Everything felt surreal when I moved to the United States in November 2013. I was so excited to finally be with the love of my life after eight months of separation but at the same time sad because I’ll be leaving my two kids behind for a few months. It was hard, but it was a decision I had to make to ensure that everything will be easy and safe when they come here. For all we know, “love of my life” could have been a crazy, serial killing pedophile living a double life…scary right?! Other than that, we also wanted a few months to ourselves, to get to know each other better and enjoy couplehood.
It was my first time in the US but not my first time to travel abroad. I remember, the thought of permanently staying here for God knows how long and speaking English 24/7 gave me chills! I tried to keep it cool though. I didn’t want people to think I don’t belong here. But no matter how hard we try to hide it, immigrants will surely experience major culture shocks at one point or another. So I’ve narrowed down a list of my first moments of culture shock in the United States.
1. The first fast food restaurant I went to was In-N-out and of course I’ve been to several others since then. I remember thinking, they only have burgers? Where’s the buffet of choices I was so used to seeing in fast food chains in the Philippines? Where’s the rice?😋
2. Kids here converse like adults. They’re even introduced properly and included in conversations. Back home, kids are simply ignored, unless they’re super cute!☺️
3. Food in the US is served in BIG portions!
4. Free soda refills! In the Philippines, there’s an additional charge for “bottomless” drinks.
5. Here, they use paper towels for everything. They don’t bother keeping a rag. Back home, we have a countless supply of dirty rags.😁
6. Americans are friendly and polite. Cashiers often ask how I am, how’s my day doing or something. Back in the Philippines, they just ring your items and go about their business quietly. Also people here say excuse me, thank you and please as they look you in the eye. Back in carabao land, unless you want to be mistaken for a pervert or weirdo…you don’t make small talk to strangers and look them in the eye!😆
7. For the most part, drivers follow rules here in the US and flow of traffic is orderly. Hello?! no jeepneys!😜
8. In the US, there are many people living alone vs. in the Philippines where people live in multigenerational homes and have strong family ties. Not to mention, childcare is never an issue because either there’s an endless supply of nannies or Uncle is home doing nothing. 😆
9. Ads for legal services. I just have to point this out because I remember I was so shocked when I first saw a billboard of a lawyer advertising himself and his services. In the Philippines it’s considered unethical.
10.When I left the Philippines, online shopping was just starting to make its footprint in the society. Here in the US however, it has been going on for many years now. It’s not only convenient, you can also buy almost anything online! But I must warn you, it’s addictive!
11. Up to this day, I’m still in awe about how easy it is to return items you bought either online or in store. Just bring the items to the store or ship them back to the retailer and they’ll give you a full refund. No questions asked , no judgments. I know I’ve lied a few times just to be able to return items in the Philippines.😬
12. Here, only the rich can afford live-in nannies and helpers because they’re ridiculously expensive. In the Philippines, we can afford to have 2 or more…a day shift or a night shift, a cook, housekeeper, a laundry lady or just someone to hold your purse or umbrella.🤗
I say everyone experiences many forms of culture shock when traveling or moving into different countries and culture. However, it is how we deal with it and help others with the transition that make a difference.
How about you? Do you have any culture shock experiences you want to share? Please feel free to voice out your thoughts and comment below.😉👇
KC & a truckload of hugs and kisses💋
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29 thoughts on “My First 12 Moments of Culture Shock in the US…”
Hi KC, Welcome to America. I found your list of 12 culture shock
moments interesting, as my wife of 28 years is from the Philippines. I asked her what shocked her the most about moving to America, & she told me : ” dogs have names” ! (Which I thought was funny). God bless & protect you. Russel
I’m glad you liked it, Russel. Thank you so much! But yes, I totally get her! Although our dogs do have names in the Philippines, most people name their dogs based on the color of their fur …”Browny” for brown, “Whitey” for white. Fortunately, the dog naming skills of our fellow pinoys back home have definitely improved over the years. God bless you too.
It’s nice for you to be able to point out these things. Aside from enjoying reading through the comparisons (I’ve twice experienced the awesomeness of the very accommodating return policies there!) we are also able to pick up a few of the best practices there that I hope we can apply here. I recall how bad I felt when as a kid I was plainly ignored or excluded in some conversations. You just made me realize that my kids need not feel the same way. 🙂
Coming to America allowed me to experience many diverse cultures. It gave me the opportunity to introduce good aspects of the Filipino culture and at the same time embrace the positives of the American culture. I have learned a lot in this process and I keep learning every day. All things considered, we can definitely pick up a few of the best practices and try to use it there like you mentioned. And yes, kids back home can use a little more meaningful attention. Thank you so much for being here May!
I am an expat in the US so your experiences of ‘culture shock’ are interesting. I never knew before I moved that culture shock is indeed a real psychological and physical condition.
