While it has been a delightful experience residing in the United States, particularly in Philadelphia, there have been moments when I felt like an outsider from another planet.
One of the most intriguing aspects of cultural diversity is undoubtedly the culinary aspect. Most of the menus here list the amount of calories in each dish alongside the price which I found very interesting. In my opinion, this does clutter up the menu at times and makes it hard to read but is a nice touch to allow customers to be more informed about what they are getting out of the meal they plan to order.
Another thing about the menus that is particularly perplexing is the exclusion of tax on the prices. I have heard that it might be due to the varying tax rates from state to state. The United States has a complex system of sales tax that can vary even within different municipalities which would mean that including tax in the menu prices would require restaurants to constantly update their prices to reflect the specific tax rates of each location, which can be impractical and time-consuming. Singapore’s goods and services tax is the same throughout the country, but then again we are a significantly smaller city state which may make it easier to enforce a standardised tax rate. It is just a little hard to get used to paying significantly more for goods and services than the price advertised after taxes have been applied at the register.
One aspect of American culture that stood out to me the most was the practice of tipping. In Singapore, tipping is not a common practice, as service charges are typically included in the bill. However, in the United States, tipping is customary and an essential part of the service industry. To this day, I still find it challenging to determine the appropriate tip amount, especially when the server intently stares at you while you decide how much to tip them.
Living in the United States, particularly in Philadelphia, has provided me with a fascinating immersion into a diverse and culturally rich society. While certain aspects, such as the ethnic mix and food differences, posed initial challenges, they also offered unique opportunities for personal growth and exploration. By embracing the distinct characteristics of American culture, I gained a deeper appreciation for the beauty of diversity and the richness it brings to everyday life. As my journey continues, I eagerly anticipate further encounters with cultural differences and the valuable insights they provide.