When I came back, I took a job in Makati. Soon after starting my job, I realized that the greatest challenge I faced would not be in my day-to-day responsibilities, it would be in working within a completely foreign work environment and culture. Having worked for several years in Los Angeles, I was used to the very direct confrontational environment. Here, I was faced with the never direct, never confrontational type of environment common in Asia.
Though I spent most of my childhood and a little of my adulthood in the Philippines, I felt that my colleagues’ thinking processes were completely foreign. What I failed to understand was that it was my thinking process that was foreign, and that I needed to adapt myself to the culture of my own people.
In the beginning, I did not think this at all. I was very excited I was coming back here and did not think this would happen to me. I only thought this only happens to foreigners but not me. I could not understand at all and felt very out of place in my own country. When I moved back home after a period overseas I had a lot of idealized expectations about how it was, how I remembered it, how things worked so much better and how things will go. And often things aren’t exactly the way I remembered.
Finally last night all my coworkers had a team building and they told me what was annoying about my ways and that I need to adjust to their culture. Also, the age gap, the things I knew about the Philippines are old and forgotten. They also told me to get a TV so I know what they are talking and joking about. They want me to watch Vice Ganda so I can understand all their jokes and sense of humor. I am an international news junkie and pretty much know whats going on around the world, will attempt to watch this shows so I can fit in my own culture.
I was not offended at all what they told me and am very glad they opened up with me.
My advice especially to those coming back to Asia is that you must first understand and accept a culture for what it is, only then will you be able to successfully work within it. . Unless approached with an open mind and flexibility, working in a foreign culture can sometimes result in heartache. It’s the responsibility of the person moving into adjust to the foreign culture, not vice versa even if it is your own country.