I had thought that the culture shock had subsided but I continue to be shocked, amazed, confounded by my surroundings here.
Before I describe these instances, I’d like to back up and explain a bit about why they “shock” a person returning from abroad. Living in another country, one is continually exposed to different behaviors and situations that they wouldn’t necessarily find in their home country. The instances that really stick out are the ones that frustrate and cause a person to think “This wouldn’t happen in my country.” Over time you develop an ideal image of your home country but upon returning, realize that this ideal is just plain fantasy.
This ideal is further shattered as I’m not returning to my home state but this strange land called California where I truly am a minority, surrounded by Asians, but by Asians who are American in every aspect (and often not in a good way.)
So without further delay, on to the examples:
1. Supermarket in Japan Town
The other day I was waiting in line to purchase my Japanese rice and soy sauce that can only be found in Japan town. Everyone working the cash register was Asian, but the majority did not speak Japanese. I realized this when a young Japanese male who had very limited English ability tried to use a bank card that was apparently not a debit or credit card. His card wouldn’t go through and a young Japanese/American male quite rudely told the customer his card didn’t work. The customer replied “What does that mean?” The cashier laughed at him and said in a mockingly American way “It means your card doesn’t work dude.” (All in English of course.)
I felt very bad for the customer as this would never happen in Japan and was in such contrast to the Japanese society to which I’m accustomed. As he continued to make the young Japanese customer uncomfortable and embarrassed I thought of speaking to the clerk in Japanese. His response would have been “I don’t speak Japanese” to which a good reply in English would have been, “Well you obviously don’t speak English either or you would know how to use “a” “the” and put a damn “s” on the end of your pluralsssssssssss.
Fortunately, another cashier opened up and I missed my chance to thrash him.
2. Sign in front of the mall
I went to a very large bay area mall the other day and was expected to be greeted by holiday festivities, Santas’ and a general feeling of cheer. I was extremely surprised however to see a large flashing sign which read “shoplift and go to JAIL!”
3. Dragon Ladies are everywhere!
In a previous post I wrote about a “dragon lady” (mean spirited rich Asian women) I encountered in Saigon. I have come to learn that they are here too and just as bad, if not worse. The dragon ladies here are about 40-50 years old, and probably have never worked a day in their lives. All they know how to do is shop, get pampered and are completely horrible people. Today, I saw one coming out of the shopping mall in her black Mercedes and when a car decided they would only let one other car out of the mall and not her she started bitching up a storm in her car.
Message to all guys. Never ever date an Asian woman who drives an expensive car but does not earn her own money. Life would quickly become a living hell. This is also true for women of other races but from experience, the Asian women from poor countries who marry rich men quickly become living, breathing demons of the apocalypse.
4. Driving in California
The speed limit says 60 miles an hour, but 8 cars in 10 do not follow this rule. The worst offenders here are the new rich in expensive cars (bald white guys). They do not like to wait their turn either and always look angry and though they are entitled to be first. The only thing worse than new rich here in California are Dragon Ladies.
Driving in the city, one must also be careful of the homeless and drug addicted who like to jump in the middle of the street. These guys are mostly in a daze and you can scare the bejesus out of them with a good horn blast. However, this doesn’t work so well for the “gangstas” who apparently think it’s cool to try to cross the street in heavy oncoming traffic without waiting for the light. Better not honk at these ghetto superstars as they will probably shoot at your car if you do.
5. At the mall
At the same mall that had a sign exclaiming “shoplift and go to JAIL!” I quickly realized I was indeed the minority. About 90% of the shoppers were Asian and spoke Asian languages. This made me feel quite at home, like I was back in my beloved Saigon.
6. Big city people
I was going to write a post about the coldness of people back here in America but realized that people in my home state of Ohio are not like this and quite friendly. I began to think about how people behave on my walk to work and began comparing the people in Saigon, Tokyo, San Francisco and Ohio. Here in San Francisco, people will rarely look you in the eye and a smile is as rare as an albino elephant turd. The only time people do smile here is when they are trying to sell you something and even that can be rare. However, in Ohio, people are generally friendly and their smiles sincere. The Vietnamese in Saigon however will look you in they eye for long periods and will return your smile 95% of the time.
In San Francisco however, if you smile at someone, they will quickly look away. The feeling I suppose is that of distrust and as though you are going to solicit them for something which is sad when you think about it. Only the older folks often return a smile. The young are too self centered and immersed in themselves to be bothered with a smile. However, there are still some old hipsters around who maintain the spirit of San Francisco long gone who will smile and flash a peace sign.