Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Culture Shock may be a new term to some of you. It is an actual psychological condition.

cul-ture shock, n
Sudden exposure to unfamiliar culture; the feelings of confusion and anxiety experienced when an individual or a group suddenly finds itself in a unfamiliar cultural environment.

Filipinos moving to other countries and even Americans coming here will suffer to various degrees the ramifications if this malady. The symptoms can be as trivial as simple uncomfortable feeling and range to deep depression, homesickness and headaches. Some people may even find themselves drinking or taking drugs to relieve the symptoms.

The remedy most frequently seen is a tendency to isolate yourself and associate with others from your own culture. This often results in high concentrations of a particular ethnic group in a given area. Examples of this can be seen in Los Angeles where you have entire ethnocentric communities like “Koreatown” and “Little Saigon”. There is even a large concentration of Filipinos in Las Vegas referred to by many as “Little Manila”. Here in Dumaguete City we have gathering places for various expatriate groups. “Dunkin’ Donuts” has its small band of Americans that meets each morning. “Why Not” caters to a largely European crowd.

In these sanctuaries, expatriates can relax and feel less alien. Sadly the bulk of their time in those enclaves is often spent criticizing their new culture. This is true of Filipinos in Tucson Arizona and foreigners in Dumaguete City. They all excise their discomfort by comparing the local culture to their own and usually negatively.

As many of you know I spent thirty years in the American Army. I was forced to live, work and play in a wide variety of cultures around the world. My life was largely one long culture shock. To be effective in my job, I had to learn to adapt and adjust rapidly. I had to develop a system to help my body and mind handle a new environment and culture. Here are some suggestions for anyone living in a foreign land.

*RESPECT Every culture has its negative aspects. It serves no constructive purpose to concentrate upon or criticize your new culture for its flaws. Instead try to find the positive aspects of your new experiences. Your focus should be positive not negative. People will respect you if you first respect them.

*CONDUCT You represent your country. You are unofficial ambassador. People will see your conduct and judge your country by your actions. You should be on your best behavior not your worst.

*GUEST You a guest in the country, behave as your would want guests to behave in your home. Respect your host. A smile is even better than a handshake.

*EMBRACE Embrace the new culture. Study their history, customs and language. Even when you mess up the language, the people appreciate your efforts. A study of history will help you understand the people and their culture.

For you Americans living here in the Philippines try this:
Go to the food court at your local mall early in the morning when things are fresh and hot. Try the local cuisine. Take a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Do not worry about what it is, until you find something you like. I like kangkong and a spicy local adobo dish.

What is a Sigbin and why should you never let it lick you.
Who lives in Lake Balanan.
There are 21 species of whales and dolphins in the Philippines and 10 of them live just up the coast near Bais City. Have you taken the tour?
Did you know during the Philippine Insurrection, Filipinos killed over 4,000 well armed American troops with little more than a bolo knife? That is more troops than we have lost in Iraq in almost the same time frame against modern weapons.
Everybody knows Megellan was killed near Cebu in 1779, but can you name the local chieftain who killed him?
The story is that America “defeated” the Spanish and took possession of the Philippines; but is that the truth or merely the American version? I think Aguinaldo might have seen it a little differently.
Can you name three locally endangered species, two of which were on display at the fiesta here last year.
Did you know the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago spent 47 million dollars and three years duplicating what you can go to Apo Island and see for a few pesos?

Embrace the culture. Have an adventure of lifetime there in paradise.

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