The early parts of 2011 were filled with drama throughout my life. A falling out with a long time friend led me to seek comfort from others I’d met in the Philippines. Gone were any friends who connected me back to my American roots, and now were the times to find bonds with the locals.
I was living in Eastwood, a business district of Quezon City in Manila. Much like an episode of Friends, a small group of us would regularly meet up at a local coffee shop to discuss the daily struggles we faced. To this day, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf still holds a special place in my mind.
“You can’t treat everyone here like they’re American,” one friend in particular would regularly remind me. “We don’t think the same way you guys do.”
“Often we don’t think at all,” she’d say jokingly, “but you can’t change that.”
My biggest problem in adjusting to life in the Philippines was treating it like I was living in America…but with Filipinos. It took a long time, and many caffeine enriched beverages, to finally accept what in hindsight should have been obvious: culture is more than just clothing, unfamiliar foods, and weird looking dances. It’s centered around an entirely different way of thinking. And that line of thinking is what affects their culture most.
And when you’re living in the birthplace of another race’s culture, you have to respect and conform to their ways. Fighting to impose your way of thinking is doomed to fail, and in many ways it’s wrong to even try. Sharing your way of life, on the other hand, and defending why you do what you do is respectable. Just don’t expect others to suddenly follow you, because you’re asking them to give up generations of upbringing. And don’t expect them to understand you overnight. You’re designated a “foreigner” for a reason.