The sweet life in the Philippines

Chocolates at WowPhilippines

Well, the topic of this article might take a little different path that you may be expecting by reading the title.

It all goes back to a week ago or so when I was looking at Facebook.  A few foreigners who live in the Philippines were having a discussion that was sort of negative about the Philippines.  Most of those types of discussions really tend to bother me, because I just wonder why people choose to live here when they only seem to have negative feelings about the place.

Somebody had posted on Facebook saying that many products were hard to find here in the Philippines or were not available at all.  As I posted earlier this year, I have personally found that over the years this sort of thing has improved a lot and most things are available now if you just look for them.  Well, in response to this Facebook post, another fellow living here replied, and I will paraphrase what he said:

I went to Gaisano Mall a while back and was looking for powdered sugar.  I looked but could not find it, so I asked the clerk where I could find it.  He took me over to the aisle where the sugar is, and we looked but could not find any powdered sugar at all.  So, the clerk told me that they did not have any stock, no powdered sugar was available.

There was a lady next to us in the aisle and she overheard the conversation.  She told me that they had powdered sugar in another area and she took me there so I could get what I needed.  Sure enough, they had it, but the package said “Confectioners Sugar” instead of “Powdered Sugar”.  I got what I needed and was on my way.

Flowers from WowPhilippines

This just shows that the people in the Philippines are uneducated!  The clerk told me there was no stock, but there was, he just didn’t know the right name that was on the package!

Who is uneducated?

Who is uneducated?


So, according to this fellow, the Filipino people are uneducated because they don’t know what the proper name is in the USA?  Truth is that in many countries around the world the item in question is called “Confectioners Sugar” and not powdered sugar.  In the USA it is most widely known as powdered sugar.

Who is uneducated?

Head scratching

Head scratching

As I read that, I thought to myself…. it would seem to me that the American fellow was uneducated!  He didn’t know that it is called confectioners sugar here!  Why would he consider himself to be educated but the Filipino clerk to be uneducated?  The American fellow had lived in both countries, but didn’t know the proper name in the Philippines.  The Filipino guy had likely lived only in the Philippines, why should he know or care what the name is in the USA?

I guess my point is that there are differences from one country to another.  The names of certain things are different in different parts of the world.  Why resort to name calling and belittling somebody when you are the one who is not conforming with the local nomenclature?  What it comes down to is that if we want to live in a different country, the Philippines in this case, it is us who must adapt and learn about local customs and names and such.  If we are unwilling to adapt and learn, then it is us who chooses to remain uneducated in the local ways.

I’ve been here for 14 years now.  Sometimes when I see things like this discussion or other foreigners out in public, I can really remember how I was 10 or more years ago.  I would have said something similar back then… “why don’t they know that stuff is called powdered sugar, not confectioners sugar”.  The fact is that I was wrong for having that type of attitude.  But, we all live and learn (hopefully) as time goes by.

The fellow also mentioned that the clerk was just being lazy by saying that there was no stock of powdered sugar instead of really finding out for sure.  I can’t see that, because if he was lazy he would have just said there was no stock, not walked over to the sugar aisle and try to help the foreigner find what he was looking for.

Ah, life in the Philippines really is sweet if you just calm down, relax, chill out and roll with the punches.  That’s how I see it anyway!

Post Author: MindanaoBob (943 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

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  1. says

    Oh so true it makes me so sad when I see those narrow minded comments that some of us foreigners post. I hope that we all, like you mention in your article, can learn to adjust and accept that living in and other country means to adapt and learn.

      • says

        Sir Bob;
        We unenlightened Bostonians’ know it by both names but I’ll admit I knew it by confectioners first. The full name was Ten X Confectionary sugar used for baking and candy making. By the way regular sugar can be powered at home if the clerk can’t help you find it (LOL)

        • says

          Sir Bob again;
          16 years ago I went into the store and asked for lighter flints, the sweet girt told me that was a not carried item. I asked my brother-in-law at the market where I could buy them, he pointed to the store I’d just been in, but this time ask for “STONES”
          I saw the same young lady asked for 10 STONES and without a comment from me, I thanked her and left, to this day I still call them stones.

  2. says

    Oh so true it makes me so sad when I see those narrow minded comments that some of us foreigners post. I hope that we all, like you mention in your article, can learn to adjust and accept that living in and other country means to adapt and learn.

  3. David says

    “This just shows that the people in the Philippines are uneducated! The clerk told me there was no stock, but there was, he just didn’t know the right name that was on the package!”

    LOL!!! Obviously, whomever wrote this hsn’t been shopping at Walmart lately.

  4. says

    Great point on the attitude Bob. I’m assuming that most go there for sugar, but not for the powered or confectioners kind. I think it’s called brown sugar or mocha sugar Bob ?

  5. says

    Reminds me of an incident a while back when I accidentally asked for “2% milk” at the store. It was my mistake–they call it “lowfat” milk in the Philippines. I was embarrassed about the mistake because I had lived there long enough to know better.

