8 Stereotypes You’ll Encounter In The Philippines: Written By A Foreigner

After traveling The Philippines for an extended period of time, I have come to the conclusion that it is one of my favorite countries so far. I have decided that I’ll be adding it into the rotation of places I visit on a regular basis. Despite everything it has to offer, there are some Filipino stereotypes that you’ll come across when you visit. Like any other country you go to, there are some things that are accepted as commonplace whether they are true or not. As an outsider, I find that these widely accepted ideas can be good, bad, or downright funny. Let’s examine the 8 stereotypes you’ll encounter when visiting The Philippines.

Filipino Stereotype #1: Foreigners Are All Rich

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According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary (at the time of this writing) in The Philippines is 381,172 Pesos (PHP) or $7,491.50 in USD. Due to this fact, it is automatically assumed that almost all foreigners are rich or wealthy. Even though, this is certainly not always the case. The reverse is also true, most Filipinos think that almost all other Filipinos are poor.

In The Philippines, real estate agents selling property such as condos or other investment buildings would constantly hand me flyers on these things assuming I can afford it. If I was with local Filipino friends, however, they were never even considered for the sales pitch. There were also several occasions where I went out to dinner with my Filipino friends where they would pay the bill and they would bring the change to me or even their credit card receipt for me to sign. This actually happened 100 percent of the time. Once I took notice of this, we would do it on purpose just to see who they would bring the bill to. Sadly, it’s always assumed that the foreigner is paying.

Filipino Stereotype #2: You’re Only Here To Cheat On Your Wife Or Girlfriend

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I noticed a lot of locals assumed that most foreigners were just here on vacation (see stereotype #8) and only there looking for sexual relations. I can’t tell you how many awkward conversations I’ve had about this. One taxi driver even started asking me what I thought about every girl we drove by in an effort to make conversation. It seriously made me very uncomfortable. I mean it’s just weird to start talking about these things with a complete stranger.

If you’re using a dating app there, the first question they will ask is if you’re married. As a single guy, I found this very offensive at first. However, I came to find out that indeed a serious amount of foreigners are actually there for this reason. So to all the other foreigners out there, do us a favor. Stop being a dirtbag and traveling overseas to cheat on your significant other. It makes the rest of us look bad!

Filipino Stereotype #3: Filipino Time

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In every country, there is always some kind of assumption about how people are with time. For example, in Switzerland, it is assumed that everyone is punctual. In The Philippines, however, everyone is also presumed to be anywhere from 30 minutes to around 2 hours late. They have even coined the phrase “Filipino Time” for this. It’s a constant joke as to whether someone will show up at the standard time or on Filipino time.

Filipino Stereotype #4: “Hey Joe!”

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HEY JOE!

The Philippines has a common saying dating back to the World War II era. It comes from when the military was referred to as “GI Joe’s.” It’s still common to hear the Filipino’s shouting out on a regular basis “Hey, Joe!” It doesn’t matter what country you come from, if you look American or Western at all, then your name is Joe.

At first, I was taken a bit by surprise with this and it actually bothered me. It felt a bit derogatory and offensive. Honestly though, it’s supposed to be meant as a term of endearment even if it doesn’t feel that way. Most of The Philippines (especially the younger generation) actually loves American culture. This is honestly just a good opportunity to introduce yourself and start a conversation. Kyle from becomingfilipino.com made a good video about this stereotype a while back, check it out if you have a chance.

Filipino Stereotype #5: You Met All Of Your Local Friends On Tinder Or The Internet

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Regardless of where you met your local Filipino friends, it will be assumed that you met somewhere online and that there is some kind of sexual interest. Let’s say, for example, I go with a Filipina I could’ve met 5 minutes ago at my hostel to get coffee. To the public, we were considered to be on a date. Even when I was hanging with one of my Filipino guy friends, the speculation would be that we were a couple. The funny part was when we started playing along and making a big joke of it. It’s just a perception of the culture and it’s very difficult to change this way of thinking.

Filipino  Stereotype #6: There Is An Unspoken Rivalry Between Tagalog and Bisaya

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In the Philippines, there are 3 main languages that are spoken. The first is English which for the most part is universally spoken throughout the country at least as a second language. The other two languages are the main ones spoken in the Philippines depending on what region you are in. The main one is Tagalog which is spoken on the island of Luzon as well as most of the rest of the Country. Seeing as how it’s the country’s primary language, most of the country at least speaks Tagalog as a second language. The language of Bisaya (Cebuano) is spoken in Cebu, Bohol, Southern Masbate and most parts of Mindanao.

For whatever reason, there is sort of a rivalry between those who live in the Tagalog speaking regions and those who live in the Bisaya speaking regions. It’s funny as I’ve traveled all throughout the Philippines and I have introduced my local friends to one another, they are only really put at ease when they realize that they speak the same language or come from the same region. Otherwise, there is a subtle tension between them.

