What Happened During My First Cab Ride in Manila After Living in Japan

Reverse culture shock happens to a lot of foreigners when they go back home.

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Change is inevitable. When you move to Japan, you’re bound to encounter a lot of changes. Foreigners living there even find themselves slowly and unconsciously adopting the Japanese culture—to the extent that they’re “turning Japanese.” Because of this, their experience of going back home translates to a whole new process of adapting to change. This phenomenon is called
counter-culture shock or reverse culture shock. It involves having to re-adjust after living for some time away from home. 

In this series, we share the experiences of our writers, who found themselves questioning their national identities. Here are some of their stories after experiencing counter-culture shock going home. 

Riding the taxi

The story begins when I arrived at the airport. I got my bags and proceeded to ride a taxi back home.

During my time living in the Philippines, I’ve heard a number of taxi horror stories. These horror stories ran through my mind the whole time I was sitting inside the cab. I started growing weary of my surroundings and began thinking that I needed to take extra measures to avoid getting scammed. I took note of the license plate, the name of the taxi company, and every other detail I could gather just so I felt a bit safer.

Having been spoiled by the taxi rides I had in Japan, I knew I couldn’t just be a passive passenger. I went the extra mile and decided to treat my driver to some food, just so he would think twice before doing anything out of the ordinary.

I told the driver to go to the nearest fast-food drive-thru. I also wanted to eat some Burger Steak and Chicken Joy anyway. I asked him what he wanted and told him that it was on me.

Enjoying our food while he drove, I was doing my best to make small talk. The busy streets of Manila swiftly passed through my window. Finally, we arrived at my destination.

Somewhat relieved, I got out of the cab and proceeded to walk towards my destination.

All of a sudden, I heard the taxi driver screaming at me.

I was startled and my instincts were telling me to run away because, in my head, I knew that this was the moment I feared the most. My heart started racing.

Thankfully, I was able to make sense of what he was trying to tell me.


Hoy, isara mo ‘yung pinto!” (Hey, shut the door!), the driver yelled.

It was at that moment that I remembered that taxi doors do not automatically shut in the Philippines. I was so embarrassed yet relieved at the same time. I ran back to shut the door and thanked the driver once again for bringing me safely to my destination. 

It looks like I didn’t have to put my guard up that much after all. 

 (15 November 2019)

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