Manila Culture Shock

Zachary and had some major culture shock when we first arrived in Manila. Or should I say, reverse culture shock! We have lived in Asia the past 4 ½ years and traveled to Thailand, yet another Asian country. We thought we were pretty used to Asia. I mean, come on, we lived in Dongying, of all places. We're like immune to Asian culture shock. ;) So, we didn’t expect to have any culture shock, at all in the Philippines. We’re like profesh travelers, ya'll. Ha! We were totally wrong! (And totally not professional travelers but man, I wish we were! Getting paid to travel is my dream job. Come on Lonely Planet. I'll I'm asking for is 50 grand a year and all expenses paid for all vacations our little hearts desire and I'll blog about it along the way. That's not too much to ask, right? ;) )
#1 Everyone, I mean everyone, speaks English. We were babbling fools the first two days. We usually spoke Chinese at first, then we would remember that they speak English, so then we would stumble over all our English words because  a. we’re still shocked they speak English and b. we're slightly intimidated that they speak English. It’s just precious of us really. After we have our stumbling over our words, mumbling session, we explained to them that it was our first day in Manila and we live in China, and we just kept talking, and talking, and talking, feeling more mumble-y and dumb then we did before, and then they would laugh and say, “Okay, sir.” Or “Okay, mam.” Then, we felt more dumb. And the cycle continues.
#2 In China, we can do anything and ask anything and it’s no big deal. No question is too stupid. Chinese people love us! They don’t understand us half the time and if we speak any Chinese to them, they’re excited and eager to listen & help. In Manila, it was all different. Since we speak English, we didn’t have the “foreign card” that we do in China, that magically and graciously covers all of our awkwardness. In China, if you’re awkward, nobody knows! You’re foreign, you’re automatically cool. In Manila, not so much. Maybe it’s because of our rambling conversations, or maybe it’s because of the questions we asked.
“Is this a normal grocery store?”  ( I wanted to know do all grocery stores have all this American food, or is this a high end international grocery store. If you’ve lived in China, you’d know, this is a valid question, since we’ll be moving here.)
“Yes, mam.This is a normal grocery store.”
“No, I mean, is this a normal supermarket, like do all supermarkets look like this?”
“Yes, mam. All supermarkets look like this.”
She answered me like I was missing some marbles.
“Is this like, a really nice, department store?”
(We’ve been in Manila for like 10 hours! What I mean is, am I being ripped off and stupid, shopping at a Shinsege (Korea), a Hisense (Qingdao) or a Dillards (US)? Because I don’t shop at those stores! I needed perspective!)
“Yes. It’s nice, mam.”
“I mean, is it really expensive? Or are all stores like this.”
“We have lower priced items here, too, mam.”
“I mean, is this like a really nice store?”
“Yes, mam. It’s very nice.”
I gave up.
In the food court we ate at there were tons of students in military uniforms so I went up to a boy, sitting alone at his table, and asked him about it.
“Why are you all wearing uniforms. Are these your school uniforms.”
“Yes, our school uniforms.”
“Oh! Are you guys in highschool?”
“No, we’re in blablabla. (I can’t understand.)”
“Oh. Okay. So, are you guys in University?”
“No, we’re in bla.bla.bla.”
“Oh, okay. So, are you in the military?”
“In the marines.”
“okay, so like marine school?”
“But your not in University?”
“How old are you?”
Smiling, like I’m about to ask him on a date,“17.”
“Okay. Cool. Thank you, bye!”
And then the table of boys near him, cheered for him.
This is totally not what it’s like in China. I could ask anyone anything and it would be totally normal. But not so here, I was that weird foreign girl, hitting on the boy in his marine uniform, that got the boy high fives for the next few days.
#3 All the signs are in English.Weird.
#4 There’s Chilis, California Pizza Kitchen, Seattle’s Best, Taco bell, IHOP, Krispy Cremes, everything America has basically. This was overwhelming to us.
#5 Everything was so… Spanish. I say Mexican, because that’s my perspective. Everything seemed a little like Mexico to me. They even say Coma Estas for hello. But I realize it was colonized by the Spanish, not the Mexicans, and I do realize, those are two completely different countries, but you get my drift. We just saw so much Spanish and Western influence there. Nothing seemed Asian to me. And that’s kind of weirding me out since they mostly look Asian, there’s still the sea of black hair and dark eyes, and we’re in Asia. I just was not expecting that!
#6 Their currency are pesos. When we first got to the airport Zachary was telling me the exchange in front of the guy exchanging our money and he said, “It’s 43 rubbis to 1 dollar.” Haha. He quickly realized that he meant to say pesos but it’s just hilarious and shows how many currencies and how much confusion we have swirling around in our brains.
#7 Awkward moment number a gajillion: One morning we walked out of our room and saw some guys fixing the light and Zachary said, “Nihao!” Then, he remembered, “Oh,right, they don’t speak Chinese.” So flustered, trying to correct himself, he said VERY enthusiastically,  “Good job on the repairs!” They just stared at us like, “Is your brain, okay?” Later, the room’s door across from ours was open. I could see that it was a suite, and had seen the guys earlier repairing things in there, so I figured they just were letting things air out, so I walked inside to see what the suites were like. Then, the same guys that stared at us earlier that day  were there, so I, flustered  that I just got caught snooping in a room like a creeper said, “Ni hao! Wo kan kan.” (hello! I’m just looking!) Eek! They don’t speak Chinese, so  I quickly fixed it with, “Oh, I’m just looking!” Ya. I’m just looking, like a freak, because the door was left open, no big deal.

Then I turned around and ran away. I. ran. Away.
We really didn’t know what to do with ourselves with all that culture/we're totally awkward shock, ya’ll.
#8 Police carry guns there. It’s weird. We even had to go through a metal detector and bag check to get into the mall. Which at first freaked me out, then made me happy, because really, shouldn’t we have that in the States, too?  It doesn’t mean you’re in a bad area, it means you’re taking precautions. It was weird to be back in a country with guns, though.
#9 The sky is mostly blue and there’s not high rises, everywhere. It’s strange for me to actually see the sky.
#10 We ate at Chili’s for dinner one night. It was awesome and much missed in the 2 ½ years that it’s been since we’ve gone there. It was a bit of a culture shock there, too though. Everything was exactly the same as the Chili’s in the States. All the food, tables, decorations, drinks, etc. Except we weren’t in America and we were surrounded by Filipinos. It's like the twilight zone.

There was  tons of reverse culture shock, but it was so good. And honestly, we like it. It’s always fun and exciting, and gives you tons of stories, to be out of your element. We are so looking forward to living there but hopefully we'll get a little less awkward.
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rachel said...

How funny! Actually I found your comments to be quite entertaining to read ;o). Sure do miss you two though and wish you were moving here instead of Manila. More than a bit worried about your living there though. Especially since the U.S. State Department has traveling warnings about going there. All I can say is have lots of fun and stay safe. Love you both, Grandma

Rachel said...

We just traveled through Manila Airport and weren't really fans of the airport (I've been spoiled by the likes of the Singapore International Airport), but I've never been to the country itself. Even during the short time we experienced a bit of the culture through flying on Philippines Airlines and hanging out in the airport, Angel said he was noticing a lot of similarities between their culture and his own (Mexican) culture.

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