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A Guide to Interacting with Filipinos

construction worker eating

ing with whatever you tell them and smiling as if they do not already feel uneasy.

Focus on topics that can bring smiles to their faces, like family and food. Try to keep the conversation light and friendly, and I guarantee that they are more than willing to take the wheel and make the conversation more enjoyable.

Even though most Filipinos are willing to adjust for the foreigners in their country, learning how to interact with them the same way they interact with one other can go a long way towards building respect and friendship with them.

This story was originally published in Medium: A Guide to Interacting with Filipinos

Filipinos love to interact with everyone, especially tourists. That is one of the reasons why they became known as one of the most approachable and hospitable people on Earth.

Try looking up vlogs of foreigners visiting the Philippines. You will see how excited Filipinos become whenever foreigners interact with them using the Filipino language. You cannot deny how proud the locals feel if they hear foreigners say even a simple "Kumusta na ka?" (How are you?).

If you also plan to visit the Philippines, here are some tips on interacting with Filipinos.

Use Pet Names

Whether you are an acquaintance or a colleague, Interacting with Filipinos includes calling each other nicknames.

Some are English words that have somehow become part of addressing other Filipinos, even if they do not have that title. Boss (or bossing), chief (or chip), cap, and doc are good examples of how they incorporated English words into their greetings despite the irrelevance.

On the other hand, some pet names are just shortened versions of their formal terms. For instance, pare came from kumpare (godfather), tol came from utol (brother), bay/bai came from kaabay (friend), and gaw came from ig-agaw (cousin).

Do not worry about the original meanings, though, because they are now widely used interchangeably in greeting fellow Filipinos in public. It boils down to preference and how each Filipino ranks them according to varying degrees of familiarity (e.g., bai for strangers and gaw for friends).

Greet Everyone When Meeting a Group of Friends

I repeat: Filipinos love greeting everyone.

So if you happen to meet a group of Filipinos, greet everyone.

I mean everyone.

I understand that it might be awkward for you to say hello to everyone, but do not worry. A simple nod would usually suffice.

So when one of your Filipino friends introduces you to the whole barangay (note the "when" and not “if”), prepare yourself from all the bai's, pare's, gaw's, and nods that you are going to say and do.

Luckily for you, you do not have to bid your farewell to everyone but the host. At least you are safe from any more neck strain.

Mano Your Elders

Most Filipino parents instill mano into their children—a tradition of taking the right hands of their elders and bringing the knuckles up to touch their foreheads. Note that Filipino elders do this with their palms facing down.

Filipino elders perceive mano as an act of showing deference to the wise; thus, they feel happy and proud whenever young Filipinos do that.

Mano is not just about the Filipino elders but also about giving blessings to the youth, which is why it is also popularly known as “bless” to many Filipino families.

Talk about the Joys of Life

Like any other group of people throughout the world, Filipinos avoid topics that could induce gratuitous confrontation, such as politics or religion, when talking to strangers. But if you happen to talk about something serious with a Filipino whom you have just met, expect them to break the tension by agree.

This story was originally published in Medium: A Guide to Interacting with Filipinos


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