A Reader’s Guide to Americans

A cross cultural experience is fascinating if addressed in good spirit and with open mind.

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.
  1. 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
    “Looka here son, our chickens
    are bigger’n yer chickens!”
  1. 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.
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.
25 Responses to “A Reader’s Guide to Americans”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Looks like JoeAm by hiding behind cyber anonymity contradicts the piicture of the individualistic, gung- ho brave American that you are trying to characterize.Or maybe you're Fil-Am after all…DocB

  2. Well, doc, your note raises several points.First of all, I never used the term "brave", although it applies to most Americans, being an outgrowth of the confidence and competitiveness combination applied in a conflict situation.Second, I did say at the outset that there are exceptions to my characterization. I'm one, being quiet rather than outspoken, and private, rather than pushy. Third, I consider my "hiding" a liberating quality that allows me to be candid and worry less about the angers that run rich among Filipinos offended.Fourth, I actually have a hard time relating to most outspoken Americans I've met here, so, indeed, perhaps I am more FilAm than American in style. So in writing this article, I also give advice to myself.Keen observation on your part.

  3. Edgar Lores says:

    Five Funny Reasons Why I Love the USA1. They make good movies and cartoons, especially cartoons.2. They have good food – McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut.3. They have different colours – white, black, brown, yellow, red (the rednecks), blue (the avatars) and green – oh, wait, Martians have not yet been discovered and migrated to Mar-yland.4. They have Disneyland.5. They have easy names to remember – every other man is named Joe or Bob.Five Good Reasons Why I Love the USA1. I respect the Founding Fathers.2. I respect Abraham Lincoln, that fearless vampire killer.3. I love the Statue of Liberty and its inscription that goes “Give me your tired, your poor…”4. I love the Big Apple with its museums, art galleries and the Metropolitan Opera.5. I love the good music – Elvis, Esther Satterfield, Beverly Sills and Renee Fleming

  4. Ah, my, yes. Re. the Statue of Liberty, America is an amazing amalgamation of peoples who come from starkly different cultures but are strikingly the same in the U.S.: law abiding, achievement oriented and passionate about America. If the Philippines is going to import anything, it ought to be those qualities. And maybe a few drones . . .

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, JoeAm. About the only things American I don't like are beef tallow and high-fructose corn syrup, found in McDo. Drones, I like. That coupled with Pinoy humint the Abu Sayaf would find formidable.DocB

  6. chohalili says:

    Mr Joe Am, I admire and respect the characteristic you describe of the Americans, but not all, some are "good, bad and ugly" Filipinos have the same quality you mentioned, we have some honorable and responsible but very few, I really wonder why some are greedy and unsatisfied. But I trusted any American seated next to me, that he won't let me copy and cheat for any reason.

  7. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e (aka: The Cricket)1. Good reading, good examples, profile and show-case for many features and traits -"The essence" ofthe "American Character". 2. Personally I am the summation of what my immigrantItalian parents, my educators-church-Boy Scouts, germs,wife, (I do not count my relatives, neighbors, and friends) and bad experiences have innoculated me with!3. For a excellent outline of the American CharacterI would suggest you look up: http://www.3quartsdaily.com fora interesting profile list filled with good illustrations.4. I would also like to make the observation that forgood or bad those of us who have become "world-wise" find that we have many common "traits", qualities, experiences, ideals, weaknesses and attitudes which we can find in common-ground and share!5. As long as we are willing to "bear our souls" toone another and find solutions to our individual andcollective problems then I still have some hope forthe "Human-vis-a-vis-rat-race"! Education I believeis the Key to unlock the gates to creation of ourown "paradise"–it is up to us! 6. As long as we can survive to tell the tale, keepplaying the game of life -find humor and laughter ineach sunrise, have dreams/goals, finding opportunity-solutions, setting good examples, and make a differenceto our families and community for what we do and how weact then I visualize success! Growing old is mandatory,growing up is always optional!7. A national character is produced as a quiltwork anda quilt takes many folks contribution of fabric,needles, thread, time and cloth to make it a great work!8. As regards civics,(the need to teach stewardship)the individual character is built on a foundation rock of responsibility. A constructive life of self-education-sacrifice-help-disclipine, willingness to live/play thegame of life-and fullfillment of obgligations to family,community and society are a necessary "buy-in"! Thetable stakes are high, but the rewards and benefitsare great! As long as people keep a open mind, a open heart anda willingness to do better than their parents then we still have a chance of making our world a wonder-filled place to live1Chirp!

  8. Edgar Lores says:

    "There is an honor to not cheating."Seriously though, Joe, there appears to be an ongoing Republican effort to suppress the vote under the guise of stopping vote fraud. The world looks to America for democracy, and voting is the voice of the people in a democracy. Why are the Americans not up in arms on this issue?Here in Australia, where voting is mandatory, the State keeps meticulous lists of registered voters and there is a voter ID. However, if you are on the list, you can use any other ID like a driver's licence, and there is pre-poll voting if you cannot vote on the day. Voting results – on council, state and federal levels – are usually known before midnight on voting day, unless it is a very close contest. So cheating is almost impossible – unlike the questionable results in Florida between Gore and Bush. And unlike the Philippines where election results often take weeks.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Most Americans value their bank accounts like any other, but what they value most is their integrity. amormina

  10. One order of drones, hold the McDo, coming right up . . .

  11. Yes, plenty of good, bad and ugly among the American contingent. And a great many good Filipinos. There'd be a lot more if things like a reasonable chance to compete for wealth were built into the economic model.

