Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

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Novelangel
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Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby Novelangel » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:20 pm

Have you ever traveled to another country and become immersed in a different and wonderful culture, only to find yourself effectively gagged when trying to write about your experiences later? This happened to me shortly after I returned from the Philippines in 2009. I enjoyed my trip so much that I wanted to share everything that happened to me, and did so on a social media site that I belonged to. I was completely honest, talking about the things that happened to me. I thought I was writing a story that would make everyone want to visit the Philippines, when in reality it turned out that I was embarrassing the Filipino people that I called friends.

One of them sent me a long-winded email effectively suggesting that I go away, leave her alone and have a good life, and then she refused to speak to me for four months. During that time I had no idea what I had done wrong and only later pieced together that I had embarrassed her by talking about having taken "bucket" baths while in the Philippines. I couldn't understand why that would embarrass anyone, as I didn't go into any graphic details, but she would never discuss it with me. We later became friends again, though she still refuses to refer back to that time and our friendship has never been the same since.

Why would this topic embarrass someone? I was merely writing about what I'd done and experienced while living in that country for three weeks. Has this happened to any of you before?



        
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maxen57
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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby maxen57 » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:23 pm

We Filipinos can be touchy about a lot of things and that's when we think that foreigners are criticizing us but I've learned a long time ago that foreigners won't have anything to say unless they've experienced it first hand.

In your friend's case, she probably got embarrassed because she thought that you were shaming the Filipino way of life. We also save our water in buckets and pour water over ourselves using a "tabo" even though we have a shower but for some who don't have one, it's how we get cleaned everyday.

I have an American acquaintance who stayed here, got married and had a daughter and almost everyday, he'd write on his status wall about his life here. Sometimes, it is a bit embarrassing but we need to realize that it's not a means of shaming but simply strange to someone who's from a foreign land.

It's a bad habit that we Filipinos have, being easily offended for what we do thinking that we are being told racist remarks just because of a foreigner's tone in how he speaks or how he writes. I was even called a racist against my own race just because everyone overreacted on a joke and I could not help commenting about the typical Asian reaction to it. :lol:

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby Novelangel » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:25 pm

Thank you for that wonderful reply, maxen57. I appreciate your candor. :) It helped me to understand a little bit better. One thing that I noticed while I was living in the Philippines, (I was there for three weeks) was that where I was, there was no hot or cold water, just room temperature, or luke warm water. Even though the weather was hot there, I had difficulty taking actual showers because the water felt too cold. So, I learned how to take the bucket bath, which felt better somehow. I was proud of my accomplishment because when I first arrived, I didn't know how to take a bath from a bucket. That may sound stupid to an actual Filipino, but it's true. I was absolutely stumped as to how it was accomplished. At any rate, I wanted to brag about that, just like I bragged about learning how to eat a fish using only the thumb and first two fingers of my right hand. To me, each and every new experience was awesome and I couldn't wait to describe it all to anyone who would listen.

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby maxen57 » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:30 pm

Novelangel wrote:Thank you for that wonderful reply, maxen57. I appreciate your candor. :) It helped me to understand a little bit better. One thing that I noticed while I was living in the Philippines, (I was there for three weeks) was that where I was, there was no hot or cold water, just room temperature, or luke warm water. Even though the weather was hot there, I had difficulty taking actual showers because the water felt too cold. So, I learned how to take the bucket bath, which felt better somehow. I was proud of my accomplishment because when I first arrived, I didn't know how to take a bath from a bucket. That may sound stupid to an actual Filipino, but it's true. I was absolutely stumped as to how it was accomplished. At any rate, I wanted to brag about that, just like I bragged about learning how to eat a fish using only the thumb and first two fingers of my right hand. To me, each and every new experience was awesome and I couldn't wait to describe it all to anyone who would listen.



I can understand that. It's not really stupidity but sort of a culture shock. It's kind of like downgrading from the usual shower/bathtub but you are lucky you still got to stay somewhere with a bathroom. In some rural areas, they don't have any so they comfort themselves in the bushes. We still are a developing country and I'm hoping that things will get better for us. A bucket bath is not at all bad though. Where did you stay? I reckon if you've stayed at someone's home you can request for hot water and they'll put a kettle on the stove for you. In some hotels, they have the plugin water heater, which is something that we also have here at home.

