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Sunday, 22 July 2007

Simple Pleasures

When asked about their recommended activities, many of our survey respondents mentioned activities you can do almost for free. If there’s a group of Pinoys in your school, you can just hang out in each other’s apartments—watch TV, play cards, drink, eat Filipino food (come on, you can’t finish that whole pot of adobo/sinigang/nilaga all by yourself?), and just chill. Inviting friends over and having a potluck party is another way to have a good time without spending too much money. As Karen Manuel (University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania) said, Pinoys usually meet at each other’s apartments to eat, drink and karaoke. In England, Natson Go (University of Warwick, Coventry) recommends registering with the Pinoy-UK Club ( and head down to London for most of its activities. He further says you’ll meet nice people and there’s great Filipino food especially the adobo and kare-kare.

If you want to explore the city and don’t feel like walking, take the bus or the train and you’ll get a quick tour of the city. By mistake, Titchie decided to take the bus from 23rd St. to the Cloisters on 201st St. It was the longest bus trip of her life but it also gave her an unexpected view of the city. That bus route showed her all the fancy shops and restaurants on Madison Avenue give way to the brown buildings of Harlem. In another instance, Titchie and her cousin decided to take a walk around Chinatown and Wall Street. Before they knew it, they reached the Brooklyn Bridge, crossed it and back! After experiences like these, you feel like you’re more part of the city.

Another favorite student activity in the US is to hang out at Borders or Barnes and Noble. Aside from studying, you can also read your favorite magazines and books in a comfortable environment without having to pay. Check out their bulletins, if you have a favorite author who has a book coming out, they might be having a book tour and you can meet them in person.
Once you’ve made the city your own, you may find a favorite spot in the city where you can relax and forget the pressures of the academe. Your own quiet spot can be a park bench, a place with a nice view of the city, by the water, a fountain, or even one of the nearby churches in your vicinity.

Be a Native

Each city is unique with activities and traditions specific to them. Don’t be hesitant about doing what the natives do. This, again, is part of the whole experience. Eat their food (and we’re not talking about the local McDonald’s), observe their customs and traditions, go where the locals go. Be forgiving with the stereotypes. For example, Americans like hanging out in bars, watching and playing ballgames (football, baseball, basketball, etc.), and watching movies. In Paris, hanging out in cafés and going around open air markets are popular activities. Spain is known for its nightlife and siestas. In Australia, people spend a lot of time in the great outdoors—the beach or the outback. In merry old England people go to pubs for meals, a pint and enjoy afternoon high tea. Or go try an authentic bento box along with sake in Japan and visit their temples. Your city will have special festivals ranging from the religious, patriotic (Independence Day, Memorial Day, Queen’s Birthday in England, Emperor’s Birthday in Japan), or celebrating a holiday significant to the nation’s history.

Fall Festivals

In the US, the first popular tradition you’ll encounter is Thanksgiving, which is practically Christmas for a typical American household. Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade (don’t worry, you can watch it on TV) along with the requisite turkey, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes is part of the whole tradition. If you don’t have relatives, round up a group of your “orphan” friends and you can have your own potluck get-together.

Another popular holiday is Halloween and this is reflected in the increase of parties in your school. Don’t be too surprised if you see a lot of people in costume this day. You might consider watching the Gay Pride Parade in New York and DC where the participants wear the most extravagant costumes.

Autumn makes people go out and enjoy the foliage. Weathermen take this so seriously that they provide a forecast predicting when the colors will peak and which areas will provide the best views. Fall is also harvest time. If your school sponsors a trip to an apple orchard you should try to go, but don’t get carried away picking too many apples (you pay per bushel not pieces!). If you are more of a city person, there are street fairs and book fairs around this time too. In Europe, there are various festivals going on such as Germany’s Oktoberfest and Wine Festivals in France, Spain, Germany and other wine producing countries.

Quote: My classmates in Manhattanville College were shocked to learn that I had never participated in the US pumpkin carving tradition. So on my first Halloween, my classmates bought a huge pumpkin and carved one for me. – Carmela Navarra, Manhattanville College, Georgetown University
Winter Wonderland

The holiday season is the busiest and the most stressful for residents as they prepare for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Almost all the cities have tree lighting ceremonies (the tree lighting ceremony at Washington DC and Rockefeller Center are televised events). Walk around the city and enjoy the diverse décor. These are even prettier at night with all the lights on and this way you avoid the tourist crowd altogether.

If you live where the climate’s cold, there are winter sports to try like ice skating, skiing and snowboarding. Or you can build a snowman then enjoy cocoa with marshmallows afterwards. If you live in Australia, forget about the snow. People traditionally spend Christmas by the beach!

New Year’s Day is the festival of festivals for the Japanese where people visit shrines and hold family reunions. In the UK, the first day of the year features the London Parade with its floats and marching bands.


People are the grumpiest as they wait for warmer weather. TV parties are also popular during this time of the year with the Superbowl, NCAA Finals and Oscars showing. The Cherry Blossom festival in DC is one of the big events at this time and natives battle with tourists to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Easter is a big, albeit commercial event, in the United States. Mardi Gras is huge in New Orleans with many undergraduates flying out to Louisiana to participate in festivities and go drinking. European cities have unique traditions observing Holy Week. If you are feeling homesick and happen to be in Spain, the Semana Santa is very similar to the Filipino version of Holy Week with penitents and floats. The Feria de Abril, a weeklong party of drinking, eating and flamenco, follows this.

Drinking Laws: There are different minimum legal drinking ages around the world. Even the Philippines has one but is never strictly enforced. In the US, restaurants and liquor stores are required to ask for Identification Cards such as a driver’s license to make sure they are not selling to a minor.

USA - 21
Japan - 20
UK, Singapore, Australia, Philippines, Canada, Denmark - 18
France, Austria, Germany- 16

Summer in the City

It’s finally warm, the days are longer, and even if you have class or work, the atmosphere is definitely more laidback. For three months, you get to enjoy wonderful weather which comes with free open-air concerts, movies, and plays in your area. And as everyone knows the best time to go on a picnic. You can do it simple, sandwiches made at home and some cold drinks and you’re all set. Or you can splurge, go to a deli get some nice cheese, bread, and cold cuts. Head for your favorite park, sit under a shade, bring a book (or your homework if you really must study), turn on the radio, and enjoy lazing the afternoon away. Please respect your environment and make sure you clean up afterwards.

If you live in the US, the Fourth of July fireworks is a tradition that you should experience at least once. Along with the fireworks, there are concerts and other activities to celebrate Independence Day. Americans take their barbecue seriously and don’t be surprised if people ponder the difference between dry and wet smoke as if it’s the most important issue of the day. Memorial Day is another weekend that celebrates the bittersweet end of summer.

Tip: Some city parks require a permit to hold a picnic.

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