Life in America

Differences: USA vs Philippines

The first week was very tough. I found myself crying when I woke up on my second day in America and the next days after that. I guess, it finally dawned on me I am away from home: where I grew up my entire life.  I miss everything from food to noise to malls to jeepneys  (mode of transportation in the Philippines) and especially my family and friends. So many realizations hit me about life, my family back there and my future. “It’s all different now.” I thought to myself.

So on my verge of homesickness, I’ve noticed a lot of differences between Philippines and America. I know I have to record them because time will come I will stop seeing or will no longer notice them because whatever is new to me now will become familiar and I guess that means the transition have become complete. So I sure won’t pass this opportunity while I can.

  • Generally, there’s less or not much people.

My husband told me when he first came to Philippines to meet me. If there’s one word to define the Philippines or even our culture in just one blink of an eye. Guess what is it? I know it wouldn’t come as a surprise.. he said it’s the word “compact”. He noticed how much we love to ride even the jeepney or the bus is full and especially don’t mind how physically close we are to strangers aka the other passengers. How we can fit in such a small space is a mystery to him. On the contrary, Americans he said.. ‘loves SPACE” so much! Whenever we go to groceries, it still baffles me where are the people? I definitely don’t mind checking out that fast though.

  • Too quiet

Sometimes it’s so deafening I swear I play my Spottify everyday now. This is something that Filipinos surprisingly miss. I mean come on those sound of jeepneys I grew up hearing most of the day in my first 20 something years of existence, in comparison I felt like living in a ghost town now (Ha-I am even living in a city!). That is really big considering it came from an introvert like me, who should be loving the less or no stimuli environment at all. Honestly though, those background noises of jeepneys, street dogs barking, people walking and talking in the streets are just few examples of what Philippines vibes is all about. It gives you the feeling of “you’re not alone” with best intentions.

  • Time/Clocks

This is an obvious difference but I mean this is a big factor when it comes to adjustment. It doesn’t help at all that you are already feeling deadly homesick then booom- you’re confused with time. Ironically, there is scarcity of clocks in American houses like I don’t see them as many as often in comparison with Filipino houses, to think that Americans are known for being always on time while Filipinos are notorious for being always late- thus the infamous “Filipino time”. So when me and my husband went out shopping for house items. Clock was on my top list.

The Filipinos also has a habit of thinking, “others will be late so I will just come late as well instead of being too early” so we would do fun stuff first while looking at the big clock in the living room until we decide it’s time to go there and note that we go there late on purpose. So the tip to arrange meeting with Filipinos, if you want to meet them at 8 in the morning.. be sure to count 1 hour in advance like tell them be there at 7 in the morning and most likely your friends will show up by 8. Hah, just in time.. right! Filipino sense of time is strange plus add our love of clocks.. sure, it won’t really makes sense.

  • Frozen food here is surprisingly good.

I didn’t know that frozen food can be this good. At first, the thought of buying frozen food that can survive for long months or even more than a year is scary for me. I’m like.. “is that even edible?” I am also uneasy with the idea of microwaves. I heard horror stories about it in the Philippines. Like they said, it’s not safe, it’s better to reheat the food in a pan. Well, the thing is.. in the Philippines, anything you reheat doesn’t taste good anymore, this is very true with our fried food. Our frozen food also has a very short shell life, this is because of our climate ‘coz we don’t have the dreaded winter so our frozen food is just like made on a whim.  Hmm,  I have to admit that here in America, I can really taste the difference. The ingredients cannot deny their quality. My husband told me that the next best thing than the fresh itself would be its frozen equivalent. Hah, I love it when we buy frozen food and I don’t worry so much about the expiration dates because you don’t really think about them anymore. That’s the part of a good life here: they still taste that good.

  • When the sun sets

In the Philippines, the sunrise and the sunset is usually  almost the same time everyday. Same thing with the seasons there, even though we have rainy season but feels like its summer all year round. It still amazes me that the sun sets at around 9 in the evening here while in the Philippines.. it’s usually always around close to 6 in the evening. We are near the equator so its 12 hours usually for both the day and the night. The amount of activities you can do here are a lot than it is there.. sometimes I felt so deadly tired ‘coz the daytime for me felt like it was extended. Aha- yep, typically for us Filipinos the sun translates to “daytime” so whenever it gets dark, it means.. “sleeping time soon” or “should head home”. Now that I adjusted a bit, I love it that we can still do things after his work like even going somewhere. Literally its like a “borrowed time” for me. More time to have fun.. than just sleep.


