What’s American? (Jack Hayford)

I have been in Peru for more than two and a half months now, and  I have met a number of people who are from all over the United States. Something that I have noticed spending time with some of those people, and then people from other countries is how unique people from the United States actually are. Before I came here, I had negative thoughts about the United States, and traveling was partly means to compare cultures and see more clearly problems that exist in our society. Of course that has happened to an extent, but I have experienced an even greater growth of affection for the United States. I have heard people argue that the USA is too young to have much of a culture, but I beg to differ. There is a definite culture in the United States, and even more interesting is that there are many different cultures that could be discussed within the culture of the USA. While I have been here I have met some people from Northern Illinois, and Minnesota, and I found that I have things in common with them, that I would not have in common with people from the east or west coast. Some of it is hard if not impossible to put into words, it is more the whole feel of the person. I have realized some of our holidays have a special feel that cant be imitated elsewhere. For example, this weekend is Halloween, and environment is different. I don’t see the pumpkins, the hay rides, the caramel apples, or many things that I would in the USA. There harvest environment and traditions are special in the section of the USA that we live. Also the thought of not being home for Thanksgiving is a little disheartening. I read a quote recently where an Anthropologist said, “Years have study have convinced me that the real job is not to understand foreign cultures but our own…” He goes on to say that in finding these differences, and the shocks of the contrast that you experience when traveling, one learns about their own culture much more, and he even goes as far to say that  it awakens a greater interest in life itself. I think there is definitely some truth to what he says. I know in my experience I have maybe learned even more about my own culture than the Peruvian culture since I have been here.

Jack Hayford is studying abroad in Cusco, Peru, with ProWorld.