Monday, December 17, 2012

About Americans

Guest Article
By Coco Villa

American Cowboy
Talking about Americans and American culture one can talk about different layers. A visible outer layer with things such as clothing, language, food, and housing. A middle level consisting of norms and values and beliefs in what is right and what is wrong. Deep inside is the core that makes them tick, things you don’t know too well and when others tell you, you get confused or irritated. The visible layer can be seen daily on TV, the invisible layers are the subject of this blog.

All the following statements are unscientific and just reflect my personal observations and thoughts. I worked half my career for American companies, living in Michigan, in the Mid-West and around Atlanta. I spent holidays in Florida and California.

Let’s first ask if it makes sense to talk about Americans as such; does the stereotypical American exist?

STATEMENT 1:  Americans do not exist

1.       To describe a population statistically you need two parameters, the average or mean and the dispersion or variation. When you compare parameters between the US and Europe, it is remarkable that the US has much more variation, the normal distribution curve being very flat. As the USA has a large population there are always plenty of people at the excellent side, but also plenty of people far below average. The average is not always above the European average, even if the number of top notchers in America is larger. For instance, the difference between a degree from a second class college in the US and one from an Ivy League university is enormous. Not so in Europe. Out of the top 10 universities in the world, eight are American and two are European. In the top 200 you find more European universities. Same for museums, income, housing . . .

Filipino Cowboy
Conclusion: the large extremes of the flat distribution differ so much that it is impossible to talk about a typical American. You always have a large section of the population with the opposite characteristics.

2.       I lived in Detroit, and in Metro-Detroit alone you can make a world tour, from Germany through the Middle East to black Africa and China . . . all in one town. Appearance changes, food changes, even languages. You find extreme wealth on one side of the street, poverty at the other side and a lot of police in between. When travelling, one cannot compare Texas with New England, Florida with Alaska, the bible belt with San Francisco, the rural plains with New York. Nature is different, dialects are different, norms and values are different, surviving strategies are different.

Conclusion: the differences are too big to talk about one American culture.

3.       America often has the best athletes, the most gold medals, but also the most obese citizens. You see the typical California girl on roller-skates and the couch potatoes with a 6-pack in a rusty pick-up. Noble price winners and a high percentage of illiterates. Astronauts and plenty of citizens with no clue how the rest of the world might look (and Fox isn’t telling them, either).

Conclusion: the typical American does not exist.

4.       Immigration is so high and millions are not fully assimilated yet, Cubans in Miami, Mexicans in the South, Chinatowns, Filipinos everywhere . . . providing a lot of cheap imported labor. Top universities and top industries attract the best scientists from all over the world, making a lot of the American human capital imported capital. A lot of raw materials and goods are imported below reasonable market prices and foreign debt is enormous. American wealth is imported wealth.

Conclusion: American success is imported success.

5.       Social mobility in the US is much lower than in many other countries. Getting higher-up is more difficult. The prison population is higher than everywhere else in the world. Gun violence is a multiple of all other nations.

Conclusion: the American dream only exists as a dream and it is not based on reality.

STATEMENT 2: Americans exist

1.       Once you understand one American airport you understand all American airports. If you have seen one Wal-Mart, you have seen all Wal-Mart’s. One language is dominant and can be used everywhere, one type of road sign, one type of doorknob everywhere. On Fridays the throughput time for all TGI Friday restaurants is 47 minutes, the time between entering and exiting the establishment, based on one optimal process, applied in every TGIF restaurant.

Conclusion: uniformity is so high that it only can be realized in a single nation, America exists.

2.       Being a country of immigrants, immigrants are common and well accepted. Most immigrants came with the same dream. The integration processes are well developed and build on that dream: “In the States you can achieve everything”. But you have to share American values such as hard work, caring for yourself, and loving the country. These values are repeated daily in every morning show and in every school. Every newspaper has a daily success story.

