10 Mo­ments of Re­verse Cul­ture Shock in the Philip­pines

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Lit -

Afew years back, I wrote an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled 10 Mo­ments of Cul­ture Shock in Europe as a Filipino that had got­ten widely pop­u­lar. What hap­pens though when you've lived over­seas for a while and re­turn to your home coun­try?

"Re­verse Cul­ture Shock," ac­cord­ing to my quick search in Google, is the emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal distress suf­fered by peo­ple when they re­turn home af­ter liv­ing for some time over­seas.

There were cer­tainly some chal­lenges to com­ing back in the Philip­pines, no mat­ter how long or how brief you've lived over­seas. Here are just some of mine:

1. There are bet­ter odds of sight­ing a uni­corn than a punc­tual Filipino.

Even on a pro­fes­sional set­ting, the con­cept of time is very fluid. In the Philip­pines, you're early if you're 15 min­utes late of your agreed ap­point­ment. It gets even worse if it's just a per­sonal meet­ing, you're lucky if your friend shows up 30 min­utes af­ter the agreed time. (An­other prob­lem of mine is when a friend ar­rives ear­lier than your agreed meet­ing. That hap­pens quite a lot, too, and they would end up crash­ing on your couch, watch­ing your TV and maybe log­ging into your lap­top and post­ing a prank "I'm gay" sta­tus while wait­ing for you.) Se­ri­ously, the whole con­cept of time in this part of the world is just busted.

If you ask me out and ar­rive 30 min­utes late smil­ing like noth­ing's hap­pened, DON'T.

It may also be power trip or a sta­tus quo thing: the last ones to ar­rive are nor­mally the most im­por­tant ones in the room. The pro­gram will not start un­less the VIPs have ar­rived, even if the rest have to wait two hours.

Maybe the whole Amer­i­can ef­fi­ciency and sense of ur­gency kind of rubbed off on me, be­cause I am get­ting too stressed about this.

2. Is ev­ery­one kinda deaf here?

Why do pub­lic spa­ces in the Philip­pines love to blare their speak­ers so we can't hear or talk to each other any­more? Is ev­ery­one kinda deaf here?

In bars and clubs, it's like ev­ery­one is dis­suaded to talk to each other and en­cour­aged to just dance and/or stare at each other. Which brings me to my next point...

3. And the star­ing.

Filipinos stare and peo­ple-watch all the time — on the streets, in the of­fice, at school — and you're sup­posed to pretend you didn't no­tice. I was so used to the star­ing al­ready (be­ing born and raised here) that I usu­ally just ig­nore it, but I picked up on mak­ing light con­ver­sa­tion if you catch some­one do­ing it (or if you're star­ing at some­one).

So I picked up on the habit and when I catch some­one cu­ri­ously look­ing, I'd ask them, "What's up?", only to get un­com­fort­able

re­ac­tions, like be­ing ig­nored or faces sud­denly look­ing away.

Maybe it's un­nerv­ing be­cause you al­ready know how Filipinos love to gos­sip, and they re­ally, re­ally do give a f**k about your af­fairs...

4. Let me re­peat: Peo­ple re­ally give a f**k about your af­fairs.

It's hard for Amer­i­cans to un­der­stand how tightly knit Filipinos can be towards their fam­ily and friend cir­cles. Even if you are just a new ac­quain­tance, Filipinos will re­ally care about what you're up to!

It's both a good thing and a bad thing — it's un­nerv­ing maybe for for­eign­ers who aren't used to the sin­cere con­ge­nial­ity of Filipinos. We re­ally want to take care of you. We re­ally care. Yup, we're re­ally nice. Nope, we don't ex­pect any­thing in re­turn. We're glad to help. We give a f**k about you. :)

5. Yaya?

The idea of self-ser­vice, where we have to pick up af­ter our­selves in, e.g., clean up af­ter ev­ery meal in a fast food res­tau­rant, or bag our own gro­ceries, or fill up the gas in our cars, is com­pletely alien here. No mat­ter how rich or poor you are, there's al­ways some­one who will pick up af­ter you in the Philip­pines. Truly we are one na­tion spoiled and pam­pered to death.

6. No one wants to walk.

We can blame it on a few things: it's too hot out­side, there are non-ex­is­tent side­walks, and it's not re­motely safe to be a pedes­trian. Hence, if Filipinos have to choose be­tween walk­ing for 200 me­ters or tak­ing their car and trans­fer­ring it to an­other park­ing area, they would choose the lat­ter.

7. Why is it so hard to find a trash can, any­where?

Over­seas, there's al­ways a trash bin in ev­ery block or within 200 me­ters away from you. But why is it so hard to find a trash can here, any­where? Even in malls, you can't re­ally find a bin any­where, so you're forced to bring your trash in your bag un­til you get home.

My friend say it's a safety con­cern, about po­ten­tial crim­i­nals leav­ing a bomb on the bin. But still, aren't there bet­ter ways for us to get easy ac­cess to a trash bin in pub­lic spa­ces?

8. The Air!

As soon as I left my 20-hour JFK-MNL flight, ev­ery inch of my skin could feel the heav­i­ness and hot­ness of hu­mid, 38-de­gree-Cel­sius, pol­luted Manila air: I'm home!

Af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dry air and cool weather, I didn't know how bad my skin would re­act to the air back home. I had a bad break­out a few months upon ar­riv­ing in the Philip­pines!

I ex­pe­ri­enced a bad break­out when I got back home, and I had to in­vest in skin­care, fa­cials and mi­cro-needling be­fore my skin was back to nor­mal (and even bet­ter, I would say!) I think my Indo-malay skin is re­ally made for hu­mid, trop­i­cal weather.

9. Ev­ery­thing here is so cheap!!! — and so ex­pen­sive!!!

It feels great that I no longer have to shell out at least 10 bucks for street food and 20 for a sit- down res­tau­rant. Ev­ery­thing is so cheap here — restau­rants, mas­sages, fa­cials, hair­cuts, man­i­cures — oh the lux­ury to do ev­ery­thing once you're back home!

And at the same time, ev­ery­thing is sooo ex­pen­sive! I miss the num­ber of op­tions you can get in Amer­i­can stores. I miss how cheap clothes, branded stuff and Greek yo­gurt is in Amer­ica. I miss Ama­zon Prime. and the out­let shops. and Black Fri­day.

Gen­er­ally, ser­vices in the Philip­pines are cheap but (im­ported) goods are ex­pen­sive, and op­tions are lim­ited.

10. Pork is LIFE

I se­ri­ously did not eat much pork when I was in the US, it wasn't as pop­u­lar. There was al­ways chicken and beef, but pork didn't have the fre­quency in the menu ap­pear­ances.

But here — OMG. It's so hard to avoid pork. We are ob­sessed with ev­ery part of the pig: le­chon (whole pig), pata (knuck­les), sisig (cheek), tus­lob buwa (brains), din­uguan (blood) and more.

I miss you Philip­pines — you in­deed con­tinue to sur­prise me ev­ery­day!

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