What’s It Like To Be an Introverted Teacher

After our professional development training last Wednesday, one local teacher (Indonesian) asked me why I don’t hang out with my Filipino colleagues. Told her the truth: “I don’t want to, it’s draining sometimes.” It’s not exclusive to Filipinos by the way. I regularly turned down party invites back in Thailand, because, well. I like spending time with my boy and clean the house (I kid you not).

It’s not their fault, nor mine. It’s just I do get drained when I hang out with people, especially those who don’t get it. Sometimes it can even be like “go away”. I’m an introvert and possibly the most boring woman you’ll ever know.

Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I am not shy too. I can razzle dazzle people in presentations. I can host a party. I can party! I hold an interesting, long conversation. My colleagues think I’m funny and bubbly. Hell, I am a teacher, which gives me an opportunity to be in front of the crowd for seven solid hours everyday. However, I have to say, it can tiring. I don’t hang around after school most of the time, by home time, I pack my bag and leave the room to head home because nothing beats the freedom of being able to lounge around in your undies while lying on the couch, eating chocolate coated digestives. Do yoga. Meditate. Work out.

What’s the difference between introversion and shyness? According to Susan Cain, “Introversion is really about having a preference for lower stimulation environments. So it’s just a preference for quiet, for less noise, for less action. Whereas extroverts really crave more stimulation in order to feel at their best. Many people believe that introversion is about being antisocial, and that’s really a misperception. Because actually it’s just that introverts are differently social. So they would prefer to have a glass of wine with a close friend as opposed to going to a loud party full of strangers. Now, shyness, on the other hand, is about a fear of negative social judgment. So you can be introverted without having that particular fear at all, and you can be shy but also be an extrovert”

My brother and I talked recently and he was moaning about how people get to waste his time by “doing them a favor by saying yes when they ask you to hang out with them and end up sacrificing some beliefs or protocol when it comes to social situations” or basically saying “I don’t like what you’re doing, I’ll just go home now to surf the net”. He claims people think that going out with friends and family is a great fun thing but no, not for him (for us). We’d rather be at home with our books, internet and laptop.

I am grateful that my boyfriend is the same. We get each other (I think we are meant to be together because of this!) and we have the same needs. I don’t mind when the house gets quiet too as we need the peace, some alone time, but because a strange twist of fate called love, my alone time has to be punctuated with his presence, or at least, his voice filling up the room when we call each other. He is the extension of myself, my thoughts – he is the icing on the cake of my alone time.


Quiet Quiz: Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?
Excerpted from: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

To find out where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, answer each question True or False, choosing the one that applies to you more often than not.

1. ______ I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.

2. ______ I often prefer to express myself in writing.

3. ______ I enjoy solitude.

4. ______ I seem to care about wealth, fame, and status less than my peers.

5. ______ I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me.

6. ______ People tell me that I’m a good listener.

7. ______ I’m not a big risk-taker.

8. ______ I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.

9. ______ I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.

10. ______ People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.”

11. ______ I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished.

12. ______ I dislike conflict.

13. ______ I do my best work on my own.

14. ______I tend to think before I speak.

15.______ I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.

16. ______I often let calls go through to voice mail.

17. ______If you had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.

18. ______ I don’t enjoy multitasking.

19. ______ I can concentrate easily

20. ______ In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars.

The more often you answered True, the more introverted you are. This is an informal quiz, not a scientifically validated personality test. The questions were formulated based on characteristics of introversion often accepted by contemporary researchers.

From Quiet by Susan Cain. Copyright 2012 by Susan Cain.


That Expat Title

According to my handy dictionary, expat is an adjective that means living in a foreign land.

The previous article I posted doesn’t ring true for me. I am a Filipino expat because I’m living in a country other than the Philippines. People around me here call me an expat. My classification in school is an “expat”. I’m no immigrant. I get expat treatment like my American colleagues. If we enjoy the same privileges, I won’t know but I’d like to think so. Although according to my experience, I am wary now.

At which point that article rings true for me now. The title “expat” isn’t the issue here. It’s the indirect racism. The word “expat” is used sparingly with coloured people because it has superiority attached to it, and whether we like it or not, especially in places where it was colonized by Westerners, which are, bluntly speaking, the Third World countries (they colonize us and they won’t let us in their countries via visa restrictions – funny).

The word denotes privilege. When I was a child, I grew up in a place where expats outnumber the locals, so being an expat wasn’t different. I grew up with a consciousness that foreigners are locals though: my neighbors were Germans, Japanese, Canadians, etc. My parents were sort of local expats though, and they were in a tough spot: they were not from the same island as the locals. They didn’t know anyone, and since they came from the capital Manila, they spoke Tagalog which is deemed more superior than the dialect. They do not have the same values as the locals and that made them stand out, and standing out in a sea of similar-looking people sharing the same kind of ethnicity is a breeding ground for jealousy and backbiting. My parents did not want to retire there.

