10 Things I Learned From Uncle Sam Part 1 (1-5)


Photo credits to commons.wikemedia.org

Growing up in a country that lives and breathes Hollywood, I didn’t think that there was anything much to adjust to after moving to the US for my 6-month work stint. I learned though that 50 years wasn’t enough for Uncle Sam to turn us all to red, white & blue. After all, there’s still yellow in our flag.

Here’s 5 of the 10 things I learned, adapted, tolerated and loved in the land of milk & honey:

1. Pumping gas – the first time I drove to the gas station, I was waiting like an idiot for someone to attend to me. When I finally realized that this wasn’t going to happen, I stepped out and asked help from someone who was nearby. The guy condescendingly said, “don’t you have cars from where you come from?” Annoyed, I had to brag, “Where I come from, we never have to step out of our car, SOMEONE does it for us!”

This took me around the US!

The only car that I’ve pumped on my own!

2. Have it your way – whenever I see restaurants in Asia promoting “having it your way”, I always wonder why. The only effort I want to be doing when I go to a restaurant is pointing to my order and gobbling it down later on.

One of my office lunch staples - chicken breast, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, jalapeños - my own way!

One of my office lunch staples – chicken breast, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, jalapeños – my own way!

First time ordering a pizza:

Me: Hello, I’d like to order a pizza?
Operator: Sure, what do you want on it?
M: Don’t you have pizza flavors that have set toppings?
O: Um we have cheese…you could have anything you want on it.
M: Oh. Ok. Could I have cheese, pepperoni…
O: Ok what’s your address?
M: I want veggies too
O: Which ones?
M: Ahhhhh I just want a Super Supreme Pizza!!!!

First time ordering sandwich in a random restaurant:

Me: Turkey sandwich please
Server: Bread, wrap, panini?
M: Bread pls…
S: What type of bread?
M: Multi-Grain…
S: Cheese no cheese?
M: No cheese…
S: What veggies do you want?
M: Ummm lettuce, tomato, onions…
S: Sauce? Toasted or not toasted?
M: Ahhhhhh I just want a pre-made Turkey sandwich!!!! 

First time ordering breakfast in the office cafeteria:

Me: (thinking of a Sausage McMuffin) Hi could I have sausage sandwich?
Cook: Sure, regular sausage or turkey sausage?
M: Um the regular one…
C: Ok what type of bread? We have this, that, etc
M: Ok that one…
C: Do you want cheese?
M: No…
C: Do you want egg?
M: I’m going to McDonalds tomorrow!!!!


3. TIPPING – This has perhaps been the biggest culture shock for me. America is a land of TIPS! And no, not just the usual P20 which is what we’re used to in Manila (yeah sorry I’m a cheapskate), it’s a fixed percentage of 15-20% of the total bill depending on where you eat.

This is not limited to restaurants by the way. All the services you avail of (salon, bellboys, cab rides etc), tips are expected of you and you can’t get away with it unless you want to get the death stare, or even worse, chased by the service person and be confronted for being el cheapo in front of everyone! What’s worse is you still have to give a tip even if you experience really bad service (which is not uncommon).

Now before you go on thinking that Americans are bratty for demanding pricey tips, I’ll share to you the explanation of one of my American friends. Apparently people working in the service industry (waiters, bartenders etc) get paid very little and rely on tips to make ends meet. So I guess we got to give it to them. At least my math skills kind of improved.

4. Saying good morning/how are you to everyone – on the first day at work, I found it strange that everyone I met at the hallway, who I’ve never met before, were greeting and asking me how I was, how was my day, how’s it going…and I really didn’t know if I should answer them with a narrative of my day so far.



I really get awkward when I got into those kind of situations that there was a time when I tried avoiding bumping into people in the hallways. I just found it weird that people ask how you are in passing when obviously, there isn’t enough time to give a reasonable answer, and you mostly just say “hi” or “hello” which is strange because it’s not really answering the question.

Eventually, I learned that this is more of culture. Now when someone in passing says “how are you” to me, I know that I should give my brightest smile, say “GREAT” in the most energetic way I know how, ask them “How are you?” back, and expect a “GREAT” in return while we both walk off. In short, everyone’s feeling great in America!

5. Wearing sweaters, coats…winter clothes! – now this is expected. Anyone coming from a tropical country moving to a place that goes through 4 seasons would have to adapt to wearing winter clothes. At first I thought it was going to be such a hassle, but I actually enjoyed it! I finally got to “validly” wear a sweater and a scarf! Personally, I loved having so many pockets on my coat to put my stuff.

Full winter gear at the Chicago Bean (-18 degree Celsius!)

Full winter gear at the Chicago Bean (-18 degrees Celsius!)

Next…10 Things I Learned From Uncle Sam Part 2 (6-10)

Photo credits: Awkward Hi – http://www.reiko-x.tumblr.com