Last week, Feyma wrote an interesting article about family demands for money and such. Feyma and I got married nearly 18 years ago now, and in that time, I have seen so many examples of Filipino families thinking that the money supply was endless now that their daughter had married a foreigner, or now that their son had finally landed that OFW job in Saudi Arabia. It seems that this is the attitude among the family any time a situation like this comes up.
I was thinking about this earlier today, and I was wondering some things about the Filipino psyche in relation to this kind of thinking. Let me first point out that I don’t feel that all Filipinos think this way, but there are a lot who think like this.
I wonder, when the average Filipino thinks about the average American, how much money do they think that we have? Do they think we go around with hundreds of dollars in our wallets when we go to town, or is it thousands? Do they think that we have so much money that if $1,000 comes up missing, we just wouldn’t miss that amount? One commenter that spoke up on Feyma’s column said that he and his Filipina wife had a bank account that could be accessed by his wife’s family. The family was supposed to get about $1,000 out from the account in order to pay the payments on some land that the couple was buying. Instead, the family members got the $1,000 and spent it on their own needs, leaving the land payment unpaid. What was the family thinking? Did they not worry that when the man found out that $1,000 was missing then he would be mad at them, and there may be consequences?
Why is there such a disconnect between Filipinos and Foreigners when it comes to money issues?
In an effort to better understand this issue, I just talked to two of my nieces to see what I could learn from them. Let’s see what they told me:
Niece #1: This niece is in her mid-20’s, a college graduate. She is a smart girl, and I trust what she tells me. I told her that I wanted to talk to her about Filipino perceptions about the wealth of foreigners like me. I asked her what she thought when she saw a foreigner (before living with me and seeing our lifestyle first hand). I asked her if she had thought that all foreigners were rich. She confirmed to me that in the past, when she saw a foreigner, she automatically thought that they had plenty of money. I asked her how much. She said that she thought that foreigners had Millions of Dollars. I asked her how much she thought a foreigner would have in his pocket when he went to the store – her answer on that one floored me. She said that she thought that the average foreigner going to the market would have $20,000 to $50,000 on his person for the trip! Can you imagine that? I asked her more about it, and all of her answers were along the same lines.
Niece #2 is 17 years old and has been living with me for about 1 year now. She is a very smart girl, and graduated High School near the head of her class. She is working for me in my business, and after she has worked for 4 years, I will pay for her college education, that is the deal that we have between each other. I asked her basically the same questions, and her answers were virtually the same as the other person that I talked to. Amazing.
Back in 1990, just shortly after Feyma and I were married, I received a letter in the mail from somebody in Feyma’s family. This young man had just graduated from High School. I barely knew the guy, only from one trip to the Philippines. His letter that he sent me was a request that I pay for him to go to College. I was young at the time, and frankly, I was not in financial shape to be paying for somebody to go to College. I was doing good just to pay all of our bills and keep food on the table for Feyma and I. So, I had to write back and tell this young man that I was sorry, but I could not afford to pay for his schooling. About 2 years later, Feyma and I returned to the Philippines for a visit with the family. This young man would not talk to me the entire time that we were there. I can only assume that this lack of communication was pay back for my inability to help him with his educational needs. To be honest, this person has probably not said 100 words to me in the past 18 years, and I often feel that he is still mad that I could not help him at the time. The truth is, I honestly could not afford to pay for his schooling at that time. Today, I am older, have gotten to the point where I have more money, and I do help a number of relatives with things like education. Unfortunately for this young man, that was not the case 18 years ago.
So, where do you think these perceptions come from? Why would people think that when I go to the store I have $50,000 in my pocket? My other question is this – will this kind of thinking ever die?