Whether you’re an OFW yourself who has gotten used to living abroad or a loved one back home, there are ways you can help new OFWs adjust to living and working abroad. Here are some tips.
If you’re also an OFW…
It’s a universal rule, but perhaps even more important when interacting with someone who has just arrived and is trying to adjust to living and working abroad. You’ve been there: overwhelmed by unfamiliar surroundings, anxious about fitting in, and unacquainted with local customs. Let them know you’re here for any questions they may have about their new city. Go out of their way to ask them how they are and how you can help.
Be their guide.
From where to score the best deals on Filipino food to the fastest route to work, show them the ins and outs of their new home. You remember how hard it was to figure out the subway system, right? And how happy you were when you finally found your favorite chichirya in that Asian store? Spread the happiness by helping the newbies out.
Introduce them to new things and people.
Take them out for lunch at a restaurant that serves local cuisine, so they can share a new experience with someone. Find out their interests and hobbies so you can direct them to clubs or groups. Help them gather their own little tribe by introducing them to locals or other OFWs whom you think they would click with.
Have their backs.
With everything and everyone around them so shiny and new, they might have a hard time spotting possible scams or dubious persons. This is where your hard-earned experience comes in. If they’re having issues with their employer or experiencing discrimination at work, urge them to go to the proper authorities. Reporting these incidents helps protect present and future OFWs.
If you’re a loved one back home…
Set up their digital tools before they leave.
These days, there are so many ways to keep in touch, so take advantage. Help them open an email account. If they don’t have them already, install messaging apps and video call apps on their smartphones, and show them how to use them.
Communicate with them regularly.
Set a daily schedule for calls. Whether it’s right before they leave for work or right before they go to bed, they’ll have something to look forward to. Tell them what’s going on back home. What happened at work? What did the kids do at school today? Where did you go for the weekend? Give them updates on life back home, from the trivial to the meaningful. It will help close the distance between you. Ask them what they’ve been up to, and how they feel. Make it clear that whether it’s been a good or bad day, you want to hear about it. Help them let off steam, unwind after a long day, or share their achievements.
Keep them involved.
Even if they’re far away, ask their advice about any issues or needs at home. Remember, they’re quite isolated right now: Help them battle the loneliness by keeping them involved—and busy! Asking them to help you choose a new appliance or an extracurricular activity for your youngest will give them something to focus on.
Send them care packages.
Fill a box with what—and who—they love. Print photos of friends and family that they can display in their homes and workstations. Send pre-mixed sauces or soup bases for a taste of home: garlicky-salty adobo, salty-sweet kare-kare, and the just-right sourness of sinigang. Carefully pack a few bottles of banana ketchup, throw in several boxes of the local chocolates of their childhood and bags of their favorite chips. Give them tuyo and bagoong, taba ng talangka and corned beef. That care package will be like a big, warm hug from across the seas.
Last 2018, 2.3 million Filipinos left their homes to work abroad. Whatever their reason— to find a more financially rewarding job or a longing for adventure—being an OFW means adjusting to life in a different country. Let’s do all that we can to make that transition a smoother one for them.