There is one aspect of Filipino culture I have yet to understand. That may be because I don’t speak the language. I’m at the point now that in order to take my understanding of Filipino culture to the next level, I’ve got to learn the language. What I have noticed is that simple discussions among Filipino often seem so serious over matters that seem so minor to me.

Simple Negotiations In Filipino Culture

I think maybe as I write this, the key to this might have dawned upon me. It may be that ever present theme of respect which one finds throughout Filipino culture.

What happens is I see Jessie enter a stage of serious negotiations. It is over some minor thing such as a trike ride. The experiences take on a serious note and what would take 30 seconds in American culture takes two to five minutes in Filipino culture.

Filipino CultureThis is in direct contrast to the high context vs low context cultures that I’ve written about before. Usually the experts say Western culture and Filipino culture clash because Americans tend to speak more. We might ask a question or state our position in several ways to make sure we are understood. The experts say we learn to do this because in the USA their are many diverse cultures from all over the world. In Filipino culture people have been able to communicate with fewer words because nearly everyone living here is Filipino. Sometimes, I observe instances where Filipino go on and on and I think there is some kind of problem. Now I’ve learned to wait patiently and ask Jessie later “What was all that about?”

When we were at The Hide Away Beach Resort in barangay Odlot this last Sunday an example of this popped up. We had told the trike driver that brought us out to pick us up at 4pm. At 3pm Jessie and I moved to a different table at the resort and it raised the cost P100 to a total of P400.  We will take that one in the future as my things will be better protected.  Like the camera that I can’t take into the water. It is bit secluded which I like anyway.

About 3:15pm the resort employee came down to tell us our trike driver had returned. I suppose he had asked the resort to let us know. I wasn’t ready to go, but was willing if it was going to be a problem. Soon Jessie and the resort employee were in major negotiations over something. The conversation lasted at least 5 minutes but probably more than 10 minutes. Serious talk, it always looks to me like there is a problem. Which I base on the facial expressions but I’m basing that on my culture and not Filipino culture. The picture above was taken during that conversation.

After it is all over I ask “What was that all about?” For me, there was never a question the trike driver would wait until I went up the steps. Long steep steps that cause my lungs to hurt. Just my lungs, not my heart. I’m never in a hurry to go up those.  Of course the 11 year old, Jason, leaps up them like they are not even there.

The answer to what this was all about was if we’d leave now or if the driver would wait. It was decided all in a language I can’t hear much less understand that the resort owner would ask him if he would wait and if not the resort owner would get us another trike. I could only shake my head and say “That is all?Ten minutes to figure this out?” Well it is the Filipino way is all I can take from it as I see it so often. Nearly every time we get on a trike the same thing happens, some long discussion that make no sense to me. It seems something is wrong. I ask Jessie “Is there a problem” and she says “No.” The thing is if there is a problem she tries to keep it from me. A source of misunderstandings that sometimes come up between us. I think women of the Philippines just do this. This too is a part of Filipino culture.

I think it is very important for an expat to understand this when they are in a relationship. Keep her intentions in mind. Her intentions may be she wants to shield you because she loves you and prefers to take all burdens, however minor upon herself. I think in Filipino culture it is part of her way of showing you love. However misguided it may be in our culture, make an effort not to be too hard on  her for loving you. You may find this frustrating at times.

Learning More About Filipino Culture

I’m a people watcher. I take everything apart. Perhaps to a fault but it is just my nature. I study the minute and try to find understanding. Though sometimes it might be a fault it also serves me well. I can see potential problems before they develop. I hate it when a problem comes up that I should have foreseen. Maybe I notice things others would not. Has anyone else observed this behavior within the culture of the Philippines?

This is just another aspect of the culture of the Philippines that you should just file away in the back of your memory. It may serve you sometime when you are wondering why something seems to be such a big deal.  Should it be such a big deal? I do not think so but I really think in the Philippines, respect plays such a huge role that people are careful in situations were an American just wouldn’t see the point. It isn’t because Americans are disrespectful but because in Filipino culture, respect is like the prime directive.

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Filed under: Filipino Culture

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