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Each country has its own set of norms and customs. What may be socially acceptable behavior in one country may be considered rude in another. So it goes without saying that you should be on your best behavior when you are on a tour in another country, like the Philippines.
In general, Filipinos (especially Filipino women) are friendly and hospitable. Expats dating Filipino women can attest that these people go out of their way to make tourists feel welcomed. But just because they are nice does not mean that you could get away with treating them badly. Even Filipinos draw a line. So if you are visiting the country, better know what makes Filipinos tick. To avoid rubbing people the wrong way, be mindful of these gestures and mannerisms:
When you are meeting someone new, you greet the person with a standard handshake. If the person is a Filipina, you have to wait for her to put out her hand first before shaking. There are some men that would give you an additional friendly pat on the back, so don’t be alarmed by this.
There is a more informal way of greeting someone and that is to simply nod in acknowledgment. This form of greeting comes in handy when you are in a hurry but should only be reserved for people you already know.
While Cebuanos don’t say po or opo, there are other ways they show respect to their elders, one of which is through the appropriate titles and honorifics. For people that are slightly older, men are called kuya while women are called ate. For people that are a generation or two older, you can either call them manong or manang (which can be shortened to ‘nong or ‘nang).
There are also instances when elders treat you like you’re part of the family. If you are lucky enough to get close to them, you might get away with calling them tito (uncle) or tita (aunt).
Due to male and female roles in the Philippines, men are still expected to be chivalrous. This means opening doors and offering seats for women. But this isn’t just limited to the opposite sex. Chivalry is also extended to the elderly. In a way, men are expected to look out for others before themselves in public.
When someone you’ve just met asks you deep and personal questions, don’t be alarmed. For Filipinos, this is just regular small talk. But if you are uncomfortable with the conversation, try to change the topic delicately instead of being confrontational.
While Cebuanos are more straightforward, they are also conscious of their self-image and are worried about losing face. So try to change the subject politely rather than directly calling them out.
You might find some of these behaviors outdated or unusual, but there’s no changing the fact that they are deeply ingrained in Philippine culture. So it’s better to just roll with them to avoid offending anyone which may hurt your chances of meaningful encounters—perhaps even romantic ones.