Coming to the Philippines and hearing an American accent from the locals was a major surprise to me. I think I was expecting to hear a more Spanish accent because of the hundreds of years that Spain had control of the Philippines. It takes a little while to get use to the Pinoy-American-English, but it takes the locals forever to get use to my mumbling Aussie accent.
Some foreigner may not used to the non verbal communication in the Philippines, but it is part of their culture. I don’t know why but one time you ask someone where is the store and they will use their lips to point out where it is.
But this is not the only form of non-written communication here in the Philippines. There is a very powerful non-verbal communication at work here too. I am not just talking about the death stares you get when you have upset the wife or girlfriend, but of course that is magnified here. Yikes, let’s not talk about that.
The first time I came across non-verbal communication is when I was trying to find the entrance to a mall in Manila. I asked a security guard who puckered his lips at me. I asked again, thinking he may have not heard me correctly and I got the puckered lips! I changed my question to how far is it? The response was the puckered lip followed by an arm gesture that left me baffled.
My next confusion was caused by asking some Pinoy friends if they wanted a beer or perhaps a coke? The response to me was no response. But, when I asked the question again I noticed that eyebrows were moving and perhaps even a twitch of those lips again. To be sure I asked one more time and for sure there was a definite eye brow movement and a lip movement, but absolutely no sound.
Eventually I realised I was being communicated in a way I had never been before. I sat for the next hour asking them the intricacies of non-verbal communication. To be fair I am still baffled by most of it, but amongst the locals it is vital. The guys I spoke about seem to think it is a tribal thing. Probably communicating during a hunt for food and this has just carried on.
I asked what the security guard was telling me. The puckering of the lips meant the direction and the flapping of the arms the distance. How to translate the flapping in to distance seems to be pure guess work.
Ignoring these non-verbal communications can get you into trouble too. It is so part of Philippines culture that to ignore it can be seen as rude. So pucker those lips and good luck.
Jeff Harvie is an Australian Registered Migration Agent (MARN 0959797) who has given up the quiet life in Australia a few years back for one more adventurous with his Filipina wife and kids in Manila, Philippines. He runsDown Under Visa, which specialises in Australian partner visas for those Aussie men who fall madly in love with the local girls and want to bring them to Australia.