Friday, 5 July 2013

Weird questions I get asked

"How much are you paying where you stay?"

After “Where are you from?” and “How old are you?”, "How much are you paying where you stay?" is seriously one of the most common things I am asked whenever I make a new acquaintance in the Philippines. Like, after five minutes of small talk a complete stranger will start drilling me on my monthly expenses, as if that's as routine as asking, "So what do you do?" 

This threw me the first couple of times it happened, because I think abruptly asking strangers/guests how much their rent is (as well as other money matters) is nosy, rude, or just plain weird. "Hello John. Nice to meet you. Where are you from? I see. Are you enjoying your time here? That's great. What are you studying? How interesting. And how much rent do you pay per calendar month where you're living?" See? That's a sudden jump from Generic Introductions to I Am Snooping About Your Financial Matters, don't you think? 

I suspect I'm used to such nosy questions being prefaced with faux-apologetic statements ("If you don't mind me asking...") indicating the speaker knows said question is nosy/rude/just plain weird but they're going to ask anyway. That's the way we go about prying in Oz. But in the Philippines bluntly asking how much rent you pay is just the logical next step after, “Where do you stay?” so if you plan on living here, be prepared to discuss your rental arrangements with every second Filipino you meet. 

I find if you give a figure that is half the amount you actually pay, you minimise the shocked faces and gasps of, “So expensive! Does that include laundry?" But honestly, you could say, “5 pesos per month!” and still have someone’s aunt clutching her chest and bemoaning how you're being ripped off.

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