Over the past few weeks I have been writing about my process of acculturation in the Philippines. I’ve lived here for 12 years already and I feel that I am nearly fully adjusted to the culture here, and to the daily ups and downs of living here. One thing that I usually get a little chuckle out of is when somebody first moves here, or when they are getting ready to move here, and they tell me that there really is not much adjustment to make, they already love it here, and really have no adjustments to make. I’m sorry, my friends, but it simply is not the case.
A lot of these same people come back to me in a few years and say something like, “Bob, after living here a while, I found that you are right, there are a lot of things to get used to here.” or something along those lines. I’m telling you, I love living the Philippines. I love the Filipino people. I have no desire to go back to the States, or anywhere else for that matter. But, I needed to adjust to a lot of things here, and I know that you will too. Some things I have not adjusted to, and on many of those things, I have just decided to accept that I won’t make those adjustments. No problem with that, to be honest.
I don’t know why it is, but I know a number of people whom I have known to be nice people, calm, relaxed and such, and then they move to the Philippines and seemingly lose all control of themselves. Frankly, not only do I “know some people” like that, I have done it myself. Nearly ever foreigner that I know who moves here does it.
Back when I lived in GenSan, from 2000 until 2002, I met a fellow from California. Super nice guy! Always very friendly. I met him on his first trip to the Philippines. He liked it here so much that he started visiting about every 2 to 3 months or so. He would stay for a couple of weeks, go home to take care of his business for a month or two, and come back for another vacation. Every time he came to town, we would get together, and I truly enjoyed his company. After a year or so of these types of visits, he decided to sell his business in the States, and he moved permanently to the Philippines! I was quite happy that I would have a new friend who would be living here like I did.
When he first moved here permanently, I took him around town to take care of some things he needed to take care of. After finishing up our errands, I asked him if he wanted to stop and eat lunch, which he was happy to do. When we got to the restaurant, he ordered some kind of drink, I don’t recall what it was. The restaurant was “out of stock” on that type of drink, which is quite common here. My friend blew up. He went ballistic. I don’t know for sure why he did, but I was sitting there at the table absolutely as embarrassed as I could be. We were at one of my favorite restaurants, a place where I went often, and I was well known there. Suddenly my lunch guest was running around the place yelling at people, just going absolutely berserk. I didn’t know what I could do, but it took a long time before I went back to that restaurant again, I was just too embarrassed to show my face there again.
While this friend’s outburst at the restaurant was probably the worst that I’ve seen here, the truth is that such behavior, played a bit less angrily, is something that I have seen from many expats here, newcomers mostly. I used to be like that too, and I am not proud of it. What I am proud of is that I have overcome this kind of behavior, at least for the most part. From time to time, I will get frustrated and get angry about something, but in a much calmer way than I used to. And, getting angry at all is a pretty rare thing now. Why? I have learned to not sweat the small stuff, and if you want to live in the Philippines, you’ll have to learn that too, or you won’t be very happy living here, because the truth is that there are tons of those small annoyances. Not a day will go by that you won’t be challenged with some kind of hassle. The question is, how will you deal with it.
In my case, there are a couple of reasons why I have been able to overcome this kind of anger issue. First, learning the language helps a lot, because you can often more easily understand why there is a problem. Secondly, in my case, because I have become fairly well known through this blog and my other blogs, if I do blow up in public like I often see from other expats, I may well see a video of the event on YouTube! Ha ha… that is something I certainly would not want to see! So, I think that I have become pretty successful at controlling my anger at the thousands of little annoyances that are so common in the Philippines.
Other small stuff comes to mind too, stuff that is not so much an annoyance, but simple things that are uncomfortable.
The other day I was out walking around my neighborhood. I came to a street corner, and there was an absolutely terrible smell. This is so common in the Philippines, a lot of stuff here stinks. It used to be something that bothered me, but now, well, I just walk past and it’s not really an issue. Go to the public market and you will certainly encounter a lot of stinky stuff. Bulad (dried fish) and other such things. Well, I don’t like the smell, but I can control my disgust and not have a big issue with it. Some bad smells I have actually come to like! Everybody says that durian smells bad. I used to think it had a terrible smell. Now, though, I like the smell, even enjoy smelling durian. I guess it’s a matter of having lived here for a long time, and also the fact that I eat durian and have become accustomed to the smell. In fact, I don’t even call it a smell or an odor anymore, I prefer to call it the fragrance or bouquet of the durian! Ha ha.
Perhaps one of the reasons that we see so many other expats who blow up in anger is because of the fact that there are so many little annoyances here that when a big problem pops up, it is just the final straw and the anger is released. I can’t really say for sure why it is that so many foreigners here have anger management problems, but I am guessing that it is the “straw that broke the camel’s back” syndrome that we are dealing with. What I do know is that I am glad that this is not a big problem for me anymore. And, I’m telling those of you who have a desire to live here… try to get this part of your life in the Philippines out of the way as quickly as you can. When you are able to do that, you will enjoy life a lot more in the Philippines, I can guarantee you that.