  6. says

    When I read something like this idiotic comment from a foreigner living in the Philippines, I get really irked about it. I have lived in the USA for the last 45 years and when I first got here, I tried to learn everything about the norms, ways, manner of speaking in the USA, tho, I would say, I am rather fluent in the English language. Has this fellow ever heard…” when you are in Rome, do what the Romans do?” Having lived in the Philippines, he should already been well versed with the semantics, and if not, read, and educate himself, instead of bad mouthing and belittling a store clerk who has been polite and accommodating with him. DUH!!! I wish every American that lives in the Philippines is as educated as you, Bob, I take my hat off to you. Enjoy your life!!!

    • says

      Thank you so much, Vivien, I appreciate your nice words. I agree with you that we have to make an effort to learn when we move to a new place. I saw Feyma do that when she went to the States, and I did it here.

  7. says

    It only took one incident to find out that Diet Coke is Coke Light here. Since I am an addict I have never forgotten. It’s our responsibility to learn and adjust not theirs.

  8. says

    Spot on Bob…I totally agree, we are the ones that have to learn.

    I think that some people just have to complain about anything possible, being here or “at home” – same same.

    I don’t think I ever have experienced a Pinoy lazy, I see them as hardworking, always wiling to help with a smile on their face. Out own attitude will reflect – if I can say it that way. (English is after all not my native language).

  9. Tito Joe says

    Hi Bob,

    Similar issue when I had a fella argue with me that the Philippines does not sell Tylenol. This was after I heard him asking for Tylenol and being told they dont sell it. Stupid me I tried to help him.

    I told him they have paracetamol under different brands which is EXACTLY the same active ingredient in Tylenol (acetaminophen) and that in fact more countries sell it under the Paracetamol designation than not. he went into a huge fit that why do they do that and they (Philippines) should call it what it is…Tylenol.

    I asked him if I could prove they were the same chemical, just different names would that satisfy him.

    he said: “I dont need any proof…These folks should follow the USA… everyone else does.”

    Sometimes ya just gotta walk away, as I did, scratching my head vowing to never ever try to help an expat in the store to find what he needs. As for online racist arguments…it is as easy as not reading them and avoiding sites that allow it to continue.

    As for education, he needs to check some his postions. IN the Philippines the average literacy rate is actually, with a 2% margin of error, the same as the USA. RP = 97.6% USA = 99% AND many filipinos speak several languages….how many do most Americans speak. Nuff said.

    Prime example of the Ugly Americans. General Elwell Otis would be proud of them…the rest of us, not at all.

    • says

      Oh boy… yes indeed, Joe. The Tylenol is always a big argument too! I had forgotten about that one.

      Does it seem to you, like me, that it is mostly our fellow Americans who take on this type of attitude? I don’t really see it much from Europeans or Aussies and such.

      Like you said, the best thing to do is just walk away to avoid the negativity.

      • Tito Joe says

        Anecdotally it sures seems to be mostly Americans, but perhaps that is because there are so many Americans in the philippines.

        I have seen this behavior from all nationalities. In fact I have even seen it from some of the Philippine Diaspora that return and forget where they came from or ABF teenagers visting the philippines for the first time. being ignorant knows no boundaries or race, and the best way to combat it is to travel…a LOT, and live as the locals do and be humble and willing to learn.

        I feel sorry for some of these folks, I really do. They are missing out on the true joy of living in the Philippnes and like you, I always wonder…why do they move to the Philippines if they hate it so much.

        Thanks for showing others that we are all not a bunch of whining sniveling jerks, by maintaining a website that is positive and upbeat most of the time. LOL!

        • says

          Hi Joe – I agree that there are people like this from every country, but I see it so much from Americans. I am not sure about there being “so many Americans” in the Philippines. At least down in the part of the country where I live, Americans are a minority of foreigners.. lots of Aussies and Europeans!

    • Bob New York says

      I first learned about Paracetamol in the UK when I came down with the flu there. A friend got me some ” Lemsip ” ( brand ) cold and flu remedy. I read the instructions and precautions ( take only once in 4 hours ) . This was a lemon flavored powder you mix with hot water and drink it. When I got home I could not find anything like that here in the USA. Even pharmacists and a Doctor I asked did not know of Paracetamol.

      I have since found out it is the same as the primary active ingredient as in Tylenol. When in the Philippines I found products containing Paracetamol too. Maybe it is just the USA that calls it something different from the rest of the world.

      For me, I consider being in another country or part of the world is more of a learning experience than attempting to be super critical of the people or the way things are done there. There are usually reasons for many of these differences and for me part of the fun is learning the how and whys of the differences.

      On future visits to the UK, I always bought an ample supply of that paracetamol cold and flu reliever. Ended up throwing more of it away when the Use By date came and went instead of using it all. Spin the calendar ahead a decade or so and today I can order that product on Amazon. I don’t know what all else is in that stuff but it sure works for me. My first visits to the UK in the 1990′s were very revealing in that we supposedly use the same language but many words can mean something entirely different, LOL !

