Culture Shift Ahead …Be Nice!

Have you ever jumped into a bathtub full of water before you check the temperature with your big toe? Most people wouldn’t but there will always be a select few that will. Would you ever consider just upping and moving to a different country without first investigating the customs and it’s culture? Believe it or not, these days many do just that. It’s like testing the depth of the water with both feet. Some folks spend more time looking for airline tickets online than they do researching the place they are travelling to. As more and more people expatriate the western world, they seem to bring their own levels of expectations with them. Almost everyday I witness either someone in person or online who has nothing better to do than complain about living here in the Philippines. It’s either the heat or the brownouts or it’s the monsoon rains and typhoons. Maybe it’s having to ride in a tricycle or jeepney to get around. Then there are those who always complain about the lack of modern “western” conveniences and lack of “western” foods. Some even complain about the local foods….any of it! For some expats, I thinks it’s all they know how to do…and they do it just to stay busy. Granted, some of these folks would probably complain about the sunrises and sunsets, and most likely were a real pain in someone’s arse back in their home country.

No Complaints Here!
No Complaints Here!

Well, Mr. Negative is alive and well here…well entrenched and living amongst all the expats in the land of smiles. To some Filipinos, I can imaging that interacting with these “ugly” expats is like something of an alien encounter. Some of the worst offenders have a real reputation and a knack for making all foreigners who live here look bad. In some online forums, you will discover groups of expats whom might gather at their local McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts for their daily complaint session. I really believe some of these guys compete with each other to see who has the most valid complaint of the day. At least they are supporting the local businesses with their coffee consumption while they complain about everything under the sun. Many of us expats that live here, in more harmonious ways, always pose the same question about these guys…why are they here? If someone, or anyone, who lives here as a guest in this country and is not happy living here, then why do they stay here? Well, the answer can be rather obvious…many simply can’t afford to go home and live! Or, now they might have baggage (wife and children) that are not documented and can’t leave, while others simply have no place to go. Sad, isn’t it? If only they could sit back, relax, consume a cold Pale Pilsen and enjoy the Philippines for what it has to offer.

While many of the expats you find here in the Philippines come from all walks of life, and from countries around the globe, the ones that get here late in their life are usually coming here for the same reasons…they are frustrated or miserable living in their own country and here they can fill a personal void…usually with a pretty young Pinay (Filipina) who helps them put their testosterone production into overdrive. These young women offer them new challenges and a new outlook on life, in exchange for…whatever.

Searching for young Asian beauties has never been easier, and with the advanced technologies today, you can accomplish and learn everything there is to know about these lovely young women, providing they are honest and forthright. Much has been written about online dating (or the much outdated terminology of mail-order brides), and the potential scams that can emanate from dating sites –  but that’s an entirely different topic. The gist of this article is about the types of individuals that eventually come here to meet and marry their young Filipina brides, without any knowledge of how deep the water really is. Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning online relationships or the reasons expats choose to come here, just the lack of due diligence or the process and research that accompanies all the decisions to make the move here.

Do you feel like we DOoo!
  Do you feel like we DOoo!

 Most onlookers from western societies will scratch their heads while  posing this question: What prompts a poor, young and pretty little  woman from the most outer reaches of the Philippine provinces to  marry the first guy that jumps on a plane and arrives at her  doorstep? I mean she’s hot – and he’s not (not all relationships fit this  description). The answer is easy. Money! Because in my 30 years of  being married to this country and it’s culture, I feel somewhat  qualified to make this observation and I can further affirm that it’s  mostly about the money and the lifestyle (for her) that connects  these two  people. It’s the most basic fulfillment of all needs here in  the Philippines and he (the foreigner) meets all the eligibility    requirements for joining the family because after all, he usually has  an income which is like an ATM machine to the winner of his  undivided attention. Did I say family? That’s  a resounding YES!  Here is where the sheep begin falling off the cliff.  For many of the  guys that fall head over heals in online love with their pretty Pinay,  many simply do not understand the culture, nor will they barely make the least effort to research and understand it (testosterone flow prevents that) before they make a life altering decision. When someone sets their sights on marrying a lovely young Filipina, what many of them don’t understand is that they are also agreeing to support the family, by proxy of sorts. I have never met a young woman here yet who would abandon her immediate families needs just to live a more secure and upscale lifestyle (when it does happen, it’s rare!). It’s just not in their culture. It’s not in their genes.

