happy thoughts and worthy causes

10 Pinoy Things You Will Miss Abroad

There are many things about the Philippines and fellow Filipinos we take for granted. And only when we are abroad in other countries do we realize the value of these things. Here are 10 very “Pinoy” things I really missed when I was travelling abroad.

  1. There are no “salubongs” or welcoming committee when you arrive in another country. – Unless you are in a Tour Group or organized conference there is no “welcoming committee” once you land at the airport. You are expected to get yourself to your own hotel or conference venue by your own efforts. If you are lucky, there might be a hotel shuttle to pick you up, but that’s it as far as friendly “salubongs” get. In Jakarta and New Delhi, taxis were available but we were warned about the notoriety of these drivers taking advantage of foreigners. Yet we had no choice but take taxis to the hotel anyway.
  2. The same goes for “hatids” or send-offs – Foreigners don’t usually take the time off work just so they can take you to the airport or train station to say goodbye. They are not big on send-offs as Filipinos, so be ready to take yourself to the airport. In the Philippines, it’s not just your immediate family but the whole barangay who is willing to take you to the airport or bus terminal.
  3. Don’t expect the same level of hospitality – Pinoys are naturally friendly and accommodating. When a foreigner gets lost and asks for help, we willingly assist and are genuinely polite. Abroad, if you get lost, it’s not very easy to ask for directions since not everyone speaks English or are just not as polite or helpful. Remember this when you see those “tambays at the kanto” back home who can give you clear directions while speaking English. I arrived on a Sunday in Geneva and the streets were actually deserted; the few people walking about on their way to their weekend jobs did not speak English.
  4. Kindness/Helpfulness Isn’t Automatically Extended to Strangers – On MRT and LRT trains here, if it gets too cramped and you get tossed about, fellow passengers would even hold you up and keep you steady by allowing you to hang on unto their arms. In other countries, especially in the West, don’t expect to even get help with your luggage because everyone just minds their own business. Landing in Schipol in Amsterdam and Changi airport in Singapore, I had to lug around my own baggage unto the trains for the necessary transfers. No one offered to help at all.
  5. Catholic Churches are not that Easy to Find – Since majority of the Filipino population are Catholics and very religious, in the Philippines every other block or barangay has a church or chapel. But religion is not really the norm in other countries especially in those modern, highly industrialized nations. They may be Christian, but there are so many other Protestant denominations, so don’t expect to easily find a Catholic church nearby. In Hong Kong, we had to leave the island to find one, while in Geneva, I had to cross the river to hear mass. Never thought an ordinary Sunday routine would become such a chore when a church is not so accessible.
  6. Various toiletries and beauty products are not available everywhere. – I was in Indonesia several times and one of the most troublesome aspects of my extended stays is my supplies running out. But when I go to groceries, pharmacies or even malls, there just aren’t enough choices or brands for some personal hygiene products. In Manila, whole racks are filled with various sanitary products. In Surabaya, there is just one small corner for alcohol, sanitizers, cotton balls, etc. but no or limited cologne, hand or body lotions, even scented talcum powders. My friend explained that there isn’t much market for beauty products because in the predominantly Muslim country with conservative practices, women are not encouraged to spend so much on personal toiletries.
  7. How Baths and Showers Are Important – Either because of the cold weather or difficult water supply, other countries don’t put a premium on regular baths or showers unlike Filipinos. Some foreigner friends often ask why PInoys take showers all the time. In Melbourne, my hotel’s staff complained that the Filipinos use up their stored water because we needed to take showers twice a day. Once in a Bali red light district I was doing research in, the working women there shared they loved Pinoy seamen because they are always so clean and smell good unlike their other foreign customers.
  8. Free drinking water isn’t available in all restaurants – Filipinorestaurants and food establishments usually offer free drinking water the minute you sit down and haven’t even ordered anything. If you order other beverages, this glass of water doesn’t usually get touched and simply go to waste. Abroad, tap water isn’t really offered and if you ask for water, they will give you something bottled and get charged for it. Since Hong Kong island has limited freshwater and must get it from the mainland, you don’t automatically get water at your table. If you ask for it, they give you bottled water which you have to pay for. Otherwise, what you get is the free and unlimited hot tea.
  9. Filipino food is What I Missed Most – Our standard condiments on the table like patis or bagoong are not readily available abroad. Restaurants just have the usual salt and pepper, or the occasional paprika. If you’re lucky enough to find an Asian establishment, you may get the rare soy sauce. But no amount of gravy can make up for the lack of the usual condiments and sawsawan in foreign cuisine. It’s just not the same if your grilled pork belly doesn’t have that calamansi and toyo dip. No matter how thick that steak is, somehow it’s just too bland without the Asian soy sauce that makes it more special.
  10. Pinoy takes on commercial fastfood are better – Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in the Philippines has free-glowing gravy, but in Singapore there was none of that! At the Night time Safari, we were going to take an early dinner when we were served hot sauce to go with the chicken. Meanwhile, when we were in Jakarta, we went to eat at a local Wendy’s and ordered the usual burgers. However, these burgers tasted so different…as if the meat wasn’t properly sauted in onions and garlic. It just tasted too “beefy”. No wonder our Jollibee is such a hit abroad. Foreigners actually marvel at our Pinoy-styled sweet spaghetti. I guess they also don’t realize some Pinoys actually use tamis-anghang ketchup when cooking spaghetti instead of the sour tasting all-tomato based sauces.

Over-all these are the very Filipino stuff that really make you feel homesick for the Philippines. But if it’s any comfort, somehow, somewhere, you always seem to find a kababayan anywhere in the world. And that is good material for another day…

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