Friday, May 10, 2024

10 Common OFW Topics Overseas Filipinos Talk Mostly Abroad

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Whether it’s in shared accommodations, after church gatherings, or weekend days off, Filipinos abroad will always find to connect with kababayans. They talk about the joys and sorrows of being a worker abroad, far away from family and loved ones, but earning money they think is enough to compensate for their sacrifices.

Homesickness and culture shock

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Foreign workers, including Filipinos abroad, often discuss the following forms of homesickness:

  • Nostalgia for family and friends back home
    They may talk about the simple family meals of dried fish or sardines but are happy to eat together.
  • Longing for familiar foods, customs, and traditions
    They may daydream about that favorite lechon house in the neighborhood or trips to the beach with the family every St John the Baptist feast.
  • Homesickness for the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of their hometowns
    They reminisce about the times they go for videoke with cousins at their grandma’s house or stroll around the plaza during town fiesta.
  • Emotional distress caused by being away from loved ones for extended periods
    They lament the huge debt the family has been trying to pay off for years and must carry a significant role in wiping it off. That is why their time away from family was extended indefinitely.
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness in a foreign country
    They feel out of place and unable to mingle with others who don’t share the same values or interests as them. This exacerbates the feeling of loneliness and homesickness. For OFWs who value social connections and community, lacking shared values or common interests with locals or other expats can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and homesickness.
  • Difficulty adjusting to new cultural norms and ways of life
    They have difficulty relating to the language and adjusting to the food and lifestyle of the locals.
  • FOMO (fear of missing out) on important events and milestones back home
    They feel bad missing out on their parent’s silver wedding anniversary or a niece’s graduation in high school. This can add to their homesickness and disconnection from their families back home, as they miss out on significant life events and milestones.
  • Difficulty adapting to a new language and communication barriers.
    They cannot express how they feel to others fully because they cannot comprehend the language fully, or has challenges understanding local slang or accents.
  • Yearning for a sense of belonging and connection to their roots.
    They miss their best friends back home while they cannot find someone to trust and confide their problems and plans abroad. A lack of support and companionship can further amplify their loneliness and isolation.
Filipino workers in Hong Kong

Financial struggles and remittances to families in the Philippines

Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs) often talk about the following financial struggles and remittances to families in the Philippines:

  • Balancing expenses for their living abroad with their financial obligations to their families back home
    They share stories of overspending while on vacation in the Philippines or struggling to stretch the budget for daily living expenses abroad.
  • High costs of living, such as housing, food, and transportation, in their host country
    OFWs in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, or the UK and everywhere share information about an upcoming sale at a local grocery or discuss moving out of a flat due to a recent rent increase by the landlord. These discussions help OFWs stay connected to their home community and provide practical advice and support for managing everyday challenges while living abroad.
  • Struggles to save and invest money due to low wages or high living expenses
    OFWs who realize their dream to invest in a small sari-sari store, a water refilling station, or the stock market will have to wait as their savings rate is slower than expected. They also explore how the government, through OWWA can offer assistance.
  • Sending a portion of their salaries as remittances to their families in the Philippines can be expensive due to currency exchange rates and remittance fees
    They complain about a lower exchange rate of the Philippine peso. They also brainstorm how they can better explain to families not to rely too much on remittances or say, “I got the money, thank you” once the recipient receives it.

  • Challenges in finding stable and well-paying jobs abroad
    They talk about going cross-country, from a domestic helper in Hong Kong to a caregiver in Canada. They also discuss moving to new employers who pay higher wages and treat them better.
  • Dealing with unexpected expenses, such as medical bills or legal fees, can strain their finances.
    They ask for help from friends to lend them money to send immediately to the Philippines for an emergency medical procedure of a family member.
  • Uncertainty about the future, including job security and stability
    They talk about how COVID could impact their jobs, locals complaining foreigners are stealing their jobs, or new policies that disallow foreigners from taking on certain jobs.
  • Difficulty in maintaining their quality of life while abroad and supporting their families back home
    OFWs chat about the extended hours of work during Ramadan or working extra hours without overtime pay. These conversations highlight the challenges and difficulties that OFWs face when working in countries with different cultural and religious practices and varying labor laws and regulations.
  • Adjusting to a new financial system, including taxes, banking, and investment opportunities.
    They ask friends what they think about the new tax rates, more requirements to open a bank account, or this new investment scheme to ensure they are not scams. OFWs may seek the opinions of their friends regarding financial matters and investment opportunities to make informed decisions and avoid potential scams.
  • Worry about being unable to provide for their families in unexpected circumstances or emergencies.
    They are concerned about what happens if they get sick or die in the line of duty abroad. They worry about how their family can cope emotionally and financially in their absence.