  • Love of anything BULK and BIG

I remember myself always asking my husband every time I want something in the grocery.. “is there a smaller version of this?” or “can I just have one piece of this?” It still shocks me on how big the smallest food items from coffee to creamers to ice cream to chips. I mean I can’t find “sachets” in here or just any smaller sizes. We first went to the usual groceries then to Walmart which have slightly bulkier items then hail the queen of bulk named Sam or just simply known as “Sam’s Club”. At first, my mind still can’t grasp why.. like why would people want to buy a LOT all at once. In the Philippines, it’s like a crime to buy big sizes of grocery items. You only buy them if there are big occasions or other reasons like ‘coz you just have a big family. Even then, the biggest sizes in the Philippines are somewhat considered small here. Hmm, what I’ve noticed though, in Filipino’s mindset to buy in big sizes is like wasting money, which is when you want to save money it is equivalent to buying in small sizes like sachets of coffee, milk, shampoo and conditioner. Here in America, buying in bulk and in bigger sizes actually not just saves you money but also time. Americans don’t have time to always go in the grocery like Filipinos are. They have generally busier lives than us (effect of a lot higher employment rate). So buying in bulk means you have a lot of food in the house for about two weeks or more.

  • Service

The service here in the United States is really fast and the staff are very courteous like anywhere you go. It’s weird for me at first why would they ask how are you every time. That small talks are also very normal and people are just genuinely nice. I feel so shy whenever someone asks me if how I am but actually this is also one of the things I like in America. Fast service, efficiency and courteousness. Who doesn’t like that? But this is also why giving tips is common here in United States and in the Philippines, the idea of giving tips is still kinda bizarre in a way speaking from a middle class family. We do give tips but rarely and it’s why don’t expect having exceptional service if you are eating out in the Philippines. Which sometimes, you really have to call their attention many times and still you look as if invisible to them. Again, this is a test of patience.. that is what I told to my husband when he was there.

  • Aircon and heater

Oh gosh, one of the best adjustment for newcomers like me here in the United States would be the 4 seasons. Honestly, I am really excited that finally I can see snow this coming winter. Although, mind you.. it’s still summer here in my part of the world BUT I ended up hugging the blanket more than I hug my husband in the morning. Our house has an aircon which is on or running 24/7 and when it gets colder outside like during winter the system automatically becomes a heater. This is something that I still need to learn, its so new for a Filipina like me who only knows summer and rainy season, to grasp the concept of insulation system and whatnot. Houses are designed differently here, from the tubing or water system to roofs, walls, floors, ceiling, chimney and others. It’s like a complicated system to me until now though I’m sure if you are born here, it’s viewed as a common knowledge.

  • Traffic and Parking

One time my husband complained about the rush hour traffic and I’m like.. “huh, is this a traffic.. how come our car is still moving?” My idea of a traffic means you are stuck like literally stuck for 20 minutes at least! I am actually thinking that even if Philippine houses are richer in clocks than its American counterparts, due to huge traffic problems this messes up with our sense of punctuality too. A typical hour ride can take another hour just purely due to traffic. So being late in the Philippines is common unless it’s a very important appointment that you don’t want to mess up with. Here in the United States, parking is not that bad, it’s very organized than it is in the Philippines where parking system is a lot messier like you can park at the side of the road. Note that roads are also very narrow and that we don’t have speed limits at all. Just imagine.. I always tell my husband Filipinos has a test of patience everyday. Tip: Bring your music player with headset if your riding a jeepney and stuck in a traffic. It will save your soul. Trust me.

  • Baking/Oven

I can’t believe how easy it is to bake here in my new home. I’ve always love the idea of making some pies and cookies. In the Philippines, from my experience it seems hard to find ingredients fit for baking even the tools to use. Not much options compared to what it is here. It seems to me that baking has a big role  in American cuisine or in American homes. Filipinos love frying and if not most of our food has a broth in it. So whenever we bake, it means its really extra special or there’s really a big occasion. We felt like there’s a lot to do when it comes to baking from buying ingredients up to really making it. People do it usually for business but not for an everyday meals kind of thing. So I am so happy that finally one of my dreams come true. I can bake anytime and my sweet tooth couldn’t be happier.

