Lily Kang | Tuesday, April 23, 2013
“Americans are kinda strange…” This phrase entered my mind on my first day of school in the United States, and echoed throughout the following years.
Americans are such strict rule followers. I witnessed this once sitting on the sidelines of a high school dodgeball game. To me, it was goofy, a little violent and very American. It struck me that my classmates followed the rules of the game so strictly. Even when no one noticed that a person had been hit and he could have kept playing, he voluntarily gave himself up and left the game. I was deeply impressed by how much people honored the rules even when they were not seen. It was a little strange to me because I was raised in an environment where rules are, unfortunately, usually taken for granted.
American honesty is another “strange” thing that truly humbles me. Some rules seem to go without saying. In high school, we were assigned a take-home exam from our chemistry teacher. I assumed it was just like homework assignment and asked my friends if they would like to work together. However, they hesitated. At first I thought it was kind of strange, but when I realized the reasons for their reluctance I was left ashamed. Even though our teacher never mentioned that collaboration with others was not allowed, my fellow classmates seem to be very vigilant about not violating the honor code. It was another important lesson I learned about the unwritten rules in America.
Another incident occurred at a department store. There were pillows of prices ranging from $9.99 to $40. I was debating which one to buy and the sales clerk informed me that the $40 pillow would go on sale in two days. I thanked her for letting me know and explained to her that it would not be convenient for me to come back to the store again. To my great surprise, she winked and said, “I will give you the discount now, just don’t tell anyone.” I was dumbfounded by what she offered to do. Since when did Americans start overlooking the rules? A rule that might increase the revenues of a store is one that other people do not need to be reminded to follow. This woman’s actions were strange, but truly nice and deeply appreciated. Rules are admittedly respected in the United States, but they are also situational and flexible – when the violation of rules is harmless and intended well.
Americans still kind of strange. They sometimes seem dogmatic with obeying the rules, yet they contradict themselves in a proper manner. This is why I have fallen in love with this country. In Chinese, the translation of America literally means “beautiful country.” It’s indubitably a beautiful country. Thank you for all the things you’ve taught me, ‘Merica.
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The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.