Adjustment to a new culture and language

Filipinos living abroad often discuss the following challenges in adjusting to a new culture and language.

  • Navigating cultural differences and customs in their host country
    They ask why kids are so liberated and compare them with themselves when they were kids. They also ask how others cope with changes in breakfast from rice to bread. For example, these conversations about differences in breakfast reflect the challenge of adapting to new and unfamiliar food options in the host country and the longing for the taste and comfort of traditional dishes from their homeland.
  • Coping with language barriers and difficulties in communicating with others
    They realize that Filipinos abroad come from various places and bring with them their regional characteristics and cultural identity. For example, a Filipino from the Ilocos region may have a different accent, food preference, and customs than someone from the Visayas or Mindanao.

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    Filipino workers arrive from Taiwan.
  • Overcoming feelings of isolation and loneliness
    The Filipino struggle for loneliness and homesickness abroad is a poignant experience of isolation, longing, and cultural displacement as they navigate the challenges of being away from their loved ones and adapting to a foreign environment. For example, some OFWs may miss important milestones in their children’s lives, such as birthdays or graduations, leading to guilt and regret.
  • Learning new social norms and etiquette
    The Filipino’s learning of new social norms and etiquette requires a conscious effort to observe and adapt to the cultural nuances and expectations of the host country while staying true to their values and identity. For example, they may have to adjust to different communication styles, and body language and address manners in their workplace or social interactions.
  • Coping with culture shock and adjusting to a new way of life
    How they cope with culture shock and adjust to a new way of life involves recognizing and managing the emotional and psychological effects of adapting to a different environment and seeking support from their community and the available resources. For example, an overseas Filipino worker may cope with culture shock by attending cultural events or joining cultural groups in their host country to connect with their roots and fellow Filipinos.
  • Maintaining their cultural identity and pride as Filipinos
    Filipinos abroad discuss maintaining their cultural identity and pride by sharing their experiences, participating in Filipino cultural events and activities, promoting Filipino values and traditions, and educating others about Filipino history and heritage to preserve and promote their identity as Filipinos.
  • Making new friends and building relationships in a foreign country
    Filipinos abroad discuss making new friends and building relationships in a foreign country by actively seeking out opportunities to connect with people, respecting and adapting to cultural differences, and being open-minded and inclusive to diverse perspectives and backgrounds.For example, attending cultural events or joining clubs that align with their interests can provide an avenue to meet new people and build a support network.
  • Navigating cultural stereotypes and prejudices
    Filipinos abroad discuss navigating cultural stereotypes and prejudices by challenging and debunking misconceptions about their culture, advocating for their rights and dignity, and promoting mutual respect and understanding among different cultures and communities.
  • Developing a sense of belonging in a foreign country
    Filipinos abroad discuss developing a sense of belonging in a foreign country by building a support system, participating in community activities, embracing the local culture while maintaining their own, and creating a home away from home through relationships and experiences.
  • Becoming familiar with the host country’s laws, customs, and practices.
    Filipinos abroad discuss becoming familiar with the host country’s laws, customs, and practices by actively seeking out information and resources, respecting and adapting to cultural differences, and following the rules and regulations of the host country.

Coping with work and job environment

Filipinos abroad often worry about the following challenges in finding work and adapting to the job market.

