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Is there Courtesy and Consideration in the Philippines

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In the Philippines respect and hospitality is part of the culture. Slight acquaintances will offer you part of their meal, offer a seat and most times a total stranger will offer a smile and a kind word. This is one of the first things you notice here when you visit or move here.

I have written many times how I have been well treated by clerks in the Palengke, or at someone’s home. You will be offered part of their meal if you greet them while they are eating. If you stop by someone’s home, the first thing they will do is offer you a seat and then no matter how poor they are, they start preparing something to eat, or one member of the family will run out to bring back a cold beverage or something to eat. At times, the will spend money they cannot afford just to show how you are a welcomed guest in their home.

But this is not always the case. When you’re on the move, driving a car or walking in a store or mall, watch out. If someone sees a space, they will take it before you do. Driving is a game of “I am here first” or “you waited too long.” There are many times if there is no oncoming vehicles and someone is a few cars back from an intersection they want to turn left, they pull out into the oncoming lanes, drive down the road and make their turn. If the road is four lanes, two each way, and someone needs to make a left, a drive will nose in and stop the left oncoming lane and stopping traffic wait until they can nose into the right lane to stop them and make their turn. At times this will cause a total gridlock. There will be so many cars blocking cars in every direction and the matrix continues to build up as more cars pull in to take a space it will take a guard or traffic enforcer to break it up. Then, because of the lack of officers that can enforce a traffic problem and issue a citation, many drivers just ignore them.

In America, we do something we call a weaving. If there are cars entering a road, and the cars going straight are creeping along, we alternate letting someone in. Or if two lanes have to merge into one lane, again we most alternate allowing a car to merge into your lane. Not here in the Philippines. If there are a lot of cars making the turn or merging, as the first one goes, everyone behind follows, no matter how many cars.

This is not only a problem while driving. Elena and I go do our marketing together. At times, while pushing the cart, if I pause a moment and there is a space in front of me, someone will just walk in front of you or nose their cart in. Then if there is someone in front of them, they cannot move forward, and I cannot move because they now blocked me.

In the States you give people space as they are transacting business. Once I was in the donut shop. There was only one clerk behind the counter and a lady was giving her order. I stood back with about a one body space to let them transact their business. While waiting for my turn, a woman walks in front of me and then presses up to the counter and starts calling out her order even though the clerk was still taking the other ladies order.

Even at banks there is this system. To me, banking is personal and I do not want someone else listening to my transaction. Well here, if you need to conduct business at the area where you need to sit with the bank employee, there are usually two chairs facing each other in front of each of the bank personnel.  If you’re at the bank alone and conducting your business, someone will sit in the chair facing you and either just listens to your transaction, or at times will interrupt and try to get the clerk to take their transaction. It is not just because I am a foreigner; I see it happen all the time. I try not to upset people and show anger, but at times I will just look at them and turn to the clerk to keep her attention towards me.

Even in stores, you might be being helped by a salesclerk, someone will walk up and start asking a question or for help finding something. You do not hear an “excuse me” or an apology. They just do not want to wait and do not care if you were there first. Again, it is not just to foreigners, it is a common practice.

Now, you can get upset, raise your voice and say you were there first, but why get people upset. Most of the time I am not rushed and do not want to make a scene. If I am in a bad mood, or rushed, I will calmly look over and explain I was there first and please wait their turn.

At times I am pleased and happy when someone ahead of me on line has a cart full of items, and I have only one will be offered to get ahead of them instead of having to wait. Also, a few times I have asked the person in front of me and they usually smile and let me.

Now, these are things different in our culture and common in theirs. Are we right and they are wrong. From our perspective yes, and it is common courtesy. But, it is not in their culture so they are right because that is the way life exists here.

At times, I have heard or I have thought we foreigners can teach businesses better customer service and efficiency in their operations. But just like many other differences here, it is their

16 Responses to “Is there Courtesy and Consideration in the Philippines”

  1. david S. says:

    Intersting topic. Thanks for sharing. I’ve visited several third world countries in the Western Hemisphere. The situations you’ve just described could be applied to most of them.

    • Bruce says:

      David,
      As I try to state, this is how life is here. Who is write and who is wrong? I just try to let people know how things are. The more you understand before moving here, the less of a culture shock once you arrive.

  2. Evelyn says:

    i hate to say this but i do agree with you in this aspect…some people are really just rude..i said some ok?

  3. Gene says:

    Gosh and I thought that happened only in Angeles during shift change at Clark Airbase. Hahaha.
    When I first moved here I was not only surprised but angered daily by what you discribe Bruce. But six years of living here and I hardly notice the line cutting, wrong way drivers etc. If one followes what we consider “normal” traffic laws or pattern you would sit at a corner or in a drivway waiting to exit forever. But if one follows their “offencive” driving rules it all seems to work out as they understand it. Yep, I’m guilty of the same things. Cutting left turns even into the left curb and blocking traffic to get across Mc Arthur Highway heading to VFW for my taco lunch.
    I use to wait my turn like I did in the states. But soon found that the LTO officers and even the PNP would motion me to procede with such things. Even directing me to move and drive on the left side of the road (on my motor) and the like.
    It works and everyone gets where they are going.

