Largely American

Transmitter wrote this around lunchtime:

When living in another country, it’s always obvious that you’re somewhere other than home. It’s usually such an apparent fact that it hardly even comes to mind. The foreign experiences are just part of the environment and hardly ever receive more than an, “oh, that’s different.”

However, sometimes something happens, a profound difference, that illustrates boundless cultural gaps and the overall social immaturity of America. When I was in Japan, Coca-Cola expanded my understanding. Like Newton naming gravity: it was there all along, I just didn’t know what to call it.

I was walking through Tokyo and needed a drink. Fortunately for me and my thirst, there are vending machines everywhere. I walked up to a Coca-Cola machine. The machine had two different sizes of coke, one that was about half the size of a regular can (very cute and Japanese like) and another that was one and half times bigger than the average. They were both the same price. I was confused. Why would someone buy the smaller one when they could get more soda for the same price? I posed this question to my Japanese friend, who was exploring the city with me. She looked at me with equal confusion, as if I’d just asked her why things fall down, and she said, “You’d buy the smaller one if you’re only that thirsty.”

“Of course!” I thought. Buying the soda wasn’t about size or value; it was about quenching your thirst. Why buy the bigger one if you’re not that thirsty? It was so simple a concept and so un-american. “Take only what you need.” Our society has been trained to buy massive amounts of everything. “Buy bulk and save.”

I realized then that Japan and America aren’t different becuase their toilets have more features than a luxury car or because they drive on the left side of the road or because they’ve maintained a homogeneous population. We’re different because we take everything we can. We take more than we need. We grow large.