A Discussion about Respect, Good Manners, and Living as a Foreigner in the Philippines
I was thinking about some of the experiences I have had in the times I have stayed in the Philippines, and wondered, why do so many Filipino citizens remark about foreigners being either unaproachable, isolated, bad mannered, rude, suplada/suplado, inflexible and disrespectful to nationals of the Philippines.
Before anyone contributes an experence or a view, I just wanted to make clear, that not all foreigners are like this, in fact some foreigners are extremely polite, respectful and well mannered, nor do they display airs of self importance.
But it has come to my attention one several occasions, that suprisingly, Philippine nationals have remarked at just how approachable I am, how down to earth they find me, showing no improper pride, and well spoken.
Bob has remarked about this in the past, and stressed the importance of being polite and respectful, and of course posted in the past about behavioural standards, I wanted to explore this a little further because some of my new freinds and even our helpers have remarked about their reluctance to engage with foreigners because of the afore mentioned reasons.
It appears to me, that it is not always a matter of a reluctance to engage with foreigners because of english speaking ability, so I decided to investigate this further.
I spoke to two of my Filipino freinds and asked them to be frank and open about their feelings when it came to speaking to foreigners, or engaging with them, their replies kind of dissapointed me, because although I know they had no problems with me, a fact of which i am grateful for, it appeared that in the past, their experiences with foreigners were not a great advertisement for those of us who have to live amongst them, and not forgetting it is us who are the guests not the other way around.
Naturally, we cannot all atone for what others have done before us, but its not a great feeling when youre told that there have been instances where foreigners have appeared to be suplado, I understand this term, and correct me if I am wrong our Filipino readers, is a term applied to someone who is coming over as being superior, or snobbish.
If I am correct in this, then it appears that some foreigners have given off the impression they are somehow superior, they of course may not have wished to convey this, it maybe a feeling that some have got.
So how respectful and good mannered are you in the Philippines, I try to be perhaps even more well mannered than I am back in UK, I don’t want to give the impression I am not well mannered back home, thats not what I am trying to convey in this post, but let us say, I am very mindful of my being a guest in the Philippines, even when I have encountered differences in culture that have irritated me, I have tried in all circumstances to retain my composure, and keep my temperament, in any event loosing ones temper in the Philippines is not the best way to convey a spirit of freindship with people of another race and country.
In my country for example, we do not address or rarely do we address older women as Maam, I kind of like the politeness of the Philippines, so I have taken to this form of address quite easily, I also refer to younger women than myself as Maam also, its more formal, but it kind of evens out the playing field and is easier to remember.
Back Home we refer to other ladies as Love ! its common for us to call ladies who are about our own age group or younger as love, its just a term of endearment for a fellow human being of the opposite sex, suprisingly, its rare to call a man Sir here, unless its a customer, we tend to say Mate ! which meay be hard for some of our readers to contemplate saying.
In London, we actually call most men Governor, which is shortened to Guv ! when speaking around the capital city, I actually would ask for information about a paticular location, or when buying something from a street vendor such as a newspaper that sort of thing, I would say Thanks Guv ! short again for Governor, this stems from way way back in time, when it was respectful to refer to men of higher status as Governor.
I’m not sure how it would be received if we started calling all young ladies in the Philippines “Love’ when we did our grocery shopping or spoke to the waitress at a restaraunt, has anyone tried it, and if so how was it received.
One of the things I love so much about the Philippines is its culture of politeness and respect, it seems to me, they have got this right!, older people are respected for their experience and maturity of age, and quite rightly so, children are very respectful and Filipinos seem to not only expect politeness but it is conditioned within their upbringing.
So why did some of my close freinds say that they found foreigners a little rude, and in some cases snobbish ?
It appears to me, that this maybe due to a lack of willingness on the part of some foreigners to engage with Filipinos, I may be wrong, and the point of this post is to solicit all your views, because I think its quite an important subject.
A lack of Willingness to engage in the community you live in, i.e. social integration, but please for a minute do not suppose that foreigners in the Philippines are in an isolated situation, in fact, certain ethnic groups in my own country are often accused of refusing to socially integrate with the mainstream population.
So if our Filipino citizen hosts think that foreigners are a little hard to engage with, and that they are at times a little rude, disrespectful, and bad mannered, it goes without saying that those of us who are in the Philippines can do much more to ensure that that opinion is changed, and that foreigners are not tarred as we say, with the same brush.
Stereo typing of certain groups is a sad bi-product of the bad practices of a minority among us, we have to where we can show that those ones do not act or speak for the majority, and depending on the experiences of our Filipino hosts in their own country, we will not always be in a position to correct the indiscretions of those who either go before us, or continue to give off a bad impression about all foreigners.
I can testify to all of you, that on all occasions I try to foster a spirit of cooperation with local people, I make it clear at all times there is nothing special about me, in fact my favourite phrase to people during discussions is always the same, “i am just a guy who is trying to etch out a living, just like you” “The only difference with me is a geographical accident of birth of which I am not responsible”
That seems to bring on a few laughs, and people start to realize that hey, this guy is a freindly down to earth guy, you can talk to him, that is the impression I always try to do, coupled with generosity where I am able to give it, and kind words and a cheerful spririt, I just hope that some of that might go towards changing the way foreigners are viewed at least in the part of the Philippines where I made my home.
Whats your experience, have you found similar, how are foreigners viewed where you live ? what could we be doing to be better neighbours ? How can we integrate more into Filipino culture, these and many more questions I am sure will receive a wealth of replies – looking forward to your views with keen interest, – your freind Pete