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Attitudes and Understanding Life and the People of the Philippines

No way can I be considered a long time resident here in the Philippines and to many I am probably considered a newbie. As of December 6th it will be my second year living here. I am always learning about the differences in cultures and understanding.

As in all countries and even different locals in a country there are differences. Terms used in speech, lifestyle and culture can have differences. I remember when I first moved to California at the age of 25 there were cultural and word term differences. Food styles are different and that is when I learned about the differences in Mexican foods. In New York, at the time, the only Mexican food I knew was tacos at Jack-in-the-Box. There was a saying there “Go for it” which meant, just do or try it. I remembered being yelled at by a friend when I compared things to how they were in New York.

Well coming to the Philippines the “Culture Shock” is so much more severe than just moving to a new state in America. Here practically everything is different. What you might think is normal behavior in your country could be in insult here. Or the way you say things. When I talked to Filipino friends about my observations here, I would generalize unconsciously and say Filipinos. One day one of my friends said to me “It is insulting when you say “Filipinos” instead of saying some Filipinos. We are not all alike.” This is true. People vary here just as anywhere else.

For most of us to move here, we had a nice life, not rich but comfortable and for our own reasons decided to move here. Most have pensions or some savings to live here. The ones who had more live in big homes in subdivisions and others living in a rental or a house that is comfortable and higher standards than most Filipinos.

We see small concrete homes and think how can they live in such cramped conditions, but since family is most important, that small home can be owned and they saved for many years to buy it. They love each other, have food to eat and exist well compared to others. Yes, they would love to have a bigger and better home, but they are not squatters and begging for pesos. If you visit a family in one of these homes, they are very hospitable and offer you something to drink and something to eat.

Even though there is much poverty here, Filipinos are a proud people. They have struggled to be where they are in life. The family is strong and they help each other. As I have mentioned in other articles, the extended family is closer than in America where only immediate family is considered with support.

Yes, there is crime here but actually less than in most cities in America. This is because of the pride of the people. If a family member is dishonest, they feel the whole family is shamed. With this attitude, the family will help each other to survive.

Here you will see young kids at the public market offering to help carry your bags or walking through the market selling small bags of calamansi. At first I thought, these poor kids, having to work, but think when we were kids with newspaper routes, mowing lawns or shoveling snow. These kids do this to help their families and be able to earn enough to have their snacks during the week. At least they are not one of the many beggars with dirty plastic cups or dirty hands out begging for pesos.

Life is not easy here for many Filipinos, but there pride and dedication to survive in such a difficult land should be thought of as admirable then looked down at.

We also need to remember, this is their country and we chose to live here. We need to also realize we are the strangers and they look at us funny when we do things that are not their way of life.

6 Responses to “Attitudes and Understanding Life and the People of the Philippines”

  1. jeff says:

    Very insiteful and well written. I could picture myself on the streets there seeing the kids trying to earn a buck. I too cut grass and shoveled snow as a kid but it was for my own spending spree not to chip into the family’s cauffer. I’m know we would see it as a tuff life, but I’m sure most of them don’t know any different life than what they have. I know we take things here in the states for granted.

  2. macky says:

    thanks for the “some filipinos” comment. it is an easy trap fall into (generalizing, i mean) and i do notice a few falling into that quip from time to time.

    • Bruce says:

      You are right and at times we forget that we are generalizing. Just as foreigners are rich or Filipinos are lazy. Both comments are not to most or all.
      Nice to hear from you again, I hope your little “Momma to be” is doing well.

  3. roy says:

    Hello Bruce, sorry Bruce but I cannot resist butting in here. In race relations, if you cannot help but generalize, try to focus on the positive attributes, example: “Foreigners are rich”. Saying “Filipinos are lazy ” is offensive even if you meant to say some. While I know that some or most foreigners do not like being generalized as rich, you have to admit too that such stereotype do come w/ advantages.

    • Bruce says:

      You are right, there is no “black and white” there is “gray” areas. Not all Filipinos are lazy and not all foreigners are rich. I do not see an advantage being classified as rich, it puts a target on us for over charging and crime.

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