Many of the foreigners are dreaming to visit or live in America maybe because America means land of opportunities or they have equal opportunism for those who work hard that we cannot find to other countries. Or maybe many foreigners are very fascinated to America because of what we always watch in the American movies where we can see a lot of beautiful places and amazing friendly people and a lot of reason that foreigners get curious until they decided to visit, study or immigrate to the US. But before you go to the US I made some list what you should know before moving to America. This list will help you to be prepared and aware once you enter the US, this list may help you not get shocked when you encounter it.
1. American Don’t Use Metric System
Most countries use the metric system including my country the Philippines, we used to measure stuff using meters, kilometers, centimeters, kilograms, square meter while in the US they don’t use metric because they use the imperial system where things are measured in feet, inches, pounds, and miles. This imperial system makes me confuse especially if asking the distance or weight of meat, vegetables, fruits or what is the size of a house and lot. In the Philippines, if somebody is asking what is the size of the house you are selling, you will answer it in square meter while in the US they measure the house and lot in a square foot. Even in distance, the US use miles and I’m having a hard time before I figure out how far is 1 mile because, in the Philippines, we use kilometers and in many things we measure stuff in kilograms, while in the US they measure stuff in pounds like pork, chicken, vegetables etc. And another thing is land, they measure the land in acres and square foot, at first I said to myself what the heck is an acre, we never use the acre in the Philippines because we just use a square meter and hectares when measuring land. But you will get used to using the imperial system once you stay here for a while. And even the temperature they call it different, in my country we use degree Celsius and in the US they use Fahrenheit this makes me confuse too actually all of their imperial systems makes me confused lol! But I’m pretty sure if American go to another country they feel the same thing because they don’t use the metric system in the US.
2. Expect Sales Tax Added Up In the End
When you buy products to the store don’t be shock if the cashier will tell you more than the amount to the price of your items. Let’s say for example your item is just $2, expect that it will be more than that because of tax. Everything in the US has tax, even your salary, your meal in the restaurant, your diesel, your property, your 401k insurance etc. So don’t be surprised if you pay more or getting a lower salary because of tax deduction because a tax is already a part of American people and life. Well, in the Philippines, we also have VAT which already include to the price and the problem there is the Philippines VAT is standard to 12% all over the country while in the US each state sales tax rates vary widely, each states sales tax rate generally varies from 2% to 6% or more so if you buy burger to Mc Donald expect the sales tax added to the price of your burger.
3. Expect Everything To Be Bigger
Aside from many big people, expect that most stuff in the US is big. When you buy shampoo, lotion, conditioner etc. in the store you cannot find a smaller bottle of that items, In the Philippines, we can buy any item from sachet to small, medium or large size. When I was new to the US I tried conditioner of the US because my cream silk conditioner from the Philippines is already gone. And guess what, I wasted more than 3 big bottles of conditioner (different brand) because they all gave me dandruff and hair loss. Any store in the US doesn’t have sachet pack and a small bottle of anything for hair so be aware of that. Even in a restaurant expect that you gonna have a big portion of food when you order. It seems that your food can feed 2 people so if I order food, I and my daughter usually share because we easily get full and we struggle to finish our order even a small size of coca cola. Not only that, you will surely amaze to the road in some area to the US, they are all huge and they have a lot of roads to enter and exit that makes people lost if you are new to the area and I think that only means you can see where the part of the taxes of the people is going, lol! Another thing is when you pee to some public bathroom in the US, the gap between underneath is huge and the gap between wall and door toilet cubicle is kinda big that seems somebody can peak you and see your business inside the toilet cubicle, lol! One last thing is the US is so huge, each state seems equivalent to the size of the whole country of the Philippines. If your friend is living in other state expect that it’s not really easy to visit her.
4. Tipping Is Very Important
In the US giving tip to the server in the restaurant is very important, because most waiters and waitresses are living on the tips (the wages for most of them are well below the minimum wage). Once you eat to the sitting restaurant expect that you need to add 10% – 20% for the tip, so if your bill to your order in the restaurant is $100 you need to add for the tip, make sure your money is not just exact to your order because all server are expecting tips. American is very nice when it comes to tip, when they eat to sitting restaurant they automatically give tip unlike in the Philippines it’s up to the customer if you will give tip or not to the server.
