Living in a different culture always changes your understanding of that culture. That is why if you go traveling to, e.g. India, for a week and stay in a hotel on Goa, you haven’t seen India. The same Goa can be found in the Caribbean, Africa, UAE or anywhere else. The same applies to visiting New York, running through all the museums in a couple of days and then bragging that you’ve been to New York. Sorry but no, you haven’t. Only an authentic experience of living somewhere is a true experience of an environment.

As for me, I am in the midst of that “experiencing” process right now..

For example, I never understood, why Americans consider Monster truck racing – you know, cars with huge wheels running over other cars for the entertainment of a cheering crowd – fun. After standing in a traffic jam on a highway for three hours lately, locked there without any chance of getting myself out of it, being late for my studio review, I understood why. The only thing I could dream of in that situation was having a Monster truck to just run over those cars in front to get home. After this experience I suddenly found myself being able to relate to Monster truck racing..

The same  happened to my incomprehension of the maniacal need of (almost) any American to have a huge truck, let’s say a Ford F150, instead of a Smart. After going hiking in the mountains and spending 6 hours on the road while going to D.C., I could understand that too.. Given my geographical location – the Blue Ridge mountains – and the fact that I’d need to drive for 20 minutes to get to the closest shopping mall, having a truck is not a demonstration of status or an expensive habit – it’s a survival technique.

It is not a secret, neither an offense to say that, historically, America has been in the shadow of Europe, and especially England – hence, the necessity to invent things to establish yourself – just read a couple of Emerson’s texts to understand that. Also, let’s not forget the inventive “frontier mentality” inherent in Americans almost genetically. Sometimes this leads to really interesting results. For example, I see (a certain) causation between the above and American football (am I sure I want to write this?) – which “gained public gravity” towards the middle of the nineteenth century – peculiarly enough, exactly when Emerson’s call for “independence” started yielding fruit.

American football exists only because it’s a national sport and a manifestation of American independence. It would be impossible to organize a world championship in American football simply because no one else plays it. It’s almost like cricket, only that in that case there is at least the “Commonwealth” who plays it. The very possibility to use “football” as the name for the game is conditioned by American isolationism and need to “show off” in front of the former masters (the English). I haven’t yet met a single international student who wouldn’t get confused when someone asks them about “football” or who would like it.

But as we see, the game is not just a game – it has a basis to it, a “meaning” (although I start to hate this word).

Therefore, nothing is as “strange” or “crazy” about American mass culture, as it might seem to a casual observer looking at it from the other side of the ocean. You just have to live in it to understand it a bit better..

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