This is a list of the various things I miss about the USA during my research trip in the Philippines. It is not necessarily a cultural study … these are just the things that I, an American traveling in the Philippines, have missed about the USA.
Vitamin A is one of the primary nutritional deficiencies in the Philippines. And, because of their geographic location and culture they simply do not eat a lot of dairy products. There is a saying, “Filipino cannot survive without rice.” Well, there should be another saying… “American cannot survive without cheese and milk.”
The food here is very good, but when I get home I want a giant chocolate milkshake.
9. Internet Access
I have WIFI, occasionally. However, because of my creepy internet stalker, NBC prevents me from watching the Olympics because I am in another country. I have looked for other internet access locations to view the Olympics, but being in the Philippines has proven to be an interesting challenge in staying globally connected. In the United States I could watch the Olympics and get streaming internet access 24/7.
8. Culture Shock
Culture shock. I drink coke in a bag, everything is shorter than I am accustomed to including doorways, and the water is not safe to drink. At the grocery store, packages of food are sold in much smaller sizes. Many things look similar to what I expect in the United States, but then they are slightly different. In the United States, my brain does not have to work extra hard to recognize Coca-Cola, toilets, or safe drinking water.
7. My Voice/Broken English
This is my fault, not the Philippines. I say it is my fault because I cannot speak Tagalog. I am traveling in a foreign country, but the only words I can understand are some of the Spanish words I pick up. So my speech pattern in English becomes broken into shorter sentences so that I can be understood… and I have adopted a slight Filipino accent which seems to make my words more recognizable.
6. Warped Time
Well, on the West Coast it is 6:31 p.m. Friday in the USA, while in the Philippines it is 9:31 a.m. Saturday morning. So that is one adjustment. The other adjustment is never knowing exactly when someone is going to arrive. An 11 a.m. meeting might mean the meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. or 11:15 a.m.
The warped time is not as bad as what I experienced in Uganda, where 11 a.m. meant sometime that day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. I like knowing that if I say 11 a.m. is the time we meet, then people are going to arrive at 11 a.m. ish, you know… within a few minutes. Starting at 10:30 a.m. throws me off and starting really late frustrates me.
5. Toilet Paper
At public restrooms toilet paper is not provided in the stalls. You can bring in your own, or pay for toilet paper outside the stall. But there is none provided inside the actual stall itself. In the USA, I do not worry about toilet paper being in the stall. Sometimes the stall is empty, but I don’t go into the restroom KNOWING there will be no toilet paper provided freely.
4. Spiders and Lizards
In America, I normally do not enter a restroom looking at the ceiling to make sure there is not a giant spider or some type of lizard which might drop on my head. In the Philippines I have learned to check to make sure nature does not fall on my head!
This is probably more of a familiarity issue. I do not know where is safe in the Philippines to hike. I am an introvert, so getting away from people is important for me to recharge emotionally/spiritually. In America one of the things I loved about Colorado was being able to hike in the mountains on a regular basis.
Here in the Philippines I have not had the luxury of being able to get away for half a day to hike and recharge.
2. The London 2012 Olympics
I learn about what is going on with the USA Olympic team through the international version of CNN. I am very happy for Michael Phelps, the Women’s soccer team, the Women’s gymnastics team and all the other wonderful gold medal winners. However, I have been unable to watch anything really… not even on tape delay because of where I am at in the Philippines… and because NBC does not share much internationally. Bummer.
The people I have met here have been wonderful. I believe they genuinely want to help me. But I am also an American, which means when I travel to most countries the world becomes Disneyland. (This has not been true in Europe when I was in London). Everyone is nicer to me because I have the image of American money and the image of American warships. I do not think people are afraid of me, but I do know that because I am an American I get treated much better than the average Filipinos who are walking on the same streets and shopping in the same stores.
Some Americans get the warped idea that people in other countries are much nicer than Americans. This is not necessarily true. You see, I am a guest in the Philippines.
Because of the “niceness”… I miss friends and family. My friends and family know I am poor, and they have no issue telling me when I do something stupid. They are genuine. In the Philippines it feels like I am told what will make me happy.
Sometimes when I am mobbed by 3 sales clerks in a store while a Filipino customer is ignored, I imagine the song “Be … our… Guest! BE OUR GUEST! Put our service to the test!” ….
So, this is my top ten list of reasons I miss the USA. What do you think? Leave comments below and share with others! Have a wonderful day!