10 Sociocultural Differences Between Norway and the Philippines
Soon, I would mark my sixth year of living in Norway. It is difficult to sum up the past six years in few words. A lot of things I have experienced, and many people I have encountered. At least, I could say I have learned a lot during this period. However, what makes it more challenging for me as an immigrant in Norway is the contrast in cultures and social norms between my home country, the Philippines and Norway. Both countries were ranked high in different survey of happiness, depending on how happiness is defined on these surveys. And this concept of happiness is reflected in the norms in both countries. In this blogpost, I would enumerate ten of these cultural differences.
1.Love for nature
I could say that both Philippines and Norway have been blessed with beautiful landscapes. Philippines is known for its beaches, while Norway has fjords giving way to beautiful unique sceneries not found in other countries. However, there is a big difference between how nature is used. The Philippines has also forests, but it is not a popular place to go to. Private individuals and companies can hinder access to the beach, but in Norway, there exists universal right to pass by someone’s property whether it is located in the forest or along the coastline. One could say, no one owns the beach. I see that this is a motivating factor for people to go for a walk in nature in Norway. Residents in Norway accustomed to use their free time, perhaps on the weekends for this. It is a popular social activity for both family and friends.
2.Focus on climate change
Norway is located near the Arctic region, while the Philippines lies near the equator. Both regions feel the effects of a warming planet. Norway has never experience very warm summers and relatively less snow in the winter. New plant species have come also in Norway due to warming temperate climate. The Philippines, on the other hand, has experience very powerful typhoons the world has never seen. Some animal and plant species are threatened to be extinct in the coming years. However, policies on climate are taken more seriously in Norway. There are improvements on the level of environmental awareness in the recent years in the Philippines, but there is a long way to go before it would be comparable to that of Norway.
Norway has a state church. When a Norwegian is born, they are automatically members of the church, until they opt out or stay as such. However, participation in religious activities is significantly low in the Scandinavian country. More and more people identify themselves as atheist or non-religious. It would seem not a problem though, as Norwegian culture is heavily based on mutual understanding and kindness. So one could say, people in Norway are not religious but are generally kind. On the other hand, the power of the Church in the Philippines is overwhelming. It has affected all aspects of the lives of people, their beliefs and even decision-making. The Philippines is becoming less conservative in the recent years, but it would take decades perhaps before it achieves the same level of liberalism in Norway.
4.Family as more personal
Family is more personal and close-knit in the Philippines. The head of family has the responsibility to take care of the family, and decide on matters involving members. Prestige is something all Filipino families aim to have. Filipino parents send their children for school to lift the socio-economic status of the family. There is a collective effort to achieve such goal. Moreover, family members spend time together very often, primarily during mealtime. It is actually almost the same with food and family in Norway, but to a lesser extent. Eating is more frequent in the Philippines.
Moreover, family seems more emphasized in the Filipino society, rather than the individual. The individual could be compromised for the benefit of the whole family. This is the primary reason why a lot of Filipinos migrate to other countries to support their family. Head of the family needs to be consulted every time there is an important decision even at a personal level. It is also expected for children to give back, and support the whole family after they have finished school and gained work. This is based on the belief that it is the children’s parents who sacrificed most just to send their children to school. This is rare phenomenon in Norway.
In Norway, the government seems to have more control on family matters. Parents are obliged by law to spend time for their children especially right after delivery of a baby. The government somehow has encroached how things are to be done at home. When is it possible to leave a child alone at home, when is parental control is too much or not enough - these are decided by the government. The government takes an active role in filling the need for care, especially when the rights of a child is compromised, or when there is a need for more care and services for family members, for example, the elderly. In the Philippines, if the parents can not fulfill their duties, other family members in the extended family are somehow obliged to take over this role. At least someone would assume the responsibility for the family, and the government is not expected to help directly in anyway.
Philippine education is not fully recognized in Norway. It is very interesting to know this. The main reason the Norwegian government give is that Philippine education lacks the number of years of basic education. 12 or more in Norway, and just 10 in the Philippines. This is contentious for the Norwegian government to push for this statement. Norway also expounds that cheating is rampant in the Philippines, such that one could just buy professional degrees, without going to school. This is a generalization based on rumors or truth just for very few.
