Before now, Australia and Japan were the only two countries I’d ever called home. If Australia is the norm, Japan is other. It’s always been so distinctly different from Australia, although after so many years’ experience with the place, I wouldn’t describe it as “foreign”. Both are very familiar.
America is somewhere in the middle. I feel like I know it, but something’s not quite right. It’s similar to Australia, sometimes confusingly so. The drive along the winding Eucalyptus-flanked road to Stinson Beach, for example. Then something happens—school bus drive by, ghettoblaster dude walk by—and I’m snapped back to reality.
The weird part is that these instances of Americana aren’t really strange or unfamiliar. Here, I’m not shocked because culture is different. Instead, I’m shocked because it’s exactly as I expect it to be. I’ve seen it all before—in the movies, on television. I’ve read about it in hundreds of books and from a very young age—think The Baby-sitters Club, Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High.
The effect of all this is that sometimes I walk around feeling like I’m on a movie set. This is particularly true in San Mateo, where I work and where there are railroad crossings, low pastel-colored buildings and street names like “3rd Street” and “2nd Avenue”.
It’s also made me realize how pervasive American culture is. American popular culture is mainstream on a global scale. I guess this is old news? But, it’s one thing to be mildly aware of the fact while watching The Wire or listening to Bruce Springsteen in Melbourne or Tokyo, and something else completely to experience it first hand.
A little disturbing, but mostly fascinating. And for an American pop culture fan like me, when I stop over-analyzing and go with the flow, thoroughly enjoyable. I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but until then you can find me watching cable television, dancing at a Beyonce concert or eating something to go with the lot.