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Joy: Catharsis

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in the USA makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to the USA, etc.

I’m Joy Manuel, currently residing in a suburb close to Nashville, TN. I was born and raised in the Philippines and migrated to the United States in 2004. At the time, I resided in Chicago, IL and lived there for 7 years. It was only in 2011 that my family and I moved to TN. I am a Sociologist by training and was working as an Asst. Professor at a prestigious university in the Philippines prior to migrating. At this time, I am a homemaker and blogger/(aspiring) writer.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I have always been drawn to writing and I thought that starting a blog was a great way to keep honing my skills. I also felt that starting a blog would be a great outlet for my thoughts and experiences as a fairly new migrant here in the U.S. Migrating, starting a new life, a family and redefining one’s identity as an adult are no easy tasks and what better way to try to make sense of it all than to write about them?

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Here are a few blog entries of mine that I believe give a clearer picture of how it all began, and could also give any reader a taste of what flavors I offer in my blog site Catharsis:

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?

To a certain extent, I did experience culture shock and sometimes I feel I still do somehow. Language for me has never been a problem since English is a language that most Filipinos generally don’t struggle with. I grew up speaking it. However, I have had to familiarize myself with new norms, American expressions that I’ve never heard or before, let alone used. The ways organizations and institutions function are different so I constantly have to be observant in order to learn them. Culturally, Filipinos are generally not assertive and Westerners (Americans) generally are so I find myself adjusting to that as well. Overall, I get by and have adjusted well on the surface. But internally, daily life is still quite an effort for someone ‘cerebral’ like myself.

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 was prepared insofar as Western media prepared me. I was familiar with the ‘American life’ based on what I have seen on TV, or in movies. I have also visited the US as a tourist in 2001 so somehow, I knew what to expect. However, living here permanently was unplanned. I think psychologically, it would have been a bit easier if I knew that I was leaving my family and friends in the Philippines for good. I think it always helps for a migrant to have networks in the place of migration to assist in adjustment.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

I can’t think of a really funny specific event but this one’s a funny point. I have experienced some Americans (especially here in the south—TN) trying to ‘figure me out’. I don’t have the typical Asian look so I’ve had some people look at me strange when they first meet me, trying to figure out my ethnicity. Then when I speak, I think they get further confused/puzzled because they can’t detect an accent sometimes. I still think I have an accent but I suppose it’s not thick at all and Americans claim I sound ‘American’. I find that amusing.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in the USA?

  • Make sure you have as many of your official documents with you as possible (e.g. official transcripts, diplomas, necessary medical records, birth certificate, etc). Everything in the US relies on documentation, IDs, and other official documents. You wouldn’t want to be abroad and realize that you have to get documentation from back home.
  • It helps to live in a ‘friendly’ city. If you are a new migrant, being around people who are helpful, accommodating and broadminded would really help. You wouldn’t want to be in a place where you don’t feel comfortable enough to ask questions when you don’t know something, because you will ask a lot of questions.
  • If you can help it, and can afford to do so, try not to settle for just any job that’s out there. Try to find something you really want to do and something aligned to your training/credentials. Migration can trigger a lot of insecurities and you wouldn’t want to second guess your self-worth during your adjustment period. Migration will also naturally lead to some redefinition of your reality and therefore having a strong sense of self, a strong sense of your identity and what you are capable of doing can only help ground you and add to your sense of the familiar.

How is the expat community in the USA? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

When I migrated, I lived near Chicago, IL and there was a fairly good amount of Asians, also Filipinos. I also migrated due to marriage and my husband’s family is a big Filipino family with Filipino networks. However, moving to TN is a different story. There aren’t a lot of Asians and definitely finding Filipinos is a challenge. It does help that there is a decent oriental store that provides Asian/Filipino ingredients that make it possible to still enjoy the flavors of home.

How would you summarize your expat life in the USA in a single, catchy sentence?

‘(I) navigate the world knowing that race DOES matter, but (try to) behave like it does not’. -------- (taken from something I had written two years ago) ---

Brian Norris

"When first moving to Washington, D.C., I didn't know many people outside of the office. InterNations has changed that with some exciting events."

Caroline Stiles

"In such an international city such as Washington, D.C. InterNations holds great events for everyone to network and enjoy themselves."

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