4 Lessons in Getting Connected Online in the US – Differences Between the USA and the Philippines

It was about a year ago when I arrived in Washington, DC to start my 6-week fellowship with US State Department’s Professional Fellowship Program by the U.S. Embassy and YSEALI (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. When our cohort landed, we were greeted with the cool breeze of spring and cherry blossoms in DC. From then on, it became an experience worth remembering.

Spring 2018 Economic Empowerment Cohort PFP

But first things first: The urgent thing I had to do when we landed was to fix my communications challenge. This became a learning experience on the differences between the USA and the Philippines on our use of consumer technology and the internet. Here are some things noted:

1. The process of purchasing mobile data

Access to the internet nowadays is as vital as food and water. Without data, I could not communicate with loved ones back in the Philippines. I could not arm myself with information while in a country I have not been in before. 

I thought it was going to be as quick as buying a sim card from a corner store, popping it on my smartphone, and I was good to go. That’s what we do in the Philippines.

Yet it took me 24 hours to actually get myself setup in the USA. I ended up buying a new phone and subscribing to a monthly unlimited plan. Yes, my simcard’s Philippines mobile carrier and my smartphone was not ready for use in the United States. I didn’t check ahead

2. The cost of getting connected via mobile

Based on the report from WeAreSocial in Singapore, Internet connection speed in the USA is 77.3 MBPS while in the Philippines it’s only about 15.2 MBPS. But comparing the costs, availing of unlimited data on prepaid (with calls and text in the USA) would cost you about $75 per month at Verizon. How about in the Philippines? A Globe Telecom’s 1GB data on promo would only cost you about PHP53 or $1.  

Which internet access would you prefer – high speed at high-cost or low speed but low cost? It might be a no-brainer but if we bring that same pricing plan in the Philippines, the internet penetration, I predict, would be lower.

Aside from the cost, I had nothing to complain about. My mobile carrier of choice was reliable even after traveling from West Coast to East Coast in the USA. I didn’t have to worry about having coverage wherever I was in the country. 

And then, time was up for my 30-day plan. I had to decide on renewal of my prepaid plan which cost me another $50 for only 7GB of data allowance. I had to have data 10 days before flying back to the Philippines so I decided to buy it. It definitely was super expensive!

3. The social media platforms used 

The Philippines boasts of about 63% internet penetration of its population and the United States has about 90%. Not to worry though since the Philippines is seeing a growth of 12% internet users as of 2018.

While we call ourselves the social media capital of the world, there is only one platform Filipinos love – Facebook.  

In the USA, they are hardcore users of platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, WeChat. These are often mentioned when you ask for social media profiles. So, get ready to hand them over when you engage with Americans. 

4. The consumption of podcasts

Are you into podcasts? 

For entertainment and educational use, podcasts are a huge deal in the USA. And yet here, it is rare to find Filipinos who are hardcore podcast enthusiasts or creators. 

I must admit that I have learned to love podcasts too. It became a go-to learning tool for me while I try to understand the culture, the digital, and tech lifestyle in the US. 

There may be American memes, lingos, and slangs that I don’t understand. There is a learning curve for everything. Perhaps soon more Filipinos will learn to love podcasts and start creating them. We will end up with a barrage of Filipino podcasts to listen to soon. What would be a good podcast name?

These four things are the notable ones. But surely when you immerse yourself in the country for more than six weeks, you’ll notice more differences that are surely noteworthy.

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