Acknowledge your thoughts then say "hello": A good strategy for working abroad


Official driver and vehicle, a tricycle, of the Mayor of Hagonoy, Philippines

Just back in Canada after a six week assignment in the Philippines, with the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO), working as a Volunteer Advisor to the e-Governance for Municipal Development (eGov4MD) project.  Orchestrated by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), the project exemplifies the potential of collaboration (see my post 27 Ways Filipinos create successful, collaborative e-Governance projects).  I’m grateful to CESO and LMP for giving me the opportunity to participate.

On the long trip back to Victoria from Manila, something else jelled in my mind about how to contribute to project collaboration and success, as a visitor in a foreign land. It’s personal. Its how one reacts each time one faces unfamiliar territory; the unaccustomed; and dare I say loss of control. With each new situation, emotions kick in and thoughts jump to mind. How to respond? Run with the first thought? Run away?

Another option is to acknowledge one’s thoughts, then say hello! This option is about (through self-talk) acknowledging how one is feeling/thinking in the moment, then letting go of those thoughts, and becoming open, saying hello, to what’s before one. This is the collaboration mindset.

(Thanks to mediator colleague Julia Menard in Victoria for bringing this use of the word hello to my attention, in her recent e-newsletter.)

Here’s a few common situations, all work related, I found myself saying hello to (on multiple occasions) in the Philippines:

  • Merienda. Filipino snacks. Often substantial; very substantial. Commonly taken mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • The Mayor’s picture. Everywhere; on buses, on billboards, on t-shirts.
  • Salutations. Sir Ben. For some reason, I’ve yet to hear that salutation since my return to Canada.
  • Rainy season. Flooding and storms directly impacting the work environment.
  • Municipal Priorities. New perspectives on what comes first; when the needs are so great.
  • Impromptu holidays. National public holidays may be called on short notice e.g., 3 day notice, as when a well-known public figure dies.
  • Travel. Travel between work sites can be interesting!
  • Conversations. Work conversations may be in English, native Tagalog or both (Taglish).
  • Internet. Limited availability, especially in rural areas, and at a fraction of the bandwidth that one might be accustomed to. I’ve been spoiled!
  • Cell phones. Filipinos are world leaders in text-messaging (cheaper than voice messaging), at any time.

There’s many more. That’s the joy of working in new environs. It’s an opportunity to discover and learn new ways of working, and relating to others.

Worked abroad? What have you said a big hello to?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting together and sharing some stories on this blog, about Filipinos I met and worked with, over the last month and a half. And, so many stories still out there! Special thanks to Alex Gillis, CESO Public Engagement Manager, for his encouragement and support of my blogging endeavours while in the Philippines, and journalistic tips!

If you enjoyed this post, I would appreciate if you left a comment or subscribed to my blog. Your feedback helps me make this blog more interesting and relevant.  Thanks, Ben.


  1. Yes, this sounds all too common on isolated reserves in Canada.

  2. Good of you to point this out Charlene. In many ways, we can work abroad, right here in Canada! In Philippines, I often got a surprised, confused look when I said that CESO also works with Aboriginal communities in Canada.

  3. Re: saying hello:
    This is a lovely and very useful reflection on how we “meet” each moment of our lives. Thanks for articulating it so delightfully and insightfully!

  4. Thanks Phil. I appreciate the kind words. I like how you emphasize the word “meet”. Makes me think of being introduced to someone – i.e., the moment.


  1. […] to being in a different cultural setting, I soon realized that I had to let go of that lens, and say hello to whatever was present.   When I did, good things […]

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