About six years ago, I was outsourced to be a call center trainer in Manila. I would like to share what I consider to be a few helpful tips, should you ever happen to find yourself in that same situation. I’m not talking about subtle culture shock; karaoke obsession means squat compared to witnessing someone eat an unborn baby duck out of an egg in a mall like it’s the most normal thing on the planet.
10. Pay Attention to “Air Con” And “No Air Con”
Something that gets vitally important while in Asia during their summer is the concept of electronically-cooled air. Electricity, gas, and the money that supplies these things can be at a premium. Therefore, there are helpful signs all over the place telling you whether the establishment or vehicle you get into supplies “air con”. As the name implies, Air Con is air conditioning. If a place or vehicle says “air con” on the outside, it will generally be a little more expensive. However, your chances of dying by heat stroke may be a little reduced as well. Modes of transportation get cheaper and more dense if they’re “no air con”. Don’t even ask what a “jeerpney’” is.
9. You Can Get Food Delivered From Almost Anywhere
When I was in Manila, places that I never thought would engage in food service delivery were happy to send someone at all hours. I am talking about McDonalds, Burger King, TGIFridays, and KFC. They would often also deliver to your residence at all hours of the night. If this happens to sound like something you can joyfully abuse, that is because it is and you can. The method of delivery was almost always a small moped, which you would often see weaving dangerously in and out of traffic.
8. You Can Buy And Drink Alcoholic Beverages Almost Anywhere
If you are in the United States, please imagine the following impossible scenario. You walk into your local 7-11. In that local 7-11, you buy a cold beer as if you were buying a Pepsi or Coke. Outside, there are places to sit (often with a canopy), where you can crack open a cold one and drink it right in front of the 7-11. If need be, you can stagger back into the 7-11 and repeat this process as many times as you feel necessary. Police will never bother you about the open container or seemingly public intoxication.
7. Say Good-Bye To Any And All Traffic Signs
Are you familiar with the red octagon that says “Stop” on the front of it? What about the yellow triangle and that helpful little word, “yield”? Maybe you have seen, once or twice, a helpful sign that reminded you there might be a penalty for exceeding a certain speed in your vehicle. There are also some silly ones that inform you that people, or possibly deer, will be crossing in certain areas. None of that is seen over there. I could sit and watch traffic for hours and marvel at the fact that there were no accidents. I never saw so much as a fender bender, or any one get hit. I did learn, however, that honking meant the vehicle would rather kill me than slow down.
6. Your Sporting Events Are No Longer Important
When I was in the Philippines, the relatively minor event (in their eyes) that was college football’s National Championship game was only announced after all of the English Premier League scores that day. Sportscenter Asia would merrily feature Asian Games and fencing, over the scores to the NBA. The Super Bowl? That’s a pretty big deal, so that was obviously aired…on ESPN, at about six in the morning. Manila does have a professional basketball team, but even they are called the Beermen.
5. If You Work In A Call Center, You Are Working An Overnight Shift
A lot of people complain about outsourcing calls to call centers in places like Manila or Mumbai. One of the major reasons for this is that there is a language barrier, but everyone forgets about the time zones. In order for the time zones to sync up with callers from the United States, virtually all calls over there are taken overnight. I fielded calls over there at four in the morning. I not only sounded tired, but I also got to the point where I no longer sounded like I was from America. The most amazing part to me was that they had classes on how to speak better English to an American. All of these classes, on conversational American English, were actually taught by Filipinos.
4. Television Will Feature Things You Never Saw Before
The addendum to this is that there are things on television that you would not believe are legal. When I was over there, you could watch cock fighting, right on television. The cock fighting was in a stadium-type atmosphere and is often sponsored by beer companies. There is also the unbelievable popularity of Korean soap operas, which take the tradition of soap operas and the popularity of anime (albeit live action), and mix it into dramas that have to be seen to be believed.
3. You Can Get A Shave… And A Massage
I simply wanted a clean shave and a hair cut. A friend of mine suggested a place called Bruno’s. The barber did not speak English as well as he probably could have. He was also armed with a blade that was whipped against a strap first. When he started asking questions, that blade was against my neck. I just shook my head in agreement at everything he said. At some point, I agreed to a full-body massage after the shave. I still had clothes on, but that barber touched me in ways no man ever had before or since. The barber had a wooden vibrating device, which he actually rubbed over every inch of my body. When I was done, my face was clean, my hair was cropped, and I kinda felt used. The barber could’ve called the next day at least.
2. You Have Absolutely No Idea What A “Mall” Is
I was around the corner from what was known as the “Mega Mall.” They were not kidding around about this name either. Mega Mall had five floors when I was there, and has expanded since then. Located in the Ortigas district, Mega Mall is in constant competition with massive places, such as The Mall of Asia, to win the right to be considered the Philippines’ largest. Mega Mall has nearly 500,000 square-meters of space and, for good measure, includes a bridge between its two main buildings. I am fairly sure there was a place to buy coffee on every level.
1. Lets Dish About Cuisine
Every one knows that foreign cuisine can be considered a little bit odd. I am sure that American food is equally odd to people in other cultures, as their food is here. However, you (or I at least) would consider some things to be relegated to higher dining. If you have never heard of it, there is a food called “Balut”. This is an unborn duck fetus, cooked inside of its own egg. It is then eaten, right out of the egg. I mention this because Balut is sold as fast food in Philippine malls. You can literally get a slice of pizza at Sbarro, and then get your cooked duck egg at the Balut Hut right next store. I also heard a lengthy discussion on whether brown or green iguana was the better delicacy.