Courses on “Interculturele communicatie binnen een relatie”,
by: Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza
Coordinator/social cultural worker
Filipinas in bi-cultural relationship pointed out that the most common problems they encounter are language & cultural problems. The differences and ignorance of each other’s culture could put a strain to one’s relationship that could lead to domestic violence. This difference in culture is the main cause of divorce between a Filipina and a Dutch partner. These findings are based from Bayanihan’s experience as a self-help women organisation assisting Filipinas who are in problem-situations for 17 yrs. and also from sharing experiences with other Filipino organisations. The ways the Filipinas and their Dutch partners communicate are different. The Filipino way of dealing with one another is characterized by avoiding conflicts or confrontation & doing things in an indirect way in order to maintain a harmonious relationship. This is in contrast with the Dutch way which is direct and sometimes confronting. This leads to misunderstanding. That’s why it is a necessary to follow a course on intercultural communication within a relation. This is also a preventive way of dealing with relation problems.
With this in mind Stichting Bayanihan gave a series of courses in “Interculturele communicatie binnen een relatie” last May 17, June 14 and June 28 this year. The objectives of the course are: To overcome misunderstanding and minimize barriers in communication within a relation. Bayanihan organized this activity together with Seeds of Hope, a programme of Stichting Word International Ministries. Seeds of Hope is a Christian ministry which is socially active in the Dutch and Filipino community specifically in Utrecht. It has also education and feeding programs for children in the Philippines.
It is Bayanihan’s aim to develop the participation, emancipation and integration of Filipinas in the Netherlands specifically in Utrecht. This course is part of Bayanihan’s project in Utrecht under the topics emancipation & information. We are happy to be sponsored by Dienst Maatschappelijk Ontwikkeling (DMO) Afdeling Welzijn van de gemeente Utrecht. The trainer was Maya Butalid who is a psychologist specializing in Child, Youth & cross-cultural psychology. She has been Bayanihan’s trainer since 1993. She is now the coordinator, Integratie & Inburgering, Vluchteling Werk Midden Brabant and also a councillor (raadslid) of Tilburg. Diana Oosterbeeek-Latoza, the project coordinator worked together with Ching Lansang, social development minister and coordinator of Seeds of Hope in organizing this course. One of the, Bayanihan’s staff volunteer was in charge with logistics.
Six couples and 6 Filipina mothers/partners attended these courses which turned out to be a success. It was the idea that participants will/can reflect on their way of communicating. Then they will develop insights on the influence of one’s culture upon one’s way of communicating. In the course elements of Filipino and Dutch culture, what are common, where do they differ and are these “herkenbaar”in their way of communicating, were discussed. Furthermore they were asked to site some aspects of their culture which can be of influence to their way of communicating. We have to exercise in knowing the difference and by opening our minds to both cultures although as Filipinas living in the Netherlands we have changed. We can also enrich each other with both cultures. So you can ask “what can I get from this culture, so I can improve my own?” and vice versa.
Family relations have different context for the Dutch & Pinoys. The differences in both social systems show that Filipinos have more expectations from their families. Dutch partners don’t think automatically about family relations because it is not in their system. The Dutch government provides voorzieningen for these needs. And there are maatregels for arranging these things. Education, health care and social welfare are very much organised and arranged efficiently in the Netherlands. In the Philippines most Filipinos rely more on their families especially the ones abroad in order to have access to these needs. One much talked about topic is sending money in the Philippines. The family context in the Philippines is to help each other , On the other hand the Dutch context is eigen gezin first , chose for yourself, take care of yourself. Because of these two different contexts there is tension (spanningveld)
when the Filipina wife though there is shortage of money still helps relatives in the Philippines while for the Dutch husband there is a limit (grens) in doing this. This situation creates big disturbances in communication. Tips given to this situation are: 1) take into consideration your own family situation in NL. 2) Be honest with your partner when sending money to the Philippines. Explain the situation there (bespreekbaar maken and overleggen). 3)make decision together with your partner 4) avoid “keeping an image”. Tell your family in the Philippines about your real situation.
Consciousness was gradually developed during the sessions about one’s way of communicating and one’s partner’s way of communicating and how they can be more complimentary with each other in their way of communicating. Insights, aspects about communication and their consequences for one’s relationship were also discussed. The participants did their homework conscientiously. They brought home the following questions and reflected on them: How can we break the cycle of miscommunication? Instead of just reacting, choose and be conscious of how to react differently. Select a behaviour you want to change. The participants came back to the next session prepared and participated actively in the discussion. Example of the changes made by one couple: A ( Filipina) now repeats and asks B ( her Dutch husband) what she does not understand when they talk in Dutch.
Example of the conversation: Wat is onze datum ( she asked) and ( B replied) Wat datum? Trouwdag, Verjaardag? What A meant was. “Wat is de datum vandaag?” She got angry that B did not understand her and gave a quick reply. What is the “ruis”( disturbance in communication) in this example? Answer: The “taal beheersing”. A tip was given: “Rekening houden”- take time to understand/to talk it over with (uitpraten). But she herself became aware of her decision to change her way of asking questions. So she repeated the question and asked for confirmation if it is understood what she meant. Each one has his own opinion; you try to understand even if you don’t agree. B ( the Dutch husband) made a decision to get anger out of his system.”What other persons say, I will not be affected anymore as I have made a decision to change my ways of dealing with an argument. “
To summarize four topics discussed were: culture, intercultural communication, acculturation and working for a better relationship. It was all and all a lively gathering, open and spontaneous. During the last session Shirley and Wilco van Wijk –Rivera shared their experiences with their intercultural relations. They pointed out that it is worth to invest time, effort and money in communication.
Certificates of Attendance were given to participants who loyally attended the three sessions. They are Cecilia and Teodoro Lansang, Josie and Sent de Boer, Elfa and Bert Geerligs & Susan and Rijk van Oostenbrugge.
The participants were very thankful to the organisers for organising this sort of activity and also thankful to the trainer for her expertise. They have learned lot. They concluded that it is important that they have to apply what they have learned. But to do this it is a must that one should make the decision to change oneself first. The structure in the diagram of communication “van reactie tot bewuste reactie” is an instrument which helped the participants made the decision to want to change. Of course a lot of practice is needed to ensure success. And not to be forgotten - couples should learn to enrich each other!