It is hell if we object and reject that which differs from our own history and patterns.
My enlightenment on things Filipino comes from living in this carefree and gorgeous country.
The American Look, to a Filipino
Some readers who have been to the United States and lived in THAT culture understand the gaps, the conflicts, the differences. They will have less difficulty understanding Americans than will those who have never visited the U.S. or its land-endowed siblings of the British Empire, Australia and Canada.
This is a guide for those who have not experienced America but are bold enough to dabble in JoeAm's off the wall commentaries.
Here are some principles, generalizations all, with exceptions that abound, that will help you get the most from an American's unrestrained thought process. This will enable you to RELATE better to any Americans you may have occasion to meet.
- Americans are forthright. They are not particularly sensitive people with an ever-present need to defend their egos. Now this is not to say they have small egos. They have large egos but they are not out to intimidate. They carry about a certain arrogance of confidence, a belief that they understand things pretty well, and if they don't, they are open to other views. They will change their minds if they discover new information. So you are not running into a brick wall if you argue with an American. And he won't shoot you with a gun for being candid. He'll return his own words, forthrightly.
He also presumes you are not overly sensitive. That is often a wrong assumption in the Philippines, but it is what he assumes. So your impression of him might be "wow, what a loud blowhard; I'm staying away from him."
Haul out your sense of humor, be ready to let his words roll away like water off a duck's back, and engage. It will be fun later when you die laughing about the conversation.
The American Personality, to a Filipino
- Americans are competitive. Games and contests are a part of the American fabric. American kids learn to compete aggressively but fairly in school or civic-sponsored sports. There is an honor to not cheating. It is better to play fair and lose than cheat and win. This is an inside emotional thing with Americans, a deep value. It is why they can't comprehend all the cheating and law-breaking that goes on in the Philippines. They personally could not bear the shame of getting ahead by cheating.
You can trust most Americans. They presume they can trust you. Don't try to jerk them around or gather with your friends and point at them and laugh. That's not cool; it breaks trust.
- Americans have a good sense of humor and don't mind being the butt of jokes themselves (self-deprecating humor). From the Three Stooges to Saturday Night Live, from Jerry Lewis to George Carlin and Chris Rock, from action movies built on jokes, Americans chuckle their way along, finding relief there from the stresses of working hard and being productive. Some educated Americans enjoy satire, for satire requires a knowledge of many things to reach the hidden insights. Many of JoeAm's jokes slip past readers because he is sneaky quick with little hidden meanings.
But don't open up the conversation with a sex joke. It is too personal for most Americans at first meeting. Go figure.
- Americans are private people. They don't mind opening up after they know you better. It seems odd considering how loud and opinionated they can be. But it is not advisable to step up to an American and ask how much his car cost. His financial matters are private. His religion might be, too; or might not. It depends on the person. Same with regard to that sex joke; it presumes a familiarity he doesn't want without it being earned. It is best to warm the waters with soft subjects. Ask where he lives, where he works, how he discovered the Philippines. The size of his family. Then pick up where to go from there.
You will find he responds better to you if you ask questions rather than make statements. It is the confidence-arrogance thing again. Americans like to brag. You'll never be short of things to talk about if you have a portfolio of questions. He'll fill in the blanks nicely. Soon he'll be asking you some questions and the conversation will balance out.
- Americans are inventive. They like to figure things out. Maybe it is that competitive thread, taken to an intellectual plane. And the arrogant confidence. Be ready for solutions to problems that you have not even thought of. They'll tell you how to do it, no shyness, no humble pie. Rather like JoeAm and his blogs. Or Jim-e in his comments. Always striving for an understanding of the problem and quickly moving beyond that to solution.
"Looka here son, our chickens
are bigger'n yer chickens!"
If you have a question, ask. If you disagree, say so. He'll appreciate it because it is a part of the inventive-discovery process he enjoys.
Remember, he is not really into building or saving face. Nor is he interested in harming yours. Most Americans are not as ambitiously into win/lose battles on every sentence as Filipinos seem to be. Their competitiveness is generally within themselves. Not with you.
I think that will get you started fine. You'll be able to get along with most Americans, no problem. And maybe you will understand why Joe Am's writing is looser than most Filipino prose, why it is filled with humor and blowhard opinions and invention and discovery. And good intent. You know, trustworthy.
Joe may be wrong, but he is sincere about it.
Ha. Unless he is into satire again. You have to do your best to figure out when he is joking. It is not always easy, but it wrinkles the brain trying to figure it out.
May your openness to new experiences be wide and warm, and your discoveries rich.