In 2014, my mind was made up in immigrating to the US. I was anxious, happy and excited all at the same time. I have learned a lot of facts as a new comer. Here are some of the things I have learned since I came.
The “STATES”. You don’t really consider the name “United States” much if you have never lived in the U.S. Each state is like its own country and many are completely different from each other. Some have very different weather like Alaska where half the year is a dark winter and Arizona which is a huge desert with 120(f) degree weather. Altitudes are diverse with some states like Colorado in mountainous elevations of 6000 feet and Louisiana, as state that is at or below sea level in some areas. The populations and land areas vary from state to state. For example, Rhode Island is a very small state while California has more land area and people than many countries. The racial demographic is
different because you can go to the Midwestern states and not see many Asian people but if you go to China Town in San Francisco, California there are mostly Asian people. And if you go to Miami in Florida or East L.A. in California you will hear a LOT of people speaking Spanish. People even behave different in each state. People in Hawaii are pretty laid back and chill while New Yorkers tend to be very fast pace and worldly.
Big difference between North America and South America. Ok, you may already know this but many people who have never been to America do not give it much thought. What are the differences between South and North America? How come it is divided but both are called America. It is strange. North America contains “United States of America” and “Canada” while South America contains countries like Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and many other countries.
First world problems. Americans complain about issues that someone from a developing country would not consider a problem. They are first world problems because they are not issues you would have the opportunity to complain about in most developing counties. Issues like: Cannot find your car among a sea of cars in the mall’s parking lot, or bought the wrong kind of milk, or getting the wrong brand of filtered water, or the store is temporarily out of iPhones or “slow” Internet connection. In developing counties, most people don’t have cars. They are lucky if they have any kinds of milk (or a refrigerator), sometimes there is no clean water to drink and most people cannot afford an iPhone. One example from my own life is my husband complaining about the “Heavy traffic” that lasted for 2 minutes. In the Philippines when we say heavy traffic, that means being stuck for 20 minutes to an hour with wheels NOT moving.
People are nice in their own way. In the American Midwest, it is not uncommon for random strangers to greet you in the street. They might say, “Good morning.” or “Good Afternoon” or even strike up a conversation with you. I always thought Americans were cold but no they are not. They just tend to mind their own business. Many people here are very nice. So far, I can see that many are very good at socializing and show amazing manners in public.
Opening doors for each other. In the US, there is a custom where people open doors for each other. If you are walking out of a store, and someone is right behind you, no matter who it is you are expected to keep the door open until they grab it or walk through. It is consider rude to let a door slam in someone else’s face. In the Philippines, this is usually done only for pregnant women, elders and disabled people.
Giving way to pregnant woman or with children. In walking anywhere in town, if there is a woman with kids or pregnant, always give way and make them pass first. My husband said that a few times as I kept forgetting. In ph, we give way to disabled and elderly.
HUGE Variety of food. Since there are so many cultures represented in the U.S. there are so many types of cuisines from all over the world. Americans take the dish and “americanize” them. The results of Americanization may vary. Sometimes it makes the food better and sometimes worse. I guess each is a matter of opinion. But the great thing about the adoption of other cultures food is that Americans REALLY, REALLY appreciate the authentic and original dish. So restaurants that cater to that demand do well in the US.
Prepackaged Preservatives. Convenience is sold in packages. I am talking about frozen foods, canned foods and microwaveable foods. You can eat Cordon Bleu even if you cannot afford to go out to a fancy restaurant. They sell it all in Walmart, King Soopers or Safeway. It may not be as good as the one in your favorite restaurant but it’s already a great deal for someone who does not cook well. Many vegetables and fruits are sold in a can. I would say it is so easy here to be unhealthy. The good news is that it is very convenient. The bad news is that it is not always healthy.
The contrast between human size in South East Asia and America is huge. Obesity is like an epidemic disease in the US and you can see it everywhere. To say that it is extreme is an understatement. With the convenience of fast, cheap, junk food available everywhere, it is easy to see why so many here are overweight. It takes more willpower to say now to the extra salts and sugars.
Kindness is a natural thing to do. It’s like a trend. There are so many charitable institutions and organizations here. Again, something Americans really take for granted because you don’t see this a lot in developing countries. It is so visible to the public and advertised in the magazines and TV. It comes natural to most people here in the US. I hear a lot about sites such as gofundme.com and kickstarter where people are donating to help not only inventors, innovators and small business but individuals in need.
Everyone has a car. Cars are so common here that it looks so strange to see someone waiting for a bus. I always thought there must be a deep reason why they have to catch a bus. A car here is affordable if you have a job. Gas is cheap. And it is a must to have a car because everything is far away.
More Opportunity for Less Effort.
In the Philippines even if you have a high level degree it is possible to remain jobless. The competition for even average jobs such as fast food is so fierce that many have to go to another country on a limited visa to have an income that will support two generations. In America, I noticed people can get a decent job with a decent salary even if they do not have a college degree. Having one is only a choice but not the main focus. Americans can have the option to be successful or not but still gain respect. In the Philippines, you gain respect for your achievements in life.
Some extremely negative people lost in first world problems would say that the “American Dream” is dead and gone. But from the perspective of an immigrant coming from a developing country, it is easy to see that not only does the opportunity to still exist to live comfortably in the U.S. but there is still opportunities for great success for anyone willing to work hard. You can blame others for your misfortune and make excuses about why you cannot achieve. Or you can “keep your eyes on the prize” as one great American gospel song chimes. For immigrants lucky enough to come to America, appreciation and gratefulness are often what we feel after experiencing life in the United States.
It is the year 2015. America remains a play ground for those who are willing to innovate and make big dreams come true. The American dream exists but not for the lazy, not for the complacent, and not for the negative.. for these poor, broken people there is no “American Dream”. The American dream is only for “the great” and being great is a choice you can make every day one step at a time.