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skeletons in the closet

ここでは、米国のホームステーで経験するかもしれない事項についてアドバイスしています。米国のskeletons in the closet(家庭内の秘密)と日本のskeletons in the closetとではどのような違いがあるのでしょうか。


Homestays and skeletons in the closet


Does your family have any skeletons in the closet? The expression, skeletons in the closet, refers to family secrets. Most families have skeletons in the closet, and sometimes, even within a family, people do not discuss the skeletons. These skeletons are the things that we do not want people to know about our families, and sometimes we pretend that the skeletons do not even exist.


In America, fewer skeletons live in closets these days as compared with fifty or a hundred years ago. Fifty years ago in America, a significant number of topics were secrets for many Americans: pregnancy outside of marriage, abortion, divorce, adoption, domestic violence, homosexuality, crime, gambling, cancer, and mental illness.


If you go to America and do a homestay, you may be surprised at all the details that you find out about your host family. Some of these details may be the kind of information that Japanese people would never tell anybody.


So, what does this mean to you when your host parents tell you that they are on their third marriage, their son/daughter is gay, or their niece/nephew has a drug problem?


If you do not know how to respond, the best response is to say, “I don’t know what to say.”


The reasons for the cultural shift in the United States are complex: Some people have begun to believe that keeping skeletons in the closet is not good for mental health. They believe that talking about the skeletons makes problems become smaller. Some believe that problems are a part of life. Being secretive about them is unnecessary.


Suppose we look at mental health for a minute. Here’s an example: Maybe sometime in your life you had a negative experience. Maybe you were upset and unhappy. Perhaps you talked to a friend. Because you talked about the experience, the experience seemed to become less terrible. Your friend was kind and said, “How terrible for you. I am so sorry.”


Your friend did not scold you or blame you. Your friend did not give you advice. Your friend simply listened with a kind attitude.


Yet, we’re not saying that talking about the experience makes the experience go away. We’re not saying that your friend’s gentle response made the experience go away. However, we are saying that the experience became less terrible because you talked about it. You did not stuff it into the closet next to the other family skeletons.


This kind of thinking about talking has produced a cultural shift in the verbal behavior of many individuals in the United States.


You may actually meet strangers who tell you their life stories and many such details that you may not want to know. Or, you may find such details fascinating.


Such open communication may be the future in Japan too. Compare the secrets in Japan to the secrets in America. It looks like Americans have no secrets. Of course, this is not accurate. Many have secrets. Years ago, a larger percentage of Americans, like Japanese today, had more secrets.