See when you are uprooted from your hometown or home country, the leaders (or at least the smart people) understand that you have no support being an import. No family, no house, no friends. You have to adjust to new cultures, new places, new food; maybe even time zones. It’s not easy. So managers/leaders give out “perks” like housing, settlement allowances, earlier home time and holiday allowances to compensate the lack. You are treated to first class facilities and treated to the best parties because your host is showing off his country. You are most probably in the company of leaders and movers in the industry themselves because, well, leaders have to move places to move people and companies. And locals only see the “perks” because they want it, too.

And in Asia, whether we like to admit it or not, the culture of caste system is very much alive, thanks to having centuries of colonial rule. Colonial rule meant having the white people (colonizers) being superior, and more powerful. The natives don’t have ANYTHING. Now you know why Asians have the penchant for skin whitening products. All if it, even the concept of beauty, boils down to power.

So if an Asian comes over to work on a white country, I would understand the discrepancy of the white-coloured labeling of expat: do you want your slave to have that power? What’s worse is that the Westerners don’t label the Asians like that. It’s the Asians who label their fellow Asians. The Asians, with our very strange non-confrontational, everything-is-okay-but-you’re-treated-like-shit culture, can be very difficult to deal with because of this ingrained racism.

I am lucky because I can speak Engish better than most people here, if not, my dark skin and curly hair would have proved to be a disadvantage, because, hey, I look like a real Asian – not worthy to have “perks”.

Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

This article originally appeared in The Guardian


In the lexicon of human migration there are still hierarchical words, created with the purpose of putting white people above everyone else. One of those remnants is the word “expat”.

What is an expat? And who is an expat? According to Wikipedia, “an expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (‘out of’) and patria (‘country, fatherland’)”.

Defined that way, you should expect that any person going to work outside of his or her country for a period of time would be an expat, regardless of his skin colour or country. But that is not the case in reality; expat is a term reserved exclusively for western white people going to work abroad.

Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they can’t be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’.

Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal, the leading financial information magazine in the world, has a blog dedicated to the life of expats and recently they featured a story ‘Who is an expat, anyway?’. Here are the main conclusions: “Some arrivals are described as expats; others as immigrants; and some simply as migrants. It depends on social class, country of origin and economic status. It’s strange to hear some people in Hong Kong described as expats, but not others. Anyone with roots in a western country is considered an expat … Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they’ve been here for decades. Mandarin-speaking mainland Chinese are rarely regarded as expats … It’s a double standard woven into official policy.”

The reality is the same in Africa and Europe. Top African professionals going to work in Europe are not considered expats. They are immigrants. Period. “I work for multinational organisations both in the private and public sectors. And being black or coloured doesn’t gain me the term “expat”. I’m a highly qualified immigrant, as they call me, to be politically correct,” says an African migrant worker.

Most white people deny that they enjoy the privileges of a racist system. And why not? But our responsibility is to point out and to deny them these privileges, directly related to an outdated supremacist ideology. If you see those “expats” in Africa, call them immigrants like everyone else. If that hurts their white superiority, they can jump in the air and stay there. The political deconstruction of this outdated worldview must continue.

Mawuna Remarque Koutonin is the editor of SiliconAfrica.com, where this blog was first published. Follow @siliconafrica on Twitter.

Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow@GuardianGDP on Twitter.

Job Hunting: How To Make Your CV Stand Out

Job hunting is a tedious task, especially if you are tailoring each application for very specific positions. Whilst you have to present your best in a matter of a single (or two) pieces of paper, there are some things that you have to remember when you submit your CV.

They say it only takes 20 seconds for an employer to decide whether your CV is for the bin or not. Unfortunately, that is true. My mother has been an HR Department Head for an international organization for long time in her career, and she confirmed this.

Lucky for me, I got her to teach me how to stand out from the pile of applicants. Here are some things that mama knows, and trust me, even if some of these points seem to be common sense, you will be surprised on the quality of CVs she received.

Use a single, standard photo

Choose a photo that would be your default one, no matter how you’re tailoring your job hunt is. You don’t need to stand in front of a black board if you’re applying for a teacher, or behind a shop counter if you wanted to participate in sales. Choose an ID picture quality photograph because that’s what it is – identification. Boring white background for the picture? You bet. It’s the first thing that the employer sees so you better make the right impression.

Use a professional-sounding email

If your email is cottontail55@yahoo.com, well, employers will think that you don’t make an effort to be professional, or at least, change from personal to work email, which is worse. You’re definitely not making a good impression here.

Research on the company you’re working for

At this point, you’ll show dedication and resourcefulness to your future employer then. Tailoring your cover letter is a serious task so do some research on the company, on your head of office. Figure out how you can link your skills and experiences so that you know you’re a perfect fit. Be personal and use the name of the person you’re addressing to rather than stick to the usual “Dear Sir/Madam”. It all helps.

Practice brevity

Keep it short and sweet, as employers don’t have time for bullshit – they don’t need to know you’ve won Spelling Bee 2003 in Barangay Santa Cruz. Make sure the information you put in is relevant and job-related. Make it easier for the employer to have a one page CV and letter. My mom says CV is like a trailer of the movie – the interview is the more important part to decide if you’re a perfect fit.

