The paper covers one of the aspects of American culture and presents it from the side of a non-native observer who has never been in the USA. The part of culture is investigated and introduced from different sides and the comments of an observer are provided as well.
Every ethnic group has their own culture, something special and unique in their way of life and mentality. Sinking into the life of people who are culturally different and unknown for you may become an amazing experience for you. Observing the cultural heritage of any nation you can find some tradition or ritual which was born, established and developed by this particular people.
Scouting is a part of American culture and Scouts organization is very popular and known all over the world now. Organization the Boy Scouts of America was found in 1910 (Mechling, 2001). Originally scouting is associated with military but in reality the organization relies on patriotic and leadership values.
”˜Children Play Military Games’ or My First Encounter with American Culture
When I stepped on American land for the first time a strange and inspiring feeling occur to me. I was sure to find something unexpected and special here. Without wasting any time I left my things in the hotel and went outside to start my observation of the Americans. Almost everything: the way the people were dressed, the way they walked and talked, was strange to me. Though my knowledge of the language was quite good I could not understand many phrases and was not always able to get the idea of the conversation. After having made some observations in the city I decided that it was good to see their way of life in contrast and the people I met there advised me to go to a place with was a rural area and was located near a forest. It did not take me long to get there and soon I was walking and watching people’s life. I did not even notice how I found myself near the forest. And I was about to turn and to walk back to the living area as I heard a strange noise and lots of voices. I could not keep myself from going deeper into the forest to see what was going on there. When I walked deeper into the forest I saw a lot of boys. They were all about 13 or 14 years old, dressed in strange uniforms, looking like military ones. They were wearing shorts, shirts and caps and badges of the same color. Their strange behaviour contributed into my idea about a young army. Coming closer I could see that it was a camp. It was amazing to watch all this as a couple of minutes ago I could watch a quiet atmosphere of the rural area and people living like many others in the world. And I wondered why those children were in the forest, wearing that strange uniform. What was the aim and the idea of all that. I came up to a group of boys who were busy preparing food and made an attempt to talk to them. But they answered my questions very briefly or tried to ignore me. I felt as if they had a special mission and they were focused on their task only without noticing what was happening around them. Then I asked them if I could stay and watch them or may be take part in their activities. They replied that I could only watch them. I did it. I could see that all of them were divided into some small groups and each group had their special task. They tried to fulfil it as soon as possible. I could observe that they were mostly engaged with sport competitions, climbing, making fires and singing their special songs. I was amazed how well they worked together. Their team spirit was really striking. While I was staying with them I could talk to several boys and I noticed that they had ranks, so some of them were considered superior and more experienced. One evening I was present at their special ritual. It was the ceremony of Eagles. The event was aimed at awarding the most experienced boy with badges giving them the rank of ”˜Eagles’. It was so ceremonious and serious for such young children. They had their leaders and obeyed their orders. Everything was organised in a serious and perfect manner. I was trying to apply to my previous experience to understand what was going on better. And I should not that I could only compare them to Russian pioneer organization. There was something common in these two units. Both are patriotic and solid. However, pioneers did not have military orientation. They had high moral and patriotic values, while these children had some military spirit which was reflected in their activities, behaviour and rituals.
At last I had a chance to talk to one of the leaders and he explained me that I was at Boy Scouts camp which was US well-known and traditional organization for youth.
I could not forget that experience as it could not be compared with any other aspect of US culture. Language and manner of speaking, black humor, emotionality and openness, value of privacy and way of dressing did not amaze me so much as those young but so motivated children.
Boy scouting has a long history in the US and is originally American organization. It has its units all over the world but US keeps the oldest and the most ideologically oriented traditions of scouting (Macleod, 2004). Organization has its statute, aims, ideology, rituals, uniform and makes children feel a part of some special entity (Perry, 2008). Organization promotes positive values and plays one of the key roles in American children education. This aspect of American culture involves particular ideology, representing American special mentality, certain rituals and uniform and badges as the symbols of their cultural tradition.