  • Competition for job opportunities with other foreign workers and locals
    Filipinos abroad discuss competition for job opportunities with other foreign workers and locals by highlighting their strengths and qualifications, being persistent and proactive in their job search, and demonstrating their work ethic, professionalism, and cultural competence to potential employers. For instance, they may need to acquire new skills or take on different roles to increase their chances of employment and success in a competitive job market.
  • Language barriers that impact job performance and advancement
    Filipinos abroad discuss language barriers that impact job performance and advancement by seeking language learning opportunities, collaborating with colleagues and supervisors, finding support from language and cultural training programs, and leveraging their unique bilingual and multicultural skills to enhance their performance and contributions to the workplace.
  • Prejudice and discrimination in the workplace
    Filipinos abroad discuss prejudice and discrimination in the workplace by raising awareness and advocating for their rights, finding support from their community and allies, speaking up against unfair treatment and biases, and demonstrating their professionalism, skills, and contributions to challenge negative stereotypes and promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Finding work that matches their skills, experience, and education level
    Filipinos abroad discuss finding work that matches their skills, experience, and education level by researching and targeting job opportunities, networking with professionals in their field, seeking out educational and training programs to enhance their qualifications, and showcasing their achievements and accomplishments to potential employers.
  • Navigating a different job market and understanding the local hiring process
    Filipinos abroad discuss navigating a different job market and understanding the local hiring process by seeking out advice and guidance from professionals, networking with locals and expats in their field, doing research on the local job market, and adapting their job search strategies and approaches to fit the cultural and economic context of the host country. For example, some Filipinos abroad may attend job fairs and workshops tailored to foreign workers or seek mentors who can guide navigating the job market.
  • A lack of job stability and job security
    Filipinos abroad discuss the lack of job stability and security by building diverse skills and experiences, networking with professionals and potential employers, seeking out stable and reputable companies, and staying proactive and adaptable to changing job market conditions.
  • Balancing work and personal life, including time for rest and recreation
    Filipinos abroad discuss balancing work and personal life, including time for rest and recreation, by setting realistic goals and priorities, managing their time and resources effectively, finding activities and hobbies that bring joy and relaxation, and maintaining a support system of friends and family. For example, some overseas Filipino workers join social clubs or sports teams to meet new people and engage in activities they enjoy outside of work.
  • Working long hours or odd shifts
    Filipinos abroad discuss working long hours or odd shifts by managing their physical and mental health, setting boundaries and priorities, seeking support and understanding from their colleagues and employers, and finding time for rest and self-care activities outside of work.
  • Adjusting to a new working environment, including differences in work culture, policies, and practices
    Filipinos abroad discuss adjusting to a new working environment, including differences in work culture, policies, and practices, by actively observing and learning from their colleagues and supervisors, seeking out guidance and feedback, adapting their communication and work styles to fit the local context, and being respectful and open-minded towards cultural differences.
  • Being unfamiliar with local labor laws and employment rights.
    Filipinos abroad discuss being unfamiliar with local labor laws and employment rights by seeking out information and resources from trusted sources, consulting with legal professionals or labor unions, joining community groups and advocacy organizations, and staying informed and proactive about their rights and responsibilities as workers in their host country.

    Filipinos in Dubai during a day off from work.

Balancing work and personal life

Filipinos living abroad often discuss the following challenges in balancing work and personal life.