5. Car And Driving Is Very Necessary
Car and driving to the US are very necessary especially if you are living in a small town. In a big city like Chicago yes it’s ok that workers have no cars because it’s a huge city with buses and trains. But if you are living in a small city it will be hard for you to work if you don’t have a car because buses are not as many as buses in a big city and there are no trains for the passenger in some small city. If you don’t have a car expect that you will be having a hard time to commute or you have to walk no matter how far your home in your work. They said if you want to be independent in the US you need to learn how to drive first.
6. You Have To Have ID When Buying Alcohol Or Cigarettes
We usually saw on American movies that American teenager are party goer and drinking alcohol in the party is just fine but the reality is US government is strict when it comes to alcohol. You have to have ID when you buy alcohol to the store because they only sell alcohol to 21 years old above and 18 years old above for cigarettes, different states have alcohol law including the hours of sale for liquor to the store, gas station and supermarket and they even have law hours of sale for bars and restaurants. This is very different to the Philippines because in the Philippines adults used to ask the kids to buy liquor or cigarettes to the sari-sari store which is just fine because kids keep the change that’s why they love to buy that stuff for the drinker and they do get the empty bottle to sell to the junk collector. So if you want to buy alcohol to the store here in the US don’t forget to bring your ID especially if you are Asian small little lady that look minor even if you are already 30 years old.
7. Flags Flying Everywhere
Americans really value US flag, don’t be surprised if you see US flag everywhere. The American flag is a symbol of nations pride and values, same to other countries how we value our own flag. But many Americans are proudly displaying American flags outside their homes, offices, and school, the stripe of American flag represent the 13 original colonies and the stars represent 50 states of America. The American flag is not only a national symbol but a cultural icon. Many Americans love their flag/country you can always see the American flag to a hat, t-shirt, pins and many more.
8. Staring at Somebody Is Rude
Don’t ever stare at anybody when you visit or move to the US because it’s rude for them, yes it’s ok to do a fast glance because you are amazed to the cuteness and handsomeness of one person but don’t stare at them for so long. In the Philippines, it’s very normal to stare in a foreigner but that is not mean we are rude staring at you. That only means we are amazed to you because you are a foreigner and it’s very rare for us to see foreigners. Filipinos really admire foreigners especially white people with a pointed nose. So if you are a white man who feels unattractive because of very white skin and long nose, don’t worry go to the Philippines because you will be the most handsome for them lol!
9. Certain People Get Offended If You Call Them Sir/Ma’am
Most Americans don’t want to be called sir/ma’am especially if they are not yet old enough. While in the Philippines calling sir/ma’am to anybody is showing our respect to the customer or somebody that we don’t know the name yet. And don’t be shock if your American husband calls his boss in his own name because it’s just normal in the US. They prefer to call their name than calling sir/ma’am. But sometimes I heard certain people who call sir/ma’am to their customer in the store but that is very rare. American are quite informal with each other, they call each other by their first name even if they are in a higher position. Americans tend to view each other as people on equal levels regardless of their positional authority. While in other culture/country calling the stranger sir/ma’am is being polite, in the US they used to greet the stranger hey, how are you? or How’s it going? etc.
10. Beware To Gain Weight
When you move to the US beware not to get fat, because lots of restaurants and fast food are very cheap, we all know that food in fast food are full of carbohydrates that make people fat and even if people know that the food is unhealthy we still eat it and buy it because of the good price. The other thing is everything in the US is convenient and automated, you can buy stuff through online, you can order food online and you don’t have to go outside to shop or order the food, just pick up your phone or laptop to do the order, just sit back and relax in front of TV because later your food is outside your door. Most everything in The US is automated like cars, doors in the malls even hand soap in the public restrooms, it means you don’t have to do anything to make yourself hard even some garage door in the US is also automated to open. And another thing that makes you fat is if you are Filipino or other race and then you cook the dish from your country, expect that you will eat it by yourself because most American used to eat fast and easy to cook like pizza, hotdog, burger etc. Most Americans prefer to eat that than eating other dishes from your country, they may try your dish at first but expect that all the leftovers are yours lol! But don’t feel offended by that because you are not alone to eat all your traditional dish, we are so many immigrants around the US. It’s normal and you will get used to it. Just let your American spouse eat what he wants and he will let you eat what you want too but beware to gain weight.