      • says

        Hi Bob – the USA and Britain are two nations separated by a common language… And the Philippines is the third in the group!

        Your thoughts are the same as mine, going to another country is a learning experience. Not only that, but it is fun to pick up new thoughts and ideas, it adds to the adventure.

      • Tito Joe says

        Bob New York,

        Thats why Winston Churchill said: “Americans and British are one people separated only by a common language.”

        I love the Oxford and Webster dictionary debates with my British mates. Jolly good fun, YA’ALL! LOL!

    • says

      “I dont need any proof…These folks should follow the USA… everyone else does.”

      Oh dear, clearly a widely traveled fellow!

      Reminds me of a popular sticker I see on the back of Aussie cars, usually dirty 4 x 4′s…it says”

      “The Australian Lifestyle….fit in or F*** O**”.

      Something of a statement about whingeing immigrants struggling to adapt I suspect. :-)

    • Tito Joe says

      or as we found out last year, also called COKE ZERO. I asked for a coke light at a restaurant and they said maybe ACE hardware had one? LOL!!!!!!!! Who says Filipinos cant crack a joke. That was one that had me rolling. Gave the boy a BIG tip for that one.

  10. says

    “I dont need any proof…These folks should follow the USA… everyone else does.” – I would also walk away – and never “come back”.

    As a European citizen I can assure, we do not follow USA, I think US should learn a little from others, instead of the “arrogant master mentality”. Sorry…that sentence just p…. me off :-) I know it’s far from all US citizens, that have that attitude, but they are the ones that is very visible. I have been in US many times and have met a lot of great, nice people. No offend…

    • says

      I agree Axel that it is a problem with Americans. I used to be like that too, before I lived here for a long time. I think that we are taught from birth that “we are the best” “America first” that sort of thing. It’s not a good attitude, in my opinion. There are things that Americans are the best at, and things that other countries excel in. Nobody is the best in everything.

    • says

      Hi Bob & Axel, When I was living in Europe a favourite joke was:
      Q. What do you call a person who speaks three languages? A. Trilingual
      Q. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? A. Bilingual
      Q. What do you call a person who speaks one language? A. American.

      Sorry, but that was the general consensus over there.

  11. AJ UK says

    Good article Bob

    If I have to buy something out of the ordinary I usually ask my wife what it is called in the PHI.

    I would have no chance with powdered sugar as it is called icing sugar in the UK but I would know to look in the baking section and try to figure it out logically if my wife is not around. One example is corn flour as we say back home but here it is corn starch. It really doesn’t take too much effort and we should be grateful that most labels do have English on them.

    Cheers and enjoy the Easter weekend

    AJ UK

  12. says

    Great article Bob. TO many of us forget we are the guest here and we need to learn not the other way around. the people here as a percentage are much more educated then Americans.

  13. Bob New York says

    Confectioners Sugar is certainly marketed here in the USA under that designation. I don’t do any kind of baking myself but I used to like watching Grandma baking all kinds of goodies when I was a kid. With so many great cake and bakery places in The Philippines I have been to such as Red Ribbon, Goldilocks, Madelicious and countless others I would imagine they have just about every kind of baking item one could imagine and probably ones you have never even heard of.

    For anyone with a sweet tooth ( or more ) The Philippines is certainly a great place to be !

  14. says

    I really appreciate all of your information, no matter how seemingly small. The Philippines is my chosen last stop in life. I’m not there yet. I am a very easy going guy and I truly want to simplify my life there. Thanks again.

  15. says

    I’ve been around the world, and everyone has their own choice of word or name for almost anything. In Scotland, they call a vacuum cleaner a HOOVER, guy=BLOKE, When I was a young kid in the Philippines i called toothpaste a COLGATE and powdered milk= KLIM. Bob Martin probably flipped out when doctor told him that they have to CONFINE him for committing crime of infection. We simply need to accept that we’re not the center of the universe.

  16. Lenny says

    You know Bob …. this is what is cool about your site…It is like all of us sitting at the round table in the afternoon with our drinks and having our whatever a week gathering and conversations..Sometimes things like this article come up and away we go!!!!! Sometimes differences become even heated (not much but sometimes)…Yeah …I have had the same thing happen to me…But it generally is because who I asked was a younger person or one who has not worked at the store much..It seems this episode was because of title…But anyway it’s like I said “cool” to be at your table….Take Care hope your feeling better

    • Tito Joe says

      yup, just what you said! its like getting an education during a tagay session! Excellent view!

      To be clear, tagay is when a group of friends take turns drinking alcohol using just one glass. The pouring of the alcohol and passing around of the single glass is usually facilitated by just one person. He is the designated gunner.

      Guess Bob has a new nickname. Gunner Bob. LOL!

    • says

      Thanks, Lenny! I’m glad that you feel that way. I love the community aspect of this site. The readers and participants make it all worthwhile. As Dave Starr often says, you can learn just as much, or more, from reading the comments ass you do from the article!

  17. SteveC says

    Another good article Bob. When I started reading I had to run to the kitchen to see what the label on the powdered/ confectioners sugar said. And guess what, it says Powdered Sugar in 1inch letters and right below it in about 1/2 inch letters it says Pure Confectioners Sugar, so who’s uneducated?
    But I know that’s not the real point of this article… It sounds like an unhappy bunch of people on that FB group not something I’d want to deal with. And, when I visit the Philippines as I did again last month I enjoy the differences from the US, rather than look for the similarities.
    I don’t know how someone could be so unhappy living in the Philippines?!

    Thanks, SteveC

    • says

      Hi SteveC – Yeah, a lot of the expats are unhappy, or act like they are. If you ask them why don’t they go home they say they like it here, though! I don’t really join those groups for the very reason.

      Variety is the spice of life! That’s what makes looking for those differences fun!

      Thanks for enjoying the article.

  18. Heinz Schirmaier says

    Well said Bob! sometimes I also have problems with asawa ko calling an item with the american name and she does no understand. So what I do then is describe in different terms and soon she understands. That fellow should have taken the time and explain and yes! even here in the US confectioners sugar is the proper way to describe it. “Powdered Sugar” is slang and used by Non-culinary educated people!

    • says

      Ha ha… I bet if you took some powdered or confectioners sugar out on the streets in the USA and asked people what it was, 8 out of 10 would call it powdered sugar! Probably 9 out of 10. ;-)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Heinz! Always nice to hear from you.

  19. says

    Hi Bob – Good article. It’s a shame there are many negative expats that are complete dumbasses when it comes to understanding the Philippine culture. They are a guest that chooses to live here then somehow thinks the Filipino is the problem and should get more educated like them and change to be better like them. If you are a guest in any other country then that country expects you to adjust to its culture. Example people in Australia expect you to learn English if you go there and adjust to their culture. I understand that in the Philippines you can live quite comfortably just speaking English but if you don’t understand culture then you will most likely resort to such criticisms of the culture. Such attitudes towards a culture are more a reflection on the people with the attitudes than the culture. The Philippines is more accommodating to foreigners than many other cultures. I personally have developed a love for the culture and only have mainly Filipino friends. As a culture they just do things indirectly and differently, this is not a reflection of low intelligence.

    • says

      Hi Brenton – I think that a lot of these fellows don’t realize is that learning more about the culture will make their lives more pleasurable. Learning how to blend into the culture makes life easier. Why try to swim upstream all the time, turn around and go downstream.. life will be easier! Instead of complaining learn how to enjoy your life here!

      Your comments are right on point, Brenton!

      • says

        Bob – You are right that these people wouldn’t comprehend learning culture would make there life much more pleasant. It takes a lot of work but so far I know maybe 500 to 600 words of binisaya and learning daily. I understand the Filipino general thought patterns and social etiquettes. I am better with my communication by talking slow, adjusting my accent and learning words familiar to culture. I speak binisaya as much as possible, I know many Filipino jokes. I even behave more indirectly like the culture. It makes life super easy if you work to fit in. It is quite enjoyable as a consequence.

        • says

          Hi Brenton – I fully agree. Learning and living what you learn makes life a lot more fun. Sitting around complaining is no fun, and will lead to a life that is miserable!

  20. John Miele says


    Like you, when I read or hear something like this, it makes the hair on my arms stand on end. I think I probably would have made a smartass comment had I seen this discussion and unfriended them…

    Unfortunately, it seems that this type of behavior to emanate from my fellow Americans, more often than not. I was having a similar discussion with a colleague in Singapore a few weeks ago, about why this seems to be the case. My opinion only:

    1. Most Americans travel abroad far less than Europeans, or Aussies, or people from other parts of the world.

    2. A system in the USA that is uber patriotic (USA, USA… We’re number one! Woooooooooooo!!!!!) Though most countries try and instill patriotism in their citizens, it is thoroughly drilled into every American from an early age. You are not supposed to question that the USA is the best in everything. Best scientists. Best military. Best schools. Best health care. Best social programs. Best system of government. Best at everything. It becomes the “duty” of Americans to spread the word about how wonderful our ways are…. Those uncivilized brown people simply CANNOT know how to do things right. We do them better. Wooooo! USA! No 1! You see “We support our troops” “Buy American” everywhere, and you risk being ridiculed, at best, if you so much as question the logic or morality of the statement. This naturally shows itself when we do travel abroad.

    3. Media that tends to re-inforce idiocy. American media is pervasive worldwide. People in other countries see this and can start to believe that everything in the USA is like in the movies or that Americans all think like that.Examples like you gave above simply reinforce this stereotype.

    4. Despite minor differences from place to place, the USA is largely a hegemoneous society… Over a huge chunk of land. Americans get conditioned to things being the same wherever they may go. In Europe, you can travel six hours on a train from Amsterdam to London and be in four different countries and experience six distinct cultures.

    5. The US military, over the last 100 years, has had adventures in nearly every region of the world. In the majority of those conflicts, the military won, and won decisively…Though not always with the moral high ground. This superpower mentality naturally shows in many Americans.