Attach files

And also, name it correctly. I am guilty of this. After spending A LOT OF TIME tailoring my cover letters, I sometimes forget to attach my CV. I am so lucky that gmail has that command to remind you if you forgot to attach something. Helps a lot!

That’s it. Short and sweet so as not to take your time if you’re looking for a job. Good luck!

How To Travel Abroad a.k.a. The Tao of Traveling

Yes, I fully intend to impart my wisdom to you, gathered through priceless experiences that made me grow

So on my Instagram feed, I discovered my high school classmate’s pictures of her and her “boyfriend” and they have fucking amazing pictures. Like, you know, Instagram-worthy. In a magical place: Bali. With thoroughly insightful captions about life and love that you’d think Bali makes everyone into an Elizabeth Gilbert (of the Eat, Pray, Love fame) clone.

I know I risk sounding bitter here, but I’m just disappointed that with all those artful pictures and thought-provoking captions, I learn that those captions were lifted from the internet. WTF, I hate that. I felt deceived. Duped. Like admiration has been misplaced. Although it is my bad that I googled the caption (I’m such a condescending prick sometimes), I was hoping it won’t get a hit. Unfortunately and to my dismay, it did. And here it is.

As a reaction to that, let me present my Tao of Traveling, as per guru Ella. Here goes:

1. Pack home. People tell you to make a list about what you love about your home before leaving it, but that is too time-consuming and it is bordering on fake, especially if your are root-less like me. I grew up and got uprooted in a place where I can’t call home now.  For me, pack stuff that would remind you of home – not the geographical home – but rather the things, the home that you know would ground you and make you feel safe and loved ANYWHERE you are in the world. They are timeless and “place-less”, therefore universal. I always take pictures of my family and Ash with me, also the birthday postcard Ash gave me, they are my home. If things get rough, I look at these things and go home to my safety place in that little corner of my mind, reminding me that this is only temporary and that I will go home to them one day.

2. Plan your trip. Make a list of the things you want to do on that journey of yours and make an itinerary. This will most likely be not followed because of the unpredictable nature of these kind of trips, especially if you are backpacking across Asia, but what this gives you is a sense of direction and goals. Read up about the place on the internet, get inspired by other adventurers’ tales, and hook up with a local to be your guide once you have arrived. Have fun, be smart though.

3. Pack money, or at least be armed with a sufficient amount of it. In that list, it said, Pack Band Shirts. Actually, lemme quote that because it seriously reeks of 20 year old, Generation Y, hipster vibe:

3. Pack band T-shirts

This is not as silly as it sounds. I make a lot of friends just by wearing my Beatles or Strokes T-shirts. Music has a powerful way of bringing people together, and even though no listening is involved, people like to come up and talk about how much they love the band on my shirt or their experience at the concert and so on. This is a lovely and easy way to spark short-lived conversations with pretty cool strangers. And if all things go well, you’ll make plans to a jazz bar that week and become best friends.

Is this screwed up or what?! Who wants to be friends with a poser who packed fucking band shirts just to talk small talk with people who love music? This has a makings of a psychopath checklist, “How To Lure Victims”.

Look, my advice is, have some money as a safety blanket because you don’t know how much you’re gonna spend. Yes, do research on the cost of living, good. But you’re new, you’re stimulated, you wanna buy everything, but pause on that. If push comes to shove you have to go home because of an emergency, you’re covered. Even better, if the place sucks and you decide to go to a different place, you have money to do so. Trust me. Money makes the world go round.

And personally, you don’t need band shirts. Fuck that, go talk to people. Go to that Jazz club, own the place and talk to people. DO NOT DEPEND ON SHIRTS FOR SOCIAL BROWNIE POINTS BECAUSE THAT’S A LOSER THING TO DO AND YOU ARE NOT A LOSER.

4. Be mindful. Okay that list says be aware of current events. You don’t need to be, especially if you’re in a place where they don’t have English newspapers. What, translate their newspaper just to be equipped? Yeah sure I can read BBC.com or CNN.com, but if you are mindful enough that this is not your own country and be respectful of their laws and culture, you’re fine. In fact, that’s what I’d encourage you to read on: their culture and laws. Not only you’ll appreciate the country more, but you’d have a different insight when you experience the whole culture of it.

5. Meet locals. In that list, she says meet old people. I say, talk to everyone, young, old, rich, poor, whatever. But locals are gold. They are living artifacts of the place and tell the best stories, although yes, older people are interesting because they have experience with the world and have more to say, young people have hopes and dreams for that new place. Workers can tell you problems with their economy or how economy is. Let’s just say, they give you enough material for your insight.

