- Practice Filipino Courtesy at All Times
- Make sure your handshakes aren’t too firm
- Be generous in giving compliments
- Learn Key Tagalog Phrases
- Expecting Filipinos to be on time
- Don’t be offended by personal questions
- Showing frustration
- Never criticize The Philippines as a country in public
- Don’t criticize their karaoke skills
- Never have public outbursts
- Never say no to an offer of food
- Don’t stare
- Participating in politics
- Shaking hands too firmly
- Don’t be impatient
The Philippines is a beautiful tropical country that is blessed by the bounty of nature and culturally vibrant. This nation has been heavily influenced not just by other countries in their region but also by the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Americans. Because of this, their flair for fashion, music, and arts became more vivacious than their Southeast Asian neighbors.
However, despite the hundreds of years of foreign influence that The Philippines has received, the unique Filipino traditions, norms, faith, and beliefs have been carried on successfully and proudly from generation to generation. When you visit the Philippines, it is quite essential to understand them for you to have a better overview of how your life on this island paradise will be.
Below are some of the most important dos and don’ts that you have to remember when you are in the Philippines:
Remember ‘no neck Ed’ from 90-Day Fiancee? He’s a perfect example of everything not to do when visiting the Philippines.
#1 Expecting People to Arrive on Time
Yup, you read that right, but the Filipinos are well-known to be late in so many informal meet-ups. Many foreigners find this very unprofessional but it’s the reality in the Philippines. Filipinos are so laid-back in their view of the time that they end up violating the personal time of other people.
If you meet up with a Filipino, be there 10 minutes after the scheduled time for meeting up. That way, you won’t have to wait as long for them to show up. Here in the Philippines, even government officials get to work 15 to 30 minutes late, and many official events begin at least half an hour late. This is something that we Filipinos have to change for the better,, but it is what it is.
#2 Getting offended when asked personal questions
In this sunny archipelago, people tend to ask personal questions. That’s how a Filipino shows interest in you. Don’t take it personally! Besides, you can ask them personal questions as well. There is nothing to be bothered about…really…since most of these questions won’t be too personal and will likely be about your family, friends, and/or hobbies.
#3 Criticizing the Philippines directly as a country
Let’s be honest; we all do it. We even get irritated when others do it, so we know it’s wrong, but we still do it anyway. While it might not be offensive to express disappointment about some essential services, especially the internet speed or the power cuts, …it will undoubtedly be a different story if you constantly and incessantly complain. Whining is insulting to most Filipinos, mainly because they are more hospitable to foreigners visiting or living in their country.
Just think how you would feel if a guest came to your home and kept complaining.
#4 Criticizing people’s karaoke skills
This might be somewhat silly to you. However, like most Asians, the Filipinos do LOVE KARAOKE. You can count on being invited to a karaoke party while you’re in the Philippines. So, brace yourself! In the karaoke bar, never criticize the person singing, even if he or she has the most horrible voice you’ve heard in your entire life. It is not worth it; you’ll end up making enemies.
#5 Showing frustration in public
Want to become a social pariah? Start making public outbursts. Filipinos are very friendly, respectful, and polite. Therefore, when someone publicly displays frustration, especially if a younger person does it to an older person, the damage to his reputation can be extreme, especially if you live in a small community. If you plan to live here, you’re going to need local allies, period. Being a jerk in public isn’t going to help you gain any friends.
#6 Showing disappointment over not having enough space in the jeepney
The colorful and loud jeepneys are the most common public transportation here in the Philippines. If you want to save much more money by riding it, then brace yourself. It isn’t polite if you complain about the person sitting next to you getting cozy in the jeepney. Public transportation is meant to be shared; deal with it.
I remember watching an episode of the Simpsons where the family went to a snooty school to enroll Lisa. At the school, the headmaster slapped Homer’s hand for pointing, saying ‘monkeys point.’ To which he responded, ‘monkey’s cry!’. While the joke may have been funny, it turns out that pointing is considered quite rude and aggressive in the archipelago.
#8 Saying no to food
As mentioned several times earlier, Filipinos take pride in their hospitality. The best way of expressing Filipino warmth is by sharing food. It is offensive if the person offered food will say no. However, if you are really full, you may graciously decline and explain that you’ve just had a big meal and then thank the other person for offering food to you. The Philippines is truly a paradise for foodies.
#9 Joining political rallies if you are a foreigner
Want to get deported? Join socio-political rallies. The Bureau of Immigration clearly stated in a press release that all foreign nationals, be it a tourist or an expat, are prohibited from taking part in any mass demonstrations and political rallies throughout the island nation.
Remember this for your own safety. There was an Australian nun who got deported because she joined a rally about women empowerment. The Philippine government considers it “meddling in the internal affairs as a sovereign Filipino nation.” The worst that could happen to you is not just getting deported but getting blacklisted.
