I’ve been planning to write this post since early last year, but I’ve been putting it off every time, since it’s an unresolved problem and I’d rather write about something that’s done, than something that’s ongoing. But since something happened today, I think there’s no better time to do this than now. We’ve had the same neighbors since we moved into our present house way back in 1985. They’ve always been a noisy family, but I guess it never really bothered me until about 10 years ago, when the noise really escalated to an unbearable level (either they got noisier, or I just got older and more sensitive to noise). But nevertheless, they would hold regular mahjong sessions way past the wee hours of the morning, and well into the sunrise part of it. So all night, you’d hear the clanking of the mahjong tiles, the bursts of laughter, and the endless chatter. But nothing beats the decibel extravaganza of the Christmas season. They would host party after party and would scream their lungs sore while they demolish every song from Bon Jovi to Whitney Houston while they karaoke their way even into my nightmares. They did this way after a circular was given to each household stating that any party or gathering that will exceed 9 pm, has to have the consent of each adjacent neighbor. We suffered through that in-your-face insensitivity for more than 20 years.
Then…we heard news that seemed like deliverance from the ninth circle of hell. We heard that the family was selling the house and leaving!!! It seemed too good to be true. I always felt like just at the last minute, they’ll change their mind and stay forever, for their descendants to torment mine. But true enough, they started packing, and within a month or so…they were gone. For once in over 20 years, we enjoyed peace. We fantasized that the new owners would be monks who took vows of silence or maybe a sign language school, or maybe a family of mimes.
Then…the new owners moved in. We moved from the ninth circle of hell, straight into Satan’s ass. It was a Korean family, or as we heard, a Korean couple with tons of kids of different ages, mostly nephews and nieces who are all here to study. I have nothing against Koreans in general, but as far as noise is concerned, if noise was a sport, they would be Olympic-level. I’m sure there are quiet Koreans, but these are a different breed. They are simply LOUD. Even when they’re whispering sweet nothings, it sounds like they’re about to rip each other’s hearts out. I am not one to judge, since many Filipinos are also loud, especially Pinoys from certain regions, but trust me, not like these.
Then there is the dog. They bought a new dog after their old one got run over by a car while crossing to the other side of the street (probably to find some peace and quiet). The new dog has ended up neurotic and barks at every sound it hears. The children scream at it ALL DAY (I think they’re actually trying to train the poor pooch) so the dog yaps all day in return.
Then there are the voice lessons. One particular girl takes opera singing lessons which sound like an army of shrieking banshees scraping their nails on a blackboard accompanied by a million broken violins. And I’m being kind. What’s funny is, the dog starts howling every time the girl starts singing. I think it’s howling in pain. Dog have very sensitive ears, you know.
Then there are the maids. The moment the Koreans leave, they go into a frenzied orgy of noise! They start yelling, and singing, and laughing, and shrieking as they chase each other and tickle each other and stomp their feet and play their radios full blast and hell knows whatever else was making all that ruckus. I don’t know why they need to shout, instead of talk, once the owners are away.
Then there is the tutoring. The kids are tutored in English by Filipinos until the late hours of the evening. They do their oral exercises and we have to listen as they go through their never ending lessons night after night.
Then there is the parking. One teenage Korean parks his car in the curb in front of our house that can fit 2 cars. But he parks it ALL the time, at the very center, leaving no room for any other car to park. Nobody owns that curb, and anyone can park there. But it would be nice to be sensitive enough to see that 2 cars can fit there, and to park accordingly. We’ve told their driver many times, but to no avail.
What makes it SOOO annoying, is that given how their household is about as peaceful as a derailing locomotive, they are so sensitive to the quirks of their neighbors. One time, when we decided to grill food for lunch, they shouted from their side, complaining about the smoke. Then minutes later, they start their own grill, to match ours! Is that how they want to play it then, an eye for an eye? A grilled pork chop for a grilled pork chop? Usually, I’d be so apologetic if what I did was inconveniencing someone else. But we’ve reached breaking point and we’ve gone beyond cooler heads and calm reasoning.
We’ve been contemplating reporting them to the homeowner’s association for some serious action. But we’ve never been an aggressive clan. Actually I think we’re just pushovers. But fortunately for us, not everyone will take all this quietly (no pun intended).
I heard from our yaya, that earlier in the day, one of their other neighbors went ballistic and completely lost it! He charged to the Koreans’ house in a fit of rage and screamed obscenities and expletives in all languages possible! The kids were shaking with fear since the guy was going postal in front of their house! Then, the other neighbor came out, a super nice elder lady, who then chimed in, but in a much gentler fashion, and explained to them that being in another country, they should be more respectful to those who are citizens of that country.
I was punching my fists in the air with such triumph and glee! Finally someone had the balls to chew them out (I have anatomical balls but not the figurative ones).
So no wonder their house was uncharacteristically still. But no surprise, as the night plodded on, the noise was starting up again, not as manic, but omnipresent nevertheless.
So to Koreans in the Philippines (as well as to any foreigner), I give 3 tips:
One, get to know the country you moved to. Find out what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. You don’t live here, so you adjust, not us. Whenever I’m in another country, I adjust; I do as they do, not as we do here in the Philippines. I don’t insist in doing things that locals might find upsetting, no matter how often I do them back home, just out of courtesy for natives of that land. It’s like when you visit another person’s house: if the owners don’t allow smoking, you shouldn’t smoke no matter how badly you want to.
Two, should you insist on doing what you do in Korea, here in the Philippines (no matter how annoyed us natives get), then don’t complain when we do what we do here in the Philippines (no matter how annoyed you get). It can’t be that you get to be annoying, but we can’t? In our own country?
Three, it’s all about respect. I fully understand that you are in a strange land, with a culture that is still unknown to you. But once you are already told (multiple times even!) that your behavior is unacceptable, please adjust accordingly. You are the guest in our country, so be respectful of our culture. On our end, as the host, we should also learn to be accepting of our cultural differences. It’s so easy for hosts to bully visitors and that is every bit just as unacceptable. We also cannot force upon you our way of doing things. But as the host, we will only be gracious if the visitors to our country show some willingness to meet halfway. But if the foreigners have this “my way or the highway” attitude, on OUR shores, then the welcome mat is quickly pulled out from under you.
I don’t want this post to become a Korea-bashing feeding frenzy. I’m just frustrated that whenever I travel, I’m extra mindful of my behavior in other countries, but I meet so many foreigners here in the Philippines who couldn’t return the favor. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met many non-Filipinos in the Philippines who are WONDERFUL, but the jerks who pull down the average curve spoil it for a lot of the great ones. The feeling I get with the not-so-pleasant ones is that they don’t think very highly of the Filipinos. And since they feel culturally superior, they act accordingly. Again, I’m not generalizing, I’m just saying it has happened many times.
I guess I just need to take a chill pill, take a deep breath, and sing a couple of refrains of “We Are The World” to calm me down….