This fact remains steadfast…family here will always come before husband! (in a very high percentage of the time). Blood here in the Philippines runs thicker than honey, and will continue that way until such time western ways permeate this society (that’s an oxymoron in case you didn’t recognize it). Some girls will simply sacrifice their lives for any opportunity and a chance to help their family. It’s downright commendable.

That alone (that fact that one marries the family) provides a solid basis for one of the most voiced complaints you will hear from many expats here…the fact that they feel like a human ATM machine with an endless supply of money (the endless money supply part goes without saying) and or living with or among the relatives. Then there are those who reach these shores and complain about how expensive it is to live here. They are the ones that come here with little or no income and expect to live a western lifestyle (NO research at all). From here, almost all other complaints are culturally related, in one form or another. I need not make mention that the Philippines is a majority Catholic country.

I guess at this point I should shed some light on the validity of the this entire article – not every expat who lives here is a complainant. There are literally thousands of expats who love living here and live their lives to the fullest. Many of these guys may have lived here years earlier during their working lives. Some guys met their wives here when they were much younger and have since been visiting here for many years. Some have taken their brides outside the country and return here to retire. These expats have learned to adapt to cultural changes over the long-term. They began early, are well grounded, and over time have embraced the culture for what it is…that which holds conceptually driven benefits. These expats have planned well.

They don't want you here!
They don’t want you here!

I’m also the first one to admit that there are no expats that never complain…we all do in some respects. I occasionally complain about things (like the cable TV signal loss at the end of a movie), animal abuse, or idiot drivers and such, but I refrain from directing my anger or frustrations at others and especially towards family members. I’ve learned to enlist my wife for the more formal complaints as she looks and plays the part much better than I can ever do (saving me from the ugly foreigner category). I joke with her on occasion that she actually complains more about things than I do. I remind myself quite often of the saying  “Ba hala na,” which means whatever will be will be.

Aged newcomers to the Philippines and its cultural aspects are the ones that struggle with adaptation the most. They voice the most complaints about things that are the way they are. They complain about living here and life in general. They do not understand how “respect” fits into society and culture here. They quickly lose their temper…they might react or yell first, and think afterwards. They refuse to assimilate and acclimate. Many of them want to be accommodated here as if they were living back in their more developed countries. And, as they continue to live as a guest in this country, they make a little effort to grasp or understand that concept.

If there is a conclusion to my empirical observation to be made here, I’d say this; The older one gets before first arriving here, well…it fits right in with old saying…it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks!

2 thoughts on “Culture Shift Ahead …Be Nice!

  1. Brother did you ever nail this one, Randy. I get really angry when I meet this type. I was raised with the attitude “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so adapting here has been relatively easy for me. Ok, yes I have complaints but I would venture to say not a human alive has NO complaints. The difference is how we handle them and when I do have a genuine complaint (stupid drivers, NO customer service, etc.) I remind myself “I don’t think we’re in Kansas, Toto” and keep my mouth shut. Philippine culture developed the way it has long before I drew my first breath.
    I guess the displays we see from many expats (nearly always of European descent) remind me how the more advanced a country becomes, the more obnoxious and arrogant its people become. There’s not much I can do unless the vociferous one becomes TOO obnoxious and even then about all I can do is to try and shame them a bit by reminding them this is not __________, __________, or whatever country they’re from and then apologizing for them LOUDLY.

  2. Jerry, I’m just glad there are less than a handful of these individuals that I occasionally run into where we live. I’m sure in the larger expat communities it is a little more prevalent. I have learned to take everything in stride here in return for the simple life. I do complain however now and then about the lack of cold beer after a typhoon!

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