Thursday, February 20, 2014

Culture Shock

Photo taken from here.

One of my Facebook friends requested that I list down the things that shocked me when I first set my foot on American soil. I admit, there were a lot of things that were somewhat odd to me, but they were not necessarily shocking. Most of them were quite understandable since America is considered a first world country compared to where I came from.

Here's my list. It wasn't at all that shocking for me during that time. I should call this as "big differences," but, "culture shock" is the term commonly used for such initial reaction. So, that's how I'm calling it here.

1. Fish or Seafood - They are expensive here compared to the fish sold in the Philippines. In fact, most of the seafood in the Philippines are cheaper. I belong to a fishing family (meaning, I grew up having parents who had a fishing business). We get free fish almost all the time. If I would put a price tag on those free fishes, it would cost thousands of U.S. dollars here in California. I was spoiled with different kinds of fish back home. Not having them here made me adjust to eating sandwiches. I found canned sardines at first and ate those, because I was not used to eating sandwiches, pasta, and salads for a whole meal. Fish and rice became a once in a week thing for me. Worse, once a month.

2. Seatbelt - It's a must to wear seatbelts here, or else you'd be fined by $160. (It used to be $50 when I arrived in 2001, I researched the new fine fee.) We have jeepneys and motor-tricycles in the Philippines. They don't have seatbelts there. I had to remind myself to always buckle up when riding a car here in California. I did ride taxi cabs back home, but never did I buckled myself with the seatbelt. It's better unbuckled to avoid shady taxi cab drivers, but not here.

3. Shower - No matter how big the house we had in the Philippines, somehow we had giant water containers inside our bathroom and a small pail to pour water on ourselves with instead of using the shower head. Our housemaids boil water for us and mix it in the giant water container with cold water to make it lukewarm/warm enough for bathing in the morning. Here in California, all the shower heads work well. It's heaven not to use the small pail to pour water on top of my head. *grins*

4. Umbrella - In the Philippines, rain or shine we use an umbrella. Here, it's only used when it's raining. One time I used an umbrella here when the sun was up. One of my Filipino friends handed it out to me to use. People looked at us with a weird frown. Worse, they giggled. That was the last time I used an umbrella when the sun was up. *laughs*

5. Whitening/Tanning - In connection with the umbrella, I discovered that Californians love the sun. They prefer to tan or have a darker tone of skin, whereas in the Philippines people use skin whiteners to lighten up their skin tones. I originally have a real dark brown tone. My parents bleached my skin when I was 16. I hated it, but of course the outcome was great. I couldn't go out, though. So, when I got here, I went to the beach right away and sunbathed. It's what I call freedom! And, of course I do use sunblock. I don't like pale skin. I love my dark brown self.

6. Wash/Dry Machines - When I was in the Philippines, I only wash clothes manually. Bare hands! We scrub, we twist, we rub-a-dub-dub until it's all wrinkled, wet, and clean. But here, you switch on the washing machine, pour detergent in, put clothes in, and close the top. Voila! Same with the dryer. It's so easy. Now, if only someone invents the folding machine, that'd be perfection! Meh, nothing's perfect.

7. Internet Cafes - Not everybody owns a computer back home. Not everybody can afford it, especially the internet connection. So, when I left, I remembered that there were a whole bunch of internet cafes serving the masses in need of internet connection. Pay by the hour or additional half hour just to be connected. Here, everybody has computers. It's free to use a computer at the public library (as long as you have a library card which is only given to residents). Hi-tech! Internet connection is everywhere as small as the size of a cellphone. Wi-fi connection galore! They're free, too! When I arrived here, it was like stepping into a different world, like in a book. From medieval to sci-fi, extremes. I wouldn't be surprised if a flying car zooms by one of these days.

8. Birthdays - In the Philippines, I experienced that if it's my birthday, I'd be the one to throw a party and invite friends. As a birthday celebrant, I'd feed my guests and make them enjoy the party. I grew up knowing birthday parties just like that. So, when I arrived here and got invited to a birthday party for the very first time, I was totally shocked when someone asked me for my share of the bill. Obviously, I didn't tell them what I thought was the correct way. I complied and gave money. But it was so bizarre that I didn't attend any birthdays for a long while. HaHaHa On a serious note, don't get me wrong. I'm not stingy. I just don't like heart-attacks.

9. Housemaids - This is totally not a culture shock for me. I grew up having a whole bunch of housemaids in our house. I don't understand why there's a need for housemaids really. When I arrived here, I did all my house chores. It's a great thing being able to move around and accomplishing little things on my own. Independence at its finest. It keeps one grounded. It's one of the best things here. Work hard!

Well, that's about what I could recall at this point. Maybe, I'll write a part two if I remember something, but for now, this is it. If you relocated or migrated yourself, what's your culture shock?


  1. We really are spoiled here. But for the housemaid thing....that was only reserved for the well off people. My ex husband's mom didn't work but they also had a maid b/c he was very upper middle class. The housekeeper cleaned so that my ex MIL could host her bridge parties. Fish never used to be expensive....growing up on Cape Cod it was very abundant. Of course I never much cared for fish unless it was extremely mild like sole or halibut. Shellfish used to be real cheap too but now you buy a lobster and it's insanely expensive.

    1. I did experience the "well-off" life, and I actually didn't like it. In fact, I didn't like how the "rags to riches" event affected my parents. I've seen how greed worked its way in their heads, and I've seen how they treated poor people. It was not something I'd want to do. I'm happier having less money living a simple life. Who would've thought that I'd consider stickers to be my precious treasures? *wide grin*

  2. You had to PAY at a birthday party?!?! Was someone taking out the birthday person? Around here, unless there is a group of friends taking out the birthday girl/guy for dinner or drinks, the person throwing the party pays! If there is a group of friends who are taking out their friend with the birthday, then everyone pays BUT the birthday girl/guy.

    1. I paid, but I was invited to attend. I don't know the whole group that well. So, yes, it was a big surprise on my part. I didn't know it happens. So, right now, I just ask directly, "Do I need to bring cash or food?" I like it straight-forward. I hate surprises.


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