Enculturation and Acculturation of Overseas Filipino Workers

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are working from abroad because they want to provide their family with other ‘s needs and to give them a better future. Some people that apply for work from abroad do not think about what would be the changes and effects of a new society for them because they are much likely focused on supporting the financial needs of their family. There are also a lot of people that are scared of trying from other countries because they might lose a lot of time and memories with their families. An OFW ’s adventures are not like a fantasy that we used to dream about. Yes, they probably got the chance to go to different countries but it doesn’t mean that they would have much more fun than we think. They will probably experience the most common pain that an OFW feels. The feeling of missing the person you used to see every day, complete family in a house and the love that they would probably miss because they are too away from home. The feeling of homesick is the strongest pain for an OFW. They provide their family’s needs but they also sacrifice everything for it.

OFWs were known for being the “modern hero” because of its sacrifices, hardships and advance technology that we have today. They help us to boost the Philippines’ economy. The used of remittance to convey the money that they received from their employer to the people who they loved. The number of OFWs that are in jail are increasing because of the accusations and crimes. Middle East people sometimes are good but most of the time they are not. They are various reports about OFWs that are being abused by them. Because of this, the OFWs should understand the values, beliefs and norms before going into an Middle East country because when going on another country or new society that it is not familiar, they should be more observant are cautious of the things that you should do because there is a lot of rules that we people from other countries might the place and people around is not the best people that they don’t have encounter it yet.

According to a study, we aren’t born with culture. Culture is learned throughout our entire lives. Culture encompasses a group of language, beliefs, values, social habits, religions, music, and arts. Every day we got to learn something different and sometimes we made it as a practice or part of our daily lives. There is a process called Cultural Acquisition where you learn a culture. Cultural Acquisition is a fancy and psychological way of defining how to learn culture. An example was shown in the study, where a person has no culture or zero percent knowledge about culture. The most common way to learn culture is through enculturation. The enculturation is the first process that these individuals experienced before they can acquire a certain culture. Sociology calls the process of learning your own culture as Socialization because they got to learn their culture through socializing and interacting with others but other professionals such as the anthropologists prefer other term called culture in it because for them culture is the always answer is culture. A philosopher once said, no matter what culture of a people are part of, change is still constant. Cultures have become a key the connect with the other world, which made up so many ethnically diverse societies. However, the even if it made up many diverse societies, it also made a lot of conflicts that is associated with a lot of aspects such as religions, beliefs, values, and others. Other than that, culture can be no longer fixed or change that’s why it became difficult to define a culture in only one way. Since change is constant, the cultures from the past to present should be preserved. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) is the organization that will help people to identify cultural and natural heritage in order to conserve and protect it.

Acculturation is about the process where an individual learns to assimilate traditional cultures, practices, values, and norms of others or from a different society that they are not used to live in. Numerous Filipino movies that shows the acculturation of the OFWs. One example is the latest movie of Kathryn Bernardo and Alden Richards which is titled Hello, Love, Goodbye. Whereas, Kathryn Bernardo or also known as Joy in the movie is just a typical OFW that works in Hong Kong because her mother decided to get her to support her family in the Philippines while having an aspiration of migrating to Canada to work as a nurse with her family. Because of this, Joy had experienced a lot of adjustments because the needs to adopt the behavior and values that the society she lives in. Joy experienced to work as a babysitter at daytime, employee in a bar at night and sell different accessories just to provide the needs of her family in the Philippines. This movie shows how Joy needs to cope with the new society because the job that she dreamed about was not in demand in that place so she was forced to learn to understand the people that were surrounding her to survive in that country. Another example of a Filipino movie that shows acculturation is Barcelona: The Love Untold. In this movie, Kathryn Bernardo is known as Mia, a young architecture student that is dealing with misery. Mia experienced a lot of difficulties especially in dealing with her work in Barcelona. Mia taught that her education was enough to have good work in Barcelona but it is not. Suddenly, a man named Dos came into her life and made her understand that life isn’t easy as it seems because adjustment is the most needed thing to survive. Without this, Barcelona is not for her. Mia needed to understand the values and culture of other Barcelona because her education was not honored in that place. At this point, Mia needs to adopt the behavior of the society that she lived in.

Acculturation can either be a formal learning such as understanding one countries educational system, behaviors, values and other things, or informal learning, such as receiving feedback from other people that we bumped into and when we watch them buy some groceries for their families to learn how to manage to survive in the society they lived in. It can be also learned through communication with the used of speech, words, and gestures. There are six things of culture that are learned: technological, economic, political, interactive, ideological, and worldview. Acculturation helps the people to form themselves into a better person that will be acceptable to their society. Culture influences people whether they are aware or not. Even as the culture changes, beliefs, values, norms and practices still stay the same.

