Growing up in both the Eastern and the Western world has taught me how to act “appropriate” in different situations to respect a certain practice, culture, or law. These acts that have to be adhered to are also known as taboo. Taboo vary from each country, religious affiliation, and society. I think each person on earth can relate to some kind of taboo. Here is my story of some of the taboo I am familiar with, especially from my up bringing in the Philippines.
One of the experiences I could still remember where I followed a religious custom, were on the days before Easter. Every “good Friday” where I was still living with my family in the Philippines, my Filipina mom would tell me not to take a bath after three pm – her reason was, “that is the same hour where Jesus Christ has died”. In her upbringing in the province, it was forbidden to take a bath on good Friday. It was a taboo and I complied to my mom’s instruction so to respect her beliefs. I didn’t even bother to ask what the consequence(s) were if I did not follow her instructions. But deep inside, If I had asked, I could tell she would just reply, “just do it and respect the tradition” .
My German dad was not that religious, he did not suggest any practices that are of religious traditions but shared societal taboos in Germany. For example, some songs composed during the WWII are prohibited to be played in present Germany. I listened to Schlager music and never did I listen to songs from the war time, anyway, it was just a topic about taboos that came along while my Dad shared his experiences about growing up in east Germany. Comparing it with my mom’s wishes, my dad can justify why certain things have to be restricted or prohibited.
I got to know a lot more taboos from the Philippine culture as I matured and after I flew back to Germany some years ago, I realized that I was embraced with too much religious and societal taboos, why? Because those taboos I know from the Philippines are inexistent here in Germany! From taboo subjects like: “sex and death” to taboo acts like: “do not take a picture with only three people in it” or food taboos explicitly for women: “Don’t drink coconut water when you have your period!” and the list goes on.
Whether you live here in Germany or somewhere else, taboos are present everywhere, so I asked my close friends who are international students in Germany to share with me the taboos in their home country. Gabriella, from Hong Kong says: „it is taboo to let young girls roam around in public without any shirt on“. Amekha from Nigeria: „it is a taboo in Nigeria to talk about homosexuality“ and Laura from Indonesia: „Public display of affection, but I think everything is taboo or haram in Indonesia“. I can’t see why it should be prohibited to let young girls roam without a top on. Moreover, I would feel sorry for gay people in Nigeria if they are not even allowed to talk about their sexual orientation and I think I would not like to live in Indonesia when my friend is right about taboos followed everywhere.
Sharing what my friends have mentioned where taboos are not talked or done in public, there are taboos which has left miserable outcomes in a certain society because they are NOT TALKED ABOUT by the majority. In the Philippines, sex is still considered as a very sensitive topic. NOT talking about sex (biological reproduction) is still prevalent in the Philippines, and especially for the youth. There is this feeling of shame or disgust that goes with talking about sex with parents, relatives and even friends. It is innate in the Filipino culture to follow the Roman Catholic Church and to see the Virgin Mary as a woman to be looked up to, hence, sexual abstinence is usually what Filipino parents teach their children and this is also taught in schools. Sex education is not yet implemented in any schools in the Philippines.
Although the Reproductive Health Law in the Philippines was signed in 2012 – which includes family planning and better access to contraceptives, it has not included sex education in its implementation. Even politicians themselves know – it will be a long way for a Catholic country like the Philippines to accept a law that has to do with teaching children and teenagers about safe sex. According to the Guardian, 65% of Filipinas do not use contraceptives and some reasons for this is not having knowledge about contraceptives and no access to get contraceptives. It was reported that when a woman gets “accidentally” pregnant in the Philippines, they would go under unsafe abortions. About 600, 000 abortions happen yearly in the Philippines (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBjgP541BIY&t=75s).
This is just one example where I would say that it is time to start talking about a taboo because not talking about it may lead to a thousand more problems. My suggestion would be to take the feeling of shame and malice out of the Filipino culture and to talk like human beings and see sex as something naturally and biologically accepted and not something sacred that has to be hidden.
The video below will give a short introduction about where the word taboo originated. I will share with you two familiar taboo subjects from the Philippines, after which, we will get to know some opinions about familiar taboo topics in Germany. Lastly, I will talk about a taboo subject matter that is uneasily discussed, but is utmost needed to be spoken out!
About the blogger
Katherine, or just „Kate“ is an avid writer who practices yoga once in a while.
She likes to cook Asian dishes in her spare time.
テレビ is her favorite Japanese word because it is easy to remember.
She believes in the Slovak proverb:
„as many languages you know so many times you are a human“
If you are interested to know more about Kate, you may watch her introduction video below. The video will show Kate in her natural habitat (her room) and she will be talking about Iced tea, donuts and her favorite city.