Bilang ng Mga Bisita

Friday, September 17, 2010

10 Habits that Filipinos Should Learn from Spain

After living in Spain for several years now, I have seen some habits which, for many Spaniards, are a natural way of life.  But for Filipinos, these behaviors may look ridiculous or senseless.   But as I observed more closely, these simple things actually work: they make life easier for everybody and bring more order in the way things are being done!


Maybe we could learn these things, too, and apply and teach them to our kababayans when we go home to the Philippines.  Who knows, these might help bring order and discipline to our chaotic Philippine society.  Here are 10 simple habits that we could learn from our Spanish brothers:


1.  You are free to talk. Argue if you must. But violence has no place in a civilized society.

I have seen Spanish drivers argue on the road.  Some of them even went down their vehicles, stood face to face, and argued very loudly with the other driver.  But none of them touched each other.  And when the lights turned green, the drivers went back to their vehicles and drove to their own destinations.  In the Philippines, such confrontations end up in a shootout, with one driver dead and the other one a fugitive.  Heated verbal exchanges are simply that: verbal exchanges.  They are won and settled by the force of the argument, not by the argument of force.  And besides, the other party might pack a bigger gun


2.  Segregate your trash, throw them in the proper containers during the designated time.

I still remember the tv commercial in the Philippines about a decade ago:  Ang basurang itinapon mo, babalik din sa iyo (with video clips of floating wastes and trash entering houses during raining days).  City planners say that most of the floods that drown Manila every year are caused by trash clogging the waterways.  Here in Spain, there are trash cans almost everywhere (in the streets, parks and beaches).  Huge color-coded garbage bins for recyclable, biodegradable, and bottle trash are accessible.  It is amazing how the Spaniards manage their own household trash: properly segregated and brought out of the house to the garbage bins at the proper time.  No wonder I haven´t seen garbage bags floating around during rainy days.


3.  Green means go, yellow means slow down, red means stop. Follow traffic rules. These are laws, not suggestions.

Spain.  Past midnight.  Few people in the street.  Spanish driver reaches an intersection.  Traffic light is red.  No pedestrian is crossing, no policeman is watching.  Spanish driver stops, waits for the green light, and drives safely home.

Manila. 2:00a.m..  Filipino driver going home from a drinking spree.  Stops at an intersection.  Light turns green.  Filipino driver does not drive forward, he is busy texting.  The vehicle behind him is blowing his horn like crazy.  Filipino driver flashes the finger and curses the other driver before speeding forward. Before he reaches the next intersection, the traffic light turns yellow.  Filipino driver drives faster (of course, yellow light means drive faster).  He reaches the next intersection and the light is red.  he slows down, looks left and right and drives forward.  He didn´t even see the speeding dump truck before it hit his car.  And the Filipino driver´s last thought before he died must have been, "Damn that dump truck driver, he was beating the red light."


4.  If your destination is only 4 blocks away, walk. Walking is good exercise. It is good for your pocket and it is good for the environment.

When I arrived in Spain, one Spanish friend told me that our destination was within walking distance.  And we walked for 40 minutes, the first longest walk in my sorry Filipino life.  Then I observed that everyone in Spain loves to walk, even the old ones.  Everyone, except for ignorant, lazy, rich and powerful Filipino tourists, who, just because they could afford to visit Spain, think that they should not suffer the indignity of walking.  And so their inflated egos and bloated feeling of self-importance actually lifts them above the ground and they just float around Spain.

But seriously, walking needs no explanation.  Your feet are made for walking.  Walking is healthy.  Walking saves you money that otherwise would have been used to pay your fare or purchase gasoline that produces carbon and pollutes the environment.  If you don´t believe this, then believe that God wants you to walk.  Otherwise, he would not have given you legs but two sets of wheels.


5.  Drink your wine but do not get drunk.

A glass of red wine everyday is healthy.  Many Spaniards drink wine (and beer!) during meals (yes, breakfast, lunch and dinner).  And I have seen some of them get drunk and noisy (or should I say "noisier).  But a drunk Spaniard is rather an exception, for they appear to handle their drinks well.  They appear to drink for fun and socialization.  This is also true in the Philippines, except that a larger majority seem to drink to get drunk.  And when Filipinos get drunk, they become superheroes: immortal, unafraid and deaf.  If only we could just drink and let the liquor flow to our tummies instead of pumping the alcohol up our heads, the streets and bars of Manila would be much safer.  So next time that we go home for a vacation, let us remind ourselves and our guests that we are there to enjoy not to die.  Cheers!


6.  Be courteous and friendly.  It´s ok to smile and say “hola” even to a stranger.

I was surprised when I arrived in Spain how the locals here greet people that they meet, sometimes even with a smile.  This habit is rare in the Philippines where greetings are limited to close friends and family members.  Try smiling or saying “hi” to people you meet in the streets of Manila and they would look at you like a freak.  But this habit promotes friendship and cordial relations.  And it feels good, too, especially if you elicit a reply or smile from the person you greeted.


7.  Say the magic words “please” and “thank you”.  Saying them won´t hurt you.

These words are a dime a dozen in Spain. In restaurants, supermarkets, buses, and shopping stores, it is common to hear these words spoken by customers and attendants.  As a matter of fact, it is considered rude not to say “please” and “thank you” at the appropriate time.  So when we go home to the Philippines, let us bring these words and say them to the drivers, waiters, store attendants, family members.  Yes, to everyone!!!


8.  When going to the grocery, bring your own cart or reuseable bag.  Don´t be plastic.

Really, it is time to minimize the waste that we produce.  Instead of placing your groceries inside the plastic bags available at the counter of most stores, bring your own reuseable container!  We are doing this is Spain, we can do it in the Philippines. At least you won´t feel guilty when you see on TV that Manila gets flooded again, with tons of plastic containers floating on dark, dirty rain water.


9.  Your vehicle´s horn is not your brake.  Don´t blast other vehicles to the outer space with your loud bosina.

The streets of Manila are not only congested, they are also uber noisy, every driver seems to be trigger-happy with their horns.  Unlike in Spain that the only sound from the streets are from the sirens of ambulances, police vehicles, and firetrucks. When we are in Manila, let us remember that the vehicle in front of us won´t disappear when we make bosina.  So hit the brake instead, slow down your vehicle and cool down your temper.


10.Be patient, fall in line.  Mandugas sa pila is so not cool.

Remember this, whoever you are (mayor, governor, congressman, OFW from Spain, OFW from the US, OFW from the Middle East, taho vendor, lawyer, nurse, taxi driver, unemployed, etc.) we are all equals.  Fall in line!!!  If we do this, we are not only making everybody´s lives easier, we are also showing to the world our good manners.


So finally, it is complete: 10 habits that we could learn from our Spanish friends and bring back to the Philippines.  When our kababayans at home see us observing these little things, they will say that we have become, not only financially rich but, well-mannered and cultured individuals.


  1. Cool list. Some of the Filipinos are doing those habit, we just can't notice it because they are only few. Anyway, i can see how much you love our country, the Philippines and i can also sense that you are living a life of a true Spanish. Well, thanks for being a proud Filipino and Mabuhay!

  2. saan sa spain ang may pinaka maraming pinoy? seville ba (raw, sabi ni chot reyes)? barcelona o madrid?