2,384 New Americans Arriving at Ellis Island, 1903
Conclusion: When even immigrants share the same dream from day 1 and then participate in the same patriotic parades, America exists

3.       On a civil war site I overheard a mother telling her kids: “ You know why the civil war was the bloodiest war ever fought? Why? Americans were fighting Americans and Americans soldiers are the bravest in the world!” (The fact is that the lack of hygiene killed more soldiers then bullets.)

Conclusion: chauvinism is widespread, America exists.

4.       For most Americans the world is split in two parts, America at one side of the border and the rest of the world at the other side. This mean you only need two sets of adjectives, one to describe Americans and one to describe the others. Differences between the Pygmies in Africa, Danes in Denmark or Chinese tai-pans in Hong Kong are minimal compared to how they differ from a true American.

Conclusion: it’s all about perception, America exists.

5.       The rest of the world recognizes an American straight away. Some arrogance with a sympathetic smile, a straight forward language with a clear accent, informally dressed, self assured but easy to approach. The rest of the world sees Uncle Sam as the ultimate policeman in the world, the ultimate superman to come to the rescue, needed or not. The rest of the world is envious for America's success.

Conclusion: if the world says that America exists, who am I to object.


1.       Individual / Group

The Americans are focused on individual development and not on connecting with others. “I am responsible for my own success, the American Dream gives me all opportunities, the sky is the limit”.  They live in a crossfire of commercial impulses, often loosing the traditional cocoon of family, guild, and neighborhood. The Filipino’s main consideration is the opposite. “I am responsible for my family, and if I am more successful than my parents or siblings, I will (have to?) share with them.”

American Diplomat
If you go alone to a confrontation in the US, it signals that you are powerful and can make all decisions yourself, but if you go with a negotiating team, you are weak, you need support. Here it is the opposite. If you go with a large team all can see that you are important, that you have the means.

When I was new in the Philippines, I had to pay my water bill the first time. I worked the whole day and I intended to send my helper. I didn’t know where I had to pay, so I asked my neighbors but I couldn’t get a clear answer. The next day I asked my colleagues at work and eventually I got the location explained. Only later I understood how stupid I had been. Every tricycle drivers goes 100 times a month to that place, they know for sure. My neighbors, like my helper, did not understand why I didn’t trust her, why I had to control her and even worse why I had to take away the added value of the driver and his pride. Here people rely on “group knowledge”. In the States this is unthinkable, relying on others. You have to know yourself.
2.       Inside out / Outside in

In the Philippines, the description of a persons surroundings is more revealing than the description of his character.

Americans define themselves from within, what they are, “Only I know who I really am”. Filipino’s (as Asians) do the opposite, they look at their relatives to know who they are, at their friends, their countrymen. “How my behavior is perceived makes me who I am”. Loosing face or losing esteem is to become a lesser person. After losing face, an American is still the same, it only means that he has to sell himself better the next time.

American children sleep alone in bed and their being ends where their toes feel the sheets. Filipino children sleep in clusters and their being starts where the others are not. It creates a different perspective. American children from a young age sit in their room alone, and even with a multitude of Facebook contacts, they are alone. Filipino children are together, even behind a screen in an internet cafe.

3.       Missionary / Detective

Americans (as Westerners) are missionaries. When they go somewhere they have to find out what can be improved, come up with a solution and convince the others to implement the improvement. Asians do the opposite. When they go somewhere they look for what they could copy and use to their advantage. Filipinos with their mixed heritage are confused. As Asians they would like to copy, but they want to be big boys, too, and like the Americans, find solutions for themselves. (Even worse, now they call copying plagiarism.)

Obesity is a bigger health crisis globally than hunger, and the leading cause of disabilities around the world.” (The Lancet, British medical journal)  Plenty of American NGO’s offer solutions to eliminate hunger. Where are the Philippine NGO’s fighting obesity, explaining the benefits of hunger?

4.       Escalation policy

Filipino Congressman
Americans have a very elaborate way to escalate a conflict: 1. speak louder, 2. use rougher language, 3. stand closer, 4. use obscene signs, 5. touch the other person, 6. push him, 7. hit him, 8. hit as hard as you can, 9. fight for life or death, 10. shoot.