6. Take pictures, and document it. The list says don’t take electronics. You serious? You are abroad and alone, bring your phone because you don’t know what might happen and you may have to call your parents or the cops, you know? I know I sound pessimistic but hey, it’s not a fairy tale world out there! I know it means to clear your mind of what’s happening, disconnect to the world. Yeah I get that, but please, not when you are out exploring. Do that when you are in a controlled environment, like a bungalow. Anyway, take pictures and document it. One day, you will look back and tell yourself, hey I did this, and I want you to be proud of yourself for being independent and strong while looking at that photo. Write a blog about it too, and share your experience. If you’re shy about it, write it down on your journal. This will, believe if or not, make the journey more memorable.

7. Immerse yourself. Don’t be afraid to get lost, try new food, stay up late at night, people watch, be alone. This journey will open your mind to different options and I want you to optimize the experience by taking it all in. You are there for growth and learning and that’s what you’ll do. After this trip, you’ll come out at a better person with an understanding of the world. Get lost (I said that with love).

8. I will quote that list here because it’s beautiful:

Don’t be worried about it ending

The hardest part about traveling is knowing that the moments do not last forever. However, this time around, I learned to not worry so much about becoming weary after going back home. The most important part is to know that at some point in life for some period of time, a part of me walked across the Vlatava River looking along the colorful buildings of Prague on the way to school. Somewhere inside me, that moment will always resonate. I think that moments and experiences never leave you if you let them affect you.

Ending something fun will never get easy, but you’ll get used to it. Have fun and take care, I wish it won’t be your last trip!

How Being in A Long Distance Relationship Makes You A Better Person

“How does that work?” people ask when they learn that I’m in a long distance relationship (LDR).

“Aren’t you worried?” “He’s probably keeping something from you!”

Man, tell you what. It’s annoying to answer these questions again and again like a broken record, even if I love talking about my man and that I constantly gush about him. These deeply probing questions always pop up in conversations with people – strangers mostly – that I want to set the records straight once and for all.

Although pop culture states that LDR is doomed to end, science actually proves it wrong in many studies. Boo-yah!

I am proud of us, me and Ash. We have weathered through a lot of shit to get to where we are now. Although still nowhere near each other geographically (we are working on that, that’s why you can see me posting about Schengen Visa stuff – that’s me making moves to be there with him in EU), we have experienced a lot of highs versus lows. We know more of each other, and I think we are more intimate and closer to each other compared to those who have Geographically Close Relationships (GCRs).

Although yes, I miss him a lot. Waaaaay lot, you can’t even imagine how much I miss him even if we talk for five hours each day. It’s the little things I miss most, seeing him chill to his podcast while Facebooking early in the morning; or cuddling him before we sleep, or watching him lift weights in the gym, or having that special scent about the house when we have been living together, but still I am grateful that we (he) choose to spend our precious time with each other. Our conversations run from serious, scientific, emotional, scary stuff to plain silly and fun. We laugh a lot and we play sometimes. We share our days, our ideas, our plans and most importantly we dream together and kick ass together. We make things together even when we are apart. We’d have dates. We’d celebrate birthdays, graduations, moves and acquisitions. Anything and everything we can celebrate, we do.

Maybe that’s why it works, because we celebrate all things, big and small. We try harder because there is a time and space that we have to compensate for. I can’t touch him to make him feel how much I love him. I can’t look into his eyes the way I’m supposed to because he’s made up of pixels now. I can’t squeeze his hand to show support. I can’t cook for him to show my appreciation for him being his awesome self. So I try to show him how much he means to me every single chance I get, be it with texts, gifts, pictures, sound clips, even thumb kisses and shared games and Pinterest boards. And I think that how love is supposed to be in the first place.

We communicate a lot because of that. I don’t think our relationship would survive without FaceTime and iMessage though. Digital technology works like a dream and because of that, I need internet and wifi altogether. Seriously, I’d get panic attacks when internet isn’t available for us to use, especially during the early stages of the relationship. But because we only communicate digitally, and sometimes he is busy, we talk less but with more meaning. Communication is optimum because we feel like we don’t have enough time. There is no boring stuff to talk about as well because I just have to know everything. Seriously, we bond about how I pray, or how long he walked in the mountains for (3.4 km), so what normally gets to be overlooked in a GCR relationship gets more love in our team. And when we reunite, it’s always better. We understand each other and give each other their needs.

We don’t play games and we are honest to lessen miscommunication. Miscommunication while apart is evil and toxic. It hurts even if that was an honest mistake. We always try to avoid making each other feel bad. So we talk about intimate things that would make you vulnerable: what hurts you and why? Why did I make you feel like that? What can I do against that?

Being apart also makes it more romantic because we always look forward to the day we meet again, which, honestly, is a day we don’t know when. It gets easy when you put a date on it, but the possibility of having to meet earlier than that date, of making surprise visits make it exciting. Because of that, we flirt and court like young teenagers raging to see each other because the longing for each other is so intense that it fuels our desire and passion in the relationship. You miss out on the mundane and focus on the things that matter, things that, er, liven up the imagination because  and it makes things hot as well.