    • says

      Hi John – I tend to agree with most of the points you listed. I think that #2 is the primary reason. Fact is, for much of the 20th Century the USA was the best at many things. We saved Europe, etc, etc. But, many Americans don’t realize that things have changed in the past 20 or 30 years and other countries are catching up or even surpassing the US on many fronts. Americans think that their schools are the best in the world, but in terms of education America ranks quite low when scored country against country!

      You raise a point in #2 that I had not considered and that is the racial factor. I think that plays a role too. The whole “brown people” thing, and if we were in Africa it would be the “black people” that were uneducated. It all comes down to the fact that there are still way too many people who firmly believe that the white people are the best. That angle really sickens me, but there is a nugget of truth there.

      • John Miele says


        I think the longer I live here, and the more of the world that I see, this type of stuff bothers me more. Sorry if I was ranting.

        I do take pride in my country, but I think that the USA is largely unwilling to learn from other people and cultures, and that many of the problems in the USA could be solved if Americans would take a moment and look around them rather than blindly following propaganda or the latest craze.

        The simple truth is that many countries have figured out better ways to do certain things… Nobody has a monopoly on knowledge.

        • says

          I didn’t feel you were ranting, John. You made valid points on everything you said. I am like you, the longer I live outside the country, the more these things bother me and actually make me cringe!

  21. bigp says

    As for me I made it through a couple years of college but most of my education came from living. If I were to place a bet on who had the most formal education, the complainer or the clerk I would bet on the clerk. Chances are the clerk has a college degree, the complainer maybe. And i always appreciate help and advice even if it is wrong, I appreciate the effort.

    • says

      You and I are in the same boat, Loren. I went to college for 2 1/2 years, but quit because it bored me. I would agree that the clerk was probably better educated than the person who berated him! Here in the Philippines, you must have a college degree to get almost any kind of job. I saw a sign at a gas station recently that stated they were looking for pump attendants and a college degree was required to be employed!

  22. says

    There appears to be three types of attitudes held by many foreigners living in the Philippines: “Love it or leave it”, “Love to hate it”, and a middle ground attitude. I’m squarely in the middle and find the other two categories somewhat hard to understand. It’s okay to complain sometimes. It vents out frustrations.

  23. says

    I would consider myself in the middle, Tommy McDuff. I don’t understand why the people who complain constantly would want to stay, but I certainly don’t demand that they leave. Of course everybody complains sometimes, it is simply human.

  24. says

    Tommy, you and Bob are spot on. I’m just going to respect the differences, appreciate them, and thank the Lord for another blessed day no matter where I’m at. Hopefully, on the beach in the Philippines real soon! haha

  25. says

    Sports update: Incase anyone in the Philippines wants to know the Chicago Blackhawks and St Louis Blues are tied 3 – 3 in the 2nd OT. I figured with all that ice over there; there’s gotta be a lot of hockey fans.

  26. says

    WOW! What a way to open up the NHL Playoffs. Blues and Hawks going into the 3rd OT tied at three. My team: The Detroit Red Wings open Friday night against the Boston Bruins.

  27. John Coldwell says

    Hi Bob, When I was touring the Philippines in 2010 I was in a small hotel in a small town and was ordering breakfast. Most Filipinos love their coffee, but I prefer tea so I asked for “Black” tea (not wanting to get Green Tea for breakfast).

    After a very long period of time, the waiter came back and very humbly apologized and said “Sorry Sir, we have no BLACK tea, we have only YELLOW tea. OK, YELLOw tea? maybe it is a variety of tea I have not tried. “I’ll have the YELLOW tea I replied.”

    With my breakfast order came a cup of hot water and a single cup package of Lipton YELLOW Label tea! (you know, the one with the YELLOW label!). I said nothing and drank my black tea!

    • says

      Reminds me of being out for a meal with a group of Filipino’s who hadn’t been in the UK for very long. The waiter in a steak restaurant was asking each diner in turn how they would like their steak cooked, and after the third person had announced “medium”, he obviously got the wrong idea, and announced that he’d like his “large”. I quickly chipped in to avoid any embarrassment and agreed, laughing, saying I’d like a larger than normal steak too, then asked him how much he’d like the chef to cook it.

      • says

        Really Jim? I would day that most sugar I have ever run across is a granular form, like the consistency of grains of sand. Powdered sugar is the consistency of baby powder. I don’t see the grocery clerk to be lazy in any way.

        • says

          And you from a retail background Bob? A sales assistant who didn’t make enough effort to find out what it was that was actually wanted and effectively lost a sale? In the west, I’d gently “counsel” and retrain him or her! But it’s not the west, and you just have to forgive them and put the blame on our western boorishness for their being reticent to interact effectively.

          But let’s not argue over the difference between granulated and powdered; whatever way it comes, it seems to be bad for us. :-(

  28. Tim Kempton says

    Great article Bob and I think perhaps it should be mandatory reading for many people from the west before travelling outside their very sheltered worlds. It is this exact attitude that has given rise to the reputations internationally of the “Ugly American”, “Obnoxious Australian” and the “Complaining Englishman” (called a Whinging Pom in Australia). Anybody who travels outside there own country whether to live in another country or just as a tourist needs to open there mind and learn new things that way we all have a much better time and will all be better educated.