    The scary part is thinking that if I ever returned to the states and without thinking did that kind of driving, I’d either be dead or have a huge fine to pay.
    Makes me glad I’m staying right here…

  4. Dave DeWall says:

    Bruce, I agree completely with what you have written. I have only been living in the Philippines since mid-July, retired in Guimaras (near Iloilo)with my Filipino wife. Yes, the people are friendly, they are so polite, offer you their spot on a crowded jeepney and hang outside so YOU don’t have hang on the outside and fall off. So I was quite surprised when, like you say, give someone just a little opening in a line, and they will squeeze right in there ahead of you. Or interrupt you as you are conducting your business with a sales clerk or cashier. I try not to let it bother me MOST of the time, but at our local Julie’s Bakeshop a few weeks ago a gentlemen got the clerk away from my wife and I as we were ordering. I said to my wife quite loudly “Evidently I thought we were here first, but I guess I was wrong!” The sales clerk immediately came back to us, and then other people started butting in front of the guy that had interrupted us. But I try to let it go, but sometimes it is hard.
    Enjoyed reading your blogs, and will certainly come back.

    • Bruce says:

      Dave,
      It is best to keep anger in check, but at times it slips out. I looked bookmarked your site and will go back to read it. Does every Expat here have a blog? This niche is not a niche anymore. 🙂
      If you add a favorites list on your site, maybe we can do a link exchange.

  5. Marvin says:

    I’ve seen a lot of OFWs get really angry at the lack of customer service, read many articles complaining about the need for training if they want their business to improve., instead of putting it all out on the sidewalk.

    • Bruce says:

      Marvin,
      Training takes time and money. And at most department stores the employees are only employed for 6 months so the employer dos not have to pay for benefits.

  6. wildcat75 says:

    Bruce,You’re so right again on these observation in our country, i myself experience all of these everytime i took my home leave at home from immigration to POEA, to shopping malls and almost every place, even here in the Phils. Consulate in HK and to the public phone, filipinos just fond of cutting in line or the phils consulate staffs focusing more on talking to their co-workers than doing their job and i can’t just tolerate it specially if i need to get back to my job, some people are just so rude and no consideration at all, it’s just really frustrating..

    • Bruce says:

      Wildcat,
      It is a contradiction. Filipinos are so respectful at home and with guests, but forget using the same courtesy in public. But, it is the culture, so we need to live with it.

  7. Vanessa says:

    Sharing the same frustration i had with Wildcat be it in the Philippines(before i came here in the US)or here in the US. Same experience, disappointing ones actually. I went to Chicago three weeks ago to take my oath taking for my Dual Citizenship and witness another poor customer service from all of the filipino employees in the processing area. I understand it’s a Monday and people talking about how their weekend was, but come on 10 people at the window waiting to be serviced. It was like, ok you need something from us, you wait till were ready kind of mentality. Was about to yell at someone when another Filipina prompted me that the office for DUAL Citizenship in on the other side of the building. Sad, was i surprised? absolutely NOT.

    • Bruce says:

      Vanessa,
      Was that for US citizenship or Philippine Embassy. Government employees have an attitude anywhere. Two years ago, Elena and I were in Manila to take care of two items at the US Embassy. When we finished as the first to be directed to the area where I could get my legal capacity to marry here. The clerk told me the other area closes at 11am and it was 11:15. I asked if he could call over there and was told no. The next day, I told the the consular officer about the day before and she said, if they would have called, she would have taken care of me. I have found one department will not ask for a favor because they would owe them a favor in return. What happened to people assisting people.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Bruce, it’s for my Filipino Dual Citizenship since legally i lost it when i took US citizenship 2 and half years ago. Is the clerk filipina?? They could be black and white sometimes when it comes to policy.

    • Bruce says:

      Vanessa,
      So your an Ex-Philippine citizen, who is now and American citizen getting Philippine citizenship.(joking) hahahahaha
      And as you see, Govt workers are the same everywhere.

  9. Scott says:

    the thing that bothers me most of all is shopping while white,,far to many times the price was raised when i got to the paying part,,even if its stamped with a price they still try to add even a few pesos,,that is always when i exercise my right to do my shoping elsewhere,,even after standing in line for a long time i just refuse to be over charged because i happen to have
    white skin and i know others who have the same complaint that i do so its not an isolated case

    • Bruce says:

      Scott,
      I find the bigger stores such as malls and places like Emcor, Goodyear do not use “White mans Tax” Also since we go to Agdao market, I get the same suki price even alone. Because of my few construction projects, I have 3 electrical supply stores and some small hardware store where I get contractor prices. My wife knows when to allow me into a small Filipino business and when I need to stay in the car. Over time, in stores, the more you get to know the owners and clerks, and develope a friendly relationship, they will give you same prices and at times discounts.

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