  • Maintaining work-life balance while adapting to a new culture and language
    For Filipinos working abroad, maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging due to adapting to a new culture and language. The demands of work, coupled with the need to navigate unfamiliar social and linguistic contexts, can make it difficult to find time for family, friends, and personal interests. Additionally, the pressure to provide financial support for loved ones in the Philippines can add to the stress of balancing work and personal life.
  • Finding time to rest and recharge after working long hours or multiple jobs
    Finding time to rest and recharge after working long hours or multiple jobs can significantly challenge many people. The demands of work, coupled with other obligations such as family, can leave little time for self-care and relaxation. 
  • Making time for personal relationships, including friends and romantic partners
    For Filipinos working abroad, making time for personal relationships, including friends and romantic partners, can be a significant challenge due to the demands of work and the need to adapt to a new environment. This can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation, making it important for Filipinos abroad to actively seek out opportunities to connect with others and build meaningful relationships outside of work.
  • Spending quality time with family, despite being separated by distance
    Spending quality time with family can be a significant challenge due to the physical distance that separates them. The emotional toll of being away from loved ones and work demands can make it challenging to find time and energy for family relationships. The time differences and limited travel opportunities can further complicate efforts to maintain strong family connections.
  • Managing financial stress and responsibilities to their families back home
    Managing financial stress and responsibilities to their families back home can be a significant challenge. The pressure to provide financial support for extended family members, the high cost of living, and the need to save for future goals, can create significant financial stress. Filipinos working abroad often face the challenge of managing their finances, especially sending money back home to support their families. The responsibility to provide for their loved ones and the high cost of living in their host country can make balancing their financial obligations and personal goals challenging.
  • Taking care of their physical and mental health while abroad
    Caring for their physical and mental health abroad can be a significant challenge. The demands of work, coupled with the need to adapt to a new environment and the pressures of being away from home, can create significant stress and strain on both physical and mental health.
  • Finding opportunities for recreation and leisure activities
    Finding options for recreation and leisure activities can be a significant challenge. The demands of work, coupled with the need to adapt to a new environment and the pressures of being away from home, can leave little time or energy for leisure activities.
  • Maintaining their spiritual and religious practices
    Maintaining their spiritual and religious practices can be a significant challenge. The demands of work, coupled with the need to adapt to a new environment and the pressures of being away from home, can make it challenging to access familiar spiritual or religious resources.
  • Balancing their social life with their work schedule
    Balancing OFWs’ social life and work schedule can be a significant challenge. The demands of work, coupled with the need to adapt to a new environment and the pressures of being away from home, can leave little time or energy for socializing and building relationships outside of work.
  • Finding a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their personal and professional lives.
    Finding purpose and fulfillment in their personal and professional lives can be challenging. The demands of work, the need to adapt to a new environment and the pressures of being away from home can leave OFWs feeling disconnected and uncertain about their goals and aspirations. One example is how some OFWs may feel detached from their cultural identity and sense of self as they navigate their new environment, which can make it challenging to find a sense of purpose and belonging.

Maintaining cultural identity and preserving Filipino traditions

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Filipinos living abroad often discuss the following challenges in maintaining their cultural identity and preserving Filipino traditions:

  • Keeping in touch with their heritage and cultural roots while adapting to a new way of life
    Keeping in touch with their heritage and cultural roots while adapting to a new way of life can be a significant challenge. The demands of work, the need to adapt to a new environment, and the pressures of being away from home can make it challenging to connect to their cultural and social roots.
  • Preserving their traditions and customs despite being in a foreign country.
    Keeping traditions and customs alive in a foreign country can be challenging for OFWs. It can be tough to maintain the same level of engagement with traditions and customs as they did back home due to the demands of work, the need to adapt to a new environment, and the pressures of being away from home.
  • Sharing and passing down their cultural heritage to their children.
    One of the primary challenges is finding ways to expose their children to their cultural heritage and instill a sense of pride and connection to their roots. This can be particularly challenging when the children are growing up in a different cultural environment and may not have the same exposure to Filipino traditions and customs.
  • Coping with cultural differences and maintaining their values and beliefs
    For OFWs, coping with cultural differences and maintaining their values and beliefs can be a significant challenge. The need to adapt to a new culture and way of life, while also preserving their own cultural identity, can create a sense of disorientation and disconnection.This can be particularly difficult when faced with conflicting values and beliefs in the workplace or community.
  • Celebrating important cultural events, such as holidays and traditional festivals, while abroad
    Celebrating important cultural events, such as holidays and traditional festivals, can be challenging. Being away from family and community back home, coupled with the difficulty of finding the necessary resources and support to celebrate, can make it challenging to maintain a connection to their culture and traditions.This can be further compounded by conflicting work schedules and a lack of understanding or recognition of their cultural practices in their new environment.
  • Finding ways to connect with other Filipinos and form a sense of community
    It can be hard for OFWs to connect with other Filipinos and feel like part of a community. When you’re adjusting to a new environment and culture, it’s hard to make meaningful connections. There may be fewer Filipinos in some places, like remote work sites.
  • Adjusting to new cultural norms and ways of life while preserving their own cultural identity
    A challenge for OFWs is adjusting to new cultural norms and lifestyles while preserving their cultural identity. A new culture and way of life can often require them to change their behavior and values, which can conflict with their culture. It can make them feel disoriented and disconnected from their old and new cultures.
  • Overcoming feelings of homesickness and longing for their familiar cultural practices
    Overcoming homesickness and longing for their familiar cultural practices can be challenging. Being away from family, friends, and community back home, coupled with the difficulty of finding the necessary resources and support to practice their cultural traditions, can make it challenging to maintain a connection to their home culture.
  • Finding ways to stay connected to their cultural identity through food, music, dance, and other forms of expression
    OFWs struggle to connect to their cultural identity through food, music, and dance. Being in a foreign country with limited cultural resources can make it hard to express their cultural identity. Adapting to a new environment and cultural context may require changing their behavior and values, making it harder for them to express themselves authentically.
  • Balancing the preservation of cultural traditions with the need to adapt and integrate into their host country.
    Filipino workers abroad face the challenge of maintaining their cultural identity and preserving Filipino traditions while balancing the need to adapt and integrate into their host country’s culture and way of life. This often leads to a struggle to balance staying true to their roots and assimilating into a new cultural environment.

