evidence of the isolation and disconnectedness in Seattle. Check out these photos I took on a Seattle ferry (same one as in the top above) compared to the ones I took on a ferry in Riga, Lativa (Eastern Europe). The Seattle ferry photos show you the real America that Hollywood never shows you - where people prefer to be alone, isolated, disconnected and not bothered, because they simply do not like other people. It depicts how people are in most public places in America. Notice the difference: While the Seattle people are isolated in their own private bubbles, the people on the ferry in Latvia are dancing together, even in the middle of the day.

http://intellectualexpat.blogspot.com/2008/01/ferry-photos-seattle-vs-riga-latvia.html

6. Here is a revealing article by Little India magazine about how isolated, lonely and disconnected Indian immigrants in America feel, many of which regret coming to the US and miss the warm connections in their home country:

http://www.littleindia.com/august2004/UnhappyinAmerica.htm

7. Next, check out this big collection of quotes and comments about America I put together from immigrants and foreigners who have been there. As you can see, they describe it as anything but "open, friendly and expressive."

http://www.happierabroad.com/ebook/Page32.htm

8. These are some news articles that report on the growing problem of loneliness in America, describing it as an epidemic that is hazardous to health:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/22/AR2006062201763_pf.html

http://www.livescience.com/health/060331_loneliness.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/02/weekinreview/02fountain.html

9. Here is my own video lecture about how unnatural it is to try to meet people in America and talk to strangers, and how there is no sense of social or human connection there. See part 1 of my video lecture series here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsDbEwmCMz0

10. Finally, my friend and cultural advisor, a former US immigrant who speaks 10 languages and has lived in 9 countries long-term, made this observation about what the biggest culture shock in the US is, which says it all:

http://www.happierabroad.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8855

"I think generally, the biggest culture shock that people experience in the US is not between their country and the US but between what they thought the US would be and what it actually is. Books and movies about America make the place appear very free and exciting and happening and the people are so interesting and emotional. There is sex and fun and romance going on. When they arrive, the place looks very conservative and the people appear robotic and quiet. Sex is subdued and hard to come by. The people are not open at all, they look closed and mistrustful. Everybody is just working and looking tired and apathetic. Talking to strangers is taboo. There are thousands of little rules and laws and social mores that seem as dogmatic and strict as those in a Muslim society. And every time you are at risk of breaking yet another law and facing very dire consequences. That is the biggest culture shock of all."


Here are some more posts in my forum about how different America is in reality compared to the media portrayal of it.

http://www.happierabroad.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=23902#23902

"And by the way, I am back in the matrix and miserable about it. Can't talk to strangers, can't make eye contact, neighbors don't interact, social groups in public do not interact or over lap, extreme social cliqishness, nothing going on for social life in the community, women unapproachable to the point that it feels taboo to talk to them at all, and lonely, isolated lives are standard, people spend more time with a TV than with people, and the relationships/dating scene here and the disintigration of family, marriage, and community is downright shocking.

Just seeing how my family members live on in this isolated and dysfunctional matrix, oblivious to what a wonderful, open, natural welcoming social life exists outside of the US, depresses me. I can't wait to get out myself. And so I have a lot of work to do on not letting that whole mess consume me now while trying to get enough healthy human contact to stay sane in this incredibly frigid and mistrustful and disconnected social atmosphere."

http://www.happierabroad.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7510

"This is not the picture that Hollywood beams into billions of households around the world. In it, women on roller skates in bikinis zoom through suburbs and cities and at the first beck and call go with you to the nearest motel for a roll in the hay for no money at all. This is how everybody sees America around the world.
I see America now as Iran or Saudi Arabia in terms of female availability, if not worse. Because in the latter the local men will have girls lined up by family connections- meetings will be arranged and a wedding date with a virgin bride will be set as soon as you are ready. In other Muslim countries that are cheaper, it will be even easier. Yeah the girls are dressed modestly all right but you will soon get married to a a good girl who will be open only to you.

The great deception that Hollywood pulls on the world public is monstrous."

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"Your right, when I watch sitcoms on tv, the women are always friendly towards men, they flirt with men and are easy to ask out and sleep with. Watching American made movies are the same. The women are friendly, approachable, smile a lot and will easily give a man her phone number! Now we all know this is NOT reality, it's a fantasy that Hollywood puts out.

