Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have ever worked abroad and been with other people of different nationalities, cultures, and beliefs. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience such a rewarding adventure.  I first stepped into a foreign land in December 2011 when I arrived in Bahrain. I convinced myself that I would be able to help not only myself financially but my family as well. That’s what motivates most of the Filipinos who work abroad. To be financially stable, help the family, to buy what they want, and to pay off debts. But for me, the real reason I traveled to Bahrain was to gain more experiences and to understand what it feels like to be an OFW.  My stay in Bahrain lasted for almost two and half years. I enjoyed my stay but, the food industry does not pay very well which made it difficult to send enough money home to my family. Since I have not yet finished college, applying for a wide variety of jobs abroad was difficult. I found that the hospitality industry is the easiest way for foreign workers to get hired in other countries. I believed Filipinos are the best employees when it comes to working abroad. I’ve had the opportunity to work with people of several different nationalities such as Indians, Bahraini, Bangladesh, Nepali and many more. Eventually, I made the decision to move back to the Philippines to be with my family.

In April 2015 I decided to move abroad again and was able to get a job in another Middle Eastern country, Qatar. Yes it’s was another journey but still the same industry. I was again placed with another diverse group of people. At first, I found the experience difficult but then I remembered that this was for my family so I muster up the courage to continue. My time in Qatar lasted for only a year only because I made the difficult decision to resign. I realized that I was in the same situation as I was in Bahrain. I realized that I needed to take my life in a new direction. I do not regret my time in Qatar, in fact, I am proud that I took the risk. I learned a lot, meet new friends and gain more experiences. 

What are the things I learned from working in the Middle East?

First, I was able to learn some basic Arabic words such as Marhaba, Shukran, Saalam and many more although I still speak with a Filipino accent.

Second, I gained a better understanding of the traditions of the Middle East. There are many differences between the Middle East and the Philippines when it comes to tradition and culture. Muslims and Christians can be very different but they can also be very similar, especially in the way both cultures socialized. I found that as long as I was respectful of both cultures, friendships could be formed no matter what background you come from. For example, you should not speak to an Arabic lady the same way you would speak to an Arabic man. The differences were evident and yet I found that I was able to adapt to the culture. It was difficult but I was proud that I was able to accomplished it. Working overseas is not as easy as those that have not experienced it may think. Being far from family, working with people from other cultures, and being by yourself can make living and working abroad a very difficult and trying experience.

Finally, living and working abroad has made me thankful for what I have right now. I observed that many of the Filipinos changed after working abroad for an extended amount of time. Not just the way they think, but the way they live, their lifestyles, their attitudes, and the way they treated other Filipinos. The most important thing is just to be yourself. Be as friendly as possible especially with other nationalities because they are better to be with than anyone else. Lastly, I want to remember the wonderful places I got to visit and the people I became close to. Truly these things will stay with me forever. I am not only proud to be Filipino but I am proud to be a member of all those Filipinos that have worked overseas, I salute you!  

I will be forever grateful for all the experiences and memories from working in the Middle East. And I will be forever an Overseas Filipino Worker by heart. 

Any OFWs out there? What are your experiences? Comment down below!

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