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Crossing Cultures Japanese Girls Find A World Of Difference Between The United States And Their Country

Jennifer Hayes, Gonzaga Prep Gra

Cheap movies. MTV. Mariner games. McDonald’s.

Such things are usually overlooked by teens, but to 29 Japanese girls staying in North Idaho this summer, they are part of nine exciting weeks in the Northwest.

The girls, ages 16 and 17, are staying with host families in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls through the Cultural Homestay International program and are attending classes and field trips as part of the Seattle-based American School of International Training/English Village program. The goal is to give them a taste of life in America.

Most teens in the area complain there is nothing to do, yet these young women have plenty to do and see.

Each morning they attend classes for three hours on topics such as American high schools, families, youth culture, diversity and food. Weekly outings have taken them to places such as Greenbluff, Silverwood, Lake Coeur d’Alene and Seattle.

One of their activities took them to downtown Coeur d’Alene, where they had to find an American teenager and interview him or her. Another, tied to a lesson on American music, had the girls learning line dancing.

In addition to their learning and sight-seeing, the girls have done volunteer work, including helping at a day care center and cleaning up part of the Centennial Trail.

They are timid and careful with their words. Conversations are filled with periods of silence. They speak in simple sentences.

They were amazed at how Americans say “hello” to perfect strangers on the street.

In Japan, displays of affection, even among families, are rare.

“When I was little my parents hugged me, but not now. I never see my parents hug or kiss. It is very different here. My host parents hug and kiss the kids very much,” said Yokiko Kimoto.

All of the girls are very career-oriented and say it is important for women to work outside the home.

Because of their career goals, nearly all say they need to be fluent in English.

“I want to be a teacher. I should learn English because some foreign students will need English. If I speak English it would be a great help,” said Chika Teasawa.

Several of the girls desire to be flight attendants while others are more interested in teaching Japanese to Americans or being in the movies.

American movies (and their stars) are very popular in Japan, yet the cost keeps them from seeing many. To see a movie in the theater costs $20 and to rent is $4. So as long as they are in America, the girls want to see many movies.

Why not? The girls say their American lifestyle is slower than the pace of Japan.

“In Japan we are very very busy, but in America we are not very busy,” said Emi Kawakatsu.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jennifer Hayes, Gonzaga Prep graduate

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