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How Do Filipinos Behave with Foreign Tourists?
Are Filipinos Always Smiling and Very Welcoming? Mostly.
You can find many descriptions of the Filipinos as always smiling and very welcoming people. Generalizations can be misleading since they create stereotypes that cannot be fully applied on 100+ million people. Though, in general, it’s a fairly correct generalization! Probably people do not ALWAYS smile (it’s hard to do it while sleeping or in other daily situations), but they have quite a positive attitude towards things. They are easy to cheer up, being young, colorful, diverse and curious people!
Also about being welcoming, we can’t say that absolutely EVERYONE is, but it’s true that they have a positive attitude towards foreigners: they like to approach them, tell them stories, splash some humor, exchange experiences and suggest food or travel destinations. They are particularly happy when foreigners express genuine appreciation for their culture, especially when you talk about food: Filipinos are very celebrative with food and are into tasty and bountiful meals. Joining them in meals and expressing appreciation will really make them satisfied, especially considering that Filipino cuisine is not as internationally known as others.
Of course, no Filipino is the same as another one (like any other person to another!): consider the information below as generic and will not be applicable to everyone you are going to interact with!
They Have Open Windows on Foreign Countries. And Like to Make Comparisons!
In general, Filipinos are quite open towards what lies beyond their borders. Filipino migrants are literally everywhere around the world. During your trip, you could easily meet locals that lived in Western countries for several years or that have relatives living abroad or that are planning to do so. This openness was also culturally boosted by 3 centuries of Spanish colonization (that made the Philippines the biggest catholic country of Asia) and decades of American occupation.
People usually have an open window towards “abroad” and sometimes – being a developing country – they might automatically think that your living conditions back at home are very “luxurious” and comfortable, thus sometimes they are embarrassed to show you their own homes. They also are astonished by images of the ancient Colosseum, the skyscrapers of New York City, the hustle and bustle lifestyle in Tokyo or the iconic Eiffel Tower. Thus, it became very important for them to show you that they also have what they like to call “World-Class Destinations”. This is not a difficult thing for you: you will actually be astonished by the majestic landscapes of El Nido, by the unique shape of Chocolate Hills and by the unbelievable environment created by Banaue Rice Terraces!
For Filipinos, If You Are Caucasian, You Are an American and Are a Native English-Speaker
Despite being very open towards foreign countries and having many country mates living in many “Western” places other than the United States (Canada, Italy, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and many others), a Filipino would generally address a Caucasian-looking person as an “Amerikano” (local word for American). This is because during the 20th Century, those were the dominant visitors of the country plus United States still have a strong modern cultural influence through music, cinema, TV, and sports.
If you are for instance from a European country, don’t expect all Filipinos to have a precise perception of where your country is located and what are its peculiarities. Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain etc. are not always differentiated in a very clear way. If you think about it, also for a typical Western foreigner, it would be difficult to exactly spot South-East Asian Countries on the world map (unless you visited them well, are you sure to know the differences between Myanmar, Laos, Timor, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua Nueva Guinea etc.?).
They might know about Spanish, Italian, French etc., yet sometimes still assuming they are sort of dialects secondary to English. Being considered an “Amerikano”, you are sort of expected to speak English as your primary language. This can sometimes make the local feel a bit shy in interacting with you. Filipinos are very good English speakers since lessons in school are taught in English, though for the same reasons they might feel examined and nervous when speaking to a foreigner (they will assume you speak English very well and they might be used to speak only Filipino in informal situations). If you speak English well or are even native speaker, just try to formulate simple sentences as a start, making your words clear and making the other person comfortable. If you are not a good English speaker, tell them immediately, it will make them feel more comfortable knowing you have some language strains too!
Few Cultural Differences to Deal With
For all the reasons above, expect Filipinos to be very open towards foreigners. Yet as contradictory as it may sound, Filipinos often perceive foreigners as very different person on a cultural perspective. That’s why sometimes the welcoming attitude could turn into a shy or embarrassed one. It’s then important you show appreciation and an open mind to help them to break the ice.
As a temporary traveller to the Philippines, these perceived differences will not make you feel unwelcomed, it’s quite the opposite: people are quite indulgent towards foreigners and are going to accept behaviors that are not common in their own culture. They would not be particularly offended if you won’t like a certain local recipe (they will just think it was too strange for you!). They will close an eye if you’ll kiss in public with your partner because they see it happening in foreign movies, though expect some hilarious or even scandalized reaction, since kissing is something Filipinos really don’t like to do in public! Filipinos can be conservative especially for formal situations and behaviours in public, though in practice they embrace diversity in a natural way. For instance, in this blog post we explained why the Philippines is considered one of the most gay-friendly countries of Asia!
It’s clear that Filipinos are tolerant people, but it does not mean you won’t be compelled to observe laws and regulations. Be always respectful and do not take advantage of their indulgency: if you pull the string for too long, it might break also for the most patience person in the world. You could check out our “Sustainability Tips”: they have a section dedicated to social interactions with a few reminders.
There is one single peculiar thing we always like to remind: keep your voice low, especially if you are encountering problems and conflicts. Filipinos will usually approach you in a calm, relaxed and gentle way: it’s a nice thing, but they expect you to do the same. If the food you ordered was wrong, if the hotel forgot to change your towel or for other complaints, try your best to approach the issue with in a relaxed way. Screaming and loud voices are some behaviors likely to trigger Filipinos, since they are not used to do that in public. It’s especially being reprimanded in front of other people that is highly disliked: arise your issues privately and calmly, you’ll see they will go an extra mile to help you or repair a mistake.