In the Philippines, English is one of the official languages. The other is Tagalog (sometimes referred to as Filipino). There are also many regional dialects. It's well worth learning a little Tagalog not that it's necessary to use it all day every day, but, as always, it's polite to your hosts.
Yes, I've lived and worked in eight different countries. However well prepared and accustomed to moving and re-settling I think I am, culture shock still strikes.
Fairly significant, mostly because the Philippines seems so Western on the surface, but actually isn't when you dig a little deeper. The culture shock I experienced wasn't so much because of differences between Filipino and my own culture, but between Filipino and the cultures of other places in SE Asia where I'd lived. My expectations were all over the place!
Absolutely, it's like the letter W. You start on a high, then hit a low somewhere between three to six months later. Then you decide to dig deeper and decide what life in the new place is really about, so you go on a high again as you work it out, becoming more involved and committed. Later, there are little lows as you encounter some specific frustration or something happens to family or friends in your own country that makes everything difficult.
All of the above! However, just recognizing that it's not 'me', but culture shock that causes the weird behavior helped. Also, knowing that I might be in a low today, but I'll likely be better tomorrow (or next week) helped me through. For me writing about it is cathartic...as you can see!
This seems to be the most open culture that I've encountered in SE Asia. People are willing to open up to friendships beyond the superficial. The Filipino people embody stoicism in the face of hardship, cheerfulness, kindness, empathy: there are many, many positives.
Communication is somewhat indirect. It's so important to watch body language, in particular changes in body language (rather than overt gestures) that indicate 'something's up'.
Corruption, when encountered, is upsetting and frustrating.
The inefficiency of anything official from receipt giving to getting the driver's licence (though there are notable exceptions). The plus side is that inefficiency is almost always accompanied by a smile.
Getting connected is absolutely key. So often I have encountered people who've waited to get the house perfect before socializing and not taken an early opportunity to get out and meet others. This means that suddenly they are not 'newcomers' any more and those perfect opportunities for making new friends have drited by. It's pretty dispiriting sitting in that perfect house all alone and miserable!
Join everything, try everything you possibly can, then work out what really works for you and refine your involvement. Try something you've never done before - this could be a golden opportunity.
Be easy on yourself. In a new culture it takes much longer to achieve anything, particularly if there's a language barrier as well. You may have run a large department, taught classes of difficult teenagers, run your own business at home, managed a family of five kids under ten, but overseas, especially in the early days, you'll find yourself comparatively inefficient. Don't take this to mean you are not functioning, it's just cultural differences, process adjustments and misunderstandings getting in the way, slowing you down.
Talk about how you feel, to friends and to your spouse. They're likely feeling the same way too. However, try not to get into a 'moan-fest'. Have a whine, laugh about it and then move on to something more inspiring. Interact with positive people when you can.
This is hard to say, but...know that you can leave. There will be consequences (financial, career, relationship), but you can actually leave. Just knowing that makes you stay. It's like having an open door. You might not go through it, but you do have an escape route, even if you never use it.
Find a cultural bridge to guide you: someone who knows your culture, but who is from the culture to which you are adjusting. Invaluable!
Above all, watch and listen: observation skills are crucial to understanding the values and expectations of your hosts.