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby Novelangel » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:32 pm

maxen57 wrote:
Novelangel wrote:Thank you for that wonderful reply, maxen57. I appreciate your candor. :) It helped me to understand a little bit better. One thing that I noticed while I was living in the Philippines, (I was there for three weeks) was that where I was, there was no hot or cold water, just room temperature, or luke warm water. Even though the weather was hot there, I had difficulty taking actual showers because the water felt too cold. So, I learned how to take the bucket bath, which felt better somehow. I was proud of my accomplishment because when I first arrived, I didn't know how to take a bath from a bucket. That may sound stupid to an actual Filipino, but it's true. I was absolutely stumped as to how it was accomplished. At any rate, I wanted to brag about that, just like I bragged about learning how to eat a fish using only the thumb and first two fingers of my right hand. To me, each and every new experience was awesome and I couldn't wait to describe it all to anyone who would listen.



I can understand that. It's not really stupidity but sort of a culture shock. It's kind of like downgrading from the usual shower/bathtub but you are lucky you still got to stay somewhere with a bathroom. In some rural areas, they don't have any so they comfort themselves in the bushes. We still are a developing country and I'm hoping that things will get better for us. A bucket bath is not at all bad though. Where did you stay? I reckon if you've stayed at someone's home you can request for hot water and they'll put a kettle on the stove for you. In some hotels, they have the plugin water heater, which is something that we also have here at home.


I spent some of my time in Dumaguete City, on the island of Negros Oriental, but most of my visit was on Luzon, in Marakina City, right in the midst of Manila. The family I stayed with had a refrigerator and a clothes washer but they still often washed their clothes by hand, (something else I learned how to do there, and to this day I still like washing by hand.) I was there, by the way, at the start of the monsoon season, so I got first-hand experience of some of the wet season storms.

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby sophiecognito » Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:40 am

When writing about a foreign country you've visited, it's always important to write with the cultural background of said country. Like maxen57 has said, the bucket bath is a touchy subject, because of their culture and how they perceive foreigners would view it, while it's a part of their life. That doesn't mean you have to self censor, since the point is to write honestly about the experience. I think, a good rule of thumb about writing your experience is not make it out as if it's oh so exotic, or be perceived as looking down on the country.

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby pwarbi » Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:14 am

I'd imagine that a lot of it will have to do with certain different cultures and how they portray what the person is actually saying about the country in the first place. I've travelled to many different countries and I get the impression that people who live in countries such as the the UK, USA, France, Spain and even Australia don't really care what other people think about them and their country. They are proud of where they live, but if somebody writes a poor review they don't take it to heart and aren't that sensitive about it.

When you're talking about countries such as China, Japan and in this case the Philippines, people are a lot more protective of their countries and they will take even things written that are meant in a good way as criticism. Maybe in the future as the world becomes a much smaller place thanks to more and more people travelling to places like this, that may decline but for the moment I'd be very wary about writing ANYTHING regarding those countries just in case it does end up causing offence when it wasn't meant to.

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby jy76 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:41 am

A lot of people, including people in certain parts of the west, are insecure about their home. That's why they don't like it when people talk bad about their home. In fact, the insecurity leads to bullying, gossip and other things projected toward people who have crossed cultural boundaries. The world shouldn't be like that, but so many people are thinking on a childish level. ;)

Note, travelers are also often hated back home for the same reasons they are despised overseas - mainly cause they've crossed cultural boundaries and the unknown scares people. :x

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby Steve5 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:31 am

I understand where you're coming from. I'm happy for you. Not everyone can be as appreciative and fond of the Filipino culture as you. It's not really something to expect. For a lot of folks, the way Filipinos live can be seen in two ways.

The usual remarks and assumptions associate them with having a lesser form of life. Particularly, when compared to more technologically advanced and financially capable countries. This is a very narrow perspective on an otherwise rich culture. What you see may be the good in all of this.

Despite unfavorable circumstances due to poverty and lack of education, Filipino are generally upbeat and positive when it comes to life. They're kind, generous, and incredibly hospitable. I believe that they're humble way of living is something to celebrate. And it shows with your experience as a foreigner that their uniqueness doesn't make them any less incredible as other countries.

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Re: Honesty When Writing About a Foreign Country

Postby Folk Artist » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:45 am

I would say when it comes to mankind or different cultures, people can be unpredictable. My favorite quotes are from a man named Moliere- a french playwright, actor and poet. A favorite one goes like this- "All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing".


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