Being a Good Guest

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Over the course of my life, I’ve been invited to others homes many times. I, therefore, know how to be a well-behaved guest. First, upon entering, I never offer to remove my shoes since it is the host’s pleasure to adjust to my way of doing things. Second, I will point out the flaws of their home, so they may correct them as soon as possible. Lastly, when discussing current events, if I believe their views are in error, I will explain in a commanding voice why they are wrong.

Hopefully, you realize the prior paragraph was a simply a bit of fun. Guests should always be respectful of their host’s hospitality. Expat guests in a foreign country would also do well to adhere to this simple rule.

Survival Cebuano

Before continuing, allow me a moment to address my fellow United States expats residing in the Philippines. Your behavior is a reflection on me, and mine is a reflection on you. It is only logical that Filipino’s will make some kind of judgment of us as a group, in addition to judging us as individuals. If one of you fellow Americans is viewed acting like a jerk, the rest of us have to work twice as hard to counter that impression…so cut it out.

It is traditional for a guest to bring a gift for the host. Of course it would be silly for an expat to bring a gift for millions of Filipinos, however, there are more reasonable alternatives. For example, my wife and I presented school supplies to a local elementary school. Something like that may be beyond some expats budget, so they might consider something more simple like bringing special chocolates to distribute to their closest neighbors or the local children. Another thing my wife and I do is bring glow bracelets from the USA. We buy them in bulk and they only cost about 7 cents each. The kids like wearing them or finding fun creative uses for them. If you are generous with their kids, the parents will notice.

It is almost inevitable that Filipino’s will be curious about your opinion of their country. When asked, be prepared, and try to focus on the positive. You might say, “The beaches are beautiful, and the people are so friendly”. You also might try and be humorous and add, “I do however wish the beer was colder.” Think about it this way. In your country of origin, when someone asks your opinion about their home, you don’t start off by saying, “It needs some paint and it’s too small”.

When out in public, there is always the temptation to compare the Filipino way to your home country’s way of doing things. The service at a restaurant might not meet your expectations. A store may not keep any stock of something you want to own today. Expats, please don’t feel it is your job to point out your countries superior way of handling things to the waiter or the sales girl. If you were them, would you care about how some other country does things better? If you are one of those expats that think only by complaining will things improve, then you are getting dangerously close to jerk territory. Complaining about something in your home country is different. If the host of a party says “This party sucks.”, that’s acceptable behavior. If a guest at your party tells you, “This party sucks”, it’s just rude.

Something an expat would be wise to avoid thinking is, “I have my rights”. The simple truth is that expats don’t have any rights. As a guest, you only have the rights extended to you by your host. If the host says you can’t use the comfort room, then you can’t use the comfort room. If the Philippines says you can’t own a gun, then you can’t own a gun. On second thought, as a guest, you do have one right. You have the right to leave.

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Steve Walker

Steve has been married for 25 years to a Filipina from Cebu. They lived in the Chicago area until recently, when they moved to Cebu. He worked as a computer programmer analyst and retired 3 years ago at age 57. They have a home that is located close to the famous whale shark tourist attraction and have 3 dogs.

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Paul Thompson
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Paul Thompson

To be a guest in my house you are allowed to sit where you want and be comfortable, but you are not allowed to rearrange my furniture.
That simple rule will make you welcome all over the world.

Paul Richard Robertson
Guest
Paul Richard Robertson

Having lived in Mexico, Thailand, China, Cuba and now the Philippines I always tried to blend in as much as my 6’2′, 240Lb body with auburn hair would allow. Learning all their languages made it easier to get by and also earned the respect of the people I had do deal with. My confusion and the reason I don’t live in my native country of Canada is that they and the fools in all the other Western Christian Countries bend to the whims of the “visitors”. It amazes me that there are people walking around Canada who can’t speak english… Read more »

rblevy
Guest
rblevy

When locals ask what I think about President Duterte or whomever, I simply duck the issue by explaining that as an expat, I’m just a guest in the Philippines, and that it’s not my place to offer opinions on Philippine political matters.

However, if I’m asked about my thoughts about issues in the U.S., that’s a different matter.

Greg Brawley
Guest
Greg Brawley

I agree with your perspective and applaud your fine article. Regarding language…..Since I’ve been here so long, many Filipinos I encounter sort of assume that by now my Tagalog is fluent. I will often respond with: ” Your English will ALWAYS be better than my Tagalog!” I will sometimes go on to explain how difficult conversational Tagalog is for English speakers. Of course, that does not account for my lack of aptitude for languages!!! I always envy people who have that gift. ….particularly when I find myself lost in my “Taxi Tagalog”! 🙂

Cordillera Cowboy
Guest
Cordillera Cowboy

Hello Steve,
Nice article. What you’ve said gets said in here often. But seems, it always needs repeating. I’ve been here less than a year, but I’ve already met a couple of scowling expats who can’t seem to adjust.
Learning the language is an ongoing process, and will improve things greatly. I’m in agreement with Mr. Brawley that the local folks English will always be better than my attempts at Ilocano. And with Mr. Robertson, that the machine gun speed of the language hampers my understanding.
Plenty of good suggestions in your article.
Take care,
Pete

SD
Guest
SD

Well said Steve! Kudos to you! I am trying to learn Tagalog from my (just turned) 7 year old Daughter, she giggles at me a lot! The minor problem I have encountered, is when she is doing her home study assignments and I get questioned about English grammar and proper word usage, from her Mother (who speaks English very well) I tend to try not to confuse the situation even more. Luckily, her older brothers have been through Perpetual College and are very helpful when providing answers that the curriculum is looking for. Another experience is, most locals that I… Read more »

Jay Stainback
Guest
Jay Stainback

Hi Steve,

Amen!

Peace

Jay

Blue boy
Guest
Blue boy

Well written article. My wife and her family, as well as many other Filipinos I encountered all seem to complain more about western men and Korean nationals being the worst complainers, with Australian and American men seem to copping up the worst blame (not my opinion but what I have heard from Filipinos in interactions). Seen some rowdy foreigners here myself. I am a Singaporean, it is already part of our culture to respect the host. We are raised that way and we expect the same from visitors as well. It has been easy to get along with Filipinos for… Read more »

Malcolm
Guest
Malcolm

Greetings Steve and thanks for your well written article. The underlying message is one that can’t be repeated often enough on forums like this. The downside is that most of the worst offenders and those westerners that cause us to wince and cringe as they complain at supermarket checkouts, in hardware stores, at restaurants, airports and so many other places, simply won’t read the post. They are so secure in their bubble of “it’s better where I come from and I know best” that they never bother to ask themselves why they came here in the first place. I applaud… Read more »

Roger Disco
Guest
Roger Disco

Nice article Steve. You’re right on here. -Rob

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