A Book Review and Free E-book for Your E-Book Library
Information about the book
- Title: American Ways – A Guide for Foreigners in the United States
- Writers: Gary Althen with Amanda R. Doran and Susan J. Szmania
- Edition: Second
- Publisher: Intercultural Press, Inc.
- Published in the United States of America
- Year of Publication: 2003
- ISBN: 1-877864-99-4
- Part I. General Ideas about American Culture (4 chapters)
- Part II. Specific Aspects of American Life (16 chapters)
- Part III. Coping with Cultural Differences (2 chapters)
Review (Written in the Perspective of Indonesian Culture)
Understanding the American Ways – The First Step to Get Succeeded
Indonesian people always give various responses when they hear the word ‘the United States’. Some will give positive responses by showing respect and some will give negative responses by stating various arguments and opinions. However, these differences are considered as a common thing for a larger society, a nation. In this case, the book written by Gary Althen provides a thorough point of view in understanding Americans and all things that relates to them that are also related to all Indonesians as the foreigners. As a wise man said, knowing a language is nothing without knowing the culture where the language is spoken and widely used. Therefore, as a reader and an academician, I suggest Indonesian students who want to study or just to have a visit in the United States to read this book. Why? After I read the book, I can see things which are the same as I am as an Indonesian, and things which are in a large number of cases different from who I am as an Indonesian.
The easiest part to deal with is knowing the things which are the same with Indonesian culture. In some ways, this can be hard as well, especially to those Indonesian people who never study or comprehend their own culture in a large extent. The life principle and frame of mind will be interfere with what they already believe inside. However, as I may see, Indonesian people always love their culture, especially students. The obvious similar thing seen in the United States is the diversity in terms of social life. The country has various aspect of social background, commonly deals with race, ethnic, and religion. In relation to this, people in the world always believe that the American people are open-minded people who might be able to respect differences and build strong positive ways in giving judgement over things happening in the society. For example, the case of Islam as the religion of terrorist. Why this thing happened? It happened because for a large number of reasons, American people only stand in their own place so they might never see the other aspect of the world. In that way, it is a good opportunity for Indonesian students. The keyword here is ‘show them, don’t tell’. There will be many American who never travel abroad to see different cultures as what we have as an Indonesian. If we can show them that we are also as good as they are, positive relationship is never far from realization. We respect the host country, the host country respects us too. At the end, the diversity will be a beautiful rainbow in the shining park with many delightful flowers.
Furthermore, things which are different from Indonesian culture are also important to know and understand. In Indonesia, someone may be valued or judged by the society and even the society can frame the person as bad or good based on the concept of ‘kekeluargaan‘ – a term that means ‘bond’. People in the United States often times respect individuality and privacy. These two things are not absolute but as long as we can cope with the rights of other people around us, individuality and privacy are always there. It means that we need to respect the law of the United States when we are in the country. Despite many differences that we may meet in the United States, maintaining good and positive friendship are always good start. Be yourself, be punctual, be open-minded, be honest, be responsible, be positive and be discipline are good things that can help us in the process of adjustment with the culture of the United States. However, we never need to be completely the same as all other Americans because they know that you are Indonesian. What you need to do is to be the way who you really are. In that way, they can learn something good from you, too. The bad thing is when an Indonesian student imitates all aspects of American life until s/he loses their identity. It is like ‘fish out of the water’. Do good things and avoid doing bad things are good start. If we never did this, the name of Indonesia and yourself will be in the negative situation.
In brief, the two similar and different things are happening today. However, to keep looking at the similarity will make the relationship between Indonesia and the United States relatively stronger and improve into positive condition in the future. Differences might be a great idea for both countries in terms of political, social and international affair bilaterally; nevertheless, differences can harm good relationship when this kind of thing is the first priority to be considered in making decision. Although government to government has been conducted fairly, person to person relationship will always be the greatest ways to strengthen the good relationship. By understanding the American ways, Indonesian people can understand what America and the Americans are. The same thing is also expected from the American that they can understand Indonesia and Indonesian in a whole aspect instead of only a sort of small point of view, like what had happened years ago. At last, the good relationship between Indonesia and the United States can last longer and give impact to both parties either for short-term or long-term, person to person or government to government.
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