According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, Americanized means:
1 : to cause to acquire or conform to American characteristics
2 : to bring (as an area) under the political, cultural, or commercial influence of the United States intransitive verb : to acquire or conform to American traits
When I was in Atlanta Hartsfield International airport in April 2008 on our way to Indonesia, I chatted with this American guy (his name escape me) after he saw me arguing with the Korean Air ground crew. Later on in our conversations, he told me that his wife is from Thailand and they are all living there. He asked me how long have I been in the States and he mentioned about how hard it is just to get a visa for her to come for a visit. Since he opened the discussion about visa and the whole thing, I kindly asked him if they’re applying for a spouse visa or something else. His answer kind of astounds me to this very day. “Nah, I’m not gonna take her here and let her get Americanized!” Even reading what he said, I can feel his sarcasm, and now I regret not to dive in the chance to indulge what he meant as we were called for boarding.
Can’t help but wondering, what’s with the negative undertone? Was he talking about me? Since obviously I am Asian and I have to admit that I’m somewhat Americanized.
After living in the States for several years, I am well aware of the changes in me. Besides, aren’t we as human are destined to change along with times? I have to acknowledge that I had learn to speak up and standing up for myself even more since I moved to the western part of the world. Not because of peer pressure, simply because I finally have the guts especially since I’m not living in a country that sometimes restraint you to do so (so you won’t have to embarrassed someone, making them loosing face, or making the elderly offended). I had embraced and adopted a lot of good values from living in America, combined with my own of course. Now I believe it is part of human nature to adjust to your environment for survival. Otherwise, you can’t fit in — and if this is the wild, you won’t survive.
But does that mean I am too Americanized? Is being Americanized have to be such a negativity as that guy conveyed? Was that guy simply worrying that his wife will turn into a snob, rude? Or he simply wants her to be submissive as a lot of misconceptions about Asian women out there?
Does one deem too Americanized when she stood up for what she believes is the right thing? Or when she said something to someone from her own country that cut her off on the queue? Then I’ll be ‘guilty’ as charged! Even before I moved to the US, I find it hard to keep my mouth shut that when I was younger my mother would be pinching my thighs as a warning that I had stepped too far.
What is so wrong in adopting and assimilate the goodness of values that happen to be recognized as the American ways? Won’t your life be even richer if you could cultivate both cultures and ways? Cultural diversity is a great thing if you’d only see it through a positive lens.
When I blogged about this very same topic in my old blog one of my friend’s husband post a reply:
“After all of the comments you received, it looks like we all have different perspectives about what it means to be AMERICANIZED. Does America have a unique culture? If NOT, then how is the term “Americanized” to be applied?
I assume that “Americanized” in his mind had a negative connotation. He was worrying that his wife would become rude or even a snob. Perhaps acting like, “I AM NOW AN AMERICAN, SO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEAK UP!!” If some one expresses freely whatever they want whenever they want to, without concern for the circumstances or persons they are talking to – does this makes them American?
Asians have their own unique way. I think that Asian cultures have many traditions and customs that suggest a feeling of elegance. It is these traditions that cause the initial reaction in some western people to admire Asian women.
Through some websites I have found that American living has changed the characteristics and personality of some Indonesian women. They have lost their humility. TRULY, they have lost the true essence of what they are, their own identity. Yet they are so proud of that!”
To this I replied:
“Yes, I clearly see the different perspectives.
I personally think you don’t have to be American to speak up and express yourself, of course one needs to convey all of those ‘messages’ with consideration of the circumstances. You don’t have to raise your voice in arguments, right? There are civilized ways to do so. And I am a firm believer that expressing yourself in such manner could actually get your points across better than yelling or cursing. This realization came to me after quite sometimes.
Your impression about Asians cultures and traditions are correct, it does show elegance, in fact most Asians girls who were born and raised in Asia are ‘expected’ to be feminine by the culture itself (I was a tomboy and I hated being forced to wear nice frilly dresses) and I strongly believe that’s why the submissive perception came about. When you are raised to withhold your thoughts especially to watch what you’re saying sometimes it will lead to submission, for example no matter how bad things are you are restrained from complaining or questioning the authorities’ figures. Just like the shocked look some doctors gave me when I started questioning them. Why? Because most Indonesians simply follow the doctor’s order, it is not a custom to question such an educated well figured person. I too had to learn about this when I first went to see a doctor in the States, I had to learn to express how I feel to them and it’s not something that changed overnight. I do noticed that these ‘submissive’ label has been slowly changing as more and more Asian women are breaking away from this kind of stereotype. Also, now I believe it really depends on her education and the surrounding she was raised in. All Caucasian/Asian males as well as Caucasian/Asian females are no different if they grew up in North America and come from a quite assimilated environment.
I am well aware of some Asian immigrants who completely lost their touch of Asians heritage from living in the States, I presume that’s just the way they wanted themselves to be…who knows and maybe that’s the kind of life they want so I’m not going to say that’s bad, everyone have their own reasons. But sometimes it is funny to see some people whose trying way too hard, you know what I mean. Are these the kinds of Asians who had lost their humility? For me seeing these over the top ‘ones’ had actually taught me to stay true to myself. “
Yes, I am aware there are different perspectives of what is perceive as being Americanized but now I realized how people are doing the best they can. People can see and accept that they create their own stress according to how they are responding; they will then see that there is something they need to unlearn as well as learn.