A lot of expats and visitors to the Philippines get pissed off that many Filipinos refer to them as a “foreigner.” I have never completely understood the beef – we are foreigners. Most of us are not Filipinos culturally, ethnically, via language or by citizenship. So I have no problem being referred to as a foreigner – except when my wife calls me “that foreigner”:)
So I have no problem being referred to as a foreigner – except when my wife calls me “that foreigner”:)
The other clichéd name you get called in the Philippines is “Joe”. Walking down the street I have occasionally heard calls of, “Hey Joe.” I turn around expecting someone to start in on the old Jimi Hendrix tune, but no, they’re calling to (or at) me. Some “foreigners” are very offended by this, as if every street kid ought to know their real name, or come up to them and respectfully say, “Excuse me, Sir. Are you a foreigner? Is your name actually Joe? If not, can you tell me your true name so that my friends and I can yell your correct name as you and your inappropriately young and quite guapa wife, saunter by?”
For that matter the name I am most often called and that puts me off the most is “Sir.” In the Philippines seemingly everyone calls foreigners “Sir or Ma’am” or even “Madam.” “Good morning, Sir.” “Here’s your coffee, Sir.” “Would you like a date, Sir?” (ok, that’s a joke, Janet).
Equally sweet but odd, they call Janet “Ma’am,” at least when she is with me. I suspect, at 26, she is not called “Ma’am” when conversing in Visayan.
The whole thing would lead to giggle fests between me and Janet, with our calling everyone “Sir and Ma’am” all day long. Calling a 20-year old waitress “madam” illicits some odd looks.
On a related, though reversed note, Janet and I were in Thailand last April. Virtually everyone we encountered assumed she was Thai. They’d walk up to her and begin to speak Thai and she would look at them, speechless, like a deer in the headlines. Or they would come up and ask “what part of Thailand are you from?” I would have to be the one to say, “She’s Filipino.” They were all shocked and my wife hated it and never wants to return to Thailand because they refuse to recognize the fact that she is a foreigner.
And frankly I am no better when it comes to identifying nationalities. I worked for ten years with a woman and had no idea until I began to travel to the Philippines that she was a Filipina-American. To me she was just “the cute, small Asian woman” I worked with. Nor did I realize that the Starbucks barista I’d been getting coffee from and talking to for a couple years was Filipina. She’s now good friends with my wife and me.
Few of us are very culturally or geographically knowledgeable. Ask the average Amerikano high school kid to identify the Philippines on a map and they can’t. Hell, most probably couldn’t point out Washington, DC on a map either. For that matter, my son can’t find home without GPS assistance.
So Amerikanos – be proud of your foreigner heritage. There’s a lot worse things I’ve been called in life than “Joe the foreigner.”