    • says

      Thanks for your nice comment Tim. You are right, us foreigners don’t like to be called those unflattering names, but when we and our countrymen act like that it is only natural.

  29. says

    Well, I personally have no idea what “powdered” sugar is, specifically, since I rarely see sugar that isn’t in powdered form, otherwise it would be hard to use; to pour into your coffee or weighing scales etc. But from the context, I guess that it’s a term used in USA to describe what I might call “icing” sugar, sufficiently finely ground to be used for cake icing etc? “Confectioners” sugar seems to me to be a logical name for finely ground sugar, since it’s use in confectionery might imply that it would need to be finely ground?

    The real problem is that the store assistant may have seemed to be a bit lazy, as is nearly always the case, and didn’t want to inquire as to what it’s use was, then he might have had a clue or asked a colleague where to find it? The old absent customer service story. The sad fact is they usually want to get away from the white guy as quickly as possible, so as to avoid being the subject of an “ugly foreigner incident”. Quite understandable, I suppose, and if we (foreigners) tried harder not to always seem irritated or angry, maybe we could eradicate that fear, and solve the real root problem.

  30. Russell Clement says

    Hi Bob ,, My wife had the same problem when she came she came to Australia ,, went looking for powdered sugar,, there isn’t such a thing here,,, Its called Icing Sugar here as in the UK ,,, used to make Icing ,, ( frosting in America ) ,,
    I don’t think the supermarkets help either ,,, sugar is sugar , why confuse people by putting it in a different place ,, believe me, they do the same here in Australia ,,,

      • Russell Clement says

        Yes of course ,, I will be visiting there shortly , and I’ve already been doing my homework :-) .
        I’m British but have lived in Australia for 55 yrs and I’ve had many discussions with new arrivals , mostly from Britain that try to compere their old country with Australia ,, Its not possible and I know I will find it the same when I go to the Philippines

  31. PapaDuck says

    To survive here you have to adapt or improvise. Things I know they don’t have or are very expensive I have shipped over in boxes no matter the cost. Have even shipped things for other expats. No need to complain or give a clerk a hard time. Thats part of preparing for the move knowing whats available here. I love shopping at the stores here because you can always find a clerk to assist you, unlike the US where your lucky if you can find one sometimes.

    • says

      Hi PapaDuck – compared to when I first moved here, I find that just about anything I want or need is available here now. Life is easy compared to 14 years ago!

  32. Jay says

    Hi Bob,

    So do you prefer powdered sugar or confectionery sugar in your spaghetti?

    Great article! I would make one comment you probably will not like on this issue. You have on a number of occasions said the quality of Filipino spaghetti is bad because it is sweet and to me that too is a matter of taste not quality. I really like the point you made with this article!

    • says

      Hi Jay, I don’t believe that I have ever said that Philippine spaghetti is poor quality. What I believe I have said is that I don’t like the flavor of Philippine spaghetti. That is just stating my food preference, not talking bad about the Philippines. I have never asked that the country change how they make spaghetti, I will just eat other foods that I do enjoy. :-)

  33. says

    Hi Bob — A casual look (or should I say listen?) in the USA brings about regional differences similar to confectioner’s sugar. Now, just what is it when asking about a 1) frying pan, 2) iron pan, 3) skillet, 4) iron skillet, 5) stew pan, 6) andiron, or 7) spider that makes an American that much smarter?


  34. John Weeks says

    Wow – I get sick for a couple days and miss out on one of the biggest discussion strings on LiP in recent weeks!

    Having been an expat before in Europe (I’m one of those rare bilingual Americans), I think a big part of the “unhappy” expat has to do with a simple human characteristic… EGO.

    Most Americans have a general sense that anything is possible (it’s one of our biggest positive attributes). This includes our believe that we can live anywhere in the world. But as most of us have learned, moving to another country can be a very confusing and humbling experience; it’s hard to know which way is up sometimes and most people don’t like feeling so helpless. The typical American is a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” sort of person, so when someone swipes your boots and gives you “slippers”, all you can do to preserve the ol’ ego is to complain. It makes you feel superior for a short time and you seek out others to confirm your views… so you all end up propping up your poor expat egos as a group. But like drugs and alcohol, the buzz doesn’t last long, nor is it a permanent solution to the problem. And hey, aren’t slippers better here anyways?

    Of course, it’s just a way to avoid dealing with the natural process of acculturation (and personal growth) that needs to happen if we are ever to get past this feeling. Problem is of course that not all of us are open to change as we get older, but we stick to our guns in deciding to come here all the same. So you get the ugly (usually older) American expat hanging out at Starbucks and bitching to anyone who will listen.

    I may understand it, but like you guys, I still avoid these expats and I resent being painted with that brush. We all end up feeling like we have to make up for the shortcomings of these guys. Meanwhile, it’s time for me to start working seriously on becoming trilingual!