Filipinos stay friendly at levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8 and 9. Only a good observer might notice some nervousness.  The only escalation they know is 10: shoot. (Sometimes they shoot already on level 5.)
5.       Confidence

People are confident when their phenotype, the way they behave/culture, is close to their genotype, the way they are/nature. Americans have no problem in behaving the way they are. They affirm whenever they can that they are the biggest, the best. For Filipinos it is the opposite. They behave very politely to equals and superiors, but once “individually” in a car, they are the rudest drivers one can imagine. Triple lane, even fourth lane driving in a 2 lane street is common, blocking all traffic in either direction.

Americans always have the ultimate solution: 80% of the painkillers worldwide are consumed by the Americans, 5% of the population.


  1. Today I learned:

    1. The typical American does not exist. Mind you, if he did, he would be in total contrast with the Filipino.

    2. The American dream is a mirage and American success is immigrant success. Therefore Mariano is right, and Filipinos can claim credit for American success.

    3. America itself may not exists, but its existence may be granted on the fact that non-America exists.

    4. While the typical American does not exist, he will be easily recognized by his casualness and approachability. He may be wearing a policeman’s uniform.

    5. Americans are not Filipinos and they differ in several ways, notably:

    5.1 Americans know they exist because they can see themselves; Filipinos because others can see them.

    5.2 Americans are solution-oriented; Filipinos solve by copying. (How true!)

    5.3 Americans foolishly telegraph their intentions in a confrontation; Filipinos don’t. Hence our pugilistic superiority.

    5.4 Americans are WYSIWYG; Filipinos are WYDSIWRD (what you don’t see is world’s rudest driver).

    5.5 The American solution to the pain of life is painkillers; the Filipino solution is to become like Americans.

    All together a great piece with at first a forbidding statistical approach followed by humorous insights. Just like Americans: a touch of arrogance hiding sympathetic smiles.

  2. Another sad difference based on the latest news: When a Filipino goes juramentado (berserk) he wields a bolo; an American would use several assault rifles and handguns.

  3. Hollywood thin is measure of wealth in America. Obesity is wealth in the Philippines.

    Tan is show of wealth in America. White skin is in the Philippines.

    I can tell a Filipino house by the clutter of 100 inch jumbo screen, computer, stereo components in the living room throw in faux period furniture pieces. Parties are held with all of these clutters turned on at the same time volumes turned up competing for attention. American living rooms are more sedate. Computers and personal listening equipment in the bed room. Just-right television screen size in family room. When they have parties no television is turned on.

    Americans talk in hushed whispered tone. Filipinos shout and when they laugh they laugh like hyenas. Filipinos whisper loudly plus obvious gossipy body language for everyone to hear and know to attract attention.

    American parties are held inside and in the backyard. Filipinos spill into the front smoking, drinking and laughing like hyenas.

    It is easy to tell a Filiipino party because the street and parking is like a Honda and Toyota dealership. Praying beads hanging in the rear view mirror and cute stuffed toys in the back.

  4. When Filipino-American Jessica Sanchez lost in American Idol, Filipino accused Americans of giving her difficult song to sing.

    When Filipino-American Jessica Sanchez said in FoxNews that she is a "Proud Latina", Filipino Media now billed her as Mexican-Filipino-American. Then dropped her from Philippine Media.

    When Mexican-Filipino-American Jessica Sanchez sang the Star Spangled Banner in one of Manny Pacquiao's fight, Filipinos felt betrayed.

    When Manny Pacquiao hit the canvas, Filipinos claimed it was a lucky punch and Pacquiao was over-confident and careless. American Media never talked about "lucky punch" "over-confidence" and "careless".

    When 2011 Miss Universe contestant Supsup was not crowned, Filipinos said she was asked a difficult question and judges were biased.

    Filipinos ABSOLUTELY believe that Americans like Filipinas because of their tan skin, yet, Filipinos wanted to be white. Filipinos thought this way because Americans wanted to sunbath.

    Filipinos ABSOLUTELY believe that they are industrious, hard-working and brilliant workers in America because according to them, they take any jobs available.

