No one does Christmas better than the Philippines. As soon as we hit the ber months the decorations begin to emerge slowly up to Halloween. The day after there is an explosion of lights, decorations and carols everywhere you go.
Makati Avenue becomes a spectacle of Christmas lights and nativity scenes. The infamous Festival of Lights at Ayala Triangle being the centre piece of the city’s drawn out celebration.
Add into the mix the Government mandated saving for Christmas in the form of a 13th month pay. Contrary to popular belief this is not free money, or an Xmas bonus. It is your annual pay divided 13 times instead of 12. So you get paid less throughout the year. With many prone to being one day millionaires on pay day this is an excellent initiative that ensures that everyone has that little bit extra for the Xmas season.
For the foreigner this can all seem a bit over the top, but never seems anything other than magnificent and charming. In Australia the trend over recent decades has been to tone down the decorations and carols.
Happy holidays is the standard greeting in the modern and politically correct Australia. We have to appease certain cultural groups who are offended by Xmas. This creates resentment amongst many Australians towards immigrant groups who are vocal in their opposition to Xmas being in their face everywhere they go.
On this point I would say a big congratulations to the Philippines for continuing to enjoy the Xmas season in a way that suits them. I hope this never changes and I also hope that the leaders in Australia can learn from this.
Christmas Party Philippines Style
When looking at the workplace the major differentiator is the Xmas party. These parties in the Philippines are always the highlight of the year! I have never said this about an Xmas party back in Aus.
The format back home is very simple. Pick a venue, fill it with people, unlimited booze – there is your party. In the early days of our business in the Philippines we didn’t know any better than to just do the same. People were bored with this and most left early.
What we didn’t know was that you are expected to have a program and entertainment. Many will also drink, but many will not. A lot of people are more into their food than drinking, and the entertainment is everyone’s chance to contribute to the party.
I continue to be amazed at the talent that so many Filipinos have. The number of high quality singers, dancers and musicians in almost every office in the country ensures that the parties are unique and awesome fun every time. More importantly, the willingness of everyone to put the effort into preparing a performance and getting up in front of their peers.
I am sure we have many talented people in Aus. The idea of getting up in front of your colleagues to perform is just not the norm. I have never seen it in any place that I have worked before.
Even having the party hosted by members of staff makes a difference to the atmosphere and togetherness of the event. We have been lucky enough to have a couple of very entertaining speakers who know how to toe the line of what is appropriate for a work party (much of which wouldn’t fly in Aus either) and keep things fun and light hearted.
Party time usually comes after the program is complete. Then there is plenty of drinking and dancing. Although this part resembles a high school dance more than anything. I have never been big on the whole dance in a circle thing. I enjoy being on the dancefloor, but I suck way too much to be the centre of attention. Don’t think that you will have a choice though. You will be forced to get amongst it.
The other word of warning is that you will be expected to pose for a thousand photos on the night. It will be relentless! But it is worth it for the memories and you can count yourself lucky to be photographed with so many beautiful ladies in a single night. Where else would a manager get such treatment?
So there is a lot to love about Christmas in the Philippines. Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and try new things if you want to make the most of it. You will return to your home country wishing that you could bring a piece of that mentality back home and spread it around to everyone you know.