It’s like this: you’re alone but you’re never lonely. I can always feel his presence. I think about him all the time. People think when you’re apart from your partner you go ahead and look for someone else. This doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t even enter my mind. Primarily because of values instilled in me like loyalty and discipline, and of course, I’m in love and this is the most important factor because it doesn’t become a chore then. I’m pretty sure he is in love too, and we are both committed to each other. See there are thousands of choices out there: I can opt to hang out with my friends, stealing our precious “us” time. I can always spend my money on traveling to other places like Bali or Vietnam, stealing our precious funds kept to see each other. I can always choose to ignore him, to delete him from my Facebook, my contacts list. Same with him, he can always look for another woman and ignore me for the rest of time. But no we are with each other and I choose him because he makes me happy, I love him. Even if we have argument, we don’t let go because, well, we are committed and passionate and in love and we understand that all relationships have ups and downs. Obviously, distance breeds trust. We don’t have a choice on that almost, I mean, I can’t see how or who he is interacting with outside our phone calls, I can’t check his phone for mysterious messages, even his Facebook activities late at night when I sleep, I can’t pry in (though obviously I won’t do this because of just privacy issues – I was bred with thorough values). It’s a leap of faith. Believe it or not, it’s positive trust that wins over. Sorry, naysayers!

For everything else, being in a long distance relationship surely made me emotionally mature. I am a late bloomer in this relationship thing having my first boyfriend when I was 24, and this is that relationship. I have gone from being a jealous bitch, a paranoid girlfriend, an evil genius attention seeker, a scared little girl to hopefully, a strong, smart and independent woman who is devoted to her wonderful boyfriend.

Overall, I think, the best thing about us is that we don’t choose loneliness because we throw ourselves to hobbies that would enrich us and make us better for each other (like me blogging now lol) and it makes us more confident, stronger and happier people, making us better partners because we radiate that strength and bounce it off each other, not drag each other with it. That way, we know we choose to be with each other even if we know we are fully capable of being independent. It’s a nice feeling to have when you’re chosen. At least I know I am special and worth sacrificing for in someone else’s life. And I want that man to be happy.

Adjustment: Can Previous Expat Experience Help?

I remember when it was my first time to move to a different country to work, it felt like a summer course. You know, long term holiday but not really. I was excited. The second time I moved to a different country, I was jaded, tired and just wanted to get over the process of adjustment. If there was a shortcut to social integration, I’d buy it.

Unlike learning a language where you master vocabulary and grammar rules and you sort of get better with practice, moving to different countries is a different animal altogether because most of the things you are supposed to get better at are new and unique every time you move. No country has the same cultural norms or even language. Everything is quite different from what you are used to from food, to clothes, to language and even climate!

Truth be told, I have never stayed in one place for more than a year since 2012. I want to say I get bored but it’s just luck, really. Well, and my decisions that lead to that luck of course: funky co-teachers, low salaries, no benefits, my love. There are reasons why I did what I did and I have no regrets, even though what I do is quite eyebrow-raising for most people (I have answered a lot of “Why’s?” in that aspect and man I just want to shut people up and leave me alone). Maybe add to the fact that I am very curious and adventurous so I tend to seek new stuff. Because of this adventurism, when a new prospect of moving to a different country beckons, I’m like, “Should I try to go there?” and the answer would most probably be yes.

I also get that confidence because the thought “I did this before, it will be easier for me” enters your mind. Oh it will be a snap!

That’s the honeymoon period. Now I’m on that period where it’s just like a passive “Okay” all the time, and honestly, I couldn’t care less about it. Which is good because when you are adjusting to a new place, you’d actually feel unsafe at some point because, well, trust issues I suppose. You’re an outsider, an alien in their country. My mind always tells me, these people don’t care about you. And a passive “Okay” from you always appears to be non-threatening.

People can say, oh the same things happen when you move to a new country, but just packaged differently. I beg to disagree because you cannot translate your experiences from one country to another because of the cultural diversity and differences they have from one another.

I believe that there is a biological explanation for the process adjustment, and I think that the brain, when in a new place, gets stimulated with all the new stuff: say the language and smells. Then the poor brain, which cannot find patterns, gets uncertain. Uncertainty builds stress and we don’t like stress, so it soothes you into thinking that everything will be all right and that will be repeated: new stuff, anxiety, patterns, uncertainty, stress, soothe until the novelty fades and you start to become integrated and adjusted to the new environment.

Is there a shortcut for that? Well there is that thing called anticipatory adjustment wherein you learn what to expect in a new country before even stepping off the plane to make the experience of adjusting less painful. But is this true? If you google it, the opinions are divided. So screw that.

This is my take on it: Generalizing traditions because the countries came from one region is in vain. Cultural-specific knowledge is named that because it is cultural-specific! It’s like forcing your values on another person. That can’t ever work.

However, it is always good to read up on cultural-general (as opposed to cultural-specific) knowledge and as an expat with previous experience you know the power of culture and how the strangeness implicitly affects the way you think so you can act accordingly. You have to know that to act and function properly in your new environment, and that’s how you grow: you cease being judgmental, you become more open, patient and hopefully better in communication. You get to become culturally-sensitive and trust me, that will be useful in all cultures.

