The Yin and Yang of American Culture

The Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox by Eun Y. Kim is a perspective of the American way of life by a Korean American. Kim uses the yin and yang symbol to describe the positive and negatives of American culture and how it compares to Asian culture. Kim’s exposure to American culture as a young child in Korea and immigrating to the United States while also being raised in a Korean household where Korean tradition was upheld provides a solid basis for her analysis.
I have chosen five of her yang statements for discussion which I believe I have experienced eing a fourth generation American but also witnessing the truth to these statements during my travels to Asia as well as to Portugal. One of the biggest statements for Kim’s yang is “Dreaming the Impossible”. As children in America the majority of us are told to dream big. I was told as a child that I could be anything I wanted to be whether it was an astronaut, a veterinarian, or an entrepreneur. I have always dreamed of being a veterinarian, and I am slowly working towards my dream.
I have seen friends of mine achieve their dreams such s a close friend wanted to play football for the Air Force academy; he completed his four years at the academy playing football and went on to complete ten years as an Air Force officer. I have also seen the difference between the United States and Portugal, and how we encourage dreams and support them. My husband was born in Portugal and moved to the U. S. when he was two years old. His mom and dad worked hard to live “the American dream” which to them was owning your own house and providing for your family.

They did not push “dreams” other than that one on my usband or his brother. Despite this my husband created his dream; to fly planes. He cannot remember how old he was Just that he was young, but he remembers taking a summer trip to Portugal to visit his grandparents, and he was invited into the cockpit of the airplane where he was allowed to sit in the captains seat and was given a short tutorial, but ever since than his obsession with airplanes and flying took off. His parents may not have told him that he could do anything he dreamed of like my parents, but the American school system did.
Dreaming the Impossible” also leads to “Flexible Systems, Flexible Roles”. I am a great example of this. I finished high school and automatically rolled into college but after a year and a half of doing the bare minimum I decided that I wasn’t serious about school at the moment and instead of wasting my time and money I would take some time off to decide what was important to me. Now about ten years later I am finally back to school full time while also finishing up my contract in the Navvy. I am working full time and going to school full time with a flexible system and a semi- lexible role in both.
The American education system allows me to do this and actually encourages us to do this. When I was growing up, my best friend’s mother was a computer engineer and when we were in middle school she had decided it was no longer for her. She quit her Job and went back to school, and she now teaches middle school mathematics which she had always wanted to but chose engineering because of the money. A third “yang” I have had experience with is “Openness and Friendliness”. In September 2 I was able to visit Japan tor a tew days due to a deployment port
The ship I was stationed on pulled into Yokosuka Japan, and although I didn’t receive much ofa culture shock there, I did when I traveled to Tokyo. My first observation of how the Japanese were not as friendly as Americans was when I rode the train. My friends and I were patiently waiting for the train doors to open to allow those getting off to get off first before boarding but no one else did. Everyone else was crowding the doors and making it difficult for those getting off to do so but no one seemed to have a problem with the so called “rudeness” except for us Americans.
We quickly learned if we wanted a place on the train we had to be quick and impatient. Although Japanese citizens were not as friendly and open as American citizens I did experience a very nice Japanese woman who could tell I was confused by the subway map in Tokyo. I was standing in the subway trying to make heads and tails of the map on the wall when this elderly Japanese woman started speaking English to me asking me if I needed assistance. She explained that she had recently moved back to Tokyo after living in Minnesota for the past 40 years which quickly explained her illingness to help a complete stranger out.
Although I did meet plenty of helpful strangers in Yokosuka, which is accustomed to American visitors, she was the only smile I received while in Tokyo which wasn’t from a friend. Americans love to have fun, and I am no exception. The phase “work hard, play hard” is commonly used in the United States and describes me. I work full time and go to school full time, and if I have completed all my homework by Saturday night or budgeted my time I definitely like to go out and have fun. I also find time during the eek to do things that are not work related or school related such as see a movie or go for a run or catch a workout class at the gym.
To me if I work hard then I deserve to spend some time getting out and doing what I want. My family is the same way as well as my in laws who live in the states. A couple times a year my husband and I will vacation with our family either going camping or going to Wildwood, NJ to spend some time at the beach and the boardwalk. If my husband and I can coordinate a weekend where we both have off we will usually head some place new to kayak or ightsee. We are always looking for fun as well as saving our money to complete these fun tasks.
It’s what we live for even if we have to put in some overtime to achieve it. My last “yang” is “Remaining Active throughout Life” which I have yet to experience personally since I am only 31 years old but I have observed my 80 year old father in this accomplishment. I started bugging my dad around the time I graduated from high school that he should think about slowing down and retiring since he was 67 years old. This past May he finally took my advice and is finally retired but still ontinues to enjoy life.
A few times a week he is fishing or riding his motorcycle or spending time with family; he is the energizer bunny. He also looks like he Just turned 60 and not 80, which he turned in October of this year. I believe that staying busy and having hobbies is what has allowed him to take 20 years off his life. I also like to think I have kept him young because he did have me late in life (around the age of 49), and he was always active in parenting me. He helped me with my homework and also helped me practice basketball and softball by participating in them with me.
I am thankful that he didn’t believe that as he aged he was unable to do things those younger than him could do. The Yin and Yang of American Culture has reinforced the wonderful things I love about the American culture but has also helped me realize that there are certain things from the East I would like to incorporate into my life. Kim’s insight of the light as well as the dark in the United States is something all United States citizens should take notice of, and in my opinion may make our society better. I know I am going to correct some of my own vices to bring over to the “yang”.

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