Filipinos in Germany may not notice that small and gradual behavioral changes in them after years of living abroad. In fact, it only becomes apparent when you go back to your hometown in the Philippines and find daily life too slow and not keeping up with your efficient internal clock.
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? 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 more nervous. If you know what I am talking about, then you have adopted some German ways – unknowingly.
The German walk
Do you walk fast and straight? I never noticed how I walked until I lived in Germany. Filipinos have a special walking gait that speaks of a leisurely and slow life back in the Philippines. Don’t get me wrong and misinterpret it negatively. I liked how I walked before, but then I have to adopt to that German walk – straight, purposeful and fast. Not walking like this would mean disturbing the flow of the people, bump into them, be late on appointments or not catch the scheduled bus.
Have you noticed that you are already walking in the right side of the pavement, and bothered when the person in the opposite direction walks on your path instead of the left side? If you are irritated by this simple logistic problem, you are more in trouble and needs serious spurging out of your Germanistic orderliness.
Punctuality is among the most admired quality among Germans. This means that you are five minutes earlier than your appointment. Being late on personal occassions are frowned upon, but if you are really going to be late, then the host must be informed beforehand.
I have often wondered why the Germans are so strict with punctuality. For example, you are invited to a Kaffeetrinken(merienda). 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. They would like to know beforehand how many guests would come, so that they will be preparing just enough food for that specific number of guests. You want to bring along your friend? Major mistake.
Initially, I really find it too inhibiting and thrifty against my Filipino extravagance. However, through the years, I have come to appreciate this thrifttiness and practicality.
German efficiency and orderliness
Susan Stern in her book These Strange German Ways wrote that people who likes punctuality and timetables are intended to be orderly. She even contended that the Germans like to be efficient and orderly, because they are a “nation of worriers and they have perfected worrying at a fine art (page 41).
This is exactly the core of the Germans. Orderliness has been stamped on them since birth, that the door should be closed at all times to save energy from the heater, that they would have to be independent as early as possible. Filipinos learn these after living in Germany. This is quite evident with the way Filipinos conduct themselves even when they are already in the Philippines. They already adopted this practicality, or to others it may seem like coldness, but rather cold rationality on their decisions. Like for example, saving money instead of splurging them just to show-off, or disdain on too much extravagance.
German’s go crazy over the sun.
Remember those days when umbrella is your best friend? If that is just a distant memory, and would rather stay outside on those rare days when the sun would shine, you would have adopted that German trait of worshipping the sun.
As a student with my three Filipina friends, we use to bring food with us and eat outside. One of us would always bring an umbrella with. Imagine us: four Filipinas eating our sandwich under the tree, while the German students are eating their sandwiches under the sun with closed eyes like they have just been granted a visa to paradise.
Later, however, after a few months of dark winter, and no sun and pale skin, I would understand this phenomenon. That yes, you would worship the sun when it finally comes out to say hello. And that yes, I only use umbrella on rainy days.
German’s Love for Gemütlichkeit
The word gemütlichkeit is not easily translated to English, but the nearest meaning would be coziness, or state of well-being. The Germans love this state of being comfortable especially during meal times. They set the table with flowers and candles, put the lights low and and sit together. This is quite evident during occassions like birthdays and special holidays. The Filipinos have adopted these already and do extra work just to make the celebrations gemütlich. You have adopted this German way, when you start putting up decorations every season, like figures of rabbits and eggs during spring season, or that colorful mushroom and autumn leaves during fall. You need really serious spurging when you start putting those Zwerge (dwarf figures) on your garden, which is the biggest sign that you are ready to be hailed as the ultimate Germanized Filipino.
Adopting German ways is quite a curious and gradual process among Filipinos living in Germany. It might be on the way we talk, walk and behave. Filipinos are known to be the most flexible and friendly people on earth. We are quite malleable to changes, we adopt them, try to blend them to who we are. That alone — this malleability is to be applauded for because that is how we cope with culture shock, with integration issues and loneliness.