    Filipinos have the 2nd highest household income in recent census in America. TRUE !

    1. Pheno- and Geno types (the way they have to behave and “characters” inherited) are often not aligned for Filipinos, resulting in insecure / incongruent behaviour. When partying together the feel “whole” and thus happy. Caring for their families (earning money abroad) is another behaviour that aligns with their being. Papaya soap is a typical exponents of the non-alignment.

      Americans are Kano’s and behave as Kano’s, always with exceptions (see JoeAm)

      Do I sound like a shrink?

    2. "Filipinos have the 2nd highest household income in recent census in America."
      You mean those who are not over stayers.
      Most of them are over stayers. The majority of the high earners are the nurses and the the physical therapist.
      The Filipinos absolutely DO NOT take any jobs available. They are the elite of the housekeeper class here and that includes the many illegal over stayers I know myself. They are the care takers with a much higher salary than a Mexican housekeeper. Filipinos do speak English and that puts them in to a higher class as oppose to other South American domestic helpers who do not speak English. They often become the trusted family helper with a better salary than others.

    3. Source: The Rise of Asian Americans by Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends.

      Filipinos has the 2nd highest household population next to Indians which has the highest household income and average age.

      Average age and household population gives an idea that most in the household population works and it adds up skewing the statistics.

  5. Filipinos still believe in Biblical Fairy Tale story of David versus Goliath. Therefore, Filipinos believe that they are David against Chinese Goliath and they can defeat China ... WITH PRAYERS.

  6. Americans believe in themselves first and foremost. If all else fails, PRAY.

    Filipinos believe in PRAYERS, sit it out and wait for God. If God does not answer, AS ALWAYS THE CASE, they ask their wealthy neighbors to share because it is their obligation to share their wealth according to the bible, else, they perish.

    If Filipinos do not get wealthy, they say "Hindi madala ang kayamanan sa langit". This is a sign of sour graping, crab mentality and fatalistic attitude.

    American authorities do not publish the names of victims, weapons of crime, how they died, what time, when and how. Philippine authorities pagarparings everything to equally clueless, ignorant Philippine Media.

    American authorities rely on forensics. Filipino authorities rely on witness accounts and affidavits-of-guilts.

    1. Americans believe that success is the result of hard work. Europeans think success is the result of being born in the right place. Filipinos believe success is related to the right Karma or the right rituals and that are difficult issues if you are not well connected.

      In the US cheating is a vice for the ordinary American, a virtue for bankers and the like. In the Filipines cheating is a virtue for all.

    2. Filipinos like Americans believe in themselves and capabilities equally. Filipinos do it along with prayers while Some Americans probably pray only after failures.

      The big difference is vast opportunities available to Americans and scarce to Filipinos, reason that most needed prayers for moral support.

      I never prayed to land a job but pray daily to thank Him for the blessings in life. I am wealthy by American standard thru honest work but I say all the time I would not carry my wealth when I die so that is not sour graping. I dont mind sharing my wealth with the legitimately needy; refused inheritance from my parents, to give everything to my unfortunate siblings. I have tasted the lifestyles of the rich and famous including caviar and foie gras for snacks regularly.

      And I am a Filipino usually humble until provoked by generalization!

      Johnny Lin

  7. As with Edgar, I appreciate the light touch of humor that sneaks through and makes these fundamental comparisons not as serious as they might otherwise be taken. The humor provides room for disagreement and reveals recognition that the analysis is not meant to attack anyone, but to try to characterize the intricacies of two different cultures.

    As that is the main theme of this blog, I find the article amazing for the pictures it draws. Are there exceptions? Of course. Is he describint you, or me, specifically. Not at all.

    I love the five comparisons, especially the escalation policy and the individual/group insights.

    My favorite lines, among many:

    "American children sleep alone in bed and their being ends where their toes feel the sheets. Filipino children sleep in clusters and their being starts where the others are not."

    Sheer brilliance.