  • Restaurants

Time to talk about restaurants. I do know even back in the Philippines that American food is known for being big. Still, it was a big surprise for me to see an authentic American food up close and personal. One word to describe the whole experience of my first encounter was “huge”. It was huge! Like just seeing it in all its splendid glory is enough for me to make me feel full although I haven’t take my first bite yet. Of course I ate, I was still hungry. I can say that its 3-5 times bigger than the usual Filipino restaurant food sizes. I’m not even talking about our humble Turo-turo which is known for very small servings. Also, what amazes me more is that how generous they are with drinks. Lemonade or Coke for example is refillable here. Even the yummy creamy milk shake I had was refillable. This is something I like here in America because oh well ‘coz I have a monstrous appetite- so it serves me well (good luck to me!) Hmm, still we end up taking home most of our order and eating left overs for days is just half the fun. Did I also say vegetables here in the United States is really good? If not, then I just said it. Like, finger licking good. Yum.

  • Dim Lights

If Filipino houses usually have white or  bright LED lights, the Americans are really into yellow or dim lights. This one gave me a hard time adjusting as well. Hey, I grew up in a house in which all the lights are lit up during the night. We do turn it off sometimes if we feels like it especially when watching a movie BUT I got really homesick one time when its already night time (and literally dark outside) but still my husband doesn’t turn all the lights (I also want to save electricity) and to my dismay or to top it all.. still even when you turn all the lights in our house, it’s still not bright enough. I asked him one time “why is it that the lights here in America are yellow?” Like it’s a light, why can’t you just choose which is bright like for example a WHITE one? He was so calm to explain to me that Americans just want their nights to look like a real night. Plus, yellow lights gives them that nostalgic and comforting feeling and it’s not blinding.. he said. I felt like a blind though for so many nights as I walked through the hallway of our house, holding my phone for me to see where the heaven I am going. I am so used with bright lights at night that when its really dark, my eyes are having a hard time adjusting though it’s not that dark.. really. But still.. okay, I’m not gonna argue anymore. 

  • Equipment and Packaging

This one gave me a hard time too. When my husband is at work, I am the one who is in charge with everything house related. Although, I remember him giving me few instructions on how to do stuff like how to run the vacuum, coffee maker, coffee grinder, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher sometimes you just tend to forget those teeny tiny details- you know. So for you not to follow my destiny that I danced through the kitchen all in the hopes of finding how to run a coffee grinder (‘coz I hid somewhere the container which I didn’t know it’s supposed to be its body part or ‘coz I have no idea why the dishes weren’t cleaned even though I am positive I got the thing running, all ‘coz I forgot to put the dish-washing liquid in it in the first place).  That’s why its so imperative to let your husband give you few orientations before jumping on anything. I remember how overwhelming it is for me, I told my husband “information overload” when he tells me on how to run a thing. A simple thing. I mean, why do I have to relearn things? oh yep.. I moved to another country now.

I am in America. Things here are different. Let’s say 90% much more advanced than Philippines. I felt like drowning in information.

I also remember getting annoyed ‘coz I can’t open a dish-washing liquid. A fricking dishwashing liquid, are you kidding me?! I was like what’s with these packaging.. it’s all very secured. It’s like they don’t want to be open at all. Are Americans this paranoid about containers? I felt so dumb and frustrated and mind you, all I sincerely want to do is just clean. Believe me, I just want to clean. To make our house feel like home to me. That is all.

My husband told me that packaging in America are really designed for that. To be NOT that accessible and it is for a good reason. Not to mess with newcomers from different parts of world (or maybe it is too) but especially for the safety of young children. I can attest to that, the cleansers are really strong or powerful not the ones I typically used in the Philippines. So these are very hazardous chemicals which should be kept away at all times from the young ones. With the help of advanced equipment, it really makes like easier. I can do more things than just spend the whole day cleaning.

As of now, I don’t mind the differences like I used to. The new becomes familiar, so to speak. Most of all, I am proud to say I am an expert in running (most) of the equipment. Just forget the glitch that happened this last Sunday when my coffee maker won’t run because no one told me I can’t put milk/creamer in it. I mean, I want my coffee hot.. and adding creamer fresh from the refrigerator makes it cold. Anyway, I don’t know if I was just being dumb but all is going well for me now. I will continue reminding myself, microwave is my new best friend and that I can put my creamer in it so my coffee is finally hot. Over-all, life is good here in the United States for a Filipina like me.

NOTE: Differences varies a lot depending where you are in United States, I just happened to live in Midwest. So this reflections are based entirely on my own personal experience.




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