Ever since I can remember my mom’s family has attempted to play matchmaker and find me a decent Filipino guy.
Ever since I can remember I refused and they failed.
To tell you the truth I’ve always imagined myself with a tall, blond and blue-eyed man and eventually have cute blue-eyed children.
Because, ever since I can remember I didn’t see Filipinos as being “my type”.
A few years ago, I met this wonderful young man. He was tall, yes. He was charming, he made me laugh. He seemed to have a similar take on life as I did. He had ambitions and his head on his shoulders, but without taking himself too seriously. He was smart and witty without trying so hard. He was all I ever asked for. But he wasn’t blond and his eyes were far from being blue. That day I fell in love with a Filipino.
Now, I’m a European through and through. And though, my DNA is supposed to contain the best of both worlds, I grew up in Germany, lived in a French home and went to a European school. Filipino culture, food, even language was as foreign to me as to any other expat out there.
I grew up in a melting pot so you could assume it’ll be easy to live a multicultural relationship. Far from it, we deal with challenges everyday. I’m a strong believer of individualism and often refuse to generalize. But here a few things I have learned during these past years. Here is my quick guide to dealing with my Filipino guy and how we grew stronger out of the differences we face:
Understand the value of family
More than in any culture I know, family plays a crucial role in a Filipino man’s life.
The respect of the elder is a concept that is – unfortunately - rare to find these days in western countries. However it is also a tremendous adjustment to understand the relationship between your partner and his parents for instance. I am love my family, but I flew out of the nest as soon as I graduated high school, I express my opinions clearly when I disagree with my parents and I live my own life. It therefore took me months to realize that my independence from my family wasn’t a concept D. could easily understand, let alone identify himself with it.
But true love is about embracing one another’s culture. I struggle at times, I admit it. But on the other hand, as frustrating as it can sometimes be to suddenly have to remember the names of several dozens of titas, titos (aunts and uncles that is) and cousins, it is a cultural difference that I’ve learned to value as I’ve always hoped for a partner that would treasure, value and ultimately take care of his family.
Who said the true gentleman was a dying breed? Well girls, I found my Filipino man to be far more courteous than the European ones I’ve dated. The act of courting a girl is far more romantic and reminds you of the old school of chivalry, which I honestly thought was nothing more than an old Hollywood myth. During the first months of us knowing together, he was at his best behavior. Dare I say on his best foot forward? He picked me up from my place and brought me back. He gave me flowers and chocolate cake. He would call me everyday just to see how I was doing. I never had to open a door or carry a bag. And my bill was always paid for. Little niceties but I must say, for an emancipated and independent woman like me, it felt weird suddenly being confronted with pre-gender-equality chivalry. I was brought up to be strong and capable of living without a man’s help. Were Filipinos considering women as inferior beings?
Today I understand I was completely wrong. The woman plays an important role in the Filipino society, reason also for the internally matriarchal system. Men are brought up to protect and respect their mothers to the utmost and transfer this behavior into their relationship.
“NO” doesn’t exist in his vocabulary
In the spirit of always being the most friendly and courteous, the Filipino men seem to avoid the word “no”. Any question is answered with a smile and a “sure”, “maybe”, “why not?” But do not mistake this positive answer for anything else than it really is: a negative one. Out of fear or simply conflict avoidance, D. prefers to please me at first and deal with the issue once it arises. I have gone mad about this behavior. A planned trip out of town is all set in my mind, but is cancelled last minute because it was never really confirmed in the first place. Conflict avoidance is the keyword here. A negative answer is associated with negative feelings. And this spans outside relationships as well. Contractors would rather start a less than mediocre job and claim that they can do it rather than turning it down and admitting it can’t be done. Over the years, I have lost my temper numerous times and have yet to understand why it seems so difficult to give out clear answers. In Western cultures, a clear “no” is definitely less hurtful or frustrating than a half-meant “yes”. Be firm and get the truthful answer you deserve.
Or am I just notoriously punctual? I spent most of my life in a culture that considers punctuality one of the highest virtues. In Germany being late meant arriving at the said set time. Being on time meant arriving 10 minutes early. Anything else was out of the question. I can’t help but feel nervous and stressed whenever the clock ticks and I know I won’t be able to be on time. With unpredictable Manila traffic that can change a 10-minute trip into a 1-hour journey, I had to learn that my punctuality was going to be challenged. But more than anything, I believe it’s in the nature of Filipinos to be worry-free and take things as they come. I have learned to relax a little, but we are usually still the first ones to arrive at any dinner or party; sometimes even before the hosts get there.
Bottom-line is that no matter how many pet peeves might drive you crazy, the greater values and ideas are what will make or break a bi- or tri-cultural relationship. And I’m lucky enough to say that while disagreeing on many issues, we definitely agree on those.