Didi: D For Delicious
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to the USA, etc.
My name is Didi Paterno-Magpali. I am Filipino, born and raised in Metro Manila, Philippines. My expat life journey started when I moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates to finally live with my boyfriend turned husband whom I was in a long distance relationship with.
After almost 2 years in the desert, fate opened a new chapter in our life as husband & wife and sent us packing for the USA in April 2013.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in 2009 on different topics: long distance relationships and food. But since I learned how challenging it is being an outsider in a new world, I started writing and sharing my expat experiences and insights apart from my yummy adventures, of course.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- On random things I had to learn, like how to use the coin laundry.
- On serious matters like realizing how race does matter, in “The day I realized how race mattered”.
- On learning how to cook favorites from home, like “The Perfect Beef Tapa”.
- On noticing the almost unnoticeable, “Street art in NYC”.
Tell us about the ways your new life in the USA differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Like most expat destinations, one has expectations, whether these were established by stories from family members or friends, books read and TV or films watched. I had a lot, but as you settle into the day to day, you realize that not all of these expectations are true.
There was no big bang culture shock. Just little cultural things like the regional twangs, the food, state laws like how overspeeding in Virginia is a criminal offense, credit scores, etc. Everyday things that you’d think never really mattered, but do.
I guess we were just lucky that we got the chance to travel around the country, so this I think widened our perspective of the US as a beautifully diverse country, beyond what we’ve seen on TV and in the movies.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in the USA? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think that in life you are ever fully prepared for anything. There will always be surprises along the way, no matter how thorough you research and prepare.
Since my husband and I came from another expat stint, I think we learned a lot from that experience, so we were financially prepared at the very least. That I would not have changed. In that way, we came prepared.
Oh! One thing we were not prepared for was the insurances! OMG! There’s car insurance, renter’s/home insurance, health insurance, which does not always include dental and vision insurance, and even pet insurance!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I’ve written a couple of them on the blog. Like how I’ve always been puzzled on why Americans wear pajamas going out. Or when we were confused with Daylight Savings Time. Or (sorry baseball fans), how I was bored to death watching our 1st baseball game.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in the USA?
- As in any journey outside your home country, ask, ask and ask some more. There are no stupid questions. Oh, and make sure you ask the right people… if you are lucky to know any. I would prefer to consult people who have been living in the US for years, more than 5 years, and who fit your very definition of a successful and happy expat life. These are people who’ve perhaps been there and done that and are willing to share their experiences of their US life. Yes, do consult people who are more than willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly, so that you really have a 360 degree perspective and not just the good life.
- Be willing to start from zero and work your way to create the life that you want. We came here with two suitcases of our most personal belongings, spent months sharing accommodations with other people, receiving “donations” from friends and sleeping on the floor before buying a mattress. Now, we are living on our own and doing well (at least I do think so). That’s the thing about living here, as long as you work hard and be smart with your money, you can create the life that you want.
- There is no free lunch. I grew up watching “Rescue 911” in the 80s and 90s, thinking that emergency healthcare and rescue is free. But sadly, it is not. They help you and then send you the bill later on. So make sure you are financially prepared and not get swept away by the tidal wave of consumerism that they have here.
How is the expat community in the USA? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The US is naturally a melting pot of people from different countries. And I think that my husband and I were blessed, surrounded by people we know from the Philippines. In that way, it was easier to find some like-minded people.
But, of course, I would love to go beyond our current circle of friends, especially fellow expats from other countries too.
The thing is about living in the US, people are busy with their own day to day sh*t. It is very unlike the Philippines, where there is help to get you through things like laundry, cooking, and the like. So all get-togethers need to be planned carefully around everybody else’s activities. You can’t just say “Hey! I feel like having coffee. Would you care to join me?”
How would you summarize your expat life in the USA in a single, catchy sentence?
It’s a chance to get to know America the beautiful and create an equally beautiful life in it.