Americans are Kinda Strange

April 23, 2013

by Lily Kang, Class of 2016

“Americans are kinda strange…” This phrase entered my mind on my first day of
school in the United States, echoing throughout the following years.

Americans are such strict rule followers. I witnessed this once sitting on the
sidelines of a high school dodge ball 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 are not seen. It
was a little strange to me because I was raised in an environment where rules are,
unfortunately, usually taken for granted.

Americans’ 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 of 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
the 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 $40.00. I was debating which one to buy and the sales clerk
informed me that the 40 dollar 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 are kinda 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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1 Comment

  • 1.    Bob the Chef  |  May 18th, 2013 at 8:09 am

    I’ve noticed this as well. In fact, the most irritating quality of Americans is blind adherence to rules. They don’t seem to be able to think for themselves, and so they think in terms of arbitrary “rules”. Even worse, when you inquire about the rational basis for these rules, they shut down. They gawk at you as if you were insane, blaspheming some divine command. They think the rule is obvious, but when you successfully break an American, you see that it’s a product of Pavlovian conditioning. There is no understanding or reason behind the rule. They don’t understand it (and frankly, it cannot be understood because rules are in themselves irrational). They merely have an obscure attachment to them.

    As Dr. House once says, rules are for people who can’t think for themselves.


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