First let me state what I hear about on almost a daily basis. Expats who live in the Philippines or guys in the U.S. married to Filipinas are often surprised, put off or flat out grossed out by what they consider rude or unusual behavior by Filipinos. Perhaps the most common complaint is how many men in the Philippines, finding themselves a bit bathroom-challenged, will use the side of the road for a pit stop. Second might be the singing of karaoke at all hours of the night.
I usually fall back on the “it’s a different culture” argument and figure that you can either adjust or not. I’m a flexible kind of guy and figure I can adjust. That and the fact that the bathrooms at my job and the bathroom habits of my co-workers are not necessarily any more sanitary than the side of the road! I mean if it’s good enough for Clemenza, worried about his cannoli, it’s good enough for me:
But my point is that this cultural grossness works both ways. Janet and I like to go out to dinner once or twice a week. It’s just a nice break. We have a favorite Italian place that I’ve been going to for 40 years; standard neighborhood decor that hasn’t changed in all that time; fortunately neither has the food. Plus it’s cheap!
While we like the place and love the food, invariably there are some rather large patrons who have consumed the pasta and cannoli a bit too often. You know – the Clemenza types. Three years she has lived here but Janet is still stunned at such a view. The woman at the table next to us had a loboot twice as wide as her chair and I knew that Janet would notice. No doubt we both silently wondered whether the old chair might give way.
But it was her husband that grossed out Janet and ruined her dinner. Grabbing a napkin he blew his nose – loudly. As the old joke goes, “at least his horn still worked.” Janet wrinkled her nose and made one of those ‘I cannot eat with such grossness’ faces. Nothing stops me from eating those yummy meatballs so I ignored it.
Five minutes later the guy blew his horn again and Janet lost it. “Can’t we complain to the manager?”
“It’s rude. In the Philippines the manager would ask him to use the bathroom.”
While I agreed that it was a little off-putting I told Janet, “In the U.S. it’s accepted and no way is the manager gonna make him use the bathroom. I mean he did use a napkin, right?”
“I don’t care. You should not be doing that at the table for everyone to hear.”
“His family doesn’t seem to mind.”
“But its ruined my dinner.”
Janet proceeded to repeat why such behavior would be socially unacceptable in the Philippines. “My mother would have sent you away from the table.”
“Your mother’s tough,” I said making a mental note to never make a sound at my inlaws table. I don’t want to miss out on the adobo.
Janet and I weren’t exactly arguing but she was intransigent; the behavior was inappropriate and would ruin any civilized person’s meal; as an uncivilized person I was trying to enjoy my meatballs.
As it is, I try very hard to ignore my fellow Americans when at restaurants. If they aren’t 400 pounds or blowing their nose, they are talking politics or bragging about their last gun acquisition. I would much rather enjoy my spaghetti and cute wife.
But in this case my dinner was ruined not by the guy’s habits but by Janet’s laugh out loud impression of his honking.
“OK, now my meal is ruined too!”
“You see!” she said triumphantly.
Of course I still finished every bite.