Yes. That is possible in the Philippines. However, most professional degrees require a licensure examination. Results are published online so it is transparent. Those who get the highest marks also are known nationwide with their corresponding grades. We are talking about competing among thousands of new graduates each year. That is a tough thing. This stems from the competition-driven education system. Students from 5 years old are ranked regularly in school, sometimes every 3 months based on their academic performance, and even curricular activities. Should one not excel, he or she is considered inferior. That stigma lasts for a lifetime.
Furthermore, when a subject has a time allotment of 1 hour weekly, it does not mean students spend only one hour for it. That means the teacher would be expected to conduct lecture discussions in one hour, and the students would do the rest. We are talking of multiple teachers doing so. There is no document showing how much effort a student has for a single subject, so concluding Philippine education lacks quality is baseless and immature. Also, teachers do not accept just a mediocre work. They lash out students for not giving their best. It is not enough to be recognized as good. The aim is to be the best. Hence, some teachers would expect one to memorize textbooks word-for-word and text students word-for-word just after an overnight preparation for it. This is something I myself have experienced.
Upholding equal rights to all, regardless of gender, religion and color is difficult. In Norway, there are still problem with this, especially with religion and race. Laws are very clear and direct on discriminating anyone but in reality it does exist. However, this is happening in a subtle way. In the Philippines, generally everyone is given equal opportunity and freedom in the superficial level. However, a right of people belonging to the so-called third gender is not enshrined in the constitution. They are tolerated but not fully protected. They are stigma around it, and the conservatives would even associate them to something evil and illegal. Nonetheless, there is no death penalty given to them, which is something comforting.
With regards to race, Filipinos are somewhat influenced by colonialism. Those with fairer skin color are respected than the others. One could be a victim of mobbing just because one has brown skin color, or curly hair. However, this trend is changing significantly. With regards to religion, this is something getting better. Personally, Filipinos tolerate Muslims better than Norwegian. The fact is according to statistics, the percentage of population adhering to Islam belief in Norway and the Philippines are similar. The difference lies just on the degree of tolerance. Unfortunately. Muslim are met more with skepticism in Norway than in the Philippines. Perhaps, the non-immigrant ethnic Norwegians are homogenous than multicultural Filipinos, a mixed of west and east.
7.Relationship as a partnership.
Filipino society is patriarchal. The head of family is respected and dominates the whole family. This mentality is carried even to personal relationship. There will always be someone who would dominate in the relationship, more often men. This gives a form of ownership rather than partnership in relationship. Therefore, partnered Filipinos are very conservative, often jealous, and somehow romantic, believing there is only one person they could end up living with, that is, the person they would marry. Hence, marriage is considered sacred and supposedly long-lasting even though the relationship is failing.
In Norwegian society, relationship is seen in a liberal lens. Marriage is a contract which could end if the conditions are no longer met. There is no stigma around marrying more than one person in a lifetime. The most important is that relationship is functioning in practical way. Should something is no longer function, individuals involved would talk and sort out how could they find a solution to the problem, or just end the marriage. No one is expected to dominate entirely in the relationship. Women could decide on their own, even how to use their free time. Men do not carry the financial burden alone for the family. It is usually a partnership between two consenting individuals.
8.Criticisms as more personal.
This is very evident among Filipinos. If someone would criticize another, this is considered a threat to one’s personal integrity. This is a source of irritation for the majority. This becomes worse, when someone has a unpopular idea or belief. One’s thoughts and beliefs are closely-linked to their personality. Should one has a weird thought, so he or she has an aberrant or deviant personality. In Norway, criticisms are part of personal growth. One could fully express one’s objection to another without fear. However, the other person would not be expected to change just because he or she was criticized. An individual decides what he or she wants, regardless what the other says to him, even though it is deemed beneficial to that person.
9.Concept of body
The concept of body is very different in two cultures. In Norway, you are either fit or healthy. It means one should do everything to look good or feel good. One is not expected to look good, but as long as the person is satisfied with his or her body, so there is no problem. However, indirectly Norwegian social norms push for fit body. This is why going to the gym is very popular, if not going long walks and runs are highly recommended. Furthermore, this affects what people in Norway eat. They usually have control in eating sweets. It is seen as a seldom comfort food that should not ingested regularly.
In the Philippines, the body is considered a vessel of food. Food is associated with wealth. Those who can afford food are expected to eat good food, so it is natural that they gain weight. This normalizes overweight. There are even some Filipinos, who would believe that gaining weight is linked with less stress. People have nothing to do and think of, so it would be natural for them to eat. However, this trend is changing as well. However, I would be correct to assume that going to the gym or maintaining a fit body is one of the least priority among Filipinos.