#10 Staring at strangers
Not only will this make the other party feel a little anxious, uncomfortable, and nervous, but it could mean that you have bad intentions towards the person you are gazing at. It is definitely okay to look and smile at strangers, though.
#11 Being impatient
The Philippines is still a developing country, which means that many transactions have to be done in the old way. Now, for a foreign traveler or expat, this can be not easy at times. Just hold your horses and try never to lose your temper. When you remain calm, other Filipinos will notice this, and they will surely offer a helping hand.
I once saw an American foreigner who cursed the dusty roads of his wife’s provincial hometown relentlessly for half an hour at the airport. Finally, a richer-looking Filipina lady openly reprimanded the American because she felt very offended by his speech. On rare occasions, these people can get reported by locals for causing a scene. This is how valuable patience is in the Philippines.
#12 Shaking hands too firmly
In Western culture, firm grips in handshakes are quite standard since they denotes self-confidence . However, the opposite is true here in the Philippines. When you meet people for the first time, smile warmly, then have a soft and relaxed handshake.
Always remember to smile and greet people with “hi” or “hello” when you meet people for the first time. Filipinos are prominently known for their warmth and joyfulness. This fact will be very prominent throughout your stay here.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Practice Filipino courtesy at all times
As mentioned earlier, Filipinos are very courteous and respectful. If you are unsure of what to call someone else, it is best to address them with “Sir” or “Ma’am.” For elders, you may address them as “Tito” (Uncle) or “Tita” (Aunt).
For sure, you aren’t used to doing this, but you’ll get it the more you do it. When the locals hear you address them with those words, they warm up instantaneously. Not only will you win new friends and tour guides, but they’ll be of valuable assistance to you when you might get entangled in untoward circumstances.
Say “Please,” “Thank You,” and always be generous in giving compliments.
The Filipinos are also very well-known to be people-pleasers since this is a significant aspect of the “PAKIKIPAG-KAPWA TAO” value that everyone highly cherishes. This is especially true in dealing with foreigners. The country is one of the best tourist spots in Asia. As a result, Filipinos make sure that you’ll feel comfortable all the time.
When you want to ask for a favor, simply say “please,” and when you receive any form of assistance, always say “thank you” with a big smile. It would be amazing to say complimentary remarks on how hospitable the people are to you. They’ll be more eager to go the extra mile to ensure your stay in the Philippines will be a pleasant one.
Learn Key Tagalog Phrases
Learning some Tagalog or Filipino phrases can help you make a good first impression with your gf and her family. You don’t need to become fluent, but learning how to introduce yourself will help you a lot. Also, learning some common insults will help you determine who really likes you (especially your gf) and who doesn’t since a lot of Filipinos will insult foreigners in public thinking the foreigner can’t understand them.
Understand the Filipino communication style
Just like any other country, Filipinos also have a unique way of expressing themselves. Filipinos always say the word “po” as a very well-mannered way of communicating to anyone older than them. The word “po” is a Tagalog word that has become popular throughout the country. When talking to other people, eye contact is quite important, as this means that you are genuinely interested and wish to communicate more.
Filipinos can be verbally indirect, especially when expressing dislike. This is an aspect in the Filipino culture that most people from the Western Hemisphere will find a little odd and even frustrating. Also, the most polite way of saying no could be “I’ll think about it.” and “maybe.” The struggle in saying no in the Philippines is real.
Gestures that are very uniquely Filipino
Of course, we have to understand the non-verbal manner of communication in the Philippine islands. Below is a great guide:
Body Language Guidelines:
- Raising the eyebrows usually means “yes.” So when the other party does not verbally respond to you, check if he or she raised his or her eyebrows.
- As stated above, pointing with the index finger is rude, so most Pinoys point with the lips instead. LOL!
- A lift of the head with a big grin is a common greeting here in the Philippines.
- An open mouth during a conversation means that the other party has not understood you. Again, this seems a little funny in the beginning.
What are the Most Cherished Filipino Values?
It cannot be denied that the Filipino people are very sociable. Because of this, the value of “PAKIKIPAG-KAPWA TAO” is the most cherished. This means that you have to be considerate in dealing with other people because your personal characteristics will be revealed by how you treat other people. This is deeply embedded in the hearts and souls of the Filipinos.
That being said, practicing courtesy at all times is a must here in the Philippines. Not only that, but the hierarchy is also strictly followed in every Filipino household; it even has an unspoken protocol. So when you visit your Pinay partner’s family for the first time, it would be great to be very polite to the elders of her family.
At the end of the day, only the Filipino people are still considered to be the most charming people on the planet. They might have some flaws, especially with punctuality. However, these are cultural differences that millions of foreigners have overlooked. The number of repeat visits to the beautiful Philippine shores is the best testament to this. Who can resist the beautiful scenery, beaches, sumptuous cuisine, warm smile of the people, and the more affordable lifestyle in this tropical paradise?
I personally hope that I have covered most of what you have to understand about the culture, manner of communication, non-verbal cues, and other important matters for you before you travel here to the Philippines.