Cultural Differences

I feel sure I have mentioned one of these before, but it continues to amaze and amuse me at the same time.

The Philippines is a hot, tropical country and not everybody has refrigeration (or air conditioners). Repeatedly when we have guests and serve things in bottles or cartons- cream for their coffee, soy sauce, the guests sniff it to make sure it hasn’t gone off before they use it.  Not blatantly, but not surreptitiously, either.  It’s more of a matter of fact, this is what we do here thing.  It makes perfect sense, it just takes me aback sometimes.


Everybody who comes inside feels quite comfortable picking up our utility bills and inspecting them and then discussing them with us, with commentary on whether we are paying too much, too little, more than they are, less than they are, and why that might be.   We have had these conversations with our helper (like a maid/cook/superwoman), with the lady who comes to give me a back massage, with a young preacher, with the neighbour’s Yaya (a nanny) who stopped for a few hours when she locked herself and the kids out of their house, with a carpenter, with a teacher friend- I can’t even list them all. Casual strangers, good friends, employees, co-workers- it doesn’t matter.    And this is the part that really makes me chuckle- that reaction so many of you, my fellow North Americans, slightly shocked, eyebrows raised, that ‘what in the what?’ face, the head scratching bewilderment over why on earth this is okay…., yeah, probably any Filipino and maybe other Asian friends are having that same reaction to this post, scratching their heads in bemused bafflement as they try to figure out what on earth this is even worth commenting on? What is the big deal?

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  1. Frances
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Tangential – I didn’t know soy sauce could go off!

    Is your tummy better these days?

    Are you password-protecting future entries?

    • Headmistress
      Posted September 9, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t know, either. But maybe it’s just reflexive that you sniff jars. My helper won’t keep it in the fridge at all.

      My stomach is better, but I still am more careful about what I eat.

      No, that was a one-off thing for another project. I thought people would need the link to even see that it was there. Hmmm.

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