In this world, change is the only constant. Every single second, there is a lot of occurrence around the world. There are 2.3 million OFWs that left their home to work from abroad 96.2 percent of them are workers with contracts from April to September 2018. The remaining 3.8 percent are the workers who don’t work with a contract. Most of the OFWs are women than men. The region of CALABARZON was reported to have the biggest contributor of OFWs followed by the Central Luzon, National Capital Region (NCR) and Ilocos Region. There are top countries that had too much OFWs, Middle East’s countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates (UAE). There are also a lot of OFWs in the United States of America (USA), Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (Philippine Statistics Authority 2019). Domestic workers, healthcare, construction labor, skilled construction, and engineering. These are just the common jobs of OFWs in the Middle East that they applied for. However, they experienced tons of struggles that affect them physically, emotionally and mentally. An example is the OFW that shared her story in the Philippine Migrant Rights Watch (PMRW) with the support of the Italian Bishop Conference. This story is part of the 12 stories in the book titled “Migrants’ Stories, Migrants’ Voices 3” to show the stories of the realities of migration as faced by Filipinos. The girl does not experience to be loved by his parents but her godmother treats her like she’s the part of the family. One day, her friend encourages her to become an OFW then she decided to go because she thinks that she might find the missing piece of her life. She left Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1995. People told her that she should not go to an Arabic country and warned her to be cautious because of their massive cultural differences that she would probably experience. She didn’t expect much when she landed but she experienced a lot of nightmares. She works continuously and didn’t have the time to get quality time with her fellow countrymen and with itself. The things that she also read in the contract were nothing and her husband’s employer tried three times to attempt raped. This is not just her struggles, she also struggled in understanding the way of communication of the people around her speaks differently that’s why it created a language barrier. Arabian is really hard to understand that’s why most of the time she spends her time inside the house. Besides experiencing a language barrier, she also had experienced acculturation because she needs to wear one of the traditional wear of Muslims which is Burka. Burka is a robe that covers the whole body except for a little bit of their eyes and to follow the Ramadan culture. Later on, she decided to go back to the Philippines. The money that she used to buy a 1.5 hectares didn’t come to be a good business so she decided to go back on being an OFW. A few weeks later, she now works on Abu Dhabi. She had difficulty again adjusting to a new society because the heat was already up to 44 Celsius. When she got into the office to breathe some cold air. Someone asked her to have an Aloe Vera. They said that Aloe Vera will lessen the hot then it got very effective. Because of this, she decided to get an Aloe Vera and resell it. Up until now, she is currently selling Aloe Vera products because of what she learned from the person who told him about the Aloe Vera. Those adaptations that she made, made her to who she was today. Without these failures and adaptation, she would not be what she is today. Other than that, understanding is also one of her best weapons of survival in the new society that she lives before and today (Rosario, 2012).

A study found that Filipino workers that work from abroad ended up adopting the host country’s best practices when they return home. The study that was conducted by Synovate Inc. seeks to recognize the contribution of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) not just in the economy of their own countries but to its culture as well. The study entitled “A Study on Cultural Transmission by OFWs from the Host-to-Home Country” the survey resulted that even if they brought home the culture that they adopted from other countries, the heart of being a Filipino remain their hearts and in mind. There are also some instances that they become more than strong and fiercely in spirit before they left the country. Though, the most obvious changes that are seen in the OFWs were in terms of food, fashion and also in their attitudes and behavior. They became to buy signature clothes, bags and shoes to look more professional. They also became observant of the implemented rules and laws and also became a time–conscious person because of the time importance in society. Furthermore, those changes and adaptations have gone through a process were they experienced ups and downs to practice it within themselves. The survey also showed that OFWs faced some challenges of making a living in a foreign land, they adapt by learning the cultural aspects of a foreign country’s culture to adjust themselves for their life overseas. Other than that, if they found something that would be beneficial for them such as practices and values, they would practice the same thing when they got back home from their homeland.

