Expat

Welcome to the Philippines!

posted by saltybug.com 08/03/2015 0 comments

‘Welcome to the Philippines’ is what we were told by SandyBug’s HR Manager over here, when we asked her to extend our hotel stay by two nights. The reason for the extension? Because the things we were told would be so, aren’t. Frustrating? Sort of. If we didn’t know to expect this, then I’d be in a total flap. However I am remarkably calm about the way things are panning out. It is common here that stuff takes time. I am finding it humorous.

Delays happen and the excuses flow. It is accepted. It is the way things are over here.

There are many differences between life here in the Philippines and life back home in Australia. Is one culture better than the other? More ‘correct’? No. This is what makes the world unique, fascinating, hilarious and challenging all at the same time. You have to find the hilarity in life. Laughter is the best medicine after all. 

So what has been going on? Well in our rental negotiations we requested a few things be done to our condo. Not unusual, and in fact over here there are a few standard expectations when renting a place. You need to ask for air conditioning, you need to purchase a stove/cooker. You need to ask for a hot water system. We were advised that we would be able to pick up the keys Friday Feb 27th, when we had just arrived. On contact we learned the air conditioning was not installed and would be done on Monday. No worries. We went to inspect the unit and found almost all items requested were outstanding. We were assured we could pick up the keys Tuesday, it would all be done. Monday came, more delays. Reasons? The supplier, the installers. Tuesday came. More delays. The reasons? The supplier, the installers. 

Wednesday arrived, and we were told it was all done. SB wanted to start taking our ever growing pile of household items over in the morning and pick up the keys. I say no, I want to inspect the condo. I don’t trust anyone involved in this process. I was right. The air conditioning was still not installed. The condo was still filthy. There were now exposed wires where one of the hot water heaters had been put in. Especially dangerous considering we have a child obsessed with power and all things electrical.

The owner was there, doing something. I was with the Leasing agent. Now, this is where that delicate dance begins. The one where understanding of cultural differences is key to achieving an end result.  You see you want an end result that is favourable. In our culture it is ok to express emotion, to express anger, frustration, dissatisfaction. Conflict is never pleasant but it is accepted that it happens. It is accepted that we might show an affect congruent with our feelings, it is accepted we might display body language, vocal tone and behaviour to support our feelings. Here, that is not the way it is done. It is considered disrespectful to display that sort of emotional state. It is considered rude to be direct. What this results in is what I would perceive as ‘dishonesty’, but in this context it is in fact the ‘showing of respect’. There is always an argument that understanding cultural differences goes both ways. I absolutely agree with this. However context is very important and here, the power is not in my hand. I am the visitor to this place and I need to play by the rules. That does not mean that my feelings and frustrations were not expressed. Oh they were. Because despite everything I am a passionate person. I wear my emotions across my entire body and I work very hard to manage this. It also means I know how to use it. So I used it.

I spoke in a way that was extremely polite and respectful, yet my tone was firm and serious.  I used my body language to show confidence, without aggression. I exerted my authority by clarifying ‘my’ expectations for the work that was required to be done, so there was no misunderstanding. I made sure I smiled and said ‘thank you’ a lot. Our leasing agent, bless him, a sweet young man who looks young enough to be my son. He got on the phone to someone and while I don’t understand Tagalog, I do understand tone. His sweet honey voice seemed firmer. When he got off the call, he told me in his voice free from emotion, and with a total lack of affect that he too was frustrated and angry and that he would personally be overseeing things now. As we were leaving I was pointing out all the things I expected cleaned and he was showing the owner and there were furious head nods and words being exchanged.

Since that day there has been more frequent contact and our leasing agent has stepped up and is overseeing everything.

Here is a summary of what I have learned:

If someone is coordinating something like ‘installing air conditioners’ advise them they need to see the work with their own eyes, by physically attending the site. Then they need to report what they see, not what they are ‘told’.

FB getting attention while sorting the mattress

When purchasing an item such as a bed mattress or bed frame. Check the size against your normal countries size. SB purchased the wrong size mattress for us and it took about two hours to sort that out. It’s not actually sorted yet as I have not received delivery of the new mattress…

If the delivery time is set. Follow this up as it will most likely be inaccurate. Get contact names and numbers.

Confirm there is stock in the warehouse. We were not told our stove was out of stock. Now we do not have a stove….at least the fridge arrived. The washing machine too, but that hasn’t been installed yet for some reason.

Delivery of appliances – minus the stove

If you expect a service person to show up at an agreed time. You will often be disappointed.

If you do not expect a service person to show up. They will.

If you do not expect a service person at all. One for some sort of thing will show up.

The air con box is meant to be inside the wire cage. Installers used the cage as extra footing….as you do…

Do not get complacent. There will always be another issue in setting up your home. We have had plumbing problems, a water leak, and most recently the air conditioning units that have been installed were installed in the wrong places on the external walls. I did wonder for a moment when they were working on Friday, about the fact I thought they ought to be put into the wire cages already attached to the walls, rather than using the wire cages as extra footing to balance on….turns out my thought was correct.

The children playing in the Great Garden, which our condo opens out to.

So that is where we are up to with setting up home over here. We are getting closer to moving into our new home, and making it our space.

It is a lovely space we have found, and the children are happy there.

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