Apart external knowledge, a good insight is what you also need. Self-knowledge is key to proper adjustment too. This makes handling stress easily because culture shock drains you emotionally, mentally and physically. You get to avoid certain behaviour and establish routines to help yourself. You know how long it takes for you to settle in as well and you give yourself some love. For me, I know it takes at least 3 months for me to settle in a new place.

But the best advantage previous experience gives to you is realistic expectations regarding expat life. It’s not as glamourous or easy as one might have thought romantically. You get to be more forgiving of your mistakes and take them as prices of information because you understand that the road to social integration is one hell of a bumpy road. In other words, you know that it’s the journey that matters, not the things you pack.

Top Ten Signs That You’re A Jaded Expat

Originally posted on Asia Pundits by smurfystew

10. You make top 10 lists about the correct and proper ways for expats to live their lives while abroad.

9. You rage post about how backwards and stupid the country you are living in is on Facebook and in forums late at night while you are drunk, and then quietly delete the posts without comment in the morning before a local sees how deeply disaffected you are with their country.

8. You have taught the same dreary English lessons so many times at this point that you could do it in your sleep, and you sometimes do.

7. You keep saying to your friends that in just a few more years you’ll be going home. The sad truth is that you’ve told that same tired tale for the last decade and you have made no effort to leave. The reality of the situation is that you are a sucker for pain and are far too addicted to the scene at this point to go anywhere, even if you really wanted to. If you give up now, it would be like admitting defeat and you would have to return home in shame, and you certainly wouldn’t want that now, would you?

6. You work ten hours a week and feel that you are overworked and underpaid.

5. You know that the cheapest place in town to get hammered is the convenience store and you make very good use of these during the summer months. You visit the local convenience store so much that the staff there know you as “the drunken foreigner”.

4. You dream of a vacation on a beach that is six months off, knowing full well that if you just endure six more months of self-imposed hell, a solid month of pleasure and debauchery outside of your host country will be coming your way. “Only six more months, baby! Thailand here we come!”

3.  You constantly bitch about how boring your host country is, yet, you never make any attempt to get out of your house, let alone the city you are living in, to see what the country actually has to offer.

2. You have written a memoir or are writing a memoir about your life abroad and you actually believe people give a shit enough to read about your boring life.

1. You trawl the Internet in a desperate attempt to find out whether you are indeed a jaded expat or not.

Bonus points if you have ever been arrested, gone through a divorce, lost it all, including your sanity, or had to flee under the cover of darkness to avoid some very bad shit that was about to come your way.

Anything we missed? Feel free to add your own signs and symptoms in the comments section below.

14 Films For Valentine’s Day That You Can Watch With Your Man

Valentines Day is fast approaching! Oh the feels the internet is bringing to our screen: from Ways To say I Love You in Different Languages to Recipes For A Sizzling Night, all to make one day of your life romantic. Aw.

Before I met Ash, I didn’t care for it. Then he happened, then I started to get really cheesy and insanely romantic. I thought I wouldn’t be like this, but heck being in love changes you in ways you cannot imagine, and suddenly I can relate to all Pablo Neruda poems. Being in love strangely made me know myself more. I didn’t know I can give myself to a person like this. I didn’t know I can be cheesy. I didn’t know I’d change (to better myself) so much in a short period of time. I didn’t know my heart skip a beat over a person for a long term period. I knew how to be patient, generous, honest (we have this world going on), how to go with the flow.

Ash and I love movies. The cinema is part of our love story since the day we started, and naturally, we watch movies together even if we are sometimes continents apart. Because of this, we got to enjoy watching movies together by playing movies simultaneously on our respective laptops/TVs, which is cool because we don’t need to spend on the cinema! I love it when he is beside me though. You know that moment when his hand finds its way to yours when a romantic scene is cued or when you can just cuddle and lay your head on his tummy while you watch Four Brothers in a tiny hotel in Bangkok. Oh I’m all kilig na. Ano ba yan.

To pay tribute to the feeling called love, I have compiled a list of films for you and your significant other (which can be yourself too, take note) to enjoy this Saturday, near or far. Although some of which in the list are dark, they’re all proper good films and surprisingly romantic. Have fun!

1. True Romance. 1993. 8/10 (imdb). This brilliant film penned by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott is special for me because this is the first film we watched in his house. It revolves about Clarence (a very young Christian Slater) and Alabama (also a very young Patricia Arquette) stealing cocaine from Alabama’s pimp, and they try to run away. So fun, so nostalgic, so romantic in a very Tarantino + Scott way. Think Pulp Fiction and Top Gun together.

2. Drive. 2011. 7.8/10 (imdb). Based on the book by James Sallis, Drive is one of the most enjoyable, art hous-ey films I have watched. It’s a quiet movie, but it’s very gripping. It talks about the story of the Driver (ever guapo Ryan Gosling)- a stuntman, mechanic and a getaway driver – and his very adult, complicated and tragic relationship with his neighbor. It’s all real and it’s all about the feels in this film. FEELS.