  12. What a wonderfully cerebral site you mention. Thanks! I've bookmarked it for my personal return, regularly. The Philippine quilt, though somewhat bare and tattered, is being knitted the right way these days, if a little herky jerky as those with the needles – they look a lot like congressmen – lollygag around, posturing instead of producing . . .

  13. You say a lot in few words, amormina. I think that is a very accurate and profound statement.

  14. The voting restrictions are being bitterly fought by Democrats. It is a big issue, just not as big as the economy and the slinging of mud. The Republican party has become extreme and the election will tell whether or not this is reflecting a trend in American values, too. I find it scary, and moving backward.Like, what kind of stupid is it to return to the Bush era of belligerence and arrogance and intolerance?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hey Ed, I am curious to know what happens if one failed to vote. Are you guys allowed to have sex with your wife freely (no offense here, just an expression of freedom of speech? What a freedom you got. That is right, very close contest in Florida (Bush/Gore)causing a recount. The problem with the recount are dimpled ballots and there are many since Florida are mostly populated with senior citizens. I happened to read a book about it. A very observant observer noticed ballots on the floor where the recount is ongoing. Those ballots are dimpled and discarded and not counted. So, one could say the dimpled ballots made Bush the President.Election cheating is not tolerated in America period.Hey Joe, What voting restriction are you talking about?Its Jack

  16. Mainly voter ID requirements that require certain government issued documents that the poor and uneducated may not easily be able to obtain, thus discouraging votes from poorer citizens. Here's an article on it: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-15/pennsylvania-voter-ID/57068288/1

  17. Anonymous says:

    Ha! ID card is a voting restriction? What is the big deal getting an ID cards? DMV gives it away for free but not in PH where it costs an arm and a leg for the poor to get one. I become overly annoyed when they ask for ID card; not one but two to open a bank account in PH or anything else significant. Its Jack

  18. I think it is a big deal if you are already living on the edge and government frightens you a bit. Any added burden is likely to pare a few (thousahd?) voters. I'm not the best versed on the matter, but I know Democrats are highly upset.The Philippines is the best red-tape place in the universe, demanding documents that are irrelevant and photocopies out the gazoo. It took my wife two years to get her passport because she needed ancillary "plastic" and the Social Security plastic machine was busted for six months.

  19. Edgar Lores says:

    Jack,1. A fine (about $50) is imposed. Voting is mandatory only in the sense that you have to show up at the polling booth. You do not have to express an opinion – you can leave the ballot paper blank.2. Not freely – only if the wife allows.3. Disenfranchisement in America has been happening over several years, if Wikipedia and other sources are credible.4. In Australia, you have to present two or more several IDs – to totally prove you are who you say you are – to open a bank account. This prevents fraud, cheating, money laundering.

  20. Edgar Lores says:

    JoeI woke up this morning with the phrase "the right stuff" in my mind. I think this is what I like about Americans.The phrase comes from a book, and was applied to Yeager and other pilots who were always pushing the envelope.I think that's what Americans are doing best – pushing the envelope. In gadgets, yes, but more in human freedom. In human dignity. In exploration.

  21. Edgar Lores says:

    Jack,Sorry have to add something about mandatory voting.I was of two-minds when I first heard of this practice. But the aphorism, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance" sort of convinced me it's a good one.With freedom comes responsibility.

  22. Edgar, yes, "the right stuff". Confidence, courage, commitment, inventiveness and a strong sense of right over wrong. I think that actually many peoples in many nations have the same character, but the American "pot" welcomes it rather than finds it threatening. The "pot" was a matter of circumstance and really smart founding fathers.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Ed,Did you know that in America, they dont usually ask ID cards unless the transaction is suspicious. Yeah, they dont event ask one when it is credit card purchase. The only time I am required to whip out my ID card is getting into the Navy Exchange and boarding my ship for security.My point is voters ID card in America is absurd. It is UnAmerican.Simplicity is beauty Ed, so I quess I have to borrow Joe's HUMPTY DUMPTY INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY to define aphorism. What are you trying to do to me bro? No offense, but this is one of the thing that Joe was speaking of, Americans are forthright.You know, I like American Newspaper and and other prints better than Filipino because they used words almost everyone could understand.You know, I think I have a clear understanding what is freedom and other things that goes with it. I defended that freedom in America for over 22 years. Thanks for the reminder. Hey! thanks for that $50 fine and I just love that item number 2 hahaha… Item number 3 is disinformation attempt by the right wing conspirators.Nice dayIts Jack

  24. Edgar Lores says:

    Jack,Thanks for the laughs. Glad I made you laugh!And thanks most of all for being there in the front defending freedom so that I can use big words!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Sure I had a good laugh…Thanks to you too, but I still hate big words.Hey look, I still dont know what is "aphorism", I am serious dude, I lost my dictionary during my last reformat. When Joe and Ed speak of "The Right Stuff", it reminds me of Donna Summers. Loves the beat. Its Jack

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