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How Westerners and Filipinos Appear Rude to Each Other.

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How Westerners and Filipinos Appear Rude to Each Other.

Post by ladislav » April 22nd, 2014, 1:54 am

When I was in Saudi, one of my Filipino coworkers rushed into the office shouting: “Bastos ang mga Amerikano!â€￾ (Americans are so rude!) It turned out that one American guy on our base loudly chided him for making some mistake on documents. He did it so that other people heard him, and now the Pinoy guy was fretting and fuming.

Then another Filipino guy was sitting all red faced, and then he exploded: “What does he want? A fist-fight?â€￾ It turned out that the Filipino gentleman said to someone that another American coworker was absent from work but it turned out he wasn’t. The American guy came into the room and shouted at him- "I was at work! I was just not where you didn't see me. You told them I was absent? Now I want you to go and tell everybody whom you told I’d been absent that I wasn’tâ€￾. This made the Filipino guy turn livid with anger.

I myself did not avoid a confrontation. Once I was with a Filipino clerk and he was driving the company car, but he was going too fast, then he double-parked on the street and later while we were in the office he was speaking Tagalog in front of an Indian guy there.

I told him that it was not polite to be speaking a language another person did not understand. Then when he got into the car, he again double parked. I lost my cool and asked him to give me the keys. He exploded! “You took the key from me because I am a Filipino,â€￾ he said. “Racist!â€￾ He shouted at me! This followed by a couple of F-bombs and we were both freaking out. I never expected such a reaction.

Then, with the Brits on the base, the Filipinos were very upset about the dry humor and jokes they made. They felt that these were making fun of them. But Brits always do that, they do it to each other every minute- it’s just their way to cope with life.

It was never a dull day on that base. And some Filipinos were not nice to others, either. We had a bus going into town and it was full of Filipinos and one Sri Lankan worker got in and then Filipinos said: “ No foreigners!â€￾. I told them that they were in Saudi and that they were foreigners, too. Then, they knew that I knew Tagalog and started singing a song- which was like the Philippine national anthem but it went like this: “Ang Amerikanong mangangapi.. ang Amerikanong mangangapiâ€￾ They were all looking at me and then one said- "Dayuhan! This bus if for Filipinos only!â€￾

When I told them the next day that I thought they were overdoing it, they said- “Oh no, we were just joking!â€￾ I guess for them, it was not rude to joke like that.

Once I was in Angeles City going inside of some store when a man standing near the door, saw me, smiled and started singing. These were the lyrics:

“Hello darling, well, hello darling
It’s so nice to see you back where you belongâ€￾

I told him rather politely—or so I thought-- that it was not ‘ darling’ but “Dollyâ€￾ in the original song. “ Dolly as in a doll?â€￾ I said “ Yesâ€￾. "But I want to sing “Darlingâ€￾, he said defiantly and visibly irritated. I explained to him that those were not the lyrics of the song. He became angry – I could see it in his facial expression- in other words, ?how dare I correct him!â€￾
“This is my version!â€￾ he said curtly and walked away flashing his eyes furiously at me.

On some other occasions, I corrected some other people who made some statements which were wrong- one said that Christians circumcised their kids, but Jews didn’t. I explained to him that it was the other way around and the Philippines as well as the US were exceptions to the rule. I saw the person breath heavily and frown and repeat again in a threatening voice- “Jews don’t circumcise, only Christians and Muslims do!â€￾. "OK, ok". Some other people whom I corrected hate me until today.

In the Austronesian Philippine society, the most important value seems to be social harmony;harmony in friendships, human relations of all kinds, among neighbors, at work and in family. In order to attain this, conflicts must be avoided at all costs and wrongs, be they verbal or any othe, must be tolerated as much as possible. This creates a very polite and friendly society with smooth social interactions in which there is a high degree of acceptance of mistakes and delays by other human beings.

Criticising is no good, showing anger and/or correcting people is also no good. These lead to violations of social harmony.

It’s the same culture as in most places in SE Asia- in Thailand, Cambodia, even Indonesia. Accept, be patient when delays happen, be tolerant, accommodate mistakes made by other people and don’t complain. Don’t criticize. At least not in public.

Such an attitude allows for many errors and postponements to happen- which are not addressed with criticism --which would be rude. You should just smile and walk away.

It’s a SE Asian thing.

A Western person whose main values are often: creating efficiency in business, services, taking care of customers, to try to save time and money and to maximize honesty explodes with anger and criticizes what he perceives to be a huge number of mistakes, delays and inefficiencies—something that an average Filipino would not criticize. The Filipino gets angry, feels deeply insulted and lashes back at the complaining Westerner. "How dare you! Howd are you to criticize me!" This result is angry waiters, angry cooks, angry internet café attendants who now hate the customer and yell back at him. A customer is not always right even if he is right. Social harmony must prevail at all costs.