  8. American dream exists because it is about opportunity to live comfortably.
    Immigrants shoot for it. To some Americans, dream is about comfortable living by government entitlements not necessarily by opportunity to work for it that is why they complain that the American dream is still unachievable.
    A hard working immigrant or American usually own a house or able to rent an affordable multidimensional family dwelling.

    Racial culture is different everywhere. Some practice in their native lands, in countries far from it but others adopt the culture of natives where they grow up.

    Not unusual to see few Filipinos admit to being Americanized. Why do Filipinos in America celebrate Thanksgiving the way Americans do when we know our Thanksgiving tradition is during the Christmas season?
    What is the historical significance of a turkey and Mayflower Pilgrims to a Filipino?

    Filipinos want to do everything thru the shortest way, a culture practiced daily in the Philippines. "Pwede na, bahala na, sige na nga" are conceptual accommodations. When they move to foreign lands they found out they have to change the short cut habit to follow the rules. Those who insist to the old concept often end in the wrong side of the law or change employers frequently.

    one can tell easily those participating or commenting in blogs like Raissa blog, who are mostly OFWs who have changed their ways compared to those who are still living in the Philippines.

    In previous blog, I have outlined the 10 most common bad traits of Filipinos living in the Philippines which they have difficulty discarding some of them while living in foreign nations. hey are the main difference between Americans and Filipinos

    Johnny Lin

    1. The American dream as “everybody can become President” The chance in the US to move upwards on the social ladder is less than in most Western other countries. (due to cost of good education... large group of immobile poor... language barriers for immigrants... larger inequality...)

      The natural selection plays a big part too in explaining OFW behavior. The most dynamic, brightest, risk takers... immigrate, those more predestined to be successful.

    2. Everyone can dream. However, becoming an American president has limitations because of constitutional laws.

      First only one president is elected every four years. That eliminates millions of dreamers.

      Second- to run for president one must be a natural US born citizen that eliminates all immigrants like The Terminator.

      Anything else is achievable social status.
      Yesterday the first US Federal Filipino American federal judge was appointed. Last month Josie Natori was certified by Yahoo as one of few entrepreneurial multi millionaires. She is also a known socialite in NY

      Johnny Lin

    3. See the article, on average the social mobility is low, the variation is very high, what means that there are plenty of examples of the contrary. I knew an extraordinary Filipino cardiologist too. But many helpers will retire as helpers, many of their childeren will be helpers. But indeed Filipinos have less handicap, no language handicap and many imigrants to US do not come from the class 4 and 5, as in the Middle East.

    4. Immigrants of years yonder go to America not knowing what awaits them. They slog along searching for glint of gold and freedom to practice dizzying religious beliefs and freedom from religion.

      Immigrants today go to America of what America can give them.

  9. Guns cause 30.000 casualties in the US yearly more than in Syria. Accidents (many more accidental casualties than victims of real self defence!), suicides, assaults, revenge and madmen... The US has double the amount of private guns than the number two country in the world, Yemen.

    But the percentage of Americans with a gun keeps shrinking, from 35% in 1985 to 20% now, mainly white males.

    May be that my American escalation theory is outdated.

  10. Jollibee America hire Filipino managers direct from the Philippines because they eke out more profit than Filipino-"Americans". Jollibee America found out that Filipino-Americans are not goot worker. They also found out that a Filipino manager on H1B visa stick it out just to be in America. If they resign from Jollibee, they become illegal in America. So, they are virtually enslaved, drooling over the pay of In-and-Out which has the highest pay in the burger industry.

    My friend, a Jollibee manager hired direct from the Philippines, found out, too late, that Filipino-"American" patrons DO NOT CLEAR THE TABLE after eating but very goot tucking away trash at McDonalds and other American joints.

    Filipino-"Americans" looked down at Jollibee workers. They have no respect of them. I just love these irresponsibly religious Filipino-"Americans".

    At Filipino grocery stores, they slap your change on the counter not hand it over American style. The Filipinos in America push their shopping carts like they are driving in L.A. street.

