In America our standard greeting is “How are you?” or “What’s up?” Although some people may occasionally take the time to craft a genuine response, more typically the answer is unimportant, “Good. Howboutchu?” or “Nothing.”
In the Philippines if you see someone in passing you can expect them to ask where you are going first and foremost, “Saan ka papunta?” (Saan=where; ka=you; papunta=going) or even “Saan ka?” (Where you?) for short.
At first I would blunder through a response, my mind searching desperately for the proper Tagalog words to explain my destination and objective. However just as we may barely listen as a friend mutters “I’m fine” and then moves on to say something more important, Filipinos often respond “Dyan lang” or “Just there.” However the easiest and most classic response uses no words at all…
I have now come to expect this common response. However when I am looking for a place to buy a new cell phone charger in town and directions are given by puckered lips, navigating becomes a game much like Hot and Cold until I finally reach my destination.
This blog entry was inspired by Andrew, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua, who is collecting common sayings from several different countries for his own blog http://www.maywesuggest.org.