I believe this stems from societal programming. In the old days, the housemaids on the TV shows were always given a hard Visayan accent and helped in forming the stereotype that Visayans are “low-class” from the perspective of Tagalog speakers. There was some truth to this, however. According to Rosemary Roque, a Filipina Nurse from Cebu now living in Abu Dhabi:

“There was a time when there was an influx of workers (housemaids among them) from the Visayas into Manila. You see, the Visayans, for their part believe that there is a better life for them in the big city.”

From the Perspective of Visayans, the Tagalogs think too highly of themselves and are seen as “stuck up” or “rude” In all honesty though, these are just stereotypes and are quite outdated.  It is pretty interesting to note that there can be some subtle tension between the two languages or regions. For the most part, people understand that they are Filipino and generally get along regardless of where they come from.

Filipino Stereotype #7: In Order To Be Accepted By Your Significant Other’s Family, You Must Have Accomplishments

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When it comes to dating in The Philippines, it can be a bit old-fashioned. It’s common that the family of the person you are dating must give their approval before their children are permitted to date you. It is mostly the males who are screened although depending on the affluence of the family, they may screen the females as well. Common questions that may be asked are as follows:

  • Where is he/she from?
  • Do they have a degree?
  • Where did they go to school?
  • Which kind of job or career path do they have?
  • What are their plans for the future?
  • How do you fit into those plans?

When it comes to foreigners, if the Philippine person you are dating comes from an educated or affluent family, you will be judged in the same manner as if you were Filipino or in some cases, they may be more demanding of you. If however, they come from a poor or uneducated family, it may be viewed as a step up to date a foreigner or a way to secure their family’s future (see stereotype #1). Whether you are from The Philippines or a foreigner, you must first be accepted by the family. In some cases, you may even be asked to do chores or tasks to show your loyalty to the family. If you are not accepted, however, there is always 2 options for your potential partner. They can either:

  1. Respect their families wishes and agree to no longer continue to see you or
  2. They can choose to continue to date you behind their family’s back

It doesn’t always happen this way, but this is one stereotype that can be true depending on the family’s background.

Filipino Stereotype #8: All Non-Asian Foreigners Are Tourists

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The funny thing is, if you’re not Asian, you must be a tourist. At least according to the locals and their perspective of foreign people in The Philippines. I have some friends who have lived in the Manila area for anywhere between 3-6 years. One of my friends is even up to par on Filipino history, politics, and pop culture. He has the ability to consistently win at Filipino trivia even against the locals. Yet if someone sees him in the streets, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Random Filipino: “Hi Sir, where are you from?””

My Friend: Originally from the United States

Random Filipino: Oh Nice! Welcome to The Philippines!

My Friend: Thanks, I’ve been living here for 6 years.

It’s actually always somewhat of a funny conversation as they go on to assume he’s looking for a Filipina wife and then hitting every other stereotype throughout the conversation. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s frequent enough to be considered a stereotype.  

Final Thoughts

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My extended family in Mindanao 😊

I have always believed in open-mindedness and individuality. I try to look at every place I go and every person I meet with objectivity. Unfortunately, however, No matter what country you go visit, there will be certain ideas that are accepted as generally being true even if it’s not always the case. I can certainly say there are a lot of stereotypes in the United States.

My experience in The Philippines has always been one of acceptance, friendliness, and overall positivity. That being said, it’s sometimes good to mix cultures and share an outsider’s thoughts for the benefit of unity and understanding. The more we know about each other, the smaller the world gets! 🙂 These are just my experiences and are in no way meant to be viewed as negative or derogatory to my friends: The Filipino people.

How about you? Are there any stereotypes that are commonly accepted in your country? How about places you’ve traveled to? Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite experience regarding stereotypes while traveling!

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  • Kim Jay Viñas

    Insightful post. These observations are spot on. There is a slogan/promotion that says ‘Filipino time is on time’ but its largely been drowned out. In perception, Filipino time is somehow expected to be not on time. I wish there is no longer a term ‘Filipino time’ because somehow it gets understood as being part of the culture and therefore considered acceptable and expected. It is not surprising when Filipinos arrive late in casual meet ups. This makes it confusing whenever you set up a time with them. I can’t say I’m always on time but whenever I was, I was in for a significant amount of waiting (time also feels longer when you wait). Whenever you’re in an event and it starts late, you’ll just hear ‘oh, it’s Filipino time.’

    On another note, it’s amazing how much of the war has influenced modern day Philippines. Yes ‘hey joe’ is still a thing here. Also Philippine jeepneys came from US military jeeps that the soldiers left in the country. Filipinos then modified the back to accommodate more passengers.

    • Ron Tuch

      Thanks so much Kim Jay! I agree it’s become okay to be late instead of on time although I can certainly say that in the big cities such as Manila and Cebu, traffic is definitely a factor. However, if it is anticipated ahead of time, it’s still possible to be accommodating.

      Yes this a great observation! So much of the war and the Philippines in the time of the Spanish colonization is seen in the culture in modern times. Thanks for commentiing! 🙂