How to Understand Filipino Culture
With an incredible diversity in the climate, food, language, and people, the Philippines is home to a growing and vibrant culture that is quickly spreading throughout the world. For many people, however, Filipino body language, food, and manners look confusing at first glance. But, by learning customs and practices from the Philippines, you, too, can become immersed in one of the most unique cultures in Asia.
Eating Traditional Filipino Cuisine
Visit Filipino restaurants.Filipino cuisine is known for its bold combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavors, thanks to the country’s history of Spanish colonization, Chinese migration, and a diversity of climates among the islands. Search around your local community for Filipino restaurants.
- Search for Filipino barbecues. Pork is a really popular dish in the Philippines. A hallmark of Filipino food is serving an entire roasted pig during large gatherings, and Filipino barbecues are no exception..
Mind your table manners when visiting Filipino restaurants or homes.Although many Filipino families use forks and spoons, Filipino restaurants serve your food with an entirely different set of utensils. Politely ask your host or waiter which utensils you should use for your meal.
- Do not expect knives. Most Filipino food can be served and eaten with only spoons and forks.
- If no utensils are given, you can eat food with your hands. However, avoid eating with your left hand, as this practice is considered unsanitary in some Filipino communities.
- Meals served on banana leaves, such as curries or rice, can be eaten with your fingers. Roll the food between your fingers, dip the food in the sauce served to you, and eat.
- Be prepared to eat with chopsticks if your meal uses recipes influenced by Chinese cuisine.
Discover popular or traditional recipes originating from the Philippines.Search online or cookbooks for Filipino recipes to try out for yourself. Here are some common Filipino dishes:
- Adobo, or a cooked meat grilled in salt, vinegar, garlic, and peppers.
- Sinigang, or a soup filled with fish, prawns, pork, and assorted vegetables.
- Lechon, or an entirely cooked pig that is spit-roasted over a fire.
Learning Filipino Social Norms
Use handshakes to welcome and introduce yourself.Shaking hands is the standard greeting in the Philippines for both professional and casual environments.Here are some common cultural norms centered around the handshake:
- If you are male, allow women to initiate the handshake. This demonstrates patience and gratitude.
- Avoid gripping too firmly when shaking hands. Your hand grip should introduce a growing friendship, rather than the closing of a business deal.
Grab someone’s attention by lightly touching the person’s elbow.This will alert the person that you want their attention but also will wait for their conversation to end.
- Do not touch someone’s shoulder. This can be considered disrespectful of their personal space.
Call attention to someone far away by raising your arm towards the person and making a scratching movement.This is a common practice to get someone's attention and ask them to come over towards you.
- Never grab someone’s attention by curling your index finger towards yourself. This movement is used for dogs in the Philippines, and, if you do it, the person might interpret that you think they're "lower" than a human being.
Observe Filipino eye movement.Most citizens from the Philippines can say what they think or feel just through eyes and eyebrows.
- Raising eyebrows means that they are greeting you or agreeing with you. You can raise your eyebrows as well to return the greeting.
- Lowering eyebrows signals disagreement. Since many Filipinos grow up learning not to cause conflict, many will resort to this movement without saying a word.
Avoid using hand motions, as this may be seen as insulting or rude.Instead, place your hands by your sides when you are talking with someone. .
- Do not place your hands on your hips, as this motion is often interpreted as being angry or upset with someone.
Expect Filipinos to be late.Filipinos are known to have a relaxed perspective on time, although visitors from other countries are expected to arrive on time. Be sure to plan accordingly.
Do not critique a Filipino’s behavior in front of others.Any advice you give in public can be interpreted as an insult to the person’s family. If you must talk with this person, have a private one-on-one conversation.
Celebrate Filipino Holidays
Visit the city of Davao for the Kadayawan Festival.As the largest celebration in the Philippines, many citizens celebrate a good harvest and give thanks to the Earth by creating parade floats of orchids and local fruit. Visit the Philippines during the third week of August to celebrate this tradition.
- Keep an eye out for street dancing competitions. Filipinos gather around these events to pay respects to the first tribes of the Philippines through traditional dances.
Remember the victory of the Spanish settlers and Moorish pirates with the Kinabayo Festival.Each year, citizens watch reenactments of the Spanish Armada’s victory, thanks to the vision of St. James, who is the patron saint of the city.
- Avoid taking too many pictures when visiting local churches. Although this is a proud moment in Filipino history, this holiday is largely based in religious practice and many Filipinos use churches to pray and pay respects to those who have fallen.
Party at the Lanzones Festival.Parades and shows are popular during this time of year to celebrate the lanzones fruit. According to ancient legend, an unknown maiden traveled to the city and used supernatural powers to transform the formerly bitter fruit into a sweet and savory one.
- The Filipino culture, like all other cultures, is different from yours. Keep your mind open when studying the country and its past.
- If you are unable to travel, search your country for museum chapters representing Filipino immigrants.
Video: Filipino Culture Tips!
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