Relationships with people from different cultures

Filipinos living abroad often reflect on the following aspects of relationships with people from different cultures:

  • Navigating cultural differences and misunderstandings in interpersonal relationships
    Filipinos face the challenge of navigating cultural differences and potential misunderstandings in their relationships with people from different cultures. This often requires a heightened sensitivity to cultural norms and communication styles and a willingness to learn and adapt to new cultural contexts.
  • Building trust and respect with people from different cultural backgrounds
    Building trust and respect with people from different cultural backgrounds can be challenging for overseas Filipino workers, who may need to navigate unfamiliar cultural norms and communication styles to establish strong interpersonal relationships. This often requires an open-minded approach and a willingness to learn about and embrace different cultural perspectives.
  • Overcoming language barriers and communication challenges in forming
    relationships
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of overcoming language barriers and communication challenges in forming relationships with people from different cultures. This requires effective communication strategies and a willingness to learn and adapt to different languages and communication styles. For example, a Filipino nurse working in a Saudi Arabian hospital may need to learn basic Arabic phrases and medical terms to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues and adapt their communication style to align with local cultural norms and customs.
  • Coping with cultural stereotypes and prejudices
    Coping with cultural stereotypes and prejudices can challenge overseas Filipino workers’ relationships with people from different cultures. This often requires a heightened awareness of one’s own cultural biases and a willingness to challenge and overcome them to build strong, respectful, and inclusive relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. For example, a Filipino worker in a Western country may need to confront stereotypes and prejudices about Filipinos as being “cheap labor” or “uneducated,” and may need to actively challenge these stereotypes through their own actions and behavior in order to build strong and inclusive relationships with their colleagues or neighbors.
  • Adapting to different social norms and ways of life in forming relationships
    Adapting to different social norms and ways of life can be challenging for overseas Filipino workers when forming relationships, such as learning to navigate the social etiquette of their host country or adjusting to different attitudes towards gender roles. For example, a Filipino worker in a conservative Middle Eastern country may need to adapt to local customs such as covering their hair and avoiding physical contact with members of the opposite sex in order to build strong relationships with their colleagues or neighbors.
  • Maintaining their cultural identity while building relationships with people from different cultures
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of maintaining their cultural identity while building relationships with people from different cultures, such as finding ways to celebrate Filipino holidays or cuisine while participating in local cultural traditions. Filipino workers living in Japan may host a traditional Filipino meal for their Japanese colleagues while participating in local festivals and customs to maintain their cultural identity while building strong and inclusive relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Finding common ground and shared interests with people from different cultural backgrounds
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of finding common ground and shared interests with people from different cultural backgrounds, such as exploring common hobbies or interests or discussing topics of mutual interest. Filipino workers in the United States may bond with their American colleagues over a shared love of basketball or music, despite differences in cultural backgrounds, to build strong and inclusive relationships based on shared experiences and interests.
  • Embracing cultural diversity and appreciating the benefits of interacting with people from different backgrounds
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of embracing cultural diversity and appreciating the benefits of interacting with people from different backgrounds, such as gaining new perspectives or learning about different cultural practices. For example, a Filipino worker in Australia may appreciate the opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture and history and may actively seek out opportunities to engage with members of the local Aboriginal community to broaden their cultural horizons and build strong and inclusive relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Learning about new cultures and ways of life through relationships with people from different cultures
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of learning about new cultures and ways of life through relationships with people from different cultures, such as understanding cultural practices, customs, and values. For example, a Filipino worker in Canada may learn about indigenous culture and traditions through relationships with local indigenous peoples, gaining insights into the history and customs of the land they now call home and building stronger and more inclusive relationships.
  • Recognizing the importance of empathy, understanding, and open-mindedness in forming cross-cultural relationships.

