Thursday, November 8, 2007

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Question (thanks, Angela!): How come it's common practice not to talk to your neighbors [in the Philippines]?

Answer: I have no idea! We tried introducing ourselves/engaging in small talk a couple of times, especially when a new family moved in across the street. It was perfectly friendly, but did nothing to establish any sort of neighborly relationship. People still prefer to stay within their enclosed spaces. Most of them honk their car horns when they come home, wait for their domestic help to open their huge front gates, then pull into their driveways while the gates are closed behind them. Gives you warm fuzzies, no?

Last month the Vice President of the Philippines attended a party a few houses down from ours. Apparently there were security personnel swarming all over the place. I heard about it second-hand, though, since I was tucked safely away within our own little walled fortress and had no idea anything was going on.

In contrast, the people you do see on a regular basis are the domestic workers. They're out walking dogs, gardening, tending children, or chatting with each other. They smile frequently and some of them are on friendly terms with our kids.

The antisocial stuff is obviously a learned behavior of people with money here, whether it's a matter of security, privacy, or just plain being uppity (or maybe some combination of those). It's all about perspective, I guess. Compared to the circumstances in which most Filipinos live, our way of life is wasteful in the extreme. Yes, the company pays our rent, and it's an amazing perk, and more house than we could ever afford on our own. Yet it's not so different from the standard of living we're used to in the US. But to those outside the village walls, it might as well be the moon.


Angela said...

Wow Chris...really redefines the term being neighborly;)I think that's cool that the domestic workers aren't like that. Maybe your neighbors are under the eyewitness protection program or perhaps it's Jimmy Hoffa or Hey! even better, maybe it's Elvis. Thanks for answering my question. Here's another question, (I'm insanely curious about other places, I don't get out much.)Do they celebrate Thanksgiving there? If so, I hope you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

Chris said...

Ha. Yep, I think Elvis must live here in the village somewhere. It would explain a lot!

They don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, but you can find most of the traditional dinner essentials at the supermarket: turkey, canned pumpkin and cranberry, Cool Whip for the pies, etc. You have to hunt around a little, but that's what makes it fun. Believe it or not, what I miss most is the all-day football marathon and the huge newspaper full of holiday sale ads.

Happy Turkey Day to you too!