How Badly Do You Want “The American Dream”?

Countless number of Filipinos have always desired to come into the United States of America. Which state? It doesn’t matter. Their mission – The American Dream. Little do they realize that there are also a myriad of contradictions between the two countries. That for every economic gain one gets, there is always a corresponding cultural trade-off. At the end of the day, is the dream truly worth pursuing or are they better-off being contented with where they are and what they have now?

Interaction with the locals is never an issue since almost all residents are exposed to its own customs and traditions. Filipinos are well-known for their hospitality and it has been a part of our culture to be friendly and accommodating. Ironically, due to their infamous “colonial mentality” they tend to be over-friendly with foreigners which, on rare occasions, poses unwanted security risks. Filipino homes are generally open to visitors.

The Philippines have only two seasons, rainy and dry. June to March are commonly rainy months with an average of twenty typhoons (hurricane) per year. Summertime is from April to May of each year. This means that its inhabitants only maintains, at most, two kinds of seasonal clothing.

Due to its very diverse population, foreigners must always be mindful and sensitive on how they communicate and interact with the different nationalities in America. Political correctness is the norm. Residential and personal security is of utmost concern that home security systems are part of fixed household expenses.

The U.S. have four seasons which demands at least three varieties of clothing, if not four.

Because of the multi-party system, the Philippines is not well-known for its government stability. Wealthy aspiring politicians with their vast resources can create their own party and run for top government positions. If they succeed, they can totally abandon the previous administration’s agenda/projects and implement their own, thereby wasting the constituents’ resources. Corruption of the highest officials are prevalent (our immediate past president was no exception) and government oversight is not always possible.

Although not perfect, the U.S. is well-known for its stable governance. Maybe because of the two-party system where political aspirants are chosen from a pool of qualified candidates, the constituents have the luxury of choosing whom they think is the best candidate for the coveted position. Unlike in the Philippines where police corruption is the general rule, the government authorities in the U.S. are well-respected (with a few exceptions).

Generally, children are allowed by parents to stay in their ancestral home until they find jobs, or least until they land a stable one. On rare occasions, however, legal aged children would overstay and abuse the privilege. In the same manner, siblings take turns in caring for their parents during their twilight years. The elderly will never have a problem worrying about their old age since members of the family see the opportunity as privilege to give back to their parents. Suffice it to say that there are no retirement and assisted living homes in the Philippines.

Education is the most priced legacy that both parents can leave their children. Parents will never be satisfied if they cannot let their children finish college. Oftentimes in a large family, the eldest in the brood after finishing college and getting a job will take it upon herself to help finance the younger siblings’ college education and so on. The youngest, in most cases, looks after the parents. Filipinos value close-knit family ties.

As the only predominantly Christian nation in Southeast Asia, the Philippines do not have law on divorce so would-be married couples painstakingly choose their partners in the hope that they will be partners for life. If at all, legal separation is allowed, that is separation only by “bed and board” and remarriage will only be possible upon the death of either spouse.

It is not uncommon for children to be independent and live on their own by the time they reach the age of majority. They mature and become self-sufficient at an early age and due to the demands of a highly developed and fast-paced economy, retirement homes and assisted living communities are common since siblings rarely have the time to take care of their aging parents.

Even with the pains of the present economy, the U.S. has still more job opportunities than the Philippines. A high school graduate here can get a job at McDonald’s while in my country that position for the same burger chain calls for some college credits, if not a college degree. Not quite sure about the hiring qualifications of a bank teller in the U.S. but in the Philippines, a college degree is a must for that position.

The ratio of new marriages to divorces is 2 to 1 according to the latest statistics from U.S. Census Bureau through December 2009.

Roughly 60,000 Philippine nationals immigrate to the U.S. each year though family-based and employment-based petitions. Most of these immigrants adapted and stayed for good in this land of opportunity for their family’s better economic future. A few realized that America is not for everybody and that adjusting to a different culture despite its financial rewards has its concomitant trade-offs and sacrifices. The unique qualities of both countries play an important role for foreigners in America in deciding whether the endless economic opportunities here are worth more than the heritage and cultural wealth they have left behind in their native land.

About DF Community

This article was submitted by the author above. All articles posted in this blog are views of their respective authors. All commentaries, letters or opinions submitted by the Definitely Filipino community are presented here unedited, except for formatting and minor typographical corrections.