It is indeed. We were fortunate we had my husband and in- laws who helped us through the transition. They made moving here so much easier. Good luck with your life here in the US, Karen. I wish you and your family all the best.
I stayed in Newyork for a couple of months only but the cultural shock mentioned in this post feel so true on my experience too
I’m glad you were able to relate to my culture shock experience. It’s concerning how sometimes we take these things for granted. But it’s really not just about what we experience but how we cope and help others with the transition too. Thank you for being here.
thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. The culture shock goes both ways, however I don’t think I had culture shock when I went to the Filipines. more like adjustments. Most things i discovered were very positive tho. the generosity and care and concern that i experienced were so nice. I wasn’t used to being treated so well ever before in my life. I wasn’t allowed to sweat or someone would wipe my face and back and chest. Constantly fanning me. serving me food first. I think I shocked everyone because I always ate with my hands. I loved every dish and type of food I had. The love for family, tradition and God is something that every country and culture should look to the Philippines to emulate. I fell in love first with my fiance. second with her family. And third with the whole country. I love all the cultural differences and will never try to change even her language, accent or beliefs. I love it when she says open the lights or a hundred other expressions and words. It gives me better understanding of the Waray language. I hope I’m the one who changes. I never want her to change anything about herself.
I totally agree Mike culture shock goes both ways. And I have to say that falling in love with a foreigner is a beautiful experience but it can also be challenging. There’s the possibility of a long distance relationship and there are cultural differences to contend with among others. But looks like you are adjusting well to the Filipino culture and even embracing it as if it was your own and for that, I would like to say thank you. 🙂
I was so shocked too when I first moved here to the united states. It was all so knew and exciting and weird at the same time. But eventually I got used to it and I started missing my family back in the Philippines. I also didn’t realize that $1 there is 50 pesos there. It was so interesting. Anyways I love it here now.
It’s truly shocking how different these two countries are. And guess what, we are experiencing the best of two worlds. I’m happy you were able to adjust well in the US and that you’re loving it here now! 🙂
I love your insight! We lived for 17 yrs in the US and just came back home to the Philippines for good. True that there are a lot of differences and it’s inspiring to put the positive we find there in the US to apply in the Phils. One thing we found we could learn is a simple gesture when we eat at fastfood restaurants. In the US you get a table after you have ordered; thus, giving time for people ahead to eat and finish their meal. Here in the Philippines, we’re used to getting or what we call “saving” our seats prior to getting our food. So it isually ends up that there are people already occupying tables doing nothing while those who have their food already on their hands have no table available. Maybe there’s a better explanation why Filipinos do this here in the Philippines?
I totall agree! Now that we know, it is our responsibility to provide a good example to our fellow Filipinos back home. It will take time but for sure people will learn..eventually.:) I hope you don’t experience the reverse culture shock as what most Balikbayans lovingly call it. 🙂 I wish you and your family all the best. Thank you for being here Cherry. 🙂
This is so interesting!!! OMG in-n-out! I love In-N-Out! That is so interesting about the rags. I use rags for some things and paper towels for other things.
Everytime someone visits from the Philippines for the first time we usually take them to In-n-Out first. It became like a tradition for us. 🙂
very interesting, how can you get this much time to pointing this all about ..great..I will also try to do this ..and really inspired from you..
Aww! Thank you! I guess you can say I was just very observant. 🙂
I can imagine it must be a huge culture shock moving to another country. For the record, Americans view lawyers as unethical too, and its not just the advertisement.
It was indeed a huge culture shock! But we’re getting by. 🙂
THere’s so much similarity between India and Philippines! #3 still shocks me and I am in this country for over a decade.
I agree! I guess one can never get used to the big portions. hehe
I can definitely relate to the culture shock. We moved to Germany a year ago and took me about 10 months to really feel like I could handle it here. I wasn’t expecting that.
I was actually the same way. I thought I would just blend into another culture with ease. Yes, it took a while but like you, we were able to get by 🙂
I don’t have any culture shock experiences. Reading yours, I can see how we (Americans) can shock other people from other countries. I love the different cultures all over. It is cool to see and hear the differences.
It’s interesting to see how other people see us. We are so used to things but it’s obviously not the norm around the world.
Great post. I can totally relate to this as I was an expat for many years. America is a well diverse place to live, total freedom of speech country. But at the same time, a well diverse place can also be difficult to adapt in so many ways, similar to what you’ve said in your post. Just be open-minded and try to adapt to the locals and you will have a more easy transition. Good Luck!
This is so interesting to read. I teach and have some students who are going through culture shock too.
Great post. I had never thought of this before. I was born in Puerto Rico, but have lived in USA for such a long time. It’s easy to take things for granted. I’m glad you are enjoying it here and have grown to like it.