Each time I land in Manila, I can’t help but notice that much of the city doesn’t look anywhere near the typical “Asian” city.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is very close to the Roxas Boulevard and, if you arrive there at night, you immediately notice the shining neon lights and the massive “karatula” (or billboards) that seem to have very little to do with Asia, because most of the ads, as well as the street signs, are in English.
The first time I visited the Philippines, I had already been married to my wife for 5 years, so I was already very well aware of the cultural differences between my culture and my wife’s. Nevertheless I could not help but put myself in the shoes of a Western man who visits the Philippines for the first time, perhaps looking for a suitable wife, and has no clue about what the Philippines and it’s people are like.
In the Philippines, almost everyone speaks English, there are mega malls everywhere, huge fast-food restaurants, skyscrapers, a combination of Spanish Colonial architecture and modern American-style buildings and many young ones dress pretty much like Western rappers.
This might get a Western male, who sees the Philippines for the first time, to jump to the conclusion that if he marries a Filipina he is going to marry a woman who is basically just like us Westerners.
Nothing could be further from the truth! The reality is that, behind the Western “facade” there is one of the most entrenched Asian cultures.
The Western standards have only been “selectively assimilated” and hardly get in the way of Filipino traditions, such as the kin-group culture and other aspects of the Filipino culture and tradition that I’ve touched on in my previous posts
So, the fact that your Filipino wife’s country looks, under many aspects, like the West, shouldn’t trick you into assuming that you will experience the least amount of culture shock and that your wife and her family will smoothly adjust to your culture.
Instead of being misled by what the “Culture Shock Philippines” book calls the Western “veneer” of the Philippines, get ready for massive culture shock!