I find myself offering a lot of advice these days to the newbie’s in the community. I still find myself asking my seasoned friends information and asking for advice to deal with various situations. Despite the research I did before moving here, and despite the research I did on arrival, there was still so much a new expat like me needed to figure out as I went along on this adventure. I certainly made assumptions about things such as how easy it would be finding household help. I did not understand just how much of an impact the traffic congestion would have on our lives. To be fair though, this is something that can only come with experience. I did not think things such as dealing with the internet provider would be a source of immense frustration, nor the cable TV people. How about ordering pizza? Goodness just getting my maintenance people to turn up is an achievement most days.
It did not take long after arrival to quickly figure out how incredibly different life would be. Sure there are normal day to day things that carry across the ocean really well. Get up, get breakfast, drink coffee before prying eyes open. The school run is just as painful here as back home, of that I am sure. However there are a lot of differences worth knowing about so to help ease your transition, should you decide on an expat adventure, so I have decided to start this little series called The Expat Survival Guide.
Part One – A Bit about Culture
Every Country is different
Even if it is similar to your home country there will be a learning curve about your new culture. Here are a few tips to remember.
The new country you are in is different to yours, that does not make you right and them wrong. It makes you different. The sooner you stop comparing here to home, the better. There is no comparison, it just ‘is’. You need to get on board with that, be flexible, open to learning and accept life will be different now. You alone cannot change a whole country and its culture to suit your needs. You can manage your immediate surrounds to some degree, but accept that there is a lot you need to let go of. Remember that having the opportunity to live in another country, a new culture, is a gift and an opportunity so many people never get. Embrace this new life, it will not be forever (unless of course you want it to be…)
Patience is a Virtue
You will learn new levels of patience that you did not know existed. By all means lose your temper, scream, rant, rave, even cry. See how you get on. You could make progress, or you could just look like a twit. Learn the key cultural differences so you can get on board and stop driving yourself crazy trying to control the uncontrollable. For us here in the Philippines, time is treated differently to a Western Country. The locals are not being disrespectful, they are not being ‘tardy’, they are simply living the way they know. We need to get on board with that and adjust our day to accommodate the old ‘after midday sometime’ and ‘In a while’ way of living here. There are also major issues with efficiency here – the lack of, so we just know if we go shopping it will take that much longer. Life moves a lot slower here and that is not always a bad thing.
Say What?…Speak Clearly
It is not often we need to consider the way we sound. Well, for us Australians we need to do that quite a lot in a foreign country because not many people understand our Auslang. Because the Philippines is such an Americanized country, the locals speak American English and talk with an American accent so, when I need to communicate over the telephone or with someone whose English is not very good, I use an American accent too. A really bad one I might say but it works. I am also careful that I speak slowly and that I speak clean English, no abbreviations, no slang and no Auslang. You will be amazed at the difference it can make. Oh and sarcasm does not carry well across language barriers…just saying.