When is the last time a single woman in America flirted with you? Or when was the last time a single woman in America started a conversation with you?

For most guys the answer is either NEVER or ALMOST NEVER! Women in America ignore men, even if the guy is good looking. Of course, tv shows and movies in America show women as friendly and flirtacious with men. NOTHING can be further from the truth!"

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So you see, the mythos that Asians have of America being so "open, expressive and friendly" is a fiction and illusion created by Hollywood, not actual reality. Sorry to disappoint them.

Feel free to forward this page to other Asians or foreigners you know who think America is "open, expressive and friendly".

The good news is that there are many cultures in the world that really are open, friendly, sociable and inclusive, where you can make friends easily or get dates without having to break into closed cliques, joining schools and organizations, or being introduced by friends. I have experienced them myself. I will tell you where they are:

- Latin America and Mexico (very open and friendly and easy to meet people)
- Russia (very open and friendly and easy to meet people)
- Half of Europe (some European cultures are more open while others are more reserved)
- China (very direct and open with strangers)
- Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, known as Southeast Asia (very open and friendly and easy to meet people)
- Africa (very open and friendly and easy to meet people)
- Australia (not super friendly but more so than America)
- England, France and Germany (some say these countries are very socially open, but others disagree, the opinions are mixed)

On the other hand, here are countries that are more socially closed, where people do not talk to strangers and it takes work to break into cliques, making it far more difficult and unnatural to meet people and make friends:

- America and Canada (generally non-inclusive, isolated and disconnected, but not always)
- Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, NE Asia (highly repressed and conservative, socially closed and cliquish, but white people will get more attention there)
- Sweden, Finland, Norway (Scandinavian people are reputed to be cold and stoic)


17 comments:

  1. Good points! American women seem as if they are not interested in meeting men while they are out in public. They only meet men through their friends.

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  2. Dude - wtf? First of all Philly is a crap town, everyone that lives on the East Coast knows it. 2nd of all it's clearly winter there, and cold as hell - so people aren't happy to be in Philly or on a cold day in Philly. Third of all, the dude asking has a camera, is creepy and/or angry...so that is how HIS reality is turning out. No wonder. Go west or to a smaller town in the US, and people will def. be nicer. If you make a statement at the end like the rest of the world isn't like that, where they hell is the video of you saying hi in the rest of the world.

    I live in NYC - yes people are more closed, but there are plenty of friendly people if you are creepy.

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  3. You said at the beginning Japanese and Taiwanese people will be disappointed in coming to America thinking it would be open and friendly, but then at the end you say their own societies are socially 'closed' already. So perhaps they get a bit more friendliness in America compared to their home culture (if nothing else, they get more variety).

    I had a japanese girlfriend who emigrated here and seemed shy initially but quickly became the life of the party and was extremely popular.

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  4. David H, you can see my films of me saying hi in other countries here: http://www.happierabroad.com/film.php

    The guy in the film had a HIDDEN camera. The people didn't see it.

    Focusgroup, that's possible, yeah. But I am comparing many countries, not just one closed country vs. another. See the forum posts I quoted above.

    Japanese girls are considered hot in America. I am VERY extroverted too. But when I talk, I sound weird in America cause I'm not fake and too sincere and truthful and natural.

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  5. A few years ago, I lived in Tacoma for a few months, and had the chance to roam through most of the greater Sea-Tac region. I grew up in the Midwest, and have lived in the Carolinas, near New Orleans, and in various places in the Northeast, but my God, I've never encountered a group of people so dedicated to the notion of antisocial behavior as those who live in the Pacific Northwest.

    I enjoyed watching 'Frasier' during its run on TV, but when I visited some of the coffee shops in Tacoma, I thought to myself "Well, surprise, surprise - I've been lied to." Instead of sitting in small groups and conversing with each other, as they do in Frasier's Cafe Nervosa, half of the people had their noses stuck in books or magazines, and the other half were glued to their laptops. Those individuals who were ostensibly socializing with someone else did not make an effort to chat up their 'friends', instead being content to listen to music on their IPods or doing whatever else was necessary to make certain everyone else around them realize "Buzz off! I'm in my own little world, and no, you can't land on it."

    Any wonder why the Seattle area has been home to so many whack jobs such as Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway?

    BEM

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  6. Compared to a corpse, a person in coma is energetic and warm. Compared to a person in coma, a paraplegic is quite lively. Compared to a paraplegic, a person who can walk and talk is full of life. Compared to a stone faced, inscrutable Japanese person, an American seems almost Latin-like.