    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of recognizing the importance of empathy, understanding, and open-mindedness in forming cross-cultural relationships, such as recognizing and respecting different cultural values and beliefs. For example, a Filipino worker in Japan may need to recognize the importance of respecting the cultural value of “wa,” or harmony, to build strong and inclusive relationships with their Japanese colleagues or neighbors, and may need to adapt their own communication style to reflect this value.

Stereotypes and discrimination faced as foreigners

Filipinos living abroad can face any of the following concerns regarding stereotypes and discrimination:

  • Coping with negative stereotypes and prejudices about their culture and nationality
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of coping with negative stereotypes and prejudices about their culture and nationality in forming cross-cultural relationships, such as stereotypes about Filipinos being uneducated or poor. For example, a Filipino worker in the United States may need to confront negative stereotypes about Filipinos as “inferior” to other ethnic groups and actively challenge these stereotypes through their actions and behavior to build strong and inclusive relationships with colleagues or neighbors.
  • Overcoming discrimination in various aspects of their lives, such as work, housing, and personal relationships
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of overcoming discrimination in various aspects of their lives, such as work, housing, and personal relationships, often due to race, ethnicity, or nationality. For example, Filipino workers in the Middle East may face discrimination in housing due to their nationality. Some landlords refuse to rent to Filipinos or charge higher rents than other tenants.
  • Dealing with microaggressions and discriminatory comments from others
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of dealing with microaggressions and discriminatory comments from others in cross-cultural relationships, such as comments about their accents or language skills or assumptions about their skills or intelligence based on their nationality or ethnicity. For instance, Filipino workers in Australia may face microaggressions in the workplace, such as being asked to repeat themselves multiple times due to their accent or being passed over for promotion due to assumptions about their skills or education.
  • Fighting against prejudice and discrimination in their host country
    Filipino workers in other countries face challenges such as fighting prejudice and discrimination. For example, Filipino workers in the United States may have to fight against stereotypes and prejudice at work or in their housing due to their ethnicity. They need to be proactive and advocate for themselves, sometimes putting up a solid resistance to discrimination.
  • Addressing discrimination and promoting cultural understanding in their community
    Filipino workers often face the challenge of promoting their culture in a new community, whether through participating in cultural events or advocating for policies that support diversity and inclusion. For example, a Filipino worker in Canada may volunteer to educate their community about Filipino culture through a festival or work on a local diversity and inclusion committee to promote policies that benefit marginalized groups.
  • Balancing their desire to preserve their cultural identity with the need to assimilate and fit in with their host cultureFilipinos who work overseas often face the challenge of balancing their cultural identity with the need to fit in with their new host culture. For example, Filipino workers in Japan may find it challenging to maintain their traditional values while fitting in with their Japanese colleagues’ hierarchical and group-oriented culture.
  • Navigating cultural differences and finding common ground with people from different backgrounds
    Overseas Filipino workers often face challenges in dealing with cultural differences and finding common ground with people from different backgrounds, affecting their ability to build solid and meaningful relationships. For example, they may need to change their communication style or adjust their expectations of social norms and practices to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds.
  • Seeking support from other Filipinos and forming a sense of community in their host country
    Overseas Filipino workers often face isolation and homesickness that force them to seek support from other Filipinos in their host country. This can include forming tight-knit communities, participating in cultural events and activities, and sharing experiences and advice.
  • Advocating for their rights and speaking out against discrimination

