Living in the Philippines can be a wonderful experience for expats of all ages from any part of the world. This country offers modern infrastructure and high standards of living at relatively low costs. What makes the Philippines so special though is its hospitable, friendly, optimistic and fun-loving people. Most of the tourists and expats find it quite easy to make friends and get integrated with the locals. However, adjusting to a new country and culture can take a while.Below are ten insider tips to help you adjust to Pinoy life.
Show appreciation for family values
Despite the liberal influence of the west, Filipinos are very high on family values. Don’t be surprised to see young adults living with their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Many children are raised by extended family members while their parents work. They usually remain close to their extended family even when they grow up. Many professionals wouldn’t think twice about quitting their job to visit or look after their kin. It is understood that at least one child in the family will live with the parents and take care of them.
Address people with a lot of respect
Filipinos are extremely formal and rarely address someone by their first name, unless they have been specifically asked to do so. They are more likely to call people Sir, Ma’am, Miss or Boss. Don’t get offended if someone calls you Ma’am-Sir or Sir-Ma’am as they don’t mean any disrespect. If you are not on first name basis with someone yet, it is safe to call them Kuya (big brother), Aatey (sister) or Po.
Follow basic safety guidelines
While the Philippines is a relatively safe place, foreigners are advised to avoid wearing fancy jewelry when traveling by public transport. Also, people usually exercise basic precautionary guidelines like keeping their money hidden. Most of the locals never take a taxi immediately after withdrawing money from an ATM; they walk a block or so and then hail a cab.
Get used to texting
The Philippines has been nicknamed “the texting capital of the world”. This is because making even local calls from a cell phone in this country is quite expensive. However, almost all cell phone users get a certain number of free messages each month. The Filipinos therefore prefer texting to making or receiving calls. The use of free texting apps is rare in this country. The best way to keep in touch with the locals is by sending them text messages.
Be prepared to wait in a long line for a taxi
Public transport in the Philippines is excellent. However, getting a taxi on the weekends, especially after pay-day, can be a nightmare. Most public places have long lines for taxis, where you may have to wait for up to two hours before you get a cab. Alternately, it is possible – and probably easier – to call for a taxi using a mobile app.
Drink bottled water
Many Filipinos use tap or boiled water for cooking and drinking. However, the tourists are advised to consume bottled water at all times. Always purchase water from reputable stores and supermarkets. Avoid buying water or other beverages from street vendors.
Never ring the bell at the bar
Many of the bars frequented by tourists and expats have a bell. The person who rings the bell indicates that the next round of drinks will be on him. Foreigners who sometimes ring the bell in jest end up with a huge bill. Failure to pay after ringing the bell could result in you being manhandled for money.
Also remember that the Filipinos love socializing, preferably at someone else’s expense. They will constantly ask you to take them out for a meal or a drink. If you agree to it, it is expected that you will pay for everyone.
Stay away from “Guest Relations Officers”
The term ‘Guest Relations Officer’ or GRO is nothing more than a fancy name for a bar girl who is available for a price. They often chat with foreigners at bars or clubs and try to coerce them into buying expensive drinks. Guests who want the girl to accompany them outside the bar are asked to pay a bar fine of up to 5,000 Pesos (US$ 107), which is divided between the bar and the girl. Fortunately, most of the women aren’t pushy and will leave you alone if you just tell them “no thank you”.
Try the local delicacies (but carefully)
While Filipino food is very interesting, some of the delicacies are a bit too much to handle. A classic example of this is Balut, a duck egg with a formed embryo. Depending on how old the egg is, you may even get the beak and feathers. Most of the locals will try to convince you into sampling this delicacy. Some go as far as challenging unsuspecting foreigners to eat balut, just for fun. Find out more about each dish before you agree to taste it.
Expect people to be late
In the Philippines, it is normal to arrive about an hour late for a professional event and up to 90 minutes late for a social event. While the locals understand and accept this, foreigners can have a hard time getting used to this cultural aspect.
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