Coming (back) to America

Perhaps I have to get use to this but a lot a people have asked me if I miss Japan or if I have experienced reverse culture shock.  My answer to both questions is a resounding “YES” but it got me pondering about how different things have become here in the states.  Indeed it is natural to want to highlight the political climate, technology, fashion, and other social trends but many of these are a given byproduct of time.  Some of the most obvious changes are the shared economy —  Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, and Turo are some of the biggest services in town that have changed how we live, work, and play. But it got me thinking, what else has changed, good or bad?

Some immediate “good changes” that come to mind include my observation that people are more environmentally-conscious than I remember.  To help cultivate this environment mindfulness, people are encouraged to bring their own bag when grocery shopping.  After living in a country that is very environmentally-driven, I appreciate this.  Somehow though I keep forgetting to bring my own bag and I consequently end up spending money on paper or plastic but someday it will click.  Note to self — keep a bag in the trunk of the car.  

Another big change that I have uncovered is home entertainment.  It is easier to cut the cord than ever before with the many online streaming services out there like YouTube TV, Hulu, and Netflix.  In the past it was literally impossible especially if you watched sports but now you have sophisticated options.  As someone who has been vocal that people should watch what they want when they want to, I’m happy to see that there are more options out there with high quality content.  Note to self — Check out Hulu content.  

I would be remiss to not mention sports.  Having moved to the Bay Area, it is virtually impossible to not hear about the Golden State Warriors and their marquee players like Stephon Curry and Kevin Durant.  And the Golden State Warriors are good, very good.  I remember when they were the bottom of the barrel in the league but now they are not only world champions but also a true dynasty having won 3 championships in the 4 years.  Moreover, their style of play has changed how basketball is being played all over the country.  Note to self — master the three pointer.   

But what seems to be overshadowed by the good are the things that are not so good.  When I was here back in the early 2000s, people seemed more engaged and less distracted.  People are too consumed and somewhat controlled by their cell phones everywhere: in their car, in the restaurants, at home, and in the office.  This has been a sobering reality that I am hopeful will change soon but I’m not going to hold my breath.  Note to self — be an example for others.  

But perhaps the biggest observation that I have after returning back to the states is that the gaps between haves and have nots seems to be widening. After living in Japan where everyone seems to have a fighting chance to make a working living, I have been saddened by how expensive it has become in the Bay Area.  The cost of living has always been an issue in places like Silicon Valley but I never thought it would come to a mind-numbing point.   This is something that needs to be addressed by not only policy makers but also tech companies as we are on an unsustainable trajectory.    Note to self — remain hopeful and vocal.  

Naturally I could probably keep on writing about my observations but I will refrain for right now.  While I am still adjusting to the American lifestyle, it’s been a very interesting and an informative few months.   A lot has remained the same but inevitably  a lot has changed both for the good and for the bad.  It is my hope and my working hypothesis that the good will be far greater than the bad for my family.



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