    Here are the following tips living in America:

    1. Never stand before a citizenship card-carrying fake American Filipino before the check-out counter: a) they have not readied their coupons; b) they pay in basketfull of pennies, dimes and quarters; c) they check if the items are rang right
    2. Never stand before a citizenship card-carrying fake-American Filipino before any fast food restaurant. They likely hold up the line because they have not decided what to get.
    3. Never do groceries at Filipino store becuase the parking is tight and scarce. Most of all I do not want them to stare at me. (I must be pogi)
    4. If in Filipino restaurant do not bother "get your number here". They have no respect for that unless if you are in American operated grocery.
    5. If you want coffee, go to Starbucks. No Filipino there to hold up the line. If ever there is a Filipino ahead of you, BETTER REQUEST SUGAR because the Filipino ahead of you have already scooped up the packets of sugar to be placed in balikbayan boxes.

    Ooops, before I forget, DO YOU KNOW JOLLIBEE WEIGH THEIR FRENCH FRIES WHEN YOU ORDER ONE ? Yes, they always, do. I think it is best to count each fries it must be faster. I NEVER GO TO JOLLIBEE. I was once there because the Manager is my friend.

    1. I send my wife to the ATM. I can't stand that place, the gross lack of consideration of others. During our monthly trips to the big city supermarket, we get there when they open and I whip her to get her up and down the isles fast so we can hurry out of there before the hordes arrive. And, yes, I've noticed the clerks slap the change on the counter and my hand sticking out between us just confuses them.

      You are in wonderful form today, I might add.

    2. Mariano literally has the goods as he straddles the great divide.

  11. Has anyone noticed that in Filipino grocery stores in AMerica 80% of their canned and preserved products are from Thailand and China?

    Their grocery store should be named Tha-i-Chi instead of Filipino grocery store because what they are selling are not Filipino-made products.

    And, oh, if you are god believer, which I used to, never stand before a Filipino during communion of the blood of christ because they gulped down the wine instead of sip or wet the lips. (mano, po, dahan-dahan lang marami pang naka-pila)

    If you ever plan to transact business in any Filipino consular office, please bring the following: a) goot reading materials to rid of boredom waiting; b) headphones and iPod to muffle out the noise and entertainment; c) bring isang caldero na adobo and rice; MOST OF ALL d) BRING A LOT OF PATIENCE WAITING

  12. Has anyone wondered, in Times Square and in New York Chinatown they have an assortment of restaurants from different countries EXCEPT FILIPINOS when Filipinos are the 2nd to Chinese in immigrant population?

    In Falmouth, jump-off point to Martha's Vineyard they have Chinese and Indian restaurants. In Martha's souvenir shops are run by Koreans.

    In the Santa Monica, California and coasts up and down the coast from Napa to San Diego Filipino cuisines are not represented? Only Thai, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese? When I tell citizenship-card-carrying Fake-American Filipinos this fact, they are bewildered because Filipinos think that their cuisine is better? I just wonder if Filipinos ever bother to travel in AMerica or they are just busy collecting their money and send it to Philippines.

  13. Renato:

    Funny but one of the most repeated advice my wife gets from Filipinos working here is to not to work for other Filipinos. "Make sure you have an American boss" they tell her. In a simple term: Americans treat you right vs. Filipinos who are users.
    Yes most Filipino stores have Thai and Malaysian product. My wife tells me that Filipinos don't really trust Filipino products. She believes that Filipino manufacturers in general temper with quality to save money or steal money.


      Women would compare their bosses like this: "My boss is white. And he is very pogi. Courteous and polite."

      "Auuuurgh, my boss is a Filipino. He/she treats us like slaves. She'd get mad if I do not show at her family's parties"

      "My Filipino boss breaths on my neck"

      "My foreigner boss tells us the assignments and deadlines. He doesn't care how we do our job as long as we meet assignment deadlines and bottomlines"

      "My Filipino boss had me pick-up birthday cake for his daughter's birthday and deliver it Saturday. Of course, no overtime, but I am invited. Yeah, he and his wife barks at me as if their family pays me. There was one time the boss's wife asked me to clean the dishes. Hmppppf"


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