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The Working Pinoy

Why I Still Love the Pinoy Work Culture Even After Life Abroad

By Krisha Maclang on June 6, 2015

Finding employment abroad has always been one of the popular career paths in the Philippines. Whether it’s to provide a better life for the family at home, to travel and experience life elsewhere, or to simply try something new, building a life in another country is something that has crossed every Pinoy millennial’s mind at one point.

There are many reasons to try your luck abroad: more robust compensation, a diverse range of career options, and maybe even better infrastructure and transportation systems (MRT passengers, you know what I’m talking about).

But from my experience, there are also great things about staying and working in the Philippines. Sure, there are many things about the Philippine job economy that pales in comparison to foreign countries. However, what no one tells you about these so-called greener pastures is that there is always, always a trade-off. Some of the things that you may enjoy about working here in our country may not be commonplace in the work culture of the country you move to.

A few years after I graduated from college, I accepted a job working for an industrial company in the United States. I left my job at a digital advertising agency in Manila and moved thousands of miles to experience life abroad.

I enjoyed working there immensely. But, like what a lot of overseas Filipino workers and immigrants will tell you about life abroad, there are a lot of things I missed about the Philippines.

Here are a couple of reasons why I still love the Pinoy work culture even after working abroad:

1. A work family

One thing that quickly became apparent to me when I started working in the US is that our work relationships here in the Philippines tend to be more familial, more personal. We form real bonds with the people we work with and we soon end up spending more and more time with them outside of the office. Whether it’s a happy hour celebration of someone’s promotion or spending a long weekend on a beach in Batangas, we turn to our co-workers not just for support for work projects but for bonafide friendships as well.

More often than not, work friendships in the United States tend to have a bit more distance. You are in a professional setting after all. While you can find people to have lunch and chat with, adding each other on Facebook and talking about the nitty gritty of your personal lives will take a while.

Our close ties with our co-workers in the Philippines help a lot because when your project is on the line, you need people on your side who will hustle hard for you. When you feel down in the dumps over a misstep at work, it’s good to have someone who will make you smile. Spending eight hours or more at work in a day can be a pain on some days. You might as well spend those hours with people who matter to you.

2. More vacation days

I remember the look of dismay on my American boss’s face when I informed him that I had more paid vacation leaves as a fresh graduate here (15 days) than he did as a supervisor in the U.S. (10 days).

Although Philippine law does not require companies to provide paid sick leaves or vacation leaves, most companies still give employees paid time off. Surprisingly, the United States doesn’t have any provisions protecting paid leaves either. It is the only developed country in the world where paid vacation leaves aren’t required by law.

This may seem like a funny thing to single out but I also really missed all the non-working holidays in the Philippines. In 2014, the Philippines had a total of 20 nationwide non-working holidays to look forward to while the United States only had 10 federal holidays.

I didn’t realize how much those non-working holidays mattered until I didn’t have much of them anymore. People in the U.S. tend to make work the center of their lives. When I looked back to my time working at home, I realized how awesome it was that we got those little breaks from time to time and experience everything else life had to offer.

3. Work-life balance

As I mentioned before, Americans love work. Well, they don’t necessarily love work, but love putting in all the required hours. The end result? Legions of Americans, both young and old, are burning out. Yes, burning out also happens here in the Philippines. In fact, it’s happening pretty much everywhere.

But according to recent studies such as the PhilCare Wellness Index and Regus Work-Life Balance Index, Filipinos report a fairly high rate of satisfaction with their work-life balance. In fact, we score higher than other countries with our self-reported rate of satisfaction.

Personally, I was fortunate that my supervisors both in the United States and the Philippines always made sure that I was satisfied with my job and with my life outside of work. But from what I observed, it seemed like my friends and co-workers in the United States seemed to be more frequently exhausted and burned out from work. It sometimes seemed like those greener pastures came with a steep price.

Ultimately, the decision to live and work abroad is a personal choice. Sometimes people adjust well to the move while some do not. What matters is your contentment and happiness with your career and your life outside of work. Have you ever worked outside of the Philippines? Share your experience with us in the comments below!