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  7. Every time I go to a restaurant for dinner, almost everyone is sitting alone, talking on their phone. Its taboo to even make eye contact. Most people wolf down their food & run out the door like theres a fire in the restaurant. What a nightmare life in the West has become!!

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  8. Hi all,
    Check out what my friend and cultural advisor, a former US immigrant, said in this observation about the biggest culture shock in the US, which says it all:

    http://www.happierabroad.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8855

    "I think generally, the biggest culture shock that people experience in the US is not between their country and the US but between what they thought the US would be and what it actually is. Books and movies about America make the place appear very free and exciting and happening and the people are so interesting and emotional. There is sex and fun and romance going on. When they arrive, the place looks very conservative and the people appear robotic and quiet. Sex is subdued and hard to come by. The people are not open at all, they look closed and mistrustful. Everybody is just working and looking tired and apathetic. Talking to strangers is taboo. There are thousands of little rules and laws and social mores that seem as dogmatic and strict as those in a Muslim society. And every time you are at risk of breaking yet another law and facing very dire consequences. That is the biggest culture shock of all."

    So so true!

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  9. "Compared to a person in coma, a paraplegic is quite lively. Compared to a paraplegic, a person who can walk and talk is full of life."

    Discrimination against paraplegics is not cool, asshole.

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  10. British women are almost as bad as American women are. Not quite yet but they will be there in a handful of years. I had a British girlfriend and spent some time there. Most of the people were somewhat friendly but I didn't find them that much different than in the US.

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  11. "This perception in Asia obviously comes from Hollywood movies, which portray America as a fun, carefree culture where everyone is expressive, emotional, wild, loose, having a good time, very sociable and communicative toward others."

    Maybe you don't know where to go in the States to have fun? Obviously America is a much different culture (or non-culture) than the rest of the world. It's a younger country and it's still working out the kinks. Hollywood does portray America as all the things that's listed, and there is a grain of truth to it. To expect that to dominate the entire country is absurd since the States is a huge place, having a population over 300MILL people.

    I've read the comments about foreigners experience in America, and some of their complaints ring true to a certain extent, but most are generalizing an entire country and its people. Especially that one comment from the Dutch woman. America, prude? Yes and no. Talk about holding ones nose high in the air.

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  12. Hi, I'm a woman who grew up in New York City, went to college in Cambridge, Mass., then lived in South Carolina, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and now Texas as well as spending time in Montreal, California, Seattle, Holland, Paris, London, Ireland, India, Mexico and Belize. My thoughts - SOME places in the US are really friendly. SOME places are very unfriendly, particularly if you are not a local or are foreign.

    When I lived in NYC or when I go to visit, random people approach me and talk to me all the time and respond when I talk to them. Here in Texas, same thing. Same in South Carolina though there IS an element of racism in some areas. In Colorado, people are friendly in a locational sense - they won't talk to you if you are on a street corner, but if you are reading the same type of book at the Tattered Cover, or hiking the same trail - you can have a conversation. In Michigan, people were very friendly. But in Indiana - incredibly cold and also racist except for a few really sterling people. In Ohio - it was a mixed bag. In Seattle - stand-offish, definitely. Same in Portland. In Boston, cold until you got to know them, then incredibly loyal.

    In other countries - some places people are friendly, some places not so much. In Ireland, incredibly friendly. In Holland, people are very brusque but also very helpful. They are direct but friendly. In France, you have to know the culture. In London - I was surprised at how friendly people actually were, once you got past the stiff British mannerisms and the class consciousness. In Belize - very friendly but you had to keep your eyes open - not everyone is honest, particularly since Americans are seen as easy marks. Same in Mexico. In Montreal, very unfriendly if you don't speak French (the Quebecois), but the English-speakers were reasonably friendly in the right situation. Again, not so friendly if you just talked to someone on the street, but very friendly if you, say, were by yourself at a foreign movie and then started a convo after re. the movie.

    Here in my neighborhood in Texas, I know all of my neighbors within 5 or 6 houses in either direction on my street, and we've had several of them to our house or been to theirs for coffee, Christmas parties, dinner, etc. If I am out of town, they keep an eye on my house and if they go out of town I feed their cat. That sort of thing. If I need an onion or a cup of milk, I can call several neighbors. In Michigan, same thing. In South Carolina and NYC, same thing. In Indiana - no way. In Colorado - I only knew 2 of my neighbors, the rest were very unfriendly, but the two I made friends with are lifelong friends. In Ohio, the only neighbor who was friendly turned out to be incredibly creepy.

