As you may know, I just celebrated 6 years in America. This time around I am celebrating all of the things I have grown to love and hate about America. There’s 8 of them to be exact.
1. Freedom of Speech
I love that people can say anything they want. Back home my friends and family thought I was opinionated. But lo and behold when I got here people thought I was actually quiet and polite. America is where I learned to speak up without fear of being censured or judged. So ok who am I kidding? The judging still happens but people respect you for verbalizing your P.O.V. (point of view).
2. Verbal Diarrhea
I believe there are a number who suffer from this malady. Some of the more famous ones like Kanye West, George Bush and other personalities continue to misuse or even abuse their freedom of speech. You know there IS such a thing as knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Maybe it’s just me but I notice that quiet a few Americans have no filter or give out way too much information. Words are actually more effective when used in moderation.
3. Dignity of Labor
In this country one is proud to be a working class American. Back in the Philippines your job more likely indicates your socio-economic status. It’s kinda like how Californians measure your “success” by the car you drive. So if you are, for example, a waitress or a carpenter that means you are likely poor because these jobs pay minimum or less than minimum wage. To earn more one needs to have an office job which require a college degree. Sadly not a lot can afford to go to college (we don’t have a system for educational loans in place). In America, waitresses and carpenters/contractors can actually earn a lot! I love that there is dignity in earning money from honest work no matter what type of a job it is. In fact, America was built by hard working folks like oil magnate John D. Rockefeller who once said “that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living”.
4. No-Vacation Nation
Ah, this is one of the reasons why I sometimes want to move to Europe. While the Dutch are working to kill the 9 to 5 work week, Americans take on 2-3 more jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American man today works 100 more hours a year than he did in the 1970s. That’s 2 1/2 weeks of added labor. Moreover, the average American worker only has 12 days of vacation a year and only half of them actually use it. It’s really sad if you think about it because there is always a good deal on last minute holidays that an American is missing out on.
5. Ease of Doing Business
I love how anyone who has a great idea can set-up a business or even invent something people will buy (I’m obsessed with PitchMen). The USA ranks 4th in the world for ease of doing business. This means that it is easy to do the following things in the country: start a business, deal with construction permits, register property, get credit, protect investors, pay taxes, trade across borders, enforce contracts and close a business. So if you are a business minded person you can earn an honest living through trade or commerce. In the Philippines, you need to go through red tape and a lot of bureaucracy to start even a small business. If you want to speed up the process you would need to have a lot of money to bribe, if not have some connection in the government that could pull the right strings.
6. Blatant Materialism
Have you seen the show Hoarders? MTV Cribs? Sweet 16? The Real Housewives series? or this video called The Story of Stuff? Yes, they may seem like extreme examples but along with capitalism comes materialism. A LOT of materialism. Do you really need to lease that fancy car or buy a third television set for your home? Do you know that Americans spend 78% of what they earn on an annual basis? Granted that most of this is on necessities there are more than a few that we all could do without. You know, back home people wash plastic take-out containers in order to recycle them. I used to find this tacky but now I thank god that somewhere on earth people are finding use for these things instead of dumping it elsewhere (again you need to watch The Story of Stuff to get what I am saying).
7. I am what I am
I really enjoy being an individual in the US of A. I feel free to be myself because people appreciate a person who is authentic and genuine (I think it’s called being real). It’s so empowering to have a vision of your own life and to know that your rights are protected at all times. As a Filipino, we are raised in a society that values the community more than the individual. Before making a decision or taking action one has to always consider or consult everybody. It can honestly slow down personal growth and could be a bit stifling.
8. Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!
Maybe it’s just California but I honestly encounter a lot of individuals who are all about making self-interest a number one priority. Don’t believe me? Count the number of times the word “I” comes up during a conversation with the next person you talk to. I notice that there is an “it’s all about me” mentality that leads to a feeling of entitlement. I understand that it is an individual’s prerogative to take care of one’s self. However, there are other people (such as family) that should be an equal priority.