More cultural differences between Aussies and Filipinos

I won’t make a habit of this, but I’m not in a visa-information mood today. It’s Friday. Wedding anniversary tomorrow, so off to treat my wife and best friend (same person) to a nice weekend in a nice hotel in Tagaytay. So another light-hearted article on cultural differences between Australians and Filipinos.

And for those who think I’m laughing at Filipinos? Please don’t think like that. I’m laughing at the way all of us humans have different ways of doing things. The way Filipinos do some things appear funny to an Australian, as no doubt we Aussies do funny things too. If anyone wants to write me a good article on funny western things, I’ll happily post it up.


Nodding or head-raising?

In Australia, we greet somebody…..well, more of a polite acknowledgment of that person… nodding our heads downward. I learnt there was a cultural difference when I was in Cebu (with the “ashamed” brother). I would see brother on the street, and as a polite blokey Aussie I would nod.

…and he would come over!




And because he was “ashamed”, he wouldn’t talk to me! And I would wonder why he bothered!

Finally, I get “Why do you keep calling my brother over?” Because all Filipinos know that to nod downward means “Come here”. To say “Hello!” you nod upward, of course!


Dunny paper

I think most of you will know the basic Filipino dunny. The CR……comfort room….some constructions of which are an extreme oxymoron. Not a whole lot of comfort if you are accustomed to a plastic seat and a convenient bog roll! I won’t go into the details of how one is supposed to use a tabo and the hand. I had my sons on their first trip to the Philippines very concerned when I had them convinced that the drain pipes were only 50mm instead of the Aussie 100mm, which meant they would block up with a wad of dunny paper. They were relieved (in more ways than one) when I left them know of my joke eventually. (Jeremy now works as the Down Under Visa office manager, so I think he’s forgiven me!)




I’ve also dealt with panicking Americans (I used to run an advice-forum on the internet years ago) who were scared not only of the lack of bum-wiping paper, but of bathing in cold water! One planned on bringing a huge supply of moistened towelettes with him for both bathing and dunny purposes! See? Westerners can be funny too.

But back to “the roll”. The roll of dunny paper, aka toilet paper, aka toilet tissue, is readily available in the Philippines. It is known as “tissue”. Whilst in Australia we have toilet paper, serviettes, and tissues (kleenex-style in a box for blowing noses). In Philippines? We have “tissue”, whether it’s a serviette, dunny roll or box of Kleenex. And here? The roll is used for all sorts of things.

I was amazed when first offered a length of dunny paper to blow my nose on the first time. Being an Aussie, something told me it was a bit icky. It lived in a smelly room! Maybe someone unhygienic has just “used it” for their bottom?  Maybe there was residue? It’s used for the nose. It’s used for serviettes. It’s used for all sorts of wiping. However, several of my daughters (adopted and long-term-borrowed daughters) on arriving from the province found it hilarious to find a roll of “tissue” right next to the dunny! “What a silly place to put it!”, they thought! They could never imagine it being used for the bum.


Brown or white?

The endless desire to be whiter! The dread of being “berrrry bluck” (ie. very black). White is beautiful, and brown isn’t. I have one 11 year old girl who has a lovely coffee colour, and fortunately she’s one of the rare Filipinos who really doesn’t care. I think she’s beautiful, far more than my pasty blotchy Caucasian skin could ever be (see her in our latest video HERE). However, the local ladies….and some of the men of questionable masculinity….are obsessed with being whiter! And they will even buy dreadful products to bleach their skin.




And not just the face! There are products which will magically remove strange brown dots from our armpits! Watch the animated simulation in the ads on TV and wonder how we lived so long without such a product! And apparently brownness “downstairs” also needs urgent treatment!

Sorry, but I can never get this. And this is not an Aussie making fun of Filipinos. This is an Aussie wondering why such a physically-gifted people would want to look like the hybrid mix of Vikings, Romans, Celts etc. that us Anglo-Saxon Aussies are! The average Filipina looks better at 50 than the average white Aussie does at 40! And skin usually flawless, and with a delicious colour. Like added flavour!

I have two 17 year old girls here. They’ve finally woken up to my humour, but favourite joke would be to (a) pick the one who at that point in time was slightly lighter than the other (yes, colour fluctuates, depending on how much sun exposure), then (b) say to the OTHER one “You know? I think you’re a little bit whiter than her.” And then wait for the reaction of the truly lighter one. “No, Dad! I’m lighter than her! Look!” To which I would say “No, she’s definitely lighter than you.” And on it would go….

Yeah, it’s funny. But it’s still a little sad. I’m no sociologist, but I’m sure where ever white (or whiter) colonists have gone, the myth of why it’s better to be white must have gone. And there’s also the perception that manual labourers and field workers can be picked by their darker skin. So whiteness means privilege, whereas in western countries being brown means you could afford expensive holidays in the sun! Hopefully you can persuade your coffee-coloured beauty that she is gorgeous just as God made her. Just don’t be too surprised when she doesn’t listen!




Filed under Philippines

4 responses to “More cultural differences between Aussies and Filipinos

  1. Happy Wedding anniversary for tomorrow Mate. I will have a drink for you both. Cheers Possum, from Downunder

  2. I still remember the days when a young kid, Newspaper to wipe, after you read it of course….and that outside Dunny with the Pan…..interestingly that was my very first paid job at 12 years of age, emptying 2 of these Pans

  3. Mike Trotter

    I am with you on every subject you mentioned in this Blog. I initially could not work out the difference in greetings between myself and Filipinos in nodding heads. It also took me some time to realise that when they acknowledge something you say or agree with you with something, they raise their eyebrows without saying anything. I also have since learned to always take some sheets of toilet paper with me as may CRs do not have paper in the cubicles and some only offer “tissues”(as in Kleenex) from a dispenser after inserting 5 Pesos in the machine!! (providing I remember to do this BEFORE I go to the CR!!!) As my Partner and her family of girls are all Cebuanos, their skin is a little darker than others from other parts of the Pinas. However, unlike themselves, I love their colour and always comment to them how lucky they are after explaining to them that Aussie girls (and men) envy “suntanned” skin. I am not sure if they believed me. It took them two trips to Oz to convince them that is how it is and since have taken more pride in the colour of their skin, but only when they are in Oz!!
    I have been to Tagatay several times and a good friend of mine (A colonel in the AFP) has his “rest house” there. I am sure you and your lovely loving wife will enjoy the time there, having cooler and fresher air than Manila. Congratulations on your Wedding Anniversary.

  4. Barry bolin

    Your comments about colour are so true. My wife is a beautiful sun browned colour that we Aussies pay hundreds of dollars to get.

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