Many Filipinos do not notice the small and gradual changes in their behavior after years of living in Germany. Sometimes it only becomes apparent when they go back to the Philippines and finds daily life too slow.
Suddenly, small things disturb you. Your siblings drag their flip flops on the floor slowly. They would sit around and talk about the current happenings in the neighborhood- Who got pregnant? Who went abroad? Or who got married? – things that you used to do but now annoy you.
In your eyes, everything is happening in a slow motion. You are waiting for something, anything to happen while the clock is ticking slowly, making you bored or agitated. If you know what I am talking about, then you have adopted some German ways – unknowingly.
You walk like a German
Do you walk fast and in a straight direction?
I never noticed how I walked until I lived in Germany. Filipinos have a special walking gait that speaks of a leisurely and laid back life in the Philippines.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with how we walk. When I moved to Germany, I needed to adapt to the German way of walking – straight, purposeful and fast. Walking slow here would mean disturbing the flow of people, bump into them, be late for my appointment or miss the scheduled bus.
In big cities like Berlin, trains and buses arrive every ten minutes. So there is a constant need to “run” for the bus/train.
However, in smaller municipalities, there’s an interval of half an hour up to one hour. Even if you don’t walk fast enough, you can miss them if you arrive even a minute too late.
Have you also noticed that you always tend to walk on the right side of the pavement? In Germany, vehicles and even people’s traffic are expected to stay on the right side of the road. If you are bothered or gets irritated with people walking on the wrong side, you’re definitely becoming German.
You’ve become too punctual
Punctuality is among the most admired qualities of German people. This means that you arrive five minutes earlier for your appointment. Being late, even on social appointments, is frowned upon. If being late is inevitable, , then it is expected that you inform the host right away. This applies from elaborate dinner appointments to even a simple Kaffeetrinken (merienda).
When invited to parties, you’re not only expected to come on time, you’re also expected to confirm your attendance. The host puts a lot of effort to make the event perfect. Perhaps the wife would bake a cake and would prepare the table with flowers, candles, the best cutlery. It is important for your German host to know beforehand the number of guests coming so that they can prepare properly, especially the food, which is an important part of a Filipino gathering.
You also can’t just bring a friend along unless you ask them first. That is major taboo.
In the beginning, I found these practices too strict, stingy and very much in contrast with my Filipino extravagance and laid back ways. But through the years, I’ve come to realized that these practices are not only practical (for example, you can avoid throwing away food), they are most of all a form of respect for other people’s time and efforts.
You cannot tolerate inefficiency and disorder anymore
Susan Stern in her book These Strange German Ways wrote that people who likes punctuality and timetables are considered to be orderly. She concluded that Germans like to be efficient and orderly because they are a “nation of worriers and they have perfected worrying as a fine art.”
This is the core of the German life. Orderliness has been inculcated on them since birth – from simple things like keeping the door closed at all times to save on heating energy to personal characteristics like becoming independent as early as possible.
At some point in your expat life, you’ll change from being a carefree Filipino migrant to a well structured German expat. Appointments must be set weeks before, vacations planned in advance or income being budgeted strictly.
You go crazy over the sun
When was the last time you used an umbrella on a sunny day in Germany? You probably couldn’t remember. Because in a country that gets really cold and long winters, the sun is god and when it shines, everybody goes out to worship it.
Even when the temperature is only 15 degrees Celsius, you’d find Germans spilling out in outdoor cafes and restaurants, drinking beer in their t shirts.
When I was student in Germany, me and my Filipina friends would eat outside. One of us would always bring an umbrella. So imagine how silly we looked on summer days, eating our lunches under the shade of a tree and an umbrella while German students spread themselves out in the park, exposed to the warm sun and enjoying the heat like in a tropical paradise.
Later on, after experiencing months of dark and cold winter with pale and dry skin, I welcomed all the sunny days that I can have. Nowadays I only use an umbrella when it rains.
You crave for gemütlichkeit
The word gemütlichkeit has no direct translation in English but its closest meaning would be coziness, or state of well-being.
The Germans love being comfortable particularly during meals. They set the table with flowers and candles, dim the lights and sit together especially during special occasions like birthdays and holidays.
Filipinos who have adapted the gemütlichkeit practices would go an extra mile to make friends and family dinners (our lunches) cozy, from the decorations to the ambiance. We now probably have an entire set of house and garden decors for every season.
When you find the zwerge in the garden of Filipino expats or little birds’ nests complete with eggs, that’s a sure a sign that they are becoming German.
Filipinos are very adaptable. Although we tend to hang on to traditions, we can easily absorb the culture and habits of our adopted country. No wonder why we are one of the most admired expats in the world.
About the author
Precy Dizon-Kohl worked in the Department of Budget and Management before she moved to Germany. She was a romance writer in the Philippines and has written the short story called A Treasure to Hold, among others. She now lives in Germany together with her Berliner husband she met while studying in Dormunt. She used to maintain a blog called Pinoy in Germany at www.eyescafe.de.