    The challenge for overseas Filipino workers is to protect their rights and resist discrimination, which can be especially difficult in countries with different legal systems and cultural values.

    For example, fair wages, safe working conditions, and protection against discrimination may require adherence to foreign laws and cultural norms and may even threaten their employment.

  • Staying true to their values and beliefs, despite facing prejudice and discrimination.
    Overseas Filipino workers often face the challenge of staying true to their values and beliefs, even when these differ from the norms and expectations of their host culture. This requires a strong self-awareness and a willingness to assert one’s identity in adversity. An OFW may face pressure to conform to a different religion or belief system but may maintain their beliefs and practices despite social pressure.

Navigating immigration processes and legal issues

Filipinos living abroad often face the following concerns regarding navigating immigration processes and legal issues:

  • Understanding the requirements and procedures for obtaining visas and work permits
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of meeting the complex legal and bureaucratic requirements of obtaining visas and work permits in their host country. This often requires extensive paperwork, long waiting times, and the need for specialist knowledge and support.
  • Dealing with long wait times and bureaucratic obstacles in the immigration process
    Overseas Filipino workers often face significant challenges in the immigration process, including long wait times, complex procedures, and bureaucratic hurdles that can make it difficult to obtain visas and work permits.
    For example, they must submit extensive documents, pass health checks and attend several interviews to obtain the visas and permits needed to work and live in the host country.
  • Navigating the legal system and finding reliable legal representation
    Overseas Filipino workers may face challenges in navigating the legal system of their host country, including understanding their legal rights and finding dedicated legal representation.
    For example, an OFW who experiences discrimination or workplace harassment may struggle to find a lawyer knowledgeable about their rights and can represent them effectively in court.
  • Protecting their rights and avoiding exploitation by employers or immigration officials
    Protecting their rights and avoiding exploitation by employers or immigration authorities, including unpaid pay, subpar working conditions, and human trafficking, are issues for overseas Filipino workers. These difficulties frequently necessitate having access to legal assistance, advocacy, and workers’ rights training.
  • Balancing the need for legal documentation with the fear of being deported or separated from their families
    Overseas Filipino workers often face the challenge of balancing the need for legal documentation, such as visas and work permits, with the fear of being deported or separated from their families.
    For example, an undocumented Filipino worker may fear seeking medical attention or reporting workplace abuse out of fear of being discovered and deported.
  • Dealing with immigration laws and policies that are constantly changing
    Overseas Filipino workers face the challenge of keeping up with immigration laws and policies that are continually evolving, which can affect their ability to work and live in their host country. For example, changes in visa requirements or the introduction of new immigration regulations can result in uncertainty and stress for overseas Filipino workers, who may need to adjust their plans and take additional steps to comply with the new rules.
  • Coping with the stress and uncertainty of living in a foreign country as an undocumented immigrant
    Filipino workers face challenges in relationships with people from different cultures when coping with the stress and uncertainty of living in a foreign country as an undocumented immigrant, which can lead to fear and anxiety about being discovered and deported.
    For example, undocumented workers may avoid going to the doctor or seeking legal assistance due to their status, putting their health and safety at risk.
  • Finding support and resources for navigating immigration processes and legal issues
    Overseas Filipino workers face challenges in finding support and resources for navigating immigration processes and legal issues due to language barriers, lack of information, and limited access to legal aid services. For example, some undocumented Filipino immigrants may not be aware of their legal options or how to access legal aid services, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by employers or immigration officials.
  • Advocating for more fair and compassionate immigration policies for foreign workers and their families.
    Family separation and the lack of options for citizenship or permanent residency present difficulties for overseas Filipino workers as they fight for more compassionate and fair immigration laws for themselves and their families in their host nations.

