since he likes America so much.
Benny Lewis, btw, is an Irish bloke who moves to a new country nearly every year and chats people up all over the world to add notches to his polyglot belt.
I admit it’s an impressive achievement, but also I’m still waiting for him to conquer Asian languages at the same pace he’s conquered Western languages. I’ll wager it’ll take him a lot longer. I’d also like to stick him in an Asian body as a foreign language teacher out in the country where no one wants to suffer his language exploration.
Anyway, my personal bitterness aside, I got a kick out of his blog post, 17 cultural reasons why this European never wants to live in America.
He doesn’t seem to get that a lot of New Yorkers might have the same viewpoint (1. Americans are way too sensitive), or that the kind of company he keeps (2. Everything is “awesome” ? Sheesh…) on the not real life that constitutes touring (3. Smiles mean NOTHING [God, I miss the GENUINELY liberal smiles you get from random folks in America] ) might also have something to do with it. He also has a lot of valid observations (4. Tipping, 5. False prices on everything, 10. I.D. checks and stupid drinking laws) that are blown a little out of proportion or lack understanding of what a Federation of states is but aren’t without some basis and that cracked me up. Instances of him just being himself an overly sensitive semantics jerk when people are trying to find a way to connect (9. Heritage) and then things that made me a little somber (11. Religious Americans, 12. Corporations win all the time, not small business, 13. A country designed for cars, not humans, 16. Unhealthy portions). But whatever – the entire time I was reading it, I kept thinking: Holy shit. He should live in Korea a few years. (6. Cheesy in-your-face marketing, 7. Wasteful consumerism, 8. Idiotic [Korean] stereotypes of other countries, 14. Always in a hurry, 15. Obsession with money, 17, Thinking [Korea] is best.)
Just like the astute daughter of my Korean friend told me, ” Korea copies the worst aspects of America and ignores the best aspects of America.” Such a bright, bright girl…
But I’d totally disagree with him about 17. It makes me wonder how many yokels he spent time with, since every country has their own nationalistic yokels…And I disagree because I know a whole lot of people who criticize America and don’t think it’s best. And the primary reason I like America is because I’m free to do that…and you know, that’s another thing Korea is following as well…and that’s a good, badly needed thing.
I think Benny really isn’t qualified to make such black and white opinions since he’s just passing through a place – like whirlwind passing through. Nor do a lot of Europeans really understand what a dual curse and blessing vast spaces are and how they affect ideas of freedom, expansion and manifest destiny or wreak havoc on density and pedestrian communities that little islands have no choice but to honor. I think he’s missed one of the great opportunities one can experience while traveling, and that is to try and understand the perspective of the people in the places he visits, how they came to be that way, or what he can learn form them.
I think another twenty years and Korea will be just like the conflicted, messy, yet ever exuberant and dynamic America I miss, and if Benny doesn’t want to live here or there, then that’s mighty fine by me.