Jumbo Exchange: Capitalism around me

As of today, I count 228 days of staying in the States. Although that seems like a relatively short period of time to judge, I’m starting to understand and feel attached to many aspects of the country. Of them, I’d like to discuss capitalism in the States. When you think of capitalism, the American dream, Wall Street or disparity in wealth might come to your mind. What I’d like to talk about today is, however, daily occurrences of capitalism.

Let me start with the example of Tufts shuttles. With very few exceptions, most of the shuttles are quite huge and designed to carry a lot of people at once, fully equipped inside with tiny-but-big-enough seats without wasting space. On the flip side, the shuttles’ quality is quite low, which causes them to sway in all directions and make uncomfortable noises all the time as they are extremely sensitive to uneven road surfaces. This means the shuttle service is not focused too much on people riding it, but on how effectively they can carry people.

From this, I sense a characteristic of U.S. capitalism: Its primary concerns are efficiency and productivity. This idea is flipped opposite back home in Japan, where user satisfaction tends to be prioritized in many cases. Initially, I used to be annoyed by the noises and discomfort of the shuttles, but it kind of has grown on me and I’m sure I will miss it when I return home.

Now, imagine that you came to buy groceries in Davis Square by taking the Joey. In an American supermarket, which tends to be really big, there are various types of goods, from veggies and meat to snacks and everything else. However, if you look carefully, you’ll notice they are always the same items. It means you cannot often find new products like some new, edgy flavor of potato chips, or limited-edition items like the cherry blossom-flavored Pepsi sold only during spring, which is happening back home. You always only see the same few items there.

As a business model, the American way is better for profitability, due to the cost reduction from standardizing popular items, but at the same time, it can feel boring. To be fair, though, I really appreciate its stable aspect in that you can always get what you intend to get, unless it is sold out. In addition, thanks to this characteristic, I think I have come to spend less time shopping because I no longer have to explore around the shop to find newly released items.

These characteristics are tiny, trivial things in daily life. Even so, they seem to reflect the very essence of people’s culture and way of thinking, and therefore it always attracts my interest. Also, it is quite interesting to see the comparison of any type of cultural difference between here and back home. Every time I encounter or make this sort of comparison, I feel great because it is what I could not experience unless I studied abroad here.


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