Tag Archives: Filipino parents

How I told my Filipino Father-in-Law I was Quitting My Job to Travel with his Daughter

The happy "after" pic. With Jammie's dad atop Baiyoke Tower II - the tallest building in Bangkok.... if only we could have skipped the "we're leaving" conversation...
The happy “after” pic. With Jammie’s dad atop Baiyoke Tower II – the tallest building in Bangkok…. if only we could have skipped the “we’re leaving” conversation…

I’m not going to say it went perfectly.

Just over a year ago, Jammie and I sat down with her dad and two brothers to give them the news that we had both handed in our resignations and were leaving on a 12-month service and travel trip around the world. It easily ranks as one of my most-dreaded conversations EVER (As a Swede in a Filipino family, there has been a steep learning curve on what to say and how to say it – see my last post for some of my lessons learned)… Here’s how we did it:

I practiced on my parents first – Since my own parents raised me all over the world, I decided to break the news to them first.  They were pretty good about it although there was definitely a little resistance to the idea of giving up good jobs for travel and freelancing.  The Swedish “hands off” approach to parenting adult kids made the conversation fairly easy.  Having done it once, I geared up for round 2…

Timing, timing, timing – Since Jammie’s parents lived 8 hours away from us (as opposed to on a different continent like my parents), we decided that we were goings to tell them in person.  Luckily, we had a reason to drive down to them (A LARGE family wedding).  We waited until about two hours after the wedding before dropping the bomb.

Group Dynamics – We gathered Jammie’s dad and two brothers around the table in the formal dining room that hardly ever gets used, took a deep breath and went for it.  “We have some big news…”  Everyone tensed up…. “We’ve done a lot of thinking and planning and…”  Yikes, this was harder than our practice sessions in the car on the drive down… “We have handed in our job resignations and we are going to be traveling around the world and doing service projects for a year.”  THERE! We said it!!

Charts and Projections – I pivoted quickly to the prep we’d done for the move.  I knew that a Filipino dad was going to be very no-nonsense about practicalities, i.e. just how did we plan on surviving?  So we talked about finances – how we’d saved up and found other ways to make money.  We talked about why we were doing this – the year was supposed to be an idea and relationship harvest for the future.  We wanted to make international connections for future career moves.

Prepared Answers – I’d done a lot of prepping for how to respond to family concerns and objections.  And sure enough, there were some (although, not a lot, surprisingly):  I had info on what the cost of living would be in the countries we were visiting.  I had planned a lot to make sure that career-wise, this trip would enhance my marketability rather than hurt my resume and I made sure everyone heard this.

Being real – We talked about risk.  The cities we were visiting were generally safer than your average American city.  Jammie’s dad made Jammie promise she wasn’t going to do any crazy exploring of back alleys on her own.

Wrap-up – As the conversation wound down we thanked everyone.  Amazingly, everyone gave us their blessing. We got out without too much lingering.  All things considered, things had gone well and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Final word – We were actually surprised by how easy most of our “we’re leaving” conversations turned out to be.  If you are planning on breaking big news to family, I think my big takeaway would be: be prepared but don’t over-think it.  It is hard to predict how it will go but don’t delay the talk because of imagined disastrous outcomes.  The most important thing thing is that you actually have the conversation.



Top 10 Things NEVER to Say to Filipino Parents

with the Filipino side…. (mostly)

This post ran for the first time on February 21st, 2012 and since I’m gearing up to post on how to talk to family about your travel plans, I thought I’d get us in the mood by this list of Filipino family “not-to-says”.  Enjoy!

Alright,  I’ve been married to a Filipina American for almost a year now so between that and the six years I lived in the Philippines, I thought it might be time for some more posts on Filipino culture and how best to relate to it.  This post is specifically for those contemplating dating a Filipino, shopping around on Filipino dating sites or getting married to a Filipino woman or man.  Here’s a list of things you never say to your prospective Filipino parents-in-law:

1)  “This food smells weird” – The aromas are going to be different from what you are used to – especially when it comes to the fish.  Filipino recipes are tough to navigate for a lot of people at first.  They will grow on you though.  So keep your initial reluctance to yourself.

2)  “I hate karaoke” – Think karaoke is of the devil?  Tough.  You are going to need to sing and you may as well get in the spirit quick.  Filipino culture was not made for the bashful – my Filipino wife has assured me of as much.  So if you want to appeal to the Filipina heart then throw caution to the wind and belt out a few tunes.

3)  “I am on a diet” – Huh?  What’s that?

4)  Point out that they used “she” to reference a “he” – There are no pronouns in Tagalog, the Filipino language.  Prepare for some confusion when family gathers to gossip (I mean talk) about multiple people.  “He” will not be used, “she” will be used for everything.  Smile, nod, work things out from the context.  And if you still don’t get it, ask your Filipino significant other later.

5)  “I don’t like big gatherings” – Well, whether you do or not, rest assured that 50 relatives are still coming and expect to be fed.  Get to steppin’. Real life Filipino gatherings crave energy and being present.

6)  “Why are there beans in my dessert?” – Because you are eating halo-halo, a Filipino delicacy involving shaved ice, tons of sugar, beans and other assorted sweetness.

7)  “What kind of a name is Bong?” – Ask this question respectfully, a former president’s son was named Bong and it’s quite a common Filipino name.

8)  “Can I leave now?” – Um, no.  We just got here (four hours ago).

9)  “Who is Pacquiao?” – You have now asked for a beating.

10)  “Rice again?Are you kidding?  It is like the Filipino oxygen.

There’s more of course so feel free to add to the list in the comments.



Bjorn Karlman