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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Santa Rosa City, Laguna, Philippines

May 25, 2015


An expat in Santa Rosa City, Philippines appreciates the friendliness of the people, close knit families, low crime and conservative morality of the locals. He finds that merchandise is mostly from China and of the poorest quality (the better products end up in the US!).

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Santa Rosa City, Laguna

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?


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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

No, I'm in the process of learning Tagalog. Many people here speak English and that contributes to me not learning Tagalog as fast as I would like.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No, I wasn't. I had lived in South America in cities and in rural areas. I tend to go with the flow.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Not significant.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Not really. Most of the irritation comes from shoddy goods in the stores. Electrical or water outages were considerably worse in South America.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

None of the above. But I'm much more cautious buying goods as many fall apart in my hands at first use. The lousy Chinese goods that don't sell in the USA, end up here. I was aware of the general attitude of "whatever can be done today, is just as good to do next week". I have learned to be really rude with the persistent beggars. Every day some beggar comes by our home with medical papers saying they need money for treatment. I have been trained in acupuncture and other types of healing modalities. I offer them free services... but no... they want the money. They don't get a peso out of me. Besides giving money to beggars here is illegal, it can get you fined or if the cop thinks he can milk some money out of you, he will double or triple the fine. One of my brother-in-laws is son of the police chief, that will help me if I get into some problem.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The friendliness of the people. I get invited to dinner and parties all the time. I appreciate the strong families and the conservative morality. Crime is much less here than what I saw in South America. You don't see the drunks laying all over the sidewalks and I have not seen any bars or prostitutes in this town.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The language. People showing up an hour late. seems like every time I say, "they are not coming", is the moment they show up ;) I have to report to immigration every 2 months and pay about $75 to $110. Their offices are few and far between and you may have to travel overnight. The wait is about 2 hours which I don't mind, because they have air conditioning.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

There was this mentally ill woman that staked me out as her "territory". She threatened to hurt my wife and I started yelling at her in the street. Told her she was nuts and to stay away. She listened and continues to to stay away.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Just accept you are not in the USA or Europe. You are not going to find buying quality merchandise to be easy. PVC sizes will not match by just a few mm. Garden hoses will not screw on the spigot. You will learn to be more creative with bailing wire. If you lose a screw, you may not find another to match it. Sometimes people will try to charge me more, because they see me as a "Kano". In those cases my wife does the buying. But people are getting to know me and don't try it as often. This has not happened to me, but if you ever have a problem with a cop, pay him off right away, if you end up on the station then you will have to pay off everybody in the office. I understand the standard payoff is about 200 Php or about $4. I know ex-pats that always make sure to have 200 Php whenever they go out. But I don't worry about it. Others tell me they have tinted motorcycle helmet visors or auto windows, they say if a traffic enforcer spots you as a "kano" , they may try to get some money.

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Comments about this Report

Jan 27, 2016 15:08

Very informative and indicative of real live experience. I am grateful for the comparison with South America as I am considering South America also.

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