Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy?
Imagine being transported from a society and culture you have grown up in, known your entire life and never experienced any other, except vicariously via television and movies. The new culture you find yourself immersed in is strange, kind of familiar in many ways but still not the same as back home. The people can be friendly, or they might not like the intrusion and see you as some kind of threat to their established way of life. You might find yourself stuck in a quiet rural or urban setting, far from any entertainments you are familiar with and surrounded by people who either don’t speak your language or speak far too fast for you to keep up. I’m not talking about a Filipina bride coming to Australia, this is about an Aussie bloke going to the Pinas!
Culture shock is very real and for those first time visitors to the Philippines. There is a lot of culture to be shocked by. While most of the signage is in English and in the cities at least English is widely spoken, this is not Australia. The cultural differences go far deeper than just the faces, the traffic, the chaos and confusion of crowded streets and different food, climate and conversation. There is so much going on that is beneath the surface, unspoken but very real.
If you are making your first trip to the fleshpots of Angeles or elsewhere you might think the entire country is brim full of girlie bars and everyone uses words like ‘short-time’, ‘bar fine’ and ‘mama san’. Nothing could be further from the truth. You might be forgiven for thinking every Filipina is out to hook a foreigner and squeeze every centavo out of him. Not so, although there are few Filipinas not amenable to meeting a nice foreigner to marry and give them kano babies. If you are staying away from the bargirl scene, haven’t paid for private sessions with your chat cam honeyko and are serious about meeting a lifetime partner; then the Philippines is the place but, be aware there are culture shocks lying in wait everywhere.
If you just want to hang out along Fields Avenue in Angeles, or check out what’s left of the bar scene at Olongapo and Subic Bay, hit Puerto Galera or hang out in Makati or Pasay and pay through the nose; great. No problem. You will meet a constant stream of Filipinas who are on the game to make ends meet, to survive and send money home to their families. I know blokes who have been coming to the Pinas for decades and have seen nothing but Manila and Angeles and think they are something special for taking a barfine to Boracay for a few days. They stay in Aussie or other expat owned hotels, drink in their bars and are part of a very definite ‘culture’ of expats who openly admit they are there for the affordable fun and frolic. They love the lifestyle, the ‘scene’ and fly home only to fill in the next few months until they save up enough money and vacation time to return. Before they know it, they are back on the same bar stool flirting with the same bargirls as before, while eyeing off the new talent.
In time you will learn the jargon, quickly pick up the survival skills to detect a real scammer from an amateur and have fun. That is fine if that is your thing. But are you experiencing the Filipino culture or just an artificial, man-made adult’s Disneyland offshoot? At some point you may drift away from the bar scene and find yourself meeting ordinary Filipinas, women who would never dream of working in a bar but are keen to meet, and usually marry, a kano. Even an old, overweight one like you might be. Forget the cynical ‘I’ve got peso-nality’ trip and just make sure your conscience is clear as to why you are getting involved with this person and, by extension, their entire family. Above all else, don’t take that bar scene mindset into a regular relationship; ok di ba?
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit., MA(Writing), Dip. Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz