7 Common Misconceptions About The Philippines and its Culture

The Most Common Misconceptions that Foreigners Have About The Philippines

When I first came here, some misconceptions about The Philippines were proven wrong pretty quickly. But, on the other hand, some of them are surprising and widely spread. Therefore, this article will clarify some common misconceptions about The Philippines that many foreigners (like me) may have had in the past.


❌#1 Most Filipinos Speak Fluent English

I’ve read many articles parroting that lie that The Philippines is an English-speaking country. Clearly, those authors have never been to The Philippines or at least not outside of the wealthiest districts of Manila and Cebu. It’s true that most Filipinos understand English at a certain level, but that’s a far cry from speaking it enough to communicate with a native English speaker.

In fact, in some of the more rural provinces, I’ve had to bring my GF to be a translator in the market. Due to the geography of The Philippines, people on different islands speak different languages, which, while in the same language family, are not always mutually intelligible. For example, it’s unlikely someone who speaks Visaya (Cebu) would understand Cuyonon (Palawan).

Only in the major cities or amongst the educated classes can you expect to find fluent English speakers.  This is in part due to the culture wherein some circles speaking English is seen as being snooty.

❌#2 They Will Tolerate Trouble Makers

This one gets under my skin a bit. Some foreigners come here and think that just because Filipinos are friendly that they can be aggressive and rude and that they will just take it indefinitely. Filipinos indeed like to avoid confrontation, but that doesn’t mean those who are aggressive won’t eventually step on the wrong toes and get deported, beaten up, or worse.

Please remember we’re guests in this country, and we must follow their rules and customs no matter how silly or downright irritating they may seem to us. A big no-no is having emotive public outbursts when you are frustrated. You’ll embarrass yourself and your girlfriend at the same time if you do that.

The truth is there are some major cultural differences you’ll have to deal with if you want to live here.

  • ‘Sorry sir, out of stock’ is one. So when you go to a restaurant, don’t be surprised if the main dish they advertised is out of stock.
  • When your girlfriend is upset with you about something, don’t expect her to tell you about it directly. It’s more likely she’ll just give you the silent treatment (tampo).  You can read my article on the pros and cons of dating a Filipina.
  • You may be surprised when ‘friends’ offer to take you on a trip, but then you are expected to flip the bill for everyone.
  • A local agrees to have something done for you by 5 pm, but when 5 pm arrives he hasn’t even started the job.
  • Don’t expect most Filipinos to be on time.
  • These are just some of the things that you’ll have to learn to take in stride; otherwise, they’ll gnaw at you, and you’ll become one of those bitter old men you see griping on the internet

Related: Things That are Considered Rude in The Philippines

❌#3 Filipino Women are Disposable

Let’s be honest; we all know one of the reasons we like The Philippines is because we went from a nobody to a celebrity of sorts with the touchdown of an airplane. It’s nice to be desired, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but some guys go too far, treating local women as if they’re disposable.

You know what I’m talking about. Promising or implying a long-term relationship when he has no intention of doing so. Please don’t do that. I believe in karma and taking advantage of these women’s hopes for a better life for your own lustful desires is just cruel. Besides, it’s just not necessary.

When I was single, if I met a cute girl but not wife material, I’d simply tell her that I was looking for a friend and nothing more. I remember one girl I really liked but would never marry. I offered to take her to Palawan as my treat. We had a lot of fun, she got a free trip to Palawan, and we both had a nice time. Everybody won.

I know a guy who had some sob stories about Filipinas, but the reality is he was scamming too; she was just better at it than he was.

❌#4 A Filipino Smiling at you Means They Like You

Filipinos are naturally friendly; it’s the culture. However, you mustn’t automatically interpret that smiling or friendliness as genuine affinity. Most Filipinos won’t express their true feelings about you until they know you well. Misinterpreting friendliness as genuine friendship is how so many guys get scammed into bad business deals and bad relationships.

My advice is not to go into business with anyone unless you’ve known them for at least a year and you’ve met their friends and family. In The Philippines, trust is earned, not given freely, especially when dealing with those of the lower classes that have a bigger incentive to cheat you.

❌#5 The Philippines is Super Cheap to Live

A big misconception that many noobs have is that the Philippines is a cheap place to live. It’s better to say the Philippines can be cheap, but if you’re trying to live as you did in the west, it can actually be more expensive.

Let’s take Manila, for example. A nice condo in the neighborhoods that expats like to live in such as BGC, Makati, Rockwell, Alabang, etc., can run you $1,000 a month easily! But, if you want real luxury, you can end up paying two grand or more a month for a condo in those areas.

Then there’s the fact that most westerners don’t care for local cuisine, which means you’re going to be eating imported western food. Imported = expensive.  Once you factor in your transportation costs, utilities, medical costs, etc., you’re talking around $2,000-$3,000 per month.

There is a caveat; I managed to live in the nearby province of Cavite and Bacolod City with a more ‘localish’ lifestyle. I got by quite comfortably on $800 a month, but I rarely went to the cinema, I only ate at restaurants once a week, and I certainly didn’t have hot water. That being said, I had a loving partner who cooked our meals and took care of me. I was so happy!

❌#6 All Filipinos are Desperate

This goes back to #3, that Filipinas are not disposable. Let’s be honest, with so many desperate women flirting with you; it can be easy to fall into the mindset that Filipinos are desperate and/or scammers. In my experience, most of the ones who eagerly approach foreigners are desperate and/or scammers, but they don’t represent the majority of the population.

The good girls are usually the ones that you have to approach and court, and no, she won’t have sex with you right away either.

❌#7 Filipinos Only Date Foreigners for Money

We’ve all heard the stories of guys getting taken to the cleaners by a woman he thought loved him, but I did an actual study of westerners who are married to Filipinas. An overwhelming majority (78.87%) are very satisfied with their marriages, and 89.87% responded that they did not doubt that their wife truly loves them.

I think Filipinas are no different than any other woman. Women evolved to look for signs of resources (i.e., money) when choosing a partner, just as men evolved to look for signs of health (i.e., youth and prettiness). So to deny the money factor would be irresponsible but to make blanket statements that all Filipinas are gold diggers is irrational.

My research shows that the best way to avoid getting scammed is not to meet a girl in a bar, to know her family and friends well, and to take your time.


Knowing these misconceptions beforehand will help you out quite a bit in your journey through The Philippines. The reality is most people who come here enjoy themselves. Those that hate it are simply a vocal minority. Have a good attitude, be culturally flexible, and you’ll be fine here.

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