America has a great many things to offer the international community. For examples, look at my previous blog, “10 Things I Miss About America.” Today, however, I take a moment to point out some things America could profit to learn from the international community.
Here are my suggestions for 5 Things America Should Embrace.
1. The Metric System
I spent a great deal of time as a child learning cups, pints, quarts, and gallons. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a fast learner, it was that I had no desire to learn it. I remember very well one day, as I sat frustrated with learning the system, a friend turned to me and said,
“I learned it this way…two ‘C’s’ fit inside a ‘P,’ two ‘P’s’ fit inside a ‘Q,’ and four ‘Q’s’ fit inside a big, enormous ‘G.’ Doesn’t that make it easy and fun?” She smiled and went back to her work.
I remember staring at her and shaking my head in disbelief. Who the heck thinks that would make it easy or fun?
My dislike for the English system of measurement intensified when I moved to Asia. I was surrounded by liters, meters, and kilos, but forced to learn gallons, yards, and pounds. Then they threw in pecks and bushels. I had thought that was just gibberish for a song! Turns out it’s a unit of measurement? …More like a unit of weird.
And nothing is weirder than using Fahrenheit rather than Celsius. 0 for freezing and 100 for boiling. It. just. makes. sense.
Now, as an adult, I sit here thinking about the metric system. I think about how it is basically used the entire world over. I think about how nice it must be for doctors, scientists, and engineers across the globe who can communicate in this easy language. Why shouldn’t America jump on that happy bandwagon?
…I bet they’d love it a bushel and a peck.
America generally uses a fork and knife. Mongolia generally uses their hands. And China generally uses chopsticks. I feel that I can confidently say I’ve had a great deal of experience with all three. And, believe it or not, my favorite is chopsticks.
They are easy to clean. They can be beautiful or simple. They allow you to shovel food in delicately, yet, efficiently. And they have a million uses. I use them constantly for stirring drinks and foods. I’ve even used them as hair accessories. They really might be the most useful item we have in our apartment.
It’s sad to me that returning to America means returning to many a household without a good pair of chopsticks. Shoot, it even means returning to Chinese restaurants where people eat their food with forks. America, invest. It’s so worth it.
3. Taking Off Your Shoes
In preparation for our trip to Thailand, Leif and I researched hostels/guesthouses on TripAdvisor. Yes, we are gloriously cheap or, rather, on a budget. It took some time, but we finally found a guesthouse in Krabi that seemed like it would be perfect. One of the only negative reviews was that the owner of the guesthouse required your shoes be taken off before entering the building.
I was shocked that this was seriously listed as the negative drawback to a clean, friendly hostel. But, I also realized that this might be an issue for someone coming from the States. It’s completely normal to keep your shoes on in your and other’s houses. I didn’t realize I’d become so used to the Asian way of life in that regard.
It’s just so practical, though. It’s clean and inviting. If you ask people to take off their shoes, it’s like you’re welcoming them in, asking them to stay awhile. American culture can sometimes be so fast-paced that it forgets to slow down and enjoy. It forgets to ask people to just relax and take their shoes off.
America, let’s lose the shoes!
4. International Standard Clock
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked this same stupid question.
Random Person: “Grace, the meeting will be at eight’o’clock.”
My Stupid Question: “…Is that eight AM or PM?”
Random Person’s Obvious Response: “PM, of course.”
Maybe it is obvious to everyone but me, but I really struggle with knowing if people mean PM or AM. Certain times just seem a little ambiguous to me, I suppose. So, yes, life is a struggle. But then, I went overseas and life got better. Did you know they often, if not always, use the international standard clock over here? It’s fantastic.
For example, Leif and I get our papers for class printed by this lovely lady at our school. She knows no English and we know less than no Chinese. We’ve worked out a system though. She looks at the papers we hand her, smiles and nods. Then, we point to a date on the calendar and write down a time for us to pick up the papers.
She smiles and nods again, and off we go.
No AM or PM questions in a language we don’t know. Just time saved through time understood.
5. 1 Day Car Grounding
It’s no joke about China’s pollution problem. Today hit the glorious 500 mark on the air pollution index. It was a thick, brown fog that blanketed the city and caused even my students to wear masks. It’s been a week straight of this nonsense, so please pray for some rain.
One way the Chinese government has worked to combat pollution (and traffic problems) is giving all cars a one-day-a-week grounding. This means that your car is assigned a day when it simply is not allowed to be on the streets of Beijing. For those who are unfathomably wealthy, they just buy a second car. For the majority of Beijing-dwellers, this means they need to find another mode of transportation.
Beijing is the perfect city to enact a law of this magnitude. It has a beautiful metro system, timely buses, and easily found taxis. The most wonderful thing about people being unable to occasionally drive their cars is that, at some level, we are all together. We all get packed in like sardines into the subway cars. We all wait at bus stops for the bus with our number. And we all know the frustration of waiting for a taxi on cold curbs.
It causes even a metropolis like Beijing to have a feeling of community. I think we can all use a little of that, don’t you?
What other things do you think America should consider embracing? Leave a comment below.