3. When Harry Met Sally. 1989. 7.6/10 (imdb). Timeless. Everyone can relate to this, hence it is full of classic scenes and lines – who can ever forget Meg Ryan’s orgasmic face in the restaurant? If this film were a person, I’d describe it as funny and down to earth. See Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally are very good friends, and obviously attracted to each other but feared sex would ruin the relationship. Now how funny is that notion?

4. Only You. 1994. 6.5/10 (imdb) The hot Marisa Tomei plays Faith, a teacher who is convinced that her soulmate is Damon Bradley. So just before she marries her podiatrist boyfriend whom she has doubts with, she receives a call from a man named *gasp* Damon Bradley who is on the way to Rome. So she flies to Rome. Think Wedding Singer for 1995.

5. Time Traveler’s Wife. 2009. 7.1/10 (imdb) This is the mindfuck movie of the list. This appeals to the geek in me, as Eric Bana here, who is married to Rachel McAdams, has a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel. They start of as a couple in love but things get difficult as his time travel gets more frequent, and it just shows how love can make you patient and, well, generous. It’s like a long distance relationship through time, and it has greatly helped me appreciate what we have as a couple.

6. High Fidelity. 2000. 7.6/10 (imdb) Although considered as a music/comedy, this film talks about love in a non-sappy way. Based on the book by Nick Hornby (who can go wrong with Nick Hornby?) the film is centered on Rob – a compulsive list maker, a record store owner and a music snob – who just had a breakup. The film follows him as he lists his Top Five breakups and the reasons for each all the time while weaving music, adulthood and life. Check out Jack Black in his hilarious, and I think, most genuine role before he was The Jack Black.

7. Casablanca. 1942. (imdb) This is one of the best films, hands down. Sure it’s romantic but it’s all other films at once: film noir, war film, general 40’s pulp storyline going on… it’s just fun to watch! Before I watched this (really late, I think I was 20), I thought I knew the story because it’s so popular, it’s in every must-see list. Tell you what, you’ve never seen it until you’ve seen it. It is so much more than “as time goes by”, and you just have to be kilig with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s chemistry.

8. A Walk in the Clouds.1995. 6.6/10 (imdb) This story is like a fairy tale for adults. It starts with a handsome young man meeting an unmarried but preggo rich young woman in a bus. Twist is, he offers to pose as her husband to save her face (and life) from her old school father. Obviously, they fall in love and we follow their trials and tribulations in order to stay together.

9. Ten Things I Hate About You. 1999. 7.2/10 (imdb) The modern version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is the movie that made me crush on Heath Ledger. Story goes like this: Cameron, the new kid in school, falls for Bianca. However, Bianca cannot date unless her older sister Kat, who’s a cold-hearted bitch, goes for a date too. So he enlists the jerk-model Patrick to a dare to date Kat. I guess you know what happens next.

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. 2004. 8.4/10 (imdb). One of my most favourite films ever. Watched it in the cinema alone when I was cutting classes in high school, and pretended I was 18. You know those films that inspire you to be a film director and makes you obsessed with films? This is one of those. The story is engaging and the visuals are surreal. Joel, because his ex Clementine decided to erase him from her memory, decides to do the same. However, while the process of deletion is ongoing, all the memories that he remembered makes him realise what they had going. Loss makes you realise what you have is special kinda thing, and I think everyone can relate with that. It’s touching, human and honest. And the song by Beck is fucking good.

11. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 1961. 7.8/10 (imdb) This is another one of those films that are so popular that you think you have seen it even if you haven’t. And tell you what, you should see it if you haven’t. Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly has nothing glamorous in it as portrayed in all the memes and fashion magazines these days. She’s actually pathetic, vunerable and neurotic when she’s alone with her guard down like most of us; totally different from her public persona who happens to be fun, charming, sexy, and sophisticated. All this character observation lies on the experience of Paul Varjak, Holly’s new next door neighbor who she develops a… special bond with. This great film is based on the novel by the legendary Truman Capote with the same title.

12. 50 First Dates. 2004. 6.8/10 (imdb). I’ll never get tired of this movie! It’s funny, cute, entertaining, it’s perfect! IMDB sums it up nicely: “Henry Roth is a man afraid of commitment up until he meets the beautiful Lucy. They hit it off and Henry think he’s finally found the girl of his dreams, until he discovers she has short-term memory loss and forgets him the very next day.” So they start every day as their first date, and it goes on and on and on and on.

13. Groundhog Day. 1993. 8.1/10 (imdb). Another classic, guys. Although most people would not consider this one romantic – because what’s romantic is living the same day again and again and again – but you have to remember that Bill Murray’s character has to learn to love someone apart from himself. Andie MacDowell provides that, although Bill Murray’s first intentions were a bit… blase. It’s so funny and fantastic though, that you might wanna experience this movie again and again and again.

