I bet this list will grow much longer after a few weeks and months here. But these are the few observations a newbie like me have noticed so far.
-For a big city, Manila is lacking on garbage cans. Having lived in Rio de Janeiro, NYC, DC (and its outskirts), I’m used to a garbage can every block or so. Here? I walk around holding my garbage for blocks before finding a place to dispose of it (my mom taught me right – I cannot throw garbage just anywhere). Even at the compound we’re staying, I have found only 2 garbage cans outside in the whole place! Every time Lily poops I’m holding on to it for the whole walk, then have to go out of my way to throw it out.
-This one I even posted about on my facebook, and my Filipino friends in the US had a laugh about it… When you go out to eat, you get a fork and a spoon. No knife. The spoon? It is used instead of a knife. It’s the weirdest thing!
-Reading post reports on Manila, you hear over an over how it has a huge expat community. So I was expecting to, uhm, see other white (or black) people out there. But nope, everyone is Asian. At the Mall of Asia, which was packed with people, I can count in one hand how many white people I saw during my hours there. The most I’ve seen was at the Saturday market in Makati.
-Which brings me to my other point, not specific to Manila, mind you, but more specific to me, the girl who had only been to North America, South America and Europe before coming to Asia. In Brazil? I look Brazilian. In the US? I look American. In Europe? I look European. I always blend in everywhere I go. But in Asia? I just look like “I’m not from here.” It’s a bit odd knowing that EVERYONE knows you’re not native. And the assumption? Is that I’m American. (The few times I said “I’m Brazilian” I was not understood.)
-English is a lot less understood here than we were made to believe. This is a non-language designated post, because everyone in the Philippines speaks English, right? WRONG! We have to repeat things over and over, speak slowly and use hand gestures to be understood, and sometimes they still have no clue what we’re saying (and we either give up, or ask someone else). I better learn some Tagalog STAT!
-I was warned about this, but it is still a shock to see it: OLD white men with YOUNG Filipinas. When you do see a white person (outside of the US Embassy environment), it’s usually a white guy 50+ years old with a young Filipina girl (who looks like a teenager, but I do understand they might be a tad older, seeing that all my Asian friends looks about 10 years younger than they are). It’s totally creepy. I think it’s from the basic assumption here: if you are white you have money. (I wish!)
-EVERYWHERE is crowded. EVERYWHERE. The streets, sidewalks, malls. I knew it was going to be crowded. Again, I lived in NYC, for gods sake. But here? Way worse than anywhere else I’ve seen or expected. Just so many people! Everywhere!
I bet I’m missing more! Anyone who has lived in or visited Manila have any other things to add?