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Cultural Naivite

So it's Halloween and it doesn't feel like it here. My daughter's birthday is in a few days and it's going to be a small celebration. Tomorrow's the Melbourne cup and apparently it's a big deal. There's a lot of things that I'm learning about the local culture but I'm still very much naive about what's the custom and traditions are about. I think there's a lot of things that I need to learn and that I'm learning them on a slow pace -- to slow for my liking. This post is about how I intend to get assimilated into the country and what steps I've already done to get to where I can actually say I know something about this country.

First, there's the sports. There's Rugby (two kinds, the NRL and Rugby Union, and yet a third called "footy" also the AFL). The rules are "simple" in that the object of the game is very much similar to the "get the ball to the end zone" rules of American Football (with which I'm familiar with). Aside from that though the heritage of the sport that spans multiple decades, is something that I cannot just pick up from watching the local game. For that I need to get deeper and learn more about the origins and the history of the game.

Next, there's the food. The indigenous ingredients are familiar yet foreign to me at the same time. There's a lot of different kinds of potatoes, many different kinds of spinach, and different names of different the same things. Grocery shopping is a mix of "name that crop" and "figure out how to cook them". Thankfully though there are Filipino stores but I'm kinda getting the hang of the peculiarities of the local fare. Hopefully I'll get more used to them in the coming months.

Then there's the events. I personally don't give much thought about the queen because... well... the Philippines didn't really fall under the British empire. I have no idea why there's still a Queen or why it's a big deal so when she's here in the country, apparently it's an event. There's also the Melbourne cup -- a horse race -- that's a holiday in Victoria. Seriously, the whole state is on a holiday for a horse race. I don't understand it, but in the Philippines we have a holiday on pretty much every Catholic event so I guess it's really a cultural thing.

All in all I've written this whole post while I'm on the train and my stop's next. Tips would be most appreciated.


  1. Enjoy the variety, the games, the events, and you'll be fine. Try going to football (rugby, rules, soccer) games at least once and it's easy to understand why Aussies love it (it's not just about the game). There's more surface area to learn and I always tell myself to be open-minded about everything, which helps. The monarchy is interesting too, and with this country's history, it's easy to understand why some Aussies still love the Queen. She's an icon just like the Rizals and Bonifacios of our homeland. As for the food, well, always good to have variety :-)

  2. The urge to be assimilated "as quickly as possible" is probably the biggest mistake you're making here. Culture is not about assimilation, or about learning things "quickly". It's not a skill. It's a social construct that was built on hundreds upon thousands of years of history and if you just want to get assimilated you'll end up like a trick monkey imitating what his owner does. I know you're far deeper than that Dean, maybe all you need is patience. ;)

    This makes me wish more that you've been able to see the London office of ITRS. That melting pot showed me almost immediately that naaaah I don't even need to try and become Brit to be able to be accepted by that society.

  3. Thanks Jan, it's getting easier as the days go by -- and especially after seeing the Melbourne Cup celebrations with the team (hint: steak lunch and drinks mid-day) I can certainly appreciate it a lot better. I guess it's a matter of experiencing different things and deciding if it's for me or not. :)

    Sir Jon, I doubt waiting until 7 months of being in a country I'll be spending quite a lot of time in is "quick". ;) It's only now that I'm trying to get the hang of the culture, but there's just too much to get the hang of. Also there's the problem of "where do I begin". Also, I kinda want to shed some of my Filipino'isms (superstitions, too much reverence for authority, and taking life too seriously) and embrace more of the "happy and lucky" style the Aussies have. Its hard to enjoy the country if half of what happens is something you have no idea about. :D


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