Over the past weeks, I have been writing a short series of articles about my acculturation in the Philippines. Adjustments I have made. Changes in myself that have happened over the years. A few months back, I was thinking and come to the conclusion that I feel that I am pretty much finished with my acculturation here in the Philippines. I have focused in on the two biggest changes that I have made, and also an article on the smaller changes. I would argue that my biggest cultural changes have been in the area of language and transportation. I feel pretty strongly that having learned the local language is the number one thing that has helped me become immersed in the Philippine customs, accept the way life is here, and generally lead a happy life. Learning the language, in my opinion, made all of the other steps toward acculturation possible.
I have acknowledged, though, in this series, that there are some areas of life where I simply will not be accepting the Philippine way, or becoming acculturized. I feel, though that these are mostly very minor issues, things that are not a big part of life here, or things that don’t impact in a huge way.
So, what are some things that I won’t be adapting?
Well, there are not many, to be honest. In fact, I have to sit here and really consider carefully to even think of those things, although I know they exist. Let’s see what I can come up with.
For some reason, as long as I have been here, I cannot adapt to being late for things, or accepting if others are late. I am not talking about 15 minutes late or such, I get pretty frustrated, though, when people are hours late. Don’t take me wrong, I have eased up quite a bit on this issue, but I don’t think I can ever fully embrace it.
When I was still taking language lessons with Bebe (my teacher), she had a habit of usually being late for our lessons. At first it angered me, frustrated me, and was just generally inconsiderate in my opinion. But, as I considered it, I came to think of her lateness as a sort of cultural training. We all know that Filipino Time is part of Philippine Culture. In the west, we have the attitude that time is money. If you are habitually late, you are wasting my time, and thus costing me money. But, that is not the way it is looked at here. So, since I took language lessons with Bebe for 4 years, I came to the point where I eased up and did not get upset with her for being late. Truth is, I never told Bebe that being late upset me, because I wanted to take a step toward controlling my impulse to get mad, and I did consider it to be cultural training, after all.
I look at Filipino time a bit different now, though. The way I see it is this… if I need assistance of some kind from a Filipino and I set up a meeting, I don’t get bent out of shape if they are late. I am the one who needs them for some reason, and because I need them, I do my best to adopt their cultural norm when it comes to timing. On the other hand, if a Filipino asks to meet with me because they need my assistance, if they are significantly late, I usually just cancel my appointment with them, and I don’t schedule with them again, because I consider them inconsiderate of my time, when they are the one in need of something. I do explain to them in advance that if our meeting is scheduled at a certain time, I expect to see them then, and will not be waiting around long if they are late (BTW, I only tell them that if they are the one seeking my assistance).
For some reason, the need to be on time for meetings and such is somehow ingrained into me pretty signifantly, though. If I am going to a meeting, I need to be on time. Even if I feel I will be 5 minutes late, I try to get there more quickly, and I notify the other person that I might be a few minutes late. It is rare that I am late at all, though, I am usually 15 minutes or more early. So, as I say, accepting Filipino Time 100% is just not going to happen for me. I feel, though, that I have made strides toward adapting the practice when it is most appropriate for me to do so, although I admit that it bothers me greatly.
Ok, I admit it, and if you ask Feyma she will tell you too. I am not well adapted to most Filipino foods. Generally, I really prefer to eat western dishes that I grew up with. There are a few Filipino dishes that I enjoy greatly, but that is a small minority of my diet. The vast majority of Filipino dishes, frankly, I consider to be a bit “gross,” if you know what I mean. I do enjoy Adobo and a few others, though.
There are a few Filipino foods that I do enjoy, stuff that the majority of westerners turn their nose at. One that comes to mind is Durian fruit, which I truly love to eat, and I even love the fragrance of durian too. There are others too, they just don’t come to mind immediately.
I really have not developed a taste for dishes that should be savory, but are served sweet by Filipinos. Stuff like Spaghetti. I just cannot adjust my taste buds to eating sweet spaghetti, frankly it really grosses me out.
But, really, there is an easy fix to this problem…. just cook your own food at home, and use recipes that are more adapted to western tastes. Surprisingly, most dishes can be prepared with local ingredients to match western tastes, you just need a recipe.
I know a number of foreigners who get past this by relying on buying imported products to meet their taste expectations. Like, for example, let’s just say spaghetti. I know plenty of foreigners who will buy bottles of imported sauces like Ragu or Prego from the USA. You know, that bottle of sauce that you spend $2 or $3 for in the States might cost you $7 to $10 here. Frankly, for me it’s not worth it. So, instead of buying that bottle of Prego, you just learn to cook with fresh tomatoes and spices. Frankly, it’s way better tasting, healthier, and way, way cheaper too.
That’s about it, I suppose
Although I have only come up with two areas of culture where I have chosen not to fully adapt, frankly, that is about all I can think of. There are other very minor things, but not important enough to even write about. I actually feel pretty positive that of all the things in life, there are only a couple of things that I have been unable to, or simply chosen not to adapt to. I consider that an accomplishment.
So, this is the conclusion of my Acculturation series here on LiP. In the future, I may come up with other topics of discussion that tie in with this, and when I do, I will add to the series. But, I think I’ve given you a fairly complete and accurate account of my acculturation to the Philippines. I feel very happy that I have been able to make the achievements that I have in this area. I hope that anybody moving here will realize that it takes time to adapt, and give yourself the time necessary. If you don’t allow yourself the proper amount of time, you likely will not make it here, nor will you enjoy life here.