11. Customer Service Is Expected To Be Great
They said customer service in the US is the best around the world, because in other country let’s say for example in the Philippines if you have complained to the bank about your account you have to go to the bank personally to complain and you have to show ID to make sure you are not pretending and many processes that you need to do before you get the clear action from them. In the US you can do it over the phone and the company will do the best for you to solve the issue right away. Even in the store and restaurant, you will be amazed by the staff because they will always greet you and ask hey how are you, how you doing. The first time I go to the store in the US I was a bit confused if I will answer or not because I’ve never encountered cashier like that in the Philippines. I’m thinking am I obliged to answer them and why they are asking how are you, how you doing until I got used to it and yes please answer them and don’t just ignore their greetings. And all stores in the US have a money back guarantee, if you are not satisfied to the product just go ahead and return the items to the store or ask for the replacement even in online you can return the items and get your money back if you are not satisfied.
12. Burning Trash In The Yard Is Against The Law
Some cities in each state have a strict law like simply burning trash is not allowed to do even in your own yard. So be careful with that, if you burn trash in your yard you can be fined/convicted. It doesn’t matter if you own the yard but that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in your yard. In some countryside, it can burn trash but in the city, it’s a big no no. I’m also shocked when my husband told me that we cannot do any changes to our own house if we want, I said what? Why you cannot do anything it’s your own property, He said it’s a law and if you want some changes to your house you need to ask permission first and they will do the inspection before/after you do anything. I can’t believe it at first because in the Philippines if it’s your house it means you can do whatever you want to your house if you want to add the 2nd floor to your house that’s ok do it because it’s yours. So please ask your spouse about the law in your area before doing anything to avoid any trouble, burning trash is a very simple thing but it is against the law.
13. Instead Of Hello, Americans Say How Are You/How’s It Going?
In the US it’s so seldom to just hear hello because they do greet everybody hey, how are you? or how’s it going and sometimes how are you doing? especially in the store, you gonna hear that all the time. As I mentioned earlier I’m a bit shock because even if they don’t know somebody they do greet how are you, until I knew that it’s normal to American people to greet like that. In the Philippines, we just greet how are you if we know the person and all my life I thought answering I’m fine to the question how are you is ok to answer. When you live or visit the US and somebody greets you, hey how are you? you should reply “Good, how about you?” Aside from “Good” you can also answer “great”, “I’m alright”, or “not so good” if you don’t feel good. Native Americans don’t answer “I’m fine”, because answering “I’m fine” means you wanted to be alone or you don’t want to talk to anybody.
14. Your Student Need To Have Complete Immunization and Medical
If you bring your child to America to study let’s say for example my daughter, she is a US citizen but born in the Philippines and she completed her vaccination from a baby. Normally student in the Philippines starts their school even without immunization and medicals. I brought the immunization records of my daughter thinking that it’s enough because she completed all immunization in the Philippines, but wait, when we enrolled her to the school here in the US she needs to undergo medical, physical, dental, eye test and need to complete all vaccination. I was so shocked; the doctor gave her 4 shots at the same time. I felt hurt watching my daughter crying because she is afraid to shot, however in my opinion immunization and medicals make sense before the class begins because it helps us to know if our children are healthy and immunization help them to avoid sickness. So don’t be shock if the school of your child requires your child to undergo more immunization and medicals, it is for your child sake.
15. The Health Care Isn’t Free
When I was living in the Philippines I’ve always heard that medication and hospitalization to other country are completely free, and some said they also get an allowance from the government which makes people think that other countries are so fortunate including the US because they heard a lot of things especially the free hospitalization. I thought that too but we are wrong to that stereotype about US health care. Because health care in the US isn’t free, if you heard your neighbor in the Philippines said the health care to the US is free don’t believe in them because American and immigrants need to pay health insurance to save a lot when they need to go to the doctor/hospital. If you have no insurance you need to pay a lot or pay your bill in installment to the hospital. Don’t be surprised if you consult the doctor and pay a higher bill because you don’t have insurance.
