A thrilling adventure in discovering exhilarating cultural differences.
“The American dream,” everyone loves it! A free life full of sunshine and fairy dust, Californian sunsets, and Twilight vampire forests, what more can you ask for, am I right?
The idea of doing whatever you want whenever you want and having the freedom to do so is most likely what every human in the world desires. And America, being a successful advertiser of this romanticized reality, is in the spotlight.
Living a lavish and spontaneous life in the United States is an ongoing assumption of many non-Americans, and I was once one of those people! There is a cultural notion from my little country (the Philippines) that this developed country holds superior power (though it makes some sense) over other nations including my own. Thus, I had high expectations when coming to the States.
Fortunately, family visits as a tourist helped me have an insight about what to look forward to. Staying for a prolonged period of time is a different topic though. Don’t even get me started on studying!
Expectations vs. Reality
All right, big country, plenty of opportunities, snow, mountains, toilet paper, show me what you’ve got!” It’s always insanely thrilling to embark on a new adventure. “A new season of my life,” I claimed, “this shall be exciting.
Of course, food is the priority of the majority. Well known for its humongous portions, you — America — did not disappoint. Back in the Philippines, it is very common to receive an “almost” cup of rice with your viand, which is something you get used to (apparently, it’s also healthier to consume less white rice — but I love it way too much). In lieu of that, Filipinos eat rice three meals a day, whereas food here typically consists of potatoes for carbs.
Speaking of ingredients, it’s really hard to find them for the food you have to make. One time, I was going to make sizzling bulalo, but found only one store in all of Carson City — shoutout to Hacienda Market — that sold beef shanks and saved the day of my craving. Forks are also the most commonly used tool to eat here, which isn't too different, just that I have grown up using a different combination of utensils: A spoon and a fork, if you’re too bourgeois to use your hands, which I’ve been told is weird for both — if you’re not from the Philippines, that is.
Okay, hear me out. It’s exclusively all about toilet paper superiority over here. I grew up in the Eastern Hemisphere where we wash and use water before (maybe not even, it's basically taboo) toilet paper, which — I would argue — is not technically better but cleaner. In this progressive era of inclusivity, bidets should be accessible to the public!
One of the largest culture shocks that I had related a lot to my studies. Back home, it was very competitive and output-centered, you had to catch up with the professor, not vice versa. It bred a lot of persevering students, not gonna lie, it’s not as bad as the Internet says it is (or is it?). But it was pretty damaging mentally; a lot of nights were spent studying while crying.
I figured it would be tougher here, and that I will meet Calculus 3 in my first semester under an unforgiving instructor. In the United States, though bewildering at first, students’ well-being and understanding of the material is prioritized. It’s bizarre but refreshing. Kind of like vanilla soft serve on a cold winter night (trust me, it’s perfect). Professors take time to address concerns and welcome students beyond class hours. You feel taken care of!
The differences are exhilarating
Overall, treading on this adventure and finding out differences in cultures has been exhilarating. From transportation alone, my country slightly — if you count the crazy traffic out — has a better system when it comes to affordability and the kind of transportation, but it was grueling to miss the 5:30 AM bus and get stuck in traffic for 2 hours (supposedly a 45-minute ride) then take the train and then be late for 30 minutes to your first morning class.
While on the contrary, in the United States, I hop in my grandma’s extra cute little 2017 Hyundai Accent, drive 38 miles for 40 minutes to Truckee Meadows Community College, and am 20 minutes early to class.
Nonetheless, keeping no expectations will only make you happier. My childhood dream of exploring the world is slowly being realized. Studying abroad in the U.S. is only the start, and it’s already taught me a lot!
|Alaine Obra from the Philippines is studying for an associate’s degree in computer science at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.|
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