    Another great one, Bob!

  35. sugar says

    Hey Bob, anybody looking for me? I’m not powdered or confectioner but I’m sweet pun fun. I’m always available. Ha ha. Asukal is the Tagalog of Sugar :)

    Now to help foreigners or those who are new here in the Phils. Here are some few words. Because it’s just how it is here. Live with it, go with the flow.

    We don’t say soda.. we say softdrinks. Xerox..instead of photocopy. Drugstore instead of pharmacy. Grocery instead of supermarket. Hotcake instead of pancake. Copish?! He he. Just to make it clear Filipinos are not uneducated. :)

  36. James says

    Great article here Bob. I just think it has always been the American way to expect the whole world to bend to what we think. And then again sometimes I think a little bit of us is always unhappy where ever we are at. But as a good person we should always be trying to change. If you are going to be living in another place we should adapt to what is around us.

    The other day I was at Wal Mart and I was looking for matches. Something like that thought would have been in the grocery department a few years ago, I was told by one person who worked there, that it was in the Hardware department.

    Then after looking and looking I ask someone else and they said it was in the Household department. Of course Kitchen=Household. OK they didn’t know exactly where it was at, but they was willing to help me look for it. Now I didn’t think or say that the first person was Stupid or Lazy. It was a item they just don’t see and work with everyday.

    I thought it would be in the wrong department completely anyway. And a few years ago I would have a attitude and be upset. I guess you can say my wife has helped me be more of a understanding person. And know that I was the person who was wrong for not really thinking about it.

  37. says

    Umm, actually, though, “Powdered” sugar and “Confectioner’s” sugar (often called “icing” sugar in the US), are NOT the same thing at all.

    Confectioner’s sugar is finely ground sugar with about 3% cornstarch added to keep the grains from sticking together.

    Powdered sugar has no additives, but commercially is sold in several different grinds … the higher the number the smaller the grains of sugar. What is typically sold in the USA as “Powdered” sugar is more correctly “10x Powdered” sugar, the finest grind sold commercially.

    It’s a pretty “fine” point, but in some recipes it can certainly make a difference if the products are thought of as “the same”. They aren’t.

    Now as to those who spend their days insulting Filipinos and complaining about life here, I make my standard offer. Just contact me day or night and if you live on Luzon, I’ll come and fetch you and give you a free ride to the airport. Planes fly both ways you know, and I hate to se anyone so unhappy.

    • says

      Now, that is certainly interesting, Dave. I thought they were the same. Given the specificity of your information, though, it sure seems that you know what you are saying, so I accept that there is a small difference in the two.

      “Fine point,” Dave? Was the pun intended or not? ;-)

      • says

        Well Wikipedia is a great source except that it’s hardly authoritative, especially on technical things. You may get an article from a recognized expert or you may get an opinion from a layman like you or me. Anyone can join Wikipedia and contribute .. they depend on continual peer review to try to maintain accuracy.

        The difference is the corn starch which is very important to people making sugar dusted candies and such. I guarantee it’s different.

        Both products are, of course “powdered sugar, in that they are granulated sugar ground down to fit through an industry standard 10x screen

        But Confectioner’s Sugar has a special ingredient .. corn starch.

        See what Domino Sugar US says … the guys who make the stuff:

        Confectioners Sugar

        A very fine, powdered sugar with exceptionally smooth texture. Ideal for making frosting’s, glazes, fudge, and candy-making. Contains cornstarch to prevent caking. (my emphasis)

        I guarantee if you are making a recipe which calls for “Confectioners Sugar” and you substitute plain 10X powdered sugar your results are in jeopardy. Instead of the smooth dusting of sugar you may wind up with lumps and bumps which spoil the look if not the taste.

        Likewise if your recipe depends upon melting the powdered sugar, or dissolving the sugar into a liquid, the corn starch may interfere with the process.

        Sorry but there is a difference between confectioners sugar and other “powdered sugars”.. That’s why it is made, stocked and sold as a separate the USA.

  38. says

    There is a sugar in aussie recipes that is about half as fine as confectioners sugar, can’t recall the name, think it starts with a ‘C’. When in a pinch use a food processor to powder sugar. And about ugly americans……..I am one, after all not all of us can be as pretty as Bob. If the person complaining about the Tylenol had a better attitude perhaps he wouldn’t need it, besides it does nothing to reduce swelling, as in his head, only pain he causes in others. go with the Advil lad. I also agree that everyone should speak english, especially Canadians. WHY IS EVERYONE OUT OF STEP EXCEPT ME?

  39. says

    The clerk in the store is vastly underpaid, and knowing that should help in your understanding of why he/she doesn’t know where things are, what is their incentive?
    If you don’t find the Ten X sugar, the Icing sugar, Powered sugar or Confessionary sugar with the regular sugar, go to the baking section which would be the most logical place to stock it. Leave the kid in the store alone he has enough crap to put up with.