Acculturation are sometimes compared to enculturation because it sounded like the same but these two are different. Enculturation is learning your own culture wherein the original traditions or culture that they used to do before vanished when they moved out to other countries. Today, when they decided to go back to the place where they use to live, they need to adapt again the things that they used to do before because it’s their own culture that is need to be learned by them in order to adapt and understand how their society moves in from time to time. However, the changes will take a lot of process from a minor change to a total change. Most of the OFWs in abroad experienced acculturation especially in their first step in the new society. For example, an interview was conducted to some of the OFWs that they know to determine what was the adjustments and changes that they experienced in their first time to be away from their families. The two brothers named Joey and Joel have left the Philippines to work from abroad an call center agent and a manager in a company in Malaysia. According to them, they experienced a lot of changes especially in the food that they eat. Malaysia is known as a Muslim country. Muslim does not eat meat that was stated in their religious text Quran. Since there were know meat or pork available, they need to adjust to eat some food that are beef and chicken. These foods also contain curry powder that’s why the taste would be very much different from what they used to eat. Even though, they can cook in there with different dishes, they are much more on meetings and discussions with the people around them so they are most likely to eat in some restaurants. The two brothers also need to adjust their calendars since Muslims does not celebrate New Year and Christmas. The things that they used to celebrate here in the Philippines is not as important in other country. As the years passes by, these traditions of Malaysia are already being a practice for them for the last fifteen years of their life in Malaysia. When they decided to go back today in the place where they started to do what they like, this is when enculturation comes in because they need to understand and adapt the culture that they already have forgotten before because of the other culture that they used to do for a long time. Another example is the man named Joel. He was already living in Canada for almost thirteen years of his life. Joel has already bought his family in Canada way back in 2013. Since the world is changing from to time, Joel and his family had also made a drastic change in their lives. They already adapt the cultures, values, and practices of the Canadians and other foreigner that they used to see every day. Today, they are already planning to go back and build a small business because Joel said that, “Life is much better when you’re at your peace and that is my home country.” The cultures, values, beliefs, and traditions that they adapt from Canada would be replaced in the form of enculturation because coming home from your own land is not that easy. Staying for a long time working from abroad is much harder than having a job here in the Philippines. In this situation his whole family needs to adjust and adapt again their own culture when they got home because staying form a few years on other country is already another part of their lives.

These are just some people that experienced enculturation and acculturation in their life. There are many stories that is still not voice out by other people due to some reasons that is their own privacy. The stories that are already shared will always be an inspiration and knowledge to all individuals especially to those who are planning to apply as an OFW. Because of this, our fellow countrymen will be aware of the possibilities, effects of their decision of working from abroad, how will they adjust from the changes that will occur and how will they overcome the feeling of anxiety, fear, sadness, loss of hope and missing their loved ones.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are one of the most people that experienced how hard life was but still, they manage to survive in this cruel world. If they will not work from abroad and expect to work here in the Philippines, they would probably suffer from hunger and death because money is one of the important things in this world is that can dictate if you are going to survive or starve to death today. All the enculturation and acculturation that an OFWs experienced is nothing compare to the good things and smiles that they receive from their family. Adapting, adjusting, and understanding might be difficult but if survival is the issue about, OFWs would do anything just to give everything especially for their family. As a professional said, family is the bedrock foundation of a strong and stable society. It also plays a crucial role in achieving different outcomes that characterized freedom, equality, and responsibility. Furthermore, the acculturation and enculturation will be a continuous process in the life of an overseas. It is just a matter of how hard or easy does Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) will face the changes and adjustments that is happening every single day. Appreciation and honor should be served to the modern heroes of our country because these two things are the only token that they might receive from their fellow countrymen. Aside from this, the government should also have addressed the problem of the OFWs as much as possible.

Cultures that are being adapt should be preserved and protect. Change is inevitable. Whenever knew when or what will happen in the future. Preserving the cultures that are from the past until today are the cultures that should other generations experience because it is one of the treasures and memories that will be cherish by the individuals. Some people does not know what the real culture means or the importance but later on the people will appreciate it and thank those people that made those culture possible.


  1. Abellana, M. “OFWs Adopt Best Practices of Host Country When They Return Home, Research Shows” Sun Star Philippines, August 22, 2010. https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/211047
  2. Cole, N. L. “Do You Know What Acculturation Is and What Causes It to Happen?”, July 18, 2019 https://www.thoughtco.com/acculturation-definition-3026039
  3. Jean Rosario, “My Life as an OFW” ABS-CBN News, Jan 18, 2012. https://news.abs-cbn.com/global-filipino/01/18/12/my-life-ofw (accessed September 22, 2019)
  4. Philippine Statistics Authority, April 30, 2019. https://psa.gov.ph/statistics/survey/labor-and-employment/survey-overseas-filipinos
  5. Producer, Frank T. (2018). Comparing Enculturation & Acculturation https://study.com/academy/lesson/comparing-enculturation-acculturation.html
  6. Producer, Justine A. (2018). Enculturation: Definitions and Examples https://study.com/academy/lesson/enculturation-definition-examples.html
  7. Producer, Zimmerman, K. (2017). What is Culture? https://www.livescience.com/21478-what-is-culture-definition-of-culture.html
  8. The Middle East continues to be the top destination for OFWs “Top 5 OFW jobs in the Middle East” November 8, 2018. https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1773831
  9. Wikia Org. (n.d.). Enculturation https://psychology.wikia.org/wiki/Enculturation
16 December 2021
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