When going to a new country, everyone always tells you to learn the customs beforehand to avoid being rude or looking like an idiot while abroad. Most things you can ask the locals about however; during our orientation some norms were even explained by Tito Mon. I think the biggest difference came from people openly staring at us. With us being foreign and looking it, too, people openly stare at us to the point of it being uncomfortable. Whether it’s walking down the street to the supermarket, riding the bus in town, or even simply walking to my work building in the morning, I always get stared at because I look different. I can’t imagine how Annika, who is tall and blonde and very American looking, feels because she gets stared at way more than I do. Another thing that is different is the questions people ask you right off the bat. I get asked how old I am, what nationality I am, most things that would considered rude in the states. It took some getting used to it but eventually I got into the habit of answering such direct questions.
Being laid back is also another trait common among the Filipinos. In America, we are all about efficiency. Work as hard as you can to get your job done in as little time as possible. In the Philippines, you will find that it is not the same. They take 2 snack breaks a day on top of meal times. They even thought I was weird when I didn’t take a break in the middle of the day with them. And when the clock turns 5pm, you’re done for the day no matter where you’re at in your job. Some people don’t follow this but at least compared to America where you don’t leave until the job is done, it was a nice but strange shift.
Besides those things, everyone in the Philippines is so friendly and helpful. I half expected to come to this country and be yelled at or being frowned at for being the clueless American, but most people have been even more eager to help me out and guide me. Even the street food vendors love helping me out and answering my questions whereas in other countries they tend to be the least tolerant people.
So for those going to the Philippines next year, keep these things in mind!
And just for kicks, heres a picture of me at Taal Volcano this past weekend! Definitely worth waking up at 3am and hiking up at 5am!