Top 10 Things NEVER to Say to Filipino Parents

with the Filipino side…. (mostly)

This post ran for the first time on February 21st, 2012 and since I’m gearing up to post on how to talk to family about your travel plans, I thought I’d get us in the mood by this list of Filipino family “not-to-says”.  Enjoy!

Alright,  I’ve been married to a Filipina American for almost a year now so between that and the six years I lived in the Philippines, I thought it might be time for some more posts on Filipino culture and how best to relate to it.  This post is specifically for those contemplating dating a Filipino, shopping around on Filipino dating sites or getting married to a Filipino woman or man.  Here’s a list of things you never say to your prospective Filipino parents-in-law:

1)  “This food smells weird” – The aromas are going to be different from what you are used to – especially when it comes to the fish.  Filipino recipes are tough to navigate for a lot of people at first.  They will grow on you though.  So keep your initial reluctance to yourself.

2)  “I hate karaoke” – Think karaoke is of the devil?  Tough.  You are going to need to sing and you may as well get in the spirit quick.  Filipino culture was not made for the bashful – my Filipino wife has assured me of as much.  So if you want to appeal to the Filipina heart then throw caution to the wind and belt out a few tunes.

3)  “I am on a diet” – Huh?  What’s that?

4)  Point out that they used “she” to reference a “he” – There are no pronouns in Tagalog, the Filipino language.  Prepare for some confusion when family gathers to gossip (I mean talk) about multiple people.  “He” will not be used, “she” will be used for everything.  Smile, nod, work things out from the context.  And if you still don’t get it, ask your Filipino significant other later.

5)  “I don’t like big gatherings” – Well, whether you do or not, rest assured that 50 relatives are still coming and expect to be fed.  Get to steppin’. Real life Filipino gatherings crave energy and being present.

6)  “Why are there beans in my dessert?” – Because you are eating halo-halo, a Filipino delicacy involving shaved ice, tons of sugar, beans and other assorted sweetness.

7)  “What kind of a name is Bong?” – Ask this question respectfully, a former president’s son was named Bong and it’s quite a common Filipino name.

8)  “Can I leave now?” – Um, no.  We just got here (four hours ago).

9)  “Who is Pacquiao?” – You have now asked for a beating.

10)  “Rice again?Are you kidding?  It is like the Filipino oxygen.

There’s more of course so feel free to add to the list in the comments.

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Bjorn Karlman

38 thoughts on “Top 10 Things NEVER to Say to Filipino Parents”

  1. Funny post. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even though I am half Filipino, I thought your resume on the subject was pretty impressive and that you might know more than me. You probably do, but this is a pretty good list that I can at least somewhat relate to…mostly from my experience with other Filipinos. My dad is the worst Filipino ever. Also, from this list, I am probably one 20% Filipino. I love rice and Pacquiao!

  2. Hilarious. Some of these items can actually get you kicked out of the family – especially the line about karaoke and who’s pacquaio?

  3. During the moment I dated a Filipino dude… he mentioned that his mother said, “oh.. they have a big house? I suppose I could live with her mother– I can put up with white people.” I was put off instantly. That would be like me saying “I can put up with the smell of peanut oil.” blah.

  4. Personal mistakes…

    I don’t like fish.

    Or mango.

    Never ever EVER call your inlaws by their given name after you are married. or is this just our family?

  5. Of course Kuya Jason had to do the bunny ears! Lol! Great post! You could add: “when they say open or close the lights, please don’t correct them by saying, “do you mean turn on or off?”

  6. My mother says “keds” when she means “kids” and “whenter” when she wants to say “winter”. Can’t correct her, of course! Or else, I’ll get palo-palo. :-)

  7. Just thought of a couple more …remember: ask to “open the air-con” if it gets too warm in the room & thank them for the “Colgate” when they hand you any tube of toothpaste to freshen up for the night… xD — have fun!

  8. Hi Bjorn and Jammie,
    I’ve got from ate Ethel Galvo
    1. Don’t tell negatives about their children.
    2. Don’t compare how they dicipline their children
    to yours.

  9. I really enjoy reading those comments about Filipinos, one things i should say don’t ever dis respect their parents and you have to bless the hands of elder family, make mano po and use words opo! as respect…

  10. How about pursing of the lips and saying “over there” when asking for directions, whether they know the directions or not…

  11. There’s always a group picture of every single being present at every occasion or even an accidental bumping into each other at seafood city with a shout of Kodak!!! Thank goodness there’s selfie’s now vs the asking a complete stranger to take your picture of 70.

  12. It’s a funny post Bjorn. My Finnish husband add few more: never say to your parent in laws that they are wrong about their ideas. Remember, they are always right. never say to your prospect lady that she is not good looking. Watch out! When you meet a Pilipino for the first time, you might encounter some questions such as how old are you?, are you single? what is your job? how much is your salary? do you have a car? Oh, they start to come up that there is a realtive or friend who can be suitable for you. It’s an offending question for Scandinavian people. It’s not your business. By the way, be careful when you ask adriving direction,for sure you will get lost. Get use to the Filipino time as well. Remember also that yes is not necessary mean yes before it’s confirm three times.

  13. There are pronouns in Filipino. but it is not marked for gender. That’s where the confusion stems from.

  14. I loved it! I’m Filipino and my wife’s white. We loved #8 especially, since it’s very true!

  15. I really like, bring about I ran across what precisely I used to be having a look regarding. You could have broken my own a number of morning lengthy hunt! Goodness Thank you male. Employ a great working day. Bye

  16. You forgot that ( making a shake with milk and avocado ) my gf said that we “Americans” at weird for not liking avocado shake.

  17. Lol yes the love rice ……

    Im marryed to a filipino and lets just say it hasnt been easy ..
    But just be respectful and use your manners and help out and they will notice it

    And do not complain about your mother inlaw to anyone especially your husband because he hates it and finds it highly rude .

  18. Ohh and another thing most filipino women dont like swearing …
    As im half german and half maori t tend to swear alot … Getting the hang of it tho and dont swear around my mother inlaw

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