Homesickness for food and other familiar items from the Philippines

Filipinos living abroad often talk about the following aspects of homesickness for food and other familiar items from the Philippines:

  • Craving traditional foods and ingredients from their homeland
    Overseas Filipino workers may face the challenge of missing traditional foods and ingredients from their homeland, which may not be easily accessible in their host country due to differences in availability and taste preferences. For example, a Filipino living in the United States may miss certain types of rice, fruits, and vegetables commonly consumed in the Philippines.

    OFWs share meals.
  • Struggling to find authentic Filipino food in their host country
    Overseas Filipino workers may face difficulties in finding authentic Filipino food in their host country, which can make it challenging to satisfy their cravings and maintain their connection to their culture. For example, a Filipino worker in Japan may struggle to find traditional dishes such as adobo or sinigang, as these may not be commonly available in local restaurants.
  • Cooking or finding ways to prepare familiar foods despite limited access to ingredients
    Overseas Filipino workers often face the challenge of cooking or finding ways to prepare familiar foods despite limited access to ingredients in their host country.For example, they may need to substitute certain ingredients with local alternatives or find specialty stores with Filipino ingredients.
  • Sharing their love of Filipino food and culture with others in their host country

    For those with a strong affinity for traditional Filipino food, it may be challenging for overseas Filipino workers to adjust to new and unfamiliar culinary options in their host nation. In the Middle East, for instance, people can have trouble finding halal options, and in Western nations, vegetarian options.
  • Connecting with other Filipinos to share meals and reminisce about their homeland
    Because of the distance and the scant opportunities for socialization, particularly in places where there aren’t many Filipinos, overseas Filipino workers find it difficult to get together with other Filipinos to share meals and talk about their home country. For instance, a Filipino nurse working at a small town hospital in the United States might find it challenging to make friends with the local Filipinos and long for the family functions they used to attend.
  • Missing the taste and comfort of traditional dishes from their childhood and family.
    Recreating familiar foods from their youth and family in their host countries can be tough. Filipino expats may experience homesickness and miss the flavor and coziness of familiar foods from their youth and families.  Filipino foods, like adobo, sinigang, and another well-known fare, are hard to find or prepare in their home country, so they miss the flavor.
  • Longing for the variety and abundance of fresh produce and exotic ingredients from the Philippines.
    Filipino workers may have trouble getting fresh produce in their host countries. It’s hard for them to find tropical fruits like mangoes, jackfruit, and papayas in the Philippines.
  • Celebrating Filipino holidays and special occasions with traditional foods
    Many Filipinos working abroad can’t praise their traditional festivals or special events because many ingredients aren’t available or very expensive in their host countries. It might be hard to make traditional Filipino Christmas fare like lechon (roasted pig), bibingka (rice cake), and puto bumbong (purple rice cake) if you’re living outside of the Philippines because you can’t get the right ingredients.
  • Keeping in touch with their food culture and heritage by trying new recipes and ingredients from their homeland.
    Preserving their heritage and culinary culture is challenging for overseas Filipino workers. A great example would be experimenting with new Filipino dishes and ingredients while living overseas and sharing the results with family and friends.

Filipinos living overseas suffer various difficulties, including linguistic barriers, legal troubles, and homesickness. Since they frequently send remittances and offer financial support to their families in the Philippines, these problems affect their lives and their relatives there.

Also, the Filipino diaspora makes a major economic contribution through remittances and the skills and abilities they bring to their host nations.  The loss of qualified people and the brain drain, however, have a detrimental impact on the economy and society of the Philippines.

The diaspora’s experiences also include a substantial amount of Filipino cuisine and cultural practices, which they work to preserve and spread to others in their host nations.

The Filipino diaspora faces many challenges, but their contributions to their host countries and the Philippines should not be overlooked.

 

 

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