I’ve been interested in my own Filipino culture ever since I got back from the country. My renewed interest in our own culture is born after spending some time living, studying and traveling overseas.
I’ve talked about Reverse Culture Shock in the Philippines before, but here are some of the 12 ‘Only in the Philippines’ moments I have and can remember. Some are endearing, some are shocking, but all of them are definitely ‘Only in the Philippines’!
- Sending Most of our Income to Family
The world is familiar with industrious Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)—but do you know that 50% to 90% of their income earned abroad they send back to family? These OFWs have to go through loneliness, alienation, abuse hard work and discrimination while working in another country and send most of their hard-earned back home to their families.
Even if we are just traveling and not working overseas, most of our shopping or pasalubong is still for family.
“Cousin Mila would love this top, Tita Janice would like this Coach bag, Uncle Noynoy would love this Japanese sake! All our shopping is definitely for our family left back home!”
2. What about Neighbors’ Sleep?
Eh, two things don’t exist in this country: Noise Pollution and Public Disturbance.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that there is a lack of respect when it comes to noise levels in the Philippines. It seems to be absolutely OK to belt out in the karaoke (off-key) at your home at 3 in the morning. Nothing wrong with that–nope, not at all.
3. Pointing with our lips
When someone asks you directions, especially among older people or people in the province, do not get shocked if we answer by pointing–get this–with our lips.
Allow me to illustrate via a friend’s experience. He is American. On his first trip to the Philippines, he asked a woman in the street for directions. The woman pouted her lips and pointed to the direction (this is a very Filipino thing, especially the elder ones).
It basically looks like this:
My friend was utterly confused, but then leaned in and kissed the woman. He thought the woman asked for a kiss and was a cultural thing, and was returned a big slap on his face!
4. Divorce is still illegal.
Aside from the Vatican City, Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is still illegal, or at the very least, still not possible.
5. Rampant Number of Lady Boys
Lady boys are aplenty in the country, and are already an intrinsic part of society, highly tolerated even for a super Catholic country. We have local and national competitions for ‘Ms. Gay’ for transgenders. They provide great comic relief among friends and even in local media.
6. Poking into other people’s business
We care about you. We care about what you did and what you’ve been up to. Where for many countries it is rude for people to ask you about your private affairs, in the Philippines, we are just ‘making conversation’. We love gossip and we don’t know what ‘mind your own business’ means, at all.
7. Sharing Food.
It is rude to eat your meal if the other person isn’t eating at all, so we invite everyone to share our food, even the portion is obviously not enough for two!
Food is an important part of Filipino life and culture. In fact, the phrase ‘Kumain ka na?’ (have you eaten?) is used as a greeting if you see an acquaintance passing by the streets.
9. Having a BIG family
Filipinos have BIG families, and if you marry one, they’re going to be part of you whether you like it or not.
When you have a Filipino BF / GF and tells you that you will be meeting their family, they don’t mean their parents and/or siblings. They mean the whole she-bang: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second-degree cousins, even second-degree cousins twice removed, heck, there are even individuals they aren’t even sure if they’re related to or not.
Most of the family members even live close by as neighbors, or in one big apartment complex or neighborhood.
10. Allergic to Road Safety
Ahh. Don’t we all like to live our lives on the edge? For Filipinos, most people find road safety ‘uncool’—what seatbelt?
Hence, you see some ‘cool’ badass guys ride motorbikes without helmets or drivers / riders without seat belts. They go as far as purchasing ‘fake seatbelt plugs’ just to disable the seatbelt alarm! Crazy.
Because seriously, Filipino guys here believe that folks who follow road rules are wimps.
11. Sunday is Day Off — even for Police / Traffic Enforcers
Again, going back to Catholic country—Sunday is day off for us and maybe for criminals too? Because it certainly is for Police! You never see traffic enforcers or police on Sunday, so one can even violate traffic rules on Sunday at their own risk–high likely chance you won’t get caught. An acquaintance was imprisoned for two days because he got the misfortune of being caught on Friday evening under DUI charges until he posted bail on Monday because there was no police on duty on weekend or something (was hazy on the details, but that was basically what I was told).
12. Giving candy for change
Some smaller shops give candy instead of coins for change.
More on Philippines
- 12 ‘ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES’ MOMENTS
- PHILIPPINES’ SALSA SOCIALS SCENE
- 10 AMUSING ENGLISH FILIPINOS SAY
- CEBU NIGHTLIFE GUIDE (UPDATED 2019)
- WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SEE IN BANTAYAN
- 10 MOMENTS OF REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK IN THE PHILIPPINES
- SIARGAO GUIDE FOR NON-SURFERS
- 4 DAYS IN SIARGAO, PHILIPPINES
- MUST TRY EATS IN SIARGAO
- WHAT IF I LOSE MY PHILIPPINE PASSPORT?
- THE MULTILINGUAL FILIPINO