American Car Culture
ZooとThoughts is created to motivate your learning of English. A language is not only vocabulary and grammar, it is also grown from culture. By learning about culture, the language becomes even less foreign because you are able to understand the nuances within the vocabulary and grammar. If you are in a conversation with someone and you are discussing a topic it is important to understand the words they are saying, the context in which they are saying them, and the culture that helped shape that opinion. That’s what this page is meant to do – help you understand on a deeper level.
American car culture is definitely different from Japan. I just returned from Japan last Friday morning and there are things that I’m noticing more about American drivers now that I’m back in the states. Just this morning on my way to school, I was headed down a smaller road away from the main highway and there was a utility truck blocking my lane because he was fixing the power lines. If I was in Japan, I think I could have proceeded down the road, just used the opposite lane, and went around him, but in the US, that’s not a common thing to do. Probably because it’s just really dangerous and people don’t have the best focus in the morning, or evening, or anytime when they’re driving. The amount of people using their cellphones while driving here is making me insane. I have places to go, people to see, and this stupid-head in front of me is going 15 miles below the speed limit because they’re on their cell phone.
One of the things that I noticed while in Japan was, that it is completely okay for people other than the driver to point out things on the road and to caution the driver about what’s coming next. In the US, we call this ‘backseat driving’ and we don’t usually do it unless the situation could become extremely dangerous. I think that probably if you do this, the driver will yell at you and tell you to shut up. Really, we don’t like backseat drivers. In an American’s opinion, they know how to drive, they know where they’re going, and if somebody is backseat driving it just makes the driver really nervous. We feel like if you’re backseat driving then you’re critiquing the way we drive. So I was really surprised about that in Japan when I was driving around with my SO’s family and my SO and his mom would be saying, “来た！来た！” or “あぶない”。I think in the US, that would distract the driver more than help them.
Finally, the last thing in Japan that was new for me was the different colored license plates used to indicate the engine size of the car. Whenever we were traveling I would see cars with yellow tags or white tags, and I couldn’t figure out the difference until I asked somebody. Here in the US, there’s no distinction between a low power engine and a normal one. Everybody hates to get behind a moped because it’s like flying next to a fat mosquito that can’t get anywhere, but that’s probably the smallest engine on the road that I know of. We do make distinctions between cylinder and horsepower when we buy cars, and it’s either a part of the car’s design to say how many cylinders it has or it’s just general knowledge in the US. We tend to be car people. For example, my brother just bought a Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport extended cab V6 truck. It’s beautiful and big, very American, and definitely would not fit on the tiny roads in Japan.
Do you like driving in your country?
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One last tidbit! When you’re driving in Japan reading the hiragana on the license plate is a great way to practice your Japanese! So is japaneseaquarium.com! Come dive into Japanese studying with the same great comics from ZooとEigo! See you next time!
I want to know, what your thoughts on this culture point? Leave a comment below. Is it important to you? Do you have a deeper understanding now? Is it important in your culture or family culture? Please let me know what you think, what you would like to learn next! Please share this page with your friends so we can grow our community!