Do you remember in late 2008, and the early part of 2009, I wrote a series of articles about SIR? SIR means “Smooth Interpersonal Relations” and it is the basic tenet of Philippine Culture. SIR is what controls the way that society in the Philippines functions. One of the tenets of the SIR system is called “In Group.” In Group is all about how Filipinos like to associate into a group. They like to hang out as a group, and individuality is not only discouraged, but rarely practiced. In Western Culture, we tend to value our personal time, hanging out by yourself gives you time to reflect. Individuality is a big part of our culture.
One of the things that makes culture an enjoyable subject for me to study is how the dynamics of culture affect my family. Because my kids are a mix of Filipino and American and have lived in each culture, watching how the deal with cultural issues is an interesting lesson for me. While my kids have now spent the vast majority of their lives living in the Philippines, the fact that they live in my household gives them a daily dose of Philippine and Western Culture. So, watching how their personal culture blends the two is always interesting to watch.
One cultural difference that I have never discussed on the site until now is sleeping arrangements. In Philippine society, a lot of people sleep together. For example, if you have 4 or 5 kids, they often all sleep in the same bedroom, even in the same bed together. If cousins live under the same roof, they are also part of the sleeping group. On the other hand, in the West, sleeping arrangements are normally quite different. In the United States, generally each child has his/her own bedroom. Sometimes, if there are not enough rooms, two kids might share a bedroom, but these days it is more the norm that each child has a bedroom of his own.
Another difference in sleeping arrangements in Philippine Culture compared to Western Culture is the sleeping arrangements when there is a baby, or a young child. In the USA, when you have a baby, you generally have a Nursery, or a bedroom specifically for the baby. In the Nursery you will have a baby crib, a special bed with rails where the baby will sleep. In the past 20 years or so, there are baby monitors, little radio transmitters that you can use. The transmitter will be in the baby’s bedroom, while the parents will have the receiver so that they can hear what is going on in the nursery. If the baby wakes up, you can go get the child, or go and get him back to sleep again.
In Philippine society, the baby normally sleeps with the parents, in their bed. This can be the case for years. Even a kid 5 or 6 years old might still be sleeping with his parents. This can put a cramp on the “adult activities” of the parents, if you know what I mean. When we had young babies in the States, we always had a hard time working out the sleeping arrangements. Of course, Feyma wanted the baby to sleep with us, while I was more in favor of the baby sleeping in his own room. Feyma usually won out on those arguments, though.
Living here in the Philippines and having children now ranging from 17 years old down to 9 years old, the kids like to all sleep in the same bedroom. There are two beds in the room, and the kids split up between the two beds. They seem to be more comfortable being in a group arrangement, the way the Philippine Culture is, than if it was the Western way. There have been times I have suggested to the kids that maybe we would split them into their own bedrooms, and I have always been met with resistance when I suggest this to them.
It is certainly a different way of sleeping from what I grew up with. When I was a kid, my brother and I shared a bedroom for a number of years and it is always something that we fought against. We wanted our own bedrooms with our own privacy. The day came when we had that, and we were happy. With my kids, though, it would seem that they are in no hurry for that day to come though.
It wil be interesting to continue watching the situation and seeing if they want to have their own bedrooms as they become older.