So, how do you express negativity whose presence is natural in life? You do you secretly- when those people who caused you inconvenience don’t hear. You either swallow it, ignore it or talk about it behind the bad people’s back. You shouldn’t confront people directly. It’s dangerous and bad manners, too. They will just react; not respond. Social harmony comes first.

Here are those bad manners shown by a Westerner ( from the Filipino point of view):
Angrily complaining about bad service, or bad food.
Not being patient when long delays occur daily and things take twice as much of not longer than back home.
Getting angry when something is not available- and something is always not available
Angrily criticizing people.
Angrily (or even not angrily) pointing out mistakes or correcting people
Noting and voicing negative things- including poverty or lack of cleanliness; you’re supposed to ignore them and just see good things in life.
If you do any of the above, a Filipino gets angry and loudly states: “Bastos ang mga Americano"
And the Filipinos’ neighbors such as Thais for example, have the same attitude towards Westerner complaining.

Filipinos also seem rude to Westerners. And you might as: well, if a Filipino is so polite, why does he/she seem rude?

Here’s how:

Too much curiosity: Westerners like privacy. They don’t like personal questions from strangers they just met, but Filipinos see these as natural. “How old are you? What is your wife’s nationality? What’s your race? How much do you make? How come you’re not married? Where did you meet your wife/gf!? “

Then, you explode: “Hey buddy, what are you, a police officer? Am I under interrogation? And don’t you know it’s rude to ask people their age? Why don’t you lay -off? It’s rude! “

I was once talking to a Filipina lady at an internet café and she called the attendant to help her with something. She helped her and then saw me on the screen and stood there staring at me while we were talking. She just stood and stood there. I told my friend to tell her to go away- I needed privacy and didn’t want people to read what I was typing. She got angry and raised her hand at the screen as if to hit me. I had to repeat and then she finally left hurling angry looks at the screen.

She was probably saying: “Bastos ang mga Americano!â€￾ Not realizing that her behavior was extremely rude to me.

Other things that probably seem rude to Westerners are:
- using terms which are racist in my view: Bumbay, Negro, Insek or calling people ‘foreignersâ€￾ which in English is not nice. You even don’t use “Foreign studentsâ€￾ in English; you must say: “international studentsâ€￾ or “people from other countriesâ€￾.
- Making references to age or weight- where is that fat American? Where is the old man?
- Talking about you in third person when you are present- "Who is he? What is his nationality?" But you are just sitting there. Very rude.
- Talking about body functions openly in public: I must umihi, I must tumae- You need to say: “I need to go to the bathroom!â€￾ OMG! So rude! A pretty girl saying “ Dapat tumae muna -I must sh-t first ( ?!)â€￾ in Tagalog; it sounds horrible when you translate it into English. Talking about farts (utot) is also very rude to me. Especially if it’s a girl.
- Asking personal questions about your relationship with your GF ( this is particularly common with the Visayans) "What business is it of yours?"
- Answering in English if you speak to them in Tagalog or Visaya if you are white, and answering in Tagalog or Visaya when you speak to them in English if the person is “brownâ€￾ or “yellowâ€￾. In their minds, they’re accommodating you, in your mind, they’re practicing racial inequality ( in the use of language).
- Some very native Filipinos also do not think that saying "Thank you" every time is necessary. And many do not say " please" when asking in English. Probably because in Tagalog please is “nga poâ€￾ and they don’t know how to translate it.

But the above things do not seem to be rude to Filipinos or other SE Asians, and are just normal -- they don’t think about them at all.

They make make many a Westerner, however, snap in anger, again evoking a response of “Bastos ang mga Amerikano! Bakit galit ka!â€￾ from a Filipino

In spite of having been very Westernized and Christianized for centuries, many Filipinos are still very SE Asian and this creates a communication gap between a Westerner and an Asian, again proving that even in the Philippines, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meetâ€￾.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!

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Post by Mystery Writer » April 22nd, 2014, 12:13 pm

Thanks very much for this detailed description of East vs West mismatches of cultural rudeness. For those of us that are thinking of relocating to the Philippines (or just visiting), knowing when not to notice rude behavior or break social norms is invaluable.

I am curious as to how to politely avoid answering questions that are too personal for Western sensibilities, like "How old are you? What is your wife’s nationality? What’s your race? How much do you make? How come you’re not married? Where did you meet your wife/gf?" I don't want to become an object of excessive gossip (although avoiding that altogether is, apparently, impossible). How might you suggest either deflecting or avoiding such requests for TMI (Too Much Information)?

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