    I realize this is all anecdotal, but my point is - the US is a big country and the culture is very different in, say, Texas vs. Boston or California vs. Michigan. There are parts where I felt very lonely and isolated and other parts where I felt part of a warm community.

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  13. Dude, I lived in Seattle for six years. The day I left, to come to South Korea, the wind was blowing dead leaves across the cityscape, the sky was gray (as always) rain came down, and no friends--none--came to see me off.

    I know about the Seattle Freeze. I lived there.

    RR

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  14. So basically, these amazing morons are upset because they came to America to get whores and found that women won't just jump on them because they're in America?

    Sorry losers, you won't have a better time trying to get girls from the real men here than you did in your own country. Newsflash, you can't get free sex anywhere, dumbasses.

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  15. Take time to think of the size and diversity of America. You cannot drive across the country in an hour, like you can in European countries. So, the way people are in NYC and the way people are in, lets say Nevada, over 3,000 miles away, cannot all be put in the same category. People are VERY different depending on what part of the country you are in. While I agree with many complaints about America, I am also fed up with the way the country has deteriorated. However, may I remind all the America bashers worldwide,and especially in Europs, and especially the French, that many Americans died driving the nazis out of your countries and giving you your freedom back. If you are all that smart..read your W.W. 2 history and find out what life was like in your country under the Nazi occupation.My father was killed on the beach of Normandy and when I hear the French bashing America..ok..you call us stupid..I would rather be called stupid than a coward. Which is what Frenchman are and were. Check out the waving of hankies and the nazi salute your people gave to the Nazis when they drove into your country.Unlike the Poles, Frenchmen would not even fight back, with the exception of the brave people with the French resistance. It goes to the old adage "No good deed goes unpunished." So Mr. Frenchman, the next time you are sitting at your outside cafe sipping cappuccino, with your sweater over your back with the arms tied around your neck, stop and think what you would be doing if the Allies had not driven the nazis' out of your country. And, if you are jewish, you would have long ago went up ther chimney, along with six million others slaughtered by the wonderful Germans. You're welcome!

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  16. How smart are people that believe motion pictures are accurate portrayals of real life?? HAHA

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  17. I really don't know what to say about this article OR the hidden videos, etc. I guess it's just the way I've been taught and the many experiences I've had with people in my home country and people from abroad, but I honestly don't get why this article is so harsh on America. Yes, the movies portray America in a particular light, just like movies from other countries portray foreighners in a particular light. I mean, I love Germany. I love the language and the people that I've met and making German foods, etc. But my most favorite German movies of all time (Mostly Martha and Das Boot) both portray Germans as extremely restrained, extremely recalcitrant and extremely intense. Do I believe that ALL Germans are this way? Absolutely not. My German professor was a very warm woman, the foreign exchange students that I met were the life of the party and I formed some great relationships with all of them.

    The problem with going to some place or meeting people or doing anything is that if you have an intense expectation of what that is supposed to be like, how you should experience it or what the end result will be, without being open to the possibility that it won't be the way you picture it, then you'll be guaranteed to have a horrible time. I grew up in the Bible Belt South -- yes, one of the most racist places you could ever grow up in and I have experienced it on some level and degree -- but I visited the Northeast often. I knew -- because I have family up there -- that NYC isn't this magical place with excitement and fun and parties all the time. Sometimes the city can be that, but a lot of times, it's just like any other city. I go up there and I have great time each time because I don't go up there with the expectation that NYC is exactly like the movies. Furthermore, and this must be because I grew up in the States, but you can't just randomly walk up to people and automatically expect them to be the caricatures of movies and television shows. I wouldn't think that of Germans in the movies I watch, nor of the Koreans in the dramas I watch nor in the British television shows that I see. That's just ignorant.

    I think people should educate themselves a little about a society before they come here. America is based from an original, puritanical society. America was isolationist for a number of years. So, if these people come armed with that knowledge and come here being genuine and sincere as opposed to just expecting Americans to shuck and jive like they do in movies then they'll have a better time living here and a better time finding lasting friendships and experiences.

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