Travelling to another country is like going to school for the very first time. It excites you, and even causes you to do all sorts of preparations, like finding the perfect bag or pair of shoes to make that ‘groundbreaking’ moment count. But later on, all sorts of outrageous things start to hit you like a ton of bricks, and you’re simply not prepared for them. I don’t know about you, but these things have definitely managed to give me that ‘shookt’ moment I could never have imagined growing up in the Philippines.
1. Ang bilis ng tren!
It might be a norm for countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But coming from the Philippines, where our trains alone have yet to see the light of day, it’s certainly like being young Lewis of Stephen John Anderson’s Meet the Robinsons!
2. May ganitong flavour pala?
Spicy, sour, bitter — you name it. Even flavours I never even thought had a name of their own actually existed in the most unusual destinations.
3. Jetlag for real
It wasn’t until I travelled to Nepal that I started to believe the effects of a different time zone. I know, it’s a mere two-hour difference from the Philippines but still. It not only meant a change of environment, but also a change in the way my body functioned altogether.
4. Pakihinaan naman aircon
I thought Manila was hot, until I went to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on summertime. And I thought I’d already experienced the coldest weather in Baguio, until I went to Nepal on wintertime! I guess we’ll never really appreciate our own weather until we encounter these insane temperatures from other countries first hand!
5. Ansabe mo?
Growing up in a country where English is spoken and even capitalised on every day, I found it hard to believe that this so-called universal language isn’t as widely used by other nationalities. Instead, I often have to rely on a live or digital translator just to get by.
6. Overrated much?
I used to think that it was just me who often found a number of attractions abroad disappointing, after being on social media almost all the time. But no, there really are places that are too good to be true in photos!
7. Ilabas ang calculator!
Not only do I deal with different colours, texture and even shapes of money when I travel abroad, I also have to deal with completely different price points. That means consulting my trusty phone calculator (if not Google) every time I spend on something.
8. Discrimination… it still exists
I was volunteering in a homestay in a that-which-must-not-be-named country with Westerners who were there for supposedly the same type of work I signed up for. But thanks to our local host, they totally got away with all the ‘real’ work around the place while I attended to them all the time, mostly because I wasn’t given a choice.
9. Bakit nasa kanan ‘yung manibela?!
Much like time differences, following the opposite road traffic system in another country requires me to reconfigure my entire mindset. Malaysia, for example, requires cars to drive on the left side of the road compared to the Philippines. Only it becomes a matter of safety too rather than just comfort. Tingin muna sa kanan? Yeah right.
10. What’s that smell?
A foreigner friend of a friend once said that Filipinos smell like fish, or basically anything with a saline odour. When I was in a certain country, locals smelt a lot like garlic. In another, curry. I guess we really ARE what we eat.
11. NOT only in the Philippines
Crazy traffic, durian, native transportation, taxi ‘problems’ — I was stunned to find out these things aren’t unique to the Philippines. They have tuktuks in Cambodia that look like bigger versions of our tricycles. A love for durian in Vietnam like that in Davao. Overcrowded roads and ‘choosy’ taxi drivers in Kathmandu, just like in Manila!
12. Ilabas ang kanin!
Love it or hate it, rice is part of Filipino culinary tradition and it has been for hundreds of years. I myself consume at least three cups of it in one sitting. So you can only imagine how frustrated I get when I go to countries that only have viands as their main meal.
13. Doppelganger pa more
“Are you Filipino?”
“No, I’m a local.”
“Are you Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian?”
“Ay Pinoy rin po ako!”
14. Hala ang bait
I grew up believing that Filipinos are the most hospitable people in the world. So meeting nationalities who actually end up being a lot nicer to me even as a visitor always takes me by surprise.
15. Or not…
From friendly locals to rude and insensitive. Without naming names, I think it’s pretty clear that some nationalities are just notorious for their bad manners, from knocking into others on the street without apologising, stealing a table inside a restaurant or cutting in lines at visitor attractions. It’s the most annoying kind of ‘shookt’ experience I’ve ever had to deal with.
I may not be as well travelled as the rest of you, but these things have definitely proven to me that culture shock, good or bad, is no joke. But that’s okay, with a positive attitude, you’ll learn your way around them the more you keep on handing over your passport to a different nationality for a new entry stamp — regardless of the country!