I spent 11 years trying to fully inject myself into the Filipino culture. I can now speak Tagalog quite fluently, I am very well acquainted with the Filipino food, I’ve read the “Noli me tangere” and other classics of the Filipino literature and can play several Pinoy songs on the guitar.
Despite my efforts to fully explore the Filipino culture in all it’s avenues, up until a few years ago I hadn’t really managed to build a real powerful connection with my wife, let alone with the extended family.
I think the reason is that I was trying to create a merely “cultural” bridge and I was doing so INTELLECTUALLY but the EMOTIONAL CONNECTION with the Filipino culture WAS NOT THERE.
I was well acquainted with the movies, the music, the cuisine, the Tagalog grammar and so on but my FEELINGS were not there.
Why? I guess that I was operating from mere intellectual curiosity rather than real “childlike curiosity”. The more I learned the more I got judgemental and I was not really removing the mental roadblocks that were keeping me from fully embracing my wife’s environment with a spirit of appreciation.
Today, I no longer go to great lengths to deepen my Tagalog. I am not even eating much Filipino food because I have switched to a healthy diet and yet I feel more connected than ever to my spouse and to her family. Why? Because, as I said in my previous post, I’ve learned to operate from appreciation.
Feelings of appreciation create a bridge, mere intellectual curiosity has no power to create one and feelings of judgement cut you off from the people whom you are trying to build a bridge with.
So my key is: don’t try to create a merely cultural bridge but rather an emotional connection where you think thoughts of appreciation, feel feelings of appreciation and project them outward thereby making your wife and her kin-group feel comfortable that you are not trying to separate them from the “things they are comforted by”, as the book “Culture Shock Philippines” puts it, but rather that you are making an earnest intellectual yes, but, most importantly, “emotional” effort to embrace their world.