10.Concept of survival and life
Survival is the utmost goal for Filipinos. Hunger is always a present individual threat. The fear of getting poor, hungry and thirst is always there. People would always aspire to be rich and famous, just to secure a future with less fear. The competition for access for resources is high, so one has to be creative, unique and courageous enough to withstand obstacles in life. I would say in the Philippines, it is the survival of fittest, those who are weak get some empathy but not so much help and respect.
In Norway, a good life is a life full of satisfaction. Norwegian lifestyle is somewhat hedonistic. It is grounded on getting the best pleasures in life. They have vacation very often and meet their friends whenever it is possible. Surviving is more of the psychological one, rather than physiological. Food and basic needs are available to almost everyone. Almost all have access to opportunities. However, even residents of Norway are blessed by being served food in silver spoon, some of them would still complain for not getting the best of what they think they deserve. Understandably, Norway is richer than the Philippines. However, that necessarily mean a difference on how people from the two cultures view life in general.
Obviously there are cultural differences between the Norwegian society and that of the Filipinos. Interestingly, these schism is more evident as I lived longer in Norway. Perhaps, I got to see how these differences really are in the reality. I get to talk to more people and experience more. These differences somehow has made confused about which culture fits for me. I have lived in the Philippines most of my life, but I see that Norway now has become my home. However, culture is relative they say. The only thing I can do is select the best of two cultures and apply it in my life. That is perhaps the best solution.
Situated in the largest port of the Scandinavian peninsula lies the second largest Swedish city of Gothenburg. This city has deepen my understanding on the Nordic history, culture and tradition through a short vacation. Given that Gothenburg is maritime-oriented fortress city along the Gothia river, many ancient empires had interest on strategically-located area, as well as group of people aiming to reap benefits after gaining authority in the city. In fact, Gothenburg was heavily influenced by the Dutch, Germans and the Scots, who were tasked to develop the city given the swampy terrain of the area. Moreover, Gothenburg, located along the western Swedish coast, so in history has been a harbour for trade and emigration for Swedes bound for United States. All of these have made me interested on this city, so in this blogpost, I will enumerate and describe the various places I have seen within my two-day visit on the Swedish urban center. Click here for the second day.1. Nordstan and Cen…
Berlin is associated with the Cold War. The ideological schism between democracy and socialism has caused this city to be literally divided into West and East Berlin. Interestingly, the landscape of the German capital being crisscrossed by the canals of the river Spree aided in this physical separation. Furthermore, the city's history reminds of the disunity among Roman Catholics and Protestants during the Protestant Reformation during the Renaissance Period, and the alienation or annihilation of the Jews by the Nazis during the First and Second World War. These facts are sufficient reasons to embark into a historical adventure the German nations capital, Berlin.
Many people, who are not living in Scandinavian countries probably have not been to Gothenburg, or even heard of the city. However, the city has a rich heritage dating back the Viking age to the present times. Gothenburg has evolved itself from fortified city to an industrial area and tourist destination as it is today. One of the landmarks of Gothenburg is The Lipstick, a building near the port has been one of my last stop in my two-day short stay in the historic city. The Lipstick or Skanskaskrapan located near the Gothenburg Central Station is a symbol of the city's progress. In this blogpost, I will run through the twelve sites I have visited on the second day of my visit and explain their respective historic contribution in Nordic tradition and perhaps world history.
Click here for the first day. 1.Domkyrkan Göteborg Considered as an oasis in the middle of a commercial district, the Gothenburg Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The current structure is already…
Located along the
Amstel River, the largest Dutch city, Amsterdam is one of the most important European
port and cultural hub since ancient times when the city became diamond and
financial center. Aside from its magnificent canals, Amsterdam is proud of its
unique blend of conservatism and freedom, which attracts almost five million
tourists every year. Being the center of commerce during the Dutch Golden Age
and their colonial past, Amsterdam certainly has a rich history to present for
visitors around the world could relate and associate from where they come from.
The beautiful Dutch city is a dream city for me to visit so when I got the opportunity to fulfill this, I did not hesitate, especially during the Yuletide season. I get to celebrate Christmas while learning how the Dutch city emerged as a global city from its rich historic past to where it is now.