    • says

      Very true, Paul. Also, most of those workers in the store work on 5 or 6 month contracts and don’t work there longer than that. So, by the time they start learning where everything is… they are out of a job and a whole new crew comes in! ;-)

      • chasrand says

        Aint that the truth Bob, and if an item goes missing or the checkout till is down, it comes out of their salary.

              • chasrand says

                My sister worked 6 months in Woolworths during the 70s, whilst waiting to go to College. It was still policy with them then.

                Well we have a saying here, “Whatever happens in the States, we follow a decade or so later”, LoL.

              • says

                @ Chas

                A decade or so? Try five decades ;-). I started high school in 1960. When I turn on the car radio here in the Philippines it sounds just like the radio did when I first got my license and was able to drive to school. It’s a regular time machine.

            • says

              “Whatever happens in the States, we follow a decade or so later.”

              Chas, when it comes to fashion, though, it’s the other way around. Britain and continental Europe usually lead the way while the U.S. lags behind by at least 6 months to a year. I remember when bell-bottoms, high collared shirts, and double-breasted suits popularized by Carnaby Street in London were all the rage in Europe, I remember returning to the U.S. from Germany to find guys in Manhattan still wearing stove-pipe pants, skinny ties, and flat-collared shirts. On my first day at work at the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue, I wore my German-made double-breasted suit with bell-bottom trousers and high-collared shirt, and promptly drew stares and sniggers from the so-called “avant gardes” on 5th Avenue. Remember, this was 5th Avenue, New York City, supposedly the center of cool and a trend-setter for U.S. fashion. About a year or so later, bell-bottoms, wide ties, and double-breasted suits spread like wild fire in America, but only in large cities.

  40. says

    Salary deductions still happen in retail in the west a lot more than you might think. Cashiers typically count their float at the beginning of their shift, and count it again at the end. No one else can access it in many stores, and they are responsible for it until the end of their shift, and responsible for shortages too! What else can the employers do when they use that system; just say “dang, fifty bucks short…oh well, never mind”? This is very typical of the system in Gas Stations, and it is also the policy in at least one very large multi-national retail business that I know of. On the other hand, in stores where cash registers are shared by more than one employee, it would be unfair to make any deduction because they can’t pinpoint the source of the problem.

    I agree with Bob in saying that part of the reason retail staff are not committed to their work is because of the poor employment policies of their employers, and I also agree with Paul Thompson, who, if I may paraphrase, is saying “come on guys, use a bit of common sense”! I am intrigued though, by this “confessionary” sugar of which Paul speaks, and wondering if it’s something to do with the catholic religion? Do you put a spoonful of it in the communion wine perhaps?

    • says

      These salary deductions are illegal in the USA. If cash comes up short the employer eats the shortage and probably fires the cashier if it is a regular thing.

      • Brenton Butler says

        Bob – Salary deductions are illegal in Australia as well! A large local shop near where we live, my son was walking and accidentally knocked a toy robot that was sitting out about 500 mm high to the ground and the arm broke. The manager proceeded to tell us that if we don’t pay the person watching the section pays out of their salary. An older Australian friend a similar instance that happened at the same store, the guards said they were holding his daughter till he pays. The guards grabbed his daughter, he intervened and grabbed the guard. Another guard started to pull his gun. They use what ever tactic they can. The business I am talking about is large with 100′s of employees. I told the guy you almost got shot over a toy your daughter broke. Just imagine the newspaper headline for that. I even saw lady workers the other week being felt up real good by a lady guard that was frisking them as they were finishing their shifts. The way they were being frisked was quite extreme. Some businesses here get quite serious in their actions to prevent loss of any kind.

        • says

          That’s quite an outrageous story Brenton. I live in Queensland, and I would be shocked to hear such a story here. I’ve never even seen an armed guard in Big W or anywhere else, though I’m not particularly well traveled in Aussie.

          • says

            Ah Brenton, I get it now. You started talking about Australia, and only later did I realise that you live in the Philippines. Yes, salary deductions are illegal here too, as they also are in the UK. I was really talking about a mega American corporation that I know of who “invite” cashiers to make up till shortages.

          • Brenton Butler says

            Jim – I was writing to Bob and he knows I live in the Philippines, I didn’t give much consideration to other readers. Sorry for the lack of clarity on the matter of location. An Australia guard would be in trouble for just about looking at the gun let alone touching it or removing it. The guy in the story is 75, not a huge threat! This event was in Dumaguete a very low crime town, so guards don’t often have to be on edge. But the guy never paid for the item and still shops there. I paid for the item my son run into as I figured it was easier than causing bad feelings over a $7 toy.

  41. says

    Yes, you’re right Bob, it is illegal, but as you can imagine, it still goes on; it would be wrong of me to name names, but I know one very large organisation that “invite” staff to make up the shortfall, and refusal is more or less resignation. It is tougher there though, when making up fifty pesos out of your wages is a huge deal, and maybe you were not even allowed to check your float at the start of your shift.

    Anyway…a bit “off-topic” now huh?

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