14. Lost in Translation. 2003. 7.8/10 (imdb) Although not considered by most as a romantic film, I think it is. Another one of my favourites, this film tackles loneliness and finding someone in the same boat. The film makes loneliness more accessible because it is set in a foreign country, and it is where people can either reinvent themselves or be vulnerable. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson as Bob and Charlotte respectively, makes the film alive with their very subtle perfomances. Finding themselves sharing confusion and alienation in Tokyo, they form a bond that only traveling companions can have, even if they may be the most improbable pair. Now as their friendship deepens, they realise that their Japanese sojourn is going to end. Will their relationship also end? It does remind me of me and Ash when I think about it because we were these lonely people when we met each other and he had to leave Manila. Fortunately, we did not end our special friendship and we nurtured it to the point of where we are now, stronger and better. Happy days.

Pinoy Talk: Homesickness

I have received a question from a Pinoy homie about homesickness. If you can care to read about it the the About section, Doc Eamer asks me how to deal with homesickness.

Homesickness is the distress or impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home, as per Wikipedia.

Impairment is probably the key word in that sentence, and you don’t want to be impaired while abroad. There will be times that I’d be like, “Damn I miss my labandera. My yaya!” when I’m ironing clothes or “I wish Mama were here so that I’d have breakfast waiting when I wake up” to the downright “Babe, I wish you were heeeeeereeee!” desperate texts in the middle of the night because you miss the cuddles that lull you to sleep. It sucks. And it drains me out. I cry a lot too and it doesn’t look good the day after.

So now what?  Can we just avoid homesickness? Fortunately for me, I am very gullible to self-talk: I have convinced myself that homesickness is a killer for spirit. So whenever I descend to the bowels of self-pity, I get to say “Nope, not gonna happen today” and move on… to looking through pictures, notes, old receipts and revisit memories. I have grown to appreciate nostalgia in very tangible forms during traveling and it has made me into a hoarder of scrap book-y finds. I am hopeless, but it works.

However, unlike most Pinoys I know and met during my travels, I don’t miss the Philippines. It’s not that I am not nationalistic, hell I am born and bred with a University of the Philippines frame of mind – UP! Pilipinas kong mahal and all the trimmings that go with it. It’s just that… What’s to be homesick about?

All the countries I have been to, and worked in: Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia – they all look like the Philippines. If it doesn’t look like Makati, it looks like Iba, Zambales. True they don’t speak the language I’m used to but that’s the same in the Philippines – the next province has a different dialect. What’s new? Plus, Southeast Asians, we all look the same. I go to Thailand, people think I’m Thai. I go to Cambodia, they start talking Khmer to me. Indonesia, same. Honestly, it’s only in the Philippines where I don’t get to be claimed as a native. I’m usually mistaken for a foreigner in the Philippines. The irony. I know I’m home when that happens.

Another thing is the omnipresence of the Filipinos. I have yet to go to a place where I am the first Filipino to conquer it. I think I have more chances of winning the lottery than having that ticked in my bucket list. Filipinos are everywhere: take any mall in Bangkok and trust me you will hear Tagalog or Bisaya when you queue up in the toilet. And they will talk to you with glee when they find out you come from the same country. You know that conversation that starts with “Aiiiii! OMG OMG! Kumusta na?!” like you are best friends that haven’t seen each other for ten years? Common occurrence, complete with a beso.

Even the food production has lots of Filipino-ness to it. Cream-O (the fake Oreo as called by my British co-worker Amy) is a hit in Thailand. Actually, most Universal Robina products are in Thailand! Gokongwei is global, mind you. Even RinBee is sold in Thailand. I can also see the Liwayway-Oishi Marketing logo in lots of junk food here in Indonesia. And who can even argue with San Miguel Beer? From the jungles of Thailand to the glass offices of Malaysia, San Miguel Beer will always be there like a dependable friend you can hang out with when you’re homesick.

Oh another thing I have observed. Filipinos miss their local shit – like any nationality I suppose. But there’s just always that twist that makes it undeniably Filipino. For example, in the Filipino community that I have known in Hatyai, Thailand, whenever someone goes home, that person takes a wishlist of food to be brought back to Thailand from the Philippines, as of course, some things aren’t available in TH. The list ranges from kalamansi, Knorr Sinigang Mix, Eden Processed Cheese (P85 fake cheese goodness), Lucky Me Pancit Canton to Jollibee Chicken Joy. I kid you not. Chicken fucking Joy. Two countries. Two time zones. One chicken thigh passing through immigration officials… is happiness for a fellow Pinoy.

Homesickness is funny, really. Ever since I got uprooted from my childhood home, I couldn’t care less where I lived. The sense of home was taken from me. I know I can never go back to that place. Geographically, sure it will stay there forever but it’s never going to be the same. I have taken that ideology to my travels too. You can never go back to the same place, ever because you change and the place changes too.

This is why home for me is wherever I feel really happy and complete. That’s everywhere with my man. He is the space I crawl to when I need warmth, the place where I can be me. The time when I can sing off key on the street with him and be okay about it. I think that’s what home is.


But of course it never hurts to take lots of pictures along the way.