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7 Things a Lipat-Pinoy Goes Through Abroad

Image Description NoInk   |   10 October 2017

It’s not all freedom and YOLO-ing as you might think.

1. The anxiety

When you have a few months before leaving your country, all of a sudden you get shroud with the urgency of getting together as frequently as possible with people you care about because of the incessant anticipation of an extreme case of sepanx.

And if you have quite a lot of them, somehow it becomes requisite to prioritize – who MUST you see? Who must you see more than once? All of a sudden you have to make yourself available to see them amidst all the heaps of things you need to sort out.

It’s like hoarding memories – from normal dinner and drinkage to wholesome brunches, getting the kind of stomach ache you get from all the laughter and the things you talk about again even if you’ve talked about them tenmilliontimes before, and then there’s the kind of ache that comes from trying to swallow tears before they come out (but fail miserably in) when things get real and you realize how much you’ll miss them.

All the cheesy stuff like woah.

As you clock in that quality time, the permutations of worries about who will take care of this and that, what happens if this and that can escalate more than the amount your physical brain can process.

At the end of the day you know there’s only so much preparation you can do for yourself and for them, and then your brain will finally tell you to trust that they will remain alright.It’s like that Alamat ng Langgam na nag iimpok for the rainy days, except that what you’re hoarding are memories that somehow convince you they’ll be enough to last you a year in your new home away from home at the least.

2. Pinoy palate cravings

For many, their mom’s/household’s version of a certain dish is the best version.Nothing can ever beat it. not because it’s the most flavorful or complex or well thought out recipe, but simply because it’s a plateful of home.

It becomes particularly crucial to learn how to cook food you grew up eating, from your mom’s best dish to the simplest one you always thought to be mundane (P.S. I’m a little disturbed by how much I suddenly love monggo).

If you’re lucky, Google will tell you there’s a Filipino grocery near where you’ll live, and it instantly turns into this holy grail that can cure your nostalgic stomachaches.Eventually you might also unearth a talent to hack dishes you love from restaurants back home to help keep your sanity.

3. Adulting every-damn-day

For someone who isn’t particularly used to doing chores, or has always had the option to have somebody else do it for them, transitioning from a royal utusera to domesticated goddess can be a huge pain.

The list is intimidatingly long, and who knew that the end-to-end process of doing the laundry has so many steps? From sorting them not just into the 2 well-known categories of whites and colors (delicates, for handwashing, and what have you!), taking out the lint before using the dryer, to properly folding the convoluted fitted bed sheets after laundry.Aside from learning to do everything on your own, you have to come to terms with having to do it on a very, very regular basis.

You’ll do a few things wrong the first few times, but you will find a sense of gratification when you finally nail it. Like it’s some kind of huge success in life.

With it comes a high level of appreciation for the work involved to maintain a household and the people that used to do it for you.You learn to really grow up.You learn to laugh at the irony, like getting your hands dirty with cleaning products, and realizing that in a weird way you sometimes feel more third world in your brand new first world country!

4. BFF (Better Find Friends)

I’m such a snob and now I have to be likable and friendly.And crap, I have to do all that in flawless (or accented) English” was genuinely one of my first thoughts when I was about to move.

It’s hard enough to make new friends as an adult, but that can be much harder when you’re in a foreign land.Consider yourself lucky if you know somebody there that makes it unnecessary for you to start from square 1.Otherwise, it’s a real conscious effort; kind of like forcing your small-talk muscles to flex.All of a sudden, you’ll find yourself open to meeting up with a friend of a friend of a friend over coffee or drinks, and you’ll be open to it just after you’ve decided the person doesn’t seem like a creep after stalking them on social media.

It’s like a friendship blind date; you’ll start with talking about your common friend, and then move on to your story of why you are where you are, and then you take it from there.If the person’s Filipino too, there’s probably going to be a sigh of enthusiasm as you say

“OMG, sarap mag Tagalog!!”

If you’re starting from scratch, that’s an even more compelling reason why you need to be bolder than usual and cast your net wider for getting a better chance at finding connections.Be open to a bit of awkwardness. Put yourself out there and your innate snobbish self in the backburner and give others a chance who might be going through the exact same thing.You won’t hit it off with every new person you meet but that’s all part of it.

5. Going native

Culture shock is almost a given, and you’re going to find a few things weird and difficult to process.

But as time passes, you’ll start to get yourself acquainted with the dailys, idiosyncrasies, you’ll chuckle at yourself the first few times you converse using a few colloquials you’ve picked up through a local show you decided to follow so you can practice your ability to understand their accent (mine was Australian Masterchef – and decided the spoken spelling of “oh no” is “ohr nohr”).

That way, you might minimize the migraine that comes from interacting with locals with varying accent-thickness levels.You’ll need to evolve from being more of an observer to an active participant to really immerse yourself in the culture and understand what they value, what sport they like, what they drink and how much they drink, what’s their equivalent of Jollibee, why they’re not SPAM fans, what they do with their time considering they don’t have terrible traffic, and the list goes on.

But you also know that you kind of need to do it at your own pace with catalysts for your consumption only when you decide to speed it up, because it’s exhausting. The good kind of exhausting.When you’re done with the clichés and as you explore the lay of the land, you’ll find out for yourself why locals love their city.This is where you’re likely to pick out your new favorites, your new reasons to love the city that’s now yours too.

6. Conversion mindset

When you move to a new country and hence a new job, your purchasing power tends to increase.However, your comfort level about spending doesn’t necessarily increase with it.For some people, maybe the closet kuripot ones like me, conversion of the local currency to PHP has become second nature as if all of a sudden you’re so good at math.

You know you shouldn’t do it; your logical self tells you not to but your kuripot self somehow manages to steal the show most of the time.

In the process, you’ll realize how spoiled you were in the Philippines --Salon? Cheap. Massage? Cheap. Waxing? Cheap. Manipedi? Dirt cheap.Fine dining? Considerably cheap.

So you pick out the things you think you can DIY instead and only spend on those you “have to” for vanity’s sake, you push yourself to cook better, and decide that you don’t really need a massage to relax.All this while assuring yourself that you’re not being deprived of the ‘good life’.I suppose it’s a fair mix of prioritization, balance, and YOLO as you adjust over time.

7. FOMO fest

When you dwell on the occasions you’ll miss, the get-together photos you won’t be part of, holiday reunions, new members of your family or chosen family you won’t get to meet til maybe a year or two, the inside jokes you’ll now be an outsider to, and all the little things you may have paid little attention to can morph into something heartbreaking.

It may sneak up on you like a b*tch and soon enough you might find yourself wanting to stay away from social media or avoiding facetime dates because it might make you sad.A certain level of anxiety can stem from being MIA right from the special to the nondescript occasions but only if you let it.It’s important to catch yourself when you’re doing it.It’s a dragon to slay before it slays you.

It’s as essential to keep connected to the people you care about as it is embracing the inevitable.It might take a bit of time a lot of strength to get rid of the noise and shift your focus and energy on what makes you happy where you are, and why you decided to be there to begin with.All this builds character. You’ll change and they’ll change for sure, but rock solid connections will remain rock solid.

A friend told me that some of her best days were the times she was away from home so savor every moment – even the ones that make you cry. 

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The book is a collection of some of my self made poems from the last couple of years of my life that tackles my personal experiences in love, personal struggles, depression, heartbreak and moving on.

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23 August 2018