The German nation has always caught my interest on culture and world heritage. Aside from the German language, Germany as one of the largest European economies has taken the limelight and as served as a role model for developing countries. The role of the nation in shaping world history especially during the World War 2 and ideological Cold War between democracy and communism. With all of these reasons, I have traveled to the German capital, Berlin for leisure, history and culture.
This large city square is located in the Westend of
the city of Berlin. This was laid out in the beginning of 19th
century. It was formerly named as the Chancellor Place before the Nazi seized
power in the German nation. From that time on, it was called the Adolf Hitler
Place until the loss in the World War 2, when it was renamed Chancellor Place,
then to Theodor Heuss Platz, the first …
one-third of the entire GDP of the Swedish nation, Stockholm has became an
important headquarters of major companies in the Scandinavian peninsula. This
is the reason why immigrants have streamed in the Swedish metropolis in seek of
better opportunities. Due to this
multicultural characteristic, Stockholm is unique in its own from other Nordic
countries. This has led me to embark into a visit on the Swedish capital for
two days. Click for the first day of the Stockholm visit. 1. Adolf Fredriks Kyrka
This church is named after Adolf Frederick, who was
controversial for failing to reacquire the Baltic provinces in favor of Sweden.
The cemetery surrounding the church is where Rene Descartes, the mathematician
who introduced the Cartesian coordinate system was buried. 2. St. Johannes kykogård
This church is one of the two experiment parishes of
the Swedish diocese of Stockholm. Interestingly, the aim of the church is
lessen the number of people who feel lonely. This somehow …
After exploring the third largest city in Sweden, we went directly to Copenhagen, Denmark; which is just about 30 minutes by train. We arrived in the Danish capital at night, so decided to rent out the cheapest decent place we can find, just for us to relax and sleep. Initially, I planned the tour to be so relaxed given that we have plenty of time in the area. However, due to a very bad morning weather, we ended up seeking shelter in the beautiful churches in the area, while attending masses and being amazed by the architecture of the structures we visited. In spite of these travelling challenges, we got to explore Copenhagen as much as possible within a single day. I forgot to mention that we did explore Copenhagen WITHOUT using the train and bus. I did not intend to do this, just to save money; but the circumstances lead me to choose that way. As we seek shelter from the cold, windy weather, I realized most of the attractions were closely-located. There were times, I wanted to take th…
Not so long ago, my cousins from the United Kingdom expressed their intention to visit us in Norway. It has been almost over a decade we have seen each other, and they think it would also be an opportunity for them to bond with each other and meet us as well. These cousins are from my paternal side, who used to live in the Philippines and migrated in Great Britain almost a decade ago, with my aunt. So, since Norway and UK seem not to far from each other, it would be natural to spend time with them either of the two countries. I planned to visit them later this year, so it their turn to appreciate the beauty and the uniqueness of Norway, as part of Scandinavia.
Being task as the primary responsible for deciding where to go, I opted to have a short tour in Gothenburg, Sweden, a place I had been few months ago. Click here for my Gothenburg adventures. It was raining that time, so I was really eager to come back again. Furthermore, my sister also has not visited the Swedish city before, as…
Being a born Catholic myself, the Holy Roman Empire has always caught my interest. So, it is natural for me to be fascinated by Rome and perhaps other cities that had been the capital of Roman Catholicism, including Prague. Furthermore, Central and Eastern Europe has become so interesting for me, especially how these countries where shaped by the Cold War and the two World Wars affecting Europe. These two reasons are the primary reason why I opted to visit the Czech Republic. Czech Republic is composed of the historic territories of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia. The Bohemian capital is Prague. This has become the capital of the Czech republic after the Great Moravian Empire lost power to the dynasties running Bohemia. Both Bohemia and Moravia have been in one or another subject to influence of the Germans and the Austrians, after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. As a result, the unique cultural blend has made Prague one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe. And so …
Being the cultural,
economic and political center of Sweden, Stockholm has become the most populous
metropolis in the Nordic Region. It has been inhabited since the Stone Age,
when people lived on the several islands comprising the Stockholm archipelago,
situated south of Lake Malaren.
has been one of the cities I would like to visit due to its proximity and
resemblance with the Norwegian capital Oslo. I was particularly interested in
making an indirect comparison on the two cities’ similarities and differences.
The only way to do this, I thought was to explore the city by foot.
Unfortunately, during my two-day visit, it was too cold at negative 8 degrees
Celsius, such that I needed to cut my first day short.