Top 10 Surprises About Being Outsourced to the Philippines


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.

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  1. I’m a Filipino but I don’t want to eat nor even taste that baby bird in “Balut.” Though I love “Penoy”, days younger than balut which does not have any baby bird in it, just yolk and a little black-ish at the center which I believe would be the fetus.

  2. one thing though about outsourcing calls to the philippines is that english is becoming the predominant language and is taught in all schools. imo a filipino accent is alot more bearable than an indian one

  3. Just a tip, when you eat the balut. Eat the fetus as a whole and munch it. Don’t just rip and eat the head first as the thought will make you spit it out. Just add a little salt. ^_^ It tastes delicious, really. If you can eat crabs, you can eat balut. You can buy balut in Pateros. However, beware of the its cholesterol level.

    There are also other Filipino food that might interest you.
    1. Halo-halo = mix tropical sweets with crashed ice.
    2. Chili pepper ice cream = spicy ice cream
    3. Rose ice cream = ice cream flavored with rose flower
    4. Sampaguita ice cream = ice cream flavored with sampaguita flower
    5. Pinikpikan = a chicken battered to death.
    6. Itag = a native ham
    7. Dinuguan = a pork blood stew. It taste great!
    8. Betamaxx, Helmet, Isaw, Addidas, Tokneneng, 1 day old = street food that consists of blood and innards.
    9. longanisa = Philippine sausages
    10 tsokolate-e and tsokolate-a = native version of chocolate drinks. It’s refreshing!

    v to learn more about the Philippines.

  4. About the number 6 entry. Does the author really expects Superbowl is gonna be aired anywhere outside US? Nobody goddamn cares about American football except for the Americans. Move on!

  5. I know I’m a bit behind on this article, but…

    Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but point number 6 could easily apply to pretty much any country outside North America. The majority of U.S. sports are very much “minority” sports in the rest of the world. Basketball, Baseball and American Football just aren’t that popular – and I’m talking about the NBA, MLB and NFL here – U.S. college sports are literally unknown throughout most of the world, whereas sports like Soccer (known to the rest of the world as Football) particularly the EPL and La Liga, Formula 1, etc are followed worldwide.

    I’m not trying to put down (or indeed promote) any particular sports, it just seems that many in the U.S. seem to be unaware of this fact!

  6. An interesting article. By the way, I don’t think to eat balut. I cannot imagine how the taste is.

  7. Great Post, I am from USA, but live in China and escape to the Philippines as often as I can, Well written article, I think its true of most places in Asia. Interesting culture.

  8. I enjoyed reading this! I’m a Filipina and I love eating balut! I’m also working in a Call Center and, indeed, my shift starts from 2AM to 11AM.

  9. I love the author’s humor. Info is accurate and funny. About eating balut, I can not muster the strength to eat the unborn creature. Not all Filipinos can eat balut. The yolk taste really good with or without salt.

  10. I loved the list. It was pretty funny but very accurate. I love balut, but don’t be worried if you can’t stomach the idea of eating it, because some Filipinos can’t either. Anyway, I love the author’s humor. Kudos!

  11. Great list! I enjoyed the comments as well, especially the one stating that although a bit naive, this list is accurate. I have heard of balut before… I don’t think I could actually eat it, though. This list makes me want to visit the Philippines! Thanks again for a fun read.

  12. Lol, College Basketball, really? You won’t get that anywhere outside the US. South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, noone gives a flying **** for college basketball. Maybe one or another cable TV channel with nothing else to do would show those. In Brazil, at least, most of the big TV channels won’t even bother broadcasting the result of the finals, let alone the matches.

  13. I’m from the Philippines and I find this list very very very amusing, not to mention accurate. A bit naive, but I don’t care. Almost everything in it is true. Kudos to the writer. He made living in the Philippines seem like an adventure. That’s a good thing in my book.

      • The author masked complaints with humor. And funny enough there is no false info on this list. Everything is absurdly true. Cheers!

  14. Awesome stuff! You hit it right on the head! 😀 But for accuracy, cause
    I’m OCD that way, it’s a duck’s egg, not a goose’. A goose egg? That’s just gross 😀