By Henrylito D. Tacio
When people know that I have been to the United States several times, they usually ask, “What is the difference between the Philippines and the United States?” My usual reply is, “Plenty.” With their eye wide open, they inquire, “Can you name some?”
In the Philippines, we have the smorgasbord called “Eat All You Can.” You can’t call that way in the United States. That’s gluttony in the highest order. It’s a no-no for most Americans are obese. At one time, I went to Walmart and counted those who entered the well-known shopping center. Ten people were fat and another three whom I considered as super fat.
With that background, I knew right there and then why Americans don’t call it “Eat All You Can.” Instead, they name it “All You Can Eat.” It’s a restrained way of saying the same thing. You can eat anything you want and as long as you want.
Unlike in the Philippines, the Americans have a lot of choices. In our country, if we order a soft drink, the waiter usually gives you the kind of soft drink you want. When I was in New York in 2000, I ordered a kind of soft drink. All of a sudden, I was bombarded with a question: “Classic or diet?” “In can or in bottle?” “With ice or without ice?” Out there, you have to state what you want since you have a lot to choose from.
When you order a beef steak, be sure to tell the waiter how you would like it to be cooked: rare (cooked with blood still present), medium rare (half-cooked), and well-done (cooked the way most Filipinos like or “just like charcoal,” as Americans tells us).
Americans have certain meals to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, the leftover of breakfast could not be eaten for lunch since that food was intended for breakfast only. Breakfast is usually light, lunch is not too heavy, but you can eat like a king when it comes to dinner. This is the reason why most restaurants are fully-packed during the night.
When you go to a restaurant, don’t immediately occupy a vacant table. When you enter a restaurant, there is usually a waiting area. Wait for the waiter who will ask you if you have a reservation. If you don’t have, he will ask you how many people are in your group. Once he gets this information, he will bring you to a table where the group can settle.
If you go out for dinner with your American friends, be sure not to open the bill which the waiter usually place in the table upside down. Don’t even peep if how much is the total bill. If you do so, it means you are paying for the whole bill. Wait for the whole group to finish eating and then when the time comes to pay the bill, someone may way, “How much do we need to pay?”
If you are going out with your family, don’t worry about the kids running inside the restaurant. Generally, children are given crayons and coloring book in order for them to have something to do while waiting. Grown-up children are given some puzzles or toys.
Fast foods are a different story. When you enter, you may see pictures of the food they are serving. Don’t ever dare to order two or more since each order, for a Filipino, may mean good for two or three persons. Here in the Philippines, the pictures of food are so huge that you order just one. But when it comes, you will be dismayed as the food cannot satisfy your hunger.
Talking about children again, in a children’s party, only children are present. When my nephew celebrated his 8th birthday, and his parents threw him a party, he invited his friends and classmates. At 7 p.m., his friends and classmates arrived. The parents who brought them asked, “When do we need to pick our kids?”
This is not the case in the Philippines. Parents usually accompany their kids who are attending a children’s party. The grown-ups (including the yayas) end up joining the party and the fun intended supposed for the children only.
Our usual greeting among male friends and acquaintances is a handshake or “beso-beso” among women. Out there in the US, they hug each other, whether male, female, or children. The first time I was there, I was having some problems hugging a male friend in front of so many people.
I have observed that Americans don’t have the best traffic rules but they follow them strictly. In fact, even if there are no cars around if there is a stop sign, the drivers usually stop. The Philippines may have the best traffic regulations but Filipinos don’t follow them. It’s no wonder why kotong cops are well-known in this country.
It was only while there that I was able to learn to read maps. When my uncle Carl, aunt Aida, and myself traveled from Columbus, Ohio to Alpharetta, Georgia, all we had was an address and a map. “Where are we now?” my aunt, who drove the car, inquired as I looked at the map. You don’t get lost because signs abound.
In the Philippines, we don’t do that as maps are usually used for foreigners. All we have to do is get out from the car and ask someone. “How far are we from Digos?” “Is this way going to Davao?” “How many minutes before we can reach General Santos City?”
United States is a very big country. Texas, for instance, is almost four times the size of the Philippines. That is why a car is a necessity for them and not a luxury. They don’t have jeepneys, pedicabs, skylabs and trisikads out there. Imagine walking 10-15 kilometers from your home to the nearest shopping center.
These are just some of my observations on my travels and visit to the United States in recent years. I am sure other Filipinos who have the pleasure of going there have different stories to tell also.
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