16. They Celebrate Thanksgiving more Than New Year
Before I move to the US, I have no idea what is Thanksgiving day until my husband told me about it and American celebrate Thanksgiving day every fourth Thursday of November, this is a national holiday. This is how they express their gratitude, especially to almighty God. If we have fiesta/festival to the Philippines to thank God for all the blessing, America has Thanksgiving Day where the family gathered together and celebrate with different kinds of American traditional meal with of course their famous Turkey every Thanksgiving. They celebrate Thanksgiving but New Year’s seems just a normal day for them.
17. They Use a Fork and Knife Rather Than a Spoon
American use Fork and Knife all the time, it’s very rare for them to use a spoon because for Americans spoon is for liquids like soup or food containing liquids. For American maybe it’s weird to see us eating rice with a spoon because they use knife and fork for almost everything. But they will not judge by using a spoon because American know we are raised in other culture and they know that we have differences and it’s good to have cultural convention sometimes. Sharing both cultures with each other in one house is fun.
18. They Often Use Disposable Plate, Fork, Knife
Don’t be surprised if you move to the US and your spouse set up a disposable plate, fork, knife and even spoon in the table because it is normal for them. Maybe because using disposable is cheaper than paying water bill I’m not sure with that I’m just assuming it, but the most common reason is it’s because they are busy and tired from work so using disposable is more convenient for them. They don’t need to wash the dishes after eating; all they have to do is dump it to the trash can then relax in front of the TV. Save your energy, save time, save water.
19. They Love TV and Sports
Expect that most American love watching TV, most houses have big screen TV because watching TV make them relax after a long day to work and expect that aside from their living room has a TV I’m pretty sure even each of their room has. TV in the store is affordable and there’s a season of layaway, often for a very low price. But of course people in the US watch TV for the same reason of other people from other countries, we watch to have fun, to entertain and most especially sufficiently distracting to take us away from drudgery and stress but the difference is in the Philippines most people often watch TV only in the evening or if their favorite drama series is on air, most Filipino used to chitchat/socialized to neighbor than watching TV during the day. Another thing is sports really matter to American, from elementary to college sport is important to all student, even in the TV they always watch sports which for sure for some people who don’t like sports, they feel that watching sport is boring but for American watching sport is fun and entertaining. So don’t be shock if we always see the USA on the top in so many athletic games around the world because they are obviously dedicated to the sport since young.
20. Traffic Law Is Very Strict
Don’t underestimate the traffic law to the US because they are very strict about that. In my first time road trip to the City where we live in the US I was so amazed to the huge and clean road and to the discipline drivers and they don’t have heavy traffic like in Manila Philippines, but of course big cities like Chicago has heavy traffic like in the Philippines it’s because it’s a big city but to the small city expect that the road is clean and empty. But, even if there is no traffic the drivers obey the traffic laws and every intersection that has a stop sign all drivers automatically stop even without a police around the area. I remember one time I asked my husband why did we stop there is no other car, he said look at the sign; STOP. They are also strict to speed limit, each city has their own speed limit so expect that you will always change speed limit if you drive around the different city, expect that in some area you can see a police car at the side of the road catching drivers who disobey the traffic laws. They have devices to monitor the speed of all the cars passing by and traffic lights are all around the city so always obey the traffic lights to avoid an accident even simply arrow lane you have to follow it to avoid an accident.
21. Sales and Clearance Stuff in the Store Is Addicted
In the US you will always see the words CLEARANCE in the store if you saw that go ahead and check the items because it means it’s sale and you can find a good deal to clearance area. This is most people love in the US if the season is about to change like winter to spring and summer, expect that all stuff for winter will mark down in a very very low price until $1. Unlike to the Philippines, it doesn’t matter if the item will display and sit to the store for so many years but they will not mark it down to a very low price like 90% off, they usually do until 70% but mostly is just 50% off sale. If you want to send a package of stuff to your country from the US it’s a good idea to buy clearance in the store. In the US you can find 80%-90% off items like Converse, Adidas and Nike shoes for example. Not only clearance and sale, but people also use coupons to save a lot when they are shopping. And I know many Filipino use coupons and then they put the products in a balikbayan box to send to the Philippines which is a smart idea.
