Culture Shock sucks

If you’ve ever moved to another country for a significant period of time, you’ll know why I’m saying this.

Nobody buys a planet ticket to another country expecting everything to be the same. In fact, everyone hopes for the complete opposite; you want to see how other people live in other parts of the world. You want to experience a different culture, to learn things about other people, to learn things about yourself, and to broaden your perspective of the world.

My flight was from Hobby, to LAX, to Narita, to Aquino airport. It was the most exhausting 18 hours of my life, but also the most exciting. I was traveling back to my roots! The country where I was born. A place where my race doesn’t factor into anything. I would be judged not by how squinty my eyes are, but based purely on my actions and demeanor.

The first few hours were exhilarating. I was of normal height! Nobody stared at me for uncomfortably long periods of time.

Before I went back, my Stateside friends all told me the same things about the PH; that it was gonna be dirty, grimy, basically every third world country stereotype.

I was expected for that. When I got here, I was prepared to deal with those things. They were pretty much non-issues.

It’s the differences that you don’t prepare for that get to you.

There was no culture “shock” for me. It hit me in the form of a persistent wearing down; like how water can break down rocks over thousands of years.

It was the little things that were getting to me.

  1. I’m used to the outward kindness of everyone in the States, especially since my childhood was in a small town in Texas. Here in the big city, nobody takes the time for common courtesy that I’m used to. Conversations, transactions, exchanges all seem cold and indifferent.
  2. No one holds the door open for anyone else. Lines are a joke. People bum rush into elevators before giving you a chance to get out. The waiters and waitresses don’t bother to smile and are uncomfortable with the small talk that I’m so used to.
  3. Nobody has any concept of personal space whatsoever.
  4. Remember when I said I wouldn’t be judged based on my race? Well now I’m judged based on my status. That can be anything from the phone you use to the clothes you wear. I’m not naive; I know this happens even in the US, but imagine that amplified by a thousand.
  5. Nobody pushes their chairs in after they’re finished eating.
  6. The way people drive. In a way, people here drive better than people in the US. It’s hard to explain. It’s one of those things you can’t put into words. I can’t count the number of times I should have got run over while crossing the street, but there’s almost a telepathic bond between pedestrians and drivers here which keeps things moving flawlessly. It’s an intricate dance of survival.

There’s probably many more that I’m leaving out, but those are the ones that come to mind right now. I know I just made it seem like ML is the worst place on Earth; on the contrary I’m having the time of my life. There’s soooo many great things about the PH, but that’s for another post.

Thanks for reading, take care, and appreciate life!

-Marc

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