I'm not some flag-waving, Bush-loving, warmonger patriot who bleeds red, white and blue. I don't hate the United States or anything but I've never been one to shy away from critiquing my homeland. However, no matter how educated and cosmopolitan I may fancy myself, being in a foreign country always reinforces that there is an innate "American-ness" rumbling around somewhere inside me.
(Quick side note: many Argentinians hate when people from the United States call themselves Americans because South Americans are also from the Americas. It's a valid point, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going to use "American" in reference to people from the United States.)
One American notion that has come up repeatedly is the idea of personal space. Those of us from the United States LOVE personal space. Maybe it's caused by suburban living conditions that encourage people to fence themselves off from one another. Perhaps our woefully puritan social history is to blame or simply an unhealthy fear of germs. Regardless, Americans like to operate as if they were surrounded by an invisible box. Unnecessary touching is a definite no-no.
That's not the case in Argentina. People here have no invisible box, and they're all about touching. Living in Buenos Aires means people literally running into you on the street. Strangers on the bus will not make an effort to avoid physical contact. At the clubs no one is going around you when you're getting down on the dancefloor. Most telling is the customary greeting - a kiss on the cheek. Clearly, that would never fly in the United States, the land of firm handshakes where hugs are only acceptable for the closest of friends.
This little examination isn't meant as a declaration of what set of social customs is better. One American quality I loathe is the constant need to declare ourselves "the best". Other peoples and places are just different and it's interesting to explore that sometimes. I may long for personal space on the bus but all the kisses on the cheek from girls I barely know ain't too shabby either. It's just different.
However, in recent days I have stumbled across something on YouTube that makes me proud to be an American. It's an unmistakably American tribute to our history and the father of our country. Watch and swell with pride.