22. Drinks Are Refillable
Have you ever go to fast food like McDonald’s in the Philippines with refillable drinks (soft drink in the Philippines) because I’ve never encountered any fast food chain in the Philippines with refillable drinks, yes in some restaurant they have called bottomless ice tea but it depends on your order if you want a lot of ice tea. Well, if you move or visit the US don’t be shock when you see all customers of McDonald’s or any restaurant refilling their coke after they finished drinking the first glass, because its normal to the US restaurant to have refilling drinks which make you gain more weight if you are cola lovers lol! People will just pay 1 time I think $1 in each cola to some restaurant but you can refill it anytime you want while you are inside the restaurant, and even coffee to some buffet restaurant because a friend of mine always request a cup of coffee, I asked her are you gonna pay extra to that coffee she said no because it’s refillable, but I am not sure if coffee is also refillable to other restaurants all I know is drinks are refillable to all fast food chain.
23. A Lot Of English Words and Pronunciations From Your Country Means Something Different To Americans
This is the most challenging for the foreigners in the US because a lot of words and pronunciations from other country means something different to Americans. Let’s say for example Graham crackers, all my life we read and pronounce it gray-ham lol! But in the US they pronounce it “Grem or Gram” it’s so funny because it’s been a long time before my husband figure out what I’m trying to buy in the store, I always say to him I need gray-ham crackers, it’s a biscuit I said (biscuit in the Philippines is crackers), but in the US biscuit is kind of bread, OMG! Then I found out that its different thing for American and I’m wrong in a Graham pronunciation and wrong to call Graham as biscuit, lol! that’s why he cannot understand what I’m looking for. And what about tissue, oh my goodness in the Philippines, we call everything tissue (unless you are rich) and it doesn’t matter if it’s for bathroom or for nose or face as long as its tissue. In the US toilet tissue (toilet paper) is for butt, a paper towel is for the kitchen that they use for any purposes but not for butt, lol! And Kleenex/tissue is for a nose, a napkin is what they use when they are eating, napkin in the Philippines is pads that women use when we have a period that’s why when my husband told me he will get a napkin, I’m shocked lol! Then he explained the difference of tissues. It’s also funny if my husband and my daughter always correcting me to He/She Him/Her, I think many Filipino are with me to that simple words, even to the word beach, I pronounce it bit-ch lol! Robitussin Filipino pronounce it Rubi-tussin but American pronounce it Robi-ta-ssin and frying pan they pronounce it frying pen. There’s a lot of words that have different meaning and pronunciation for American, but I am not offended if my husband and daughter correcting me because I can learn from them, it’s just hard to pronounce many words, my tongue always seems twisted if I followed their pronunciation, lol!
24. You Don’t Know Your Neighbor
When you move to the US expect the boring and lonely life, expect that you don’t even know the name of your neighbor. Yes, they can wave their hand to you if they see you outside your door but they will not gonna talk to you like some people usually do in the Philippines. In the Philippines, if we have a new neighbor we talk to that new neighbor as a friendly neighborhood gesture. In the US you cannot see them outside their house or chitchat outside on the porch with a bunch of people, they usually stay inside the house and relax. Expect that you will feel isolated and lonely in the US especially if your American partner is living in the countryside if you are not a countryside lover for sure you will feel bored because all you can see in the countryside is a huge field of corn and soybeans. In the US they have so many corn and soybeans field as if you are living in the middle of nowhere, I’ve never expected that the US is very rich to field farm and trees, no wonder most houses in the US are made in the wood instead of blocks and cement. But if you gonna live in the city all you can see is houses but so seldom to see people. And another thing is most city has trains, don’t be shock if you gonna hear the noisy train, this makes me so scared like giving me a heart attack, lol! at first, because I’ve never heard a train in my entire life, it’s so scary when a train will suddenly horn so loud especially if you are alone to the house thinking something. But you will get used to all of it.
Hopefully, the things in the list above will help you to have an idea before you go to the US especially to those Filipina who will be a US immigrant through marriage. There’s a lot more to add in the list but those are the most common things that make me shock and wonder during my first time in the US.
If you have any question or wanted to add in the list don’t hesitate to comment down below.