Rude Foreigners

So we’re sitting in the USSC store in Robinsons Mall waiting to get served. We filled out a little form and got a number. Yes, in the Philippines there are still places that you “take a number.” Turns out our number was to be the last one called before the employees took their lunch hour. USSC must be rare because a lunch hour is almost never an hour in the Philippines.

Several people walked in afterwards and were politely informed that there would be no more service until after lunch. Then an elderly (defined as older than me) foreigner walked in, was politely informed of the upcoming lunch break. He got pissed off, yelled, threw out an F-bomb and stormed off. There was no reason for the tantrum. He was treated politely and told he could come back after the break.

This is behavior that Janet and I witness pretty regularly in Dumaguete and most of the time the offender is a foreigner.

Now as it turns out that while Janet and I were the last to be served before the break and therefore the office was empty by the time it was our turn, we were missing a crucial document to finalize our business and were told if we brought it in that day, we would be served right away without needing a number or waiting.

We returned a couple hours later. In the interim we had talked about the rude foreigner. As the USSC Clerk was finalizing Janet’s business I decided to ask a question or two. “Do you often have rude foreigners?” I asked. She smiled at me. “Only one today, Sir.” I laughed. “Well I know who that was. His behavior was ridiculous.”

“If he comes back, I will of course treat him respectfully,” she said. “But he did say the f-word.” She and the other clerk had heard and would not be forgetting. Clearly she considered it part of the job, but it also stung the employees there.

A few week ago we were in the bank. Simultaneously there were two rude foreigners. One cut ahead in line since his concern had to be handled immediately. It wasn’t. He stormed off, returned about five minutes later to vent again at someone else.

In the meantime another elderly (aka, older than me) foreigner was sitting next to me making a request of the banker that would never be granted in any bank in the Western world. When he was politely informed what would be required to meet his request, he grumbled, cursed under his breath about the lousy country and terrible customer service.

We observe behavior like this a couple times a week at least. It saddens me for what I realize is a foolish reason; that it reflects badly on me. It doesn’t of course but I feel like it does.

Now going back to the experience at USSC, while conversing with the Clerk about rude foreigners, she admitted she was worried that I was going to react similarly when she told us we would have to come back to finalize our business. I laughed but felt bad. “Of course I wasn’t mad. Now my wife? That’s another matter.” Janet playfully hit me.

In the car on the way home Janet and I once again talked about this. Now the point isn’t that Filipinos never get mad or never behave rudely – of course they do. But the rude behavior from a minority population (the foreigners) is hard to ignore.

For over two years in the US Janet worked in a supermarket. She had rude customers every day. It was a big part of her indoctrination into life in America. She quickly learned to give it back as much as take it. My wife is sweet as can be, but has a quick tongue when mistreated.

So why we asked ourselves did this all bother us so much; we both were used to it in the US. And that I suppose was the answer. In the US witnessing or being confronted by rude  people is a daily event and we realized that here in the Philippines while it does happen, it’s uncommon enough to be more noticeable.

One more story, not that I am trying to prove anything. Early that evening we went into the grocery store. The cashier is ringing up our items. The Filipina behind us in the line asked “where’s the divider” – the bars you put to keep your items separate from someone else’s. In my modest experience, most stores in the Philippines do not have these dividers. The clerk looked at her with that deer in the headlights look. “There are no dividers,” I said. The lady huffed.

I handed the clerk my debit card – my debit card from our Philippines bank account. Now debit cards here are not quite as reliable as in the US. Sometimes it goes through, sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes the clerk has to put it through as a credit instead of a debit, and sometimes you’re just best off having cash.

The woman behind me spoke up in perfect English. “You have to select credit for a foreign debit card,” she announced. I turned to her and politely said, “It’s not a foreign debit card.” The clerk continued to struggle with my card. The woman behind me announced again, because clearly the clerk was too stupid to have understood, ” You have to select credit for a foreign debit card.” I turned back to face her again but less politely and repeated, “It’s not a foreign debit card.”

The clerk continued to struggle with my card and mumble apologies. And once again the woman stated her view, “You have to select credit for a foreign debit card.” I finally got it. The woman may have once been a Filipina but she was clearly now an American. I glared at her and snarled, “It’s – not – a – foreign – debit – card!” Janet calmed me down. “Just pay cash,” which I did.

So you see, it’s not just foreigners who are rude in the Philippines. It’s Fil-Ams too 🙂

PS: Based on further thought and a few of the comments I have received I wanted to add something. Now this may be splitting hairs, but here goes. I think there is a difference between inconvenient/ annoying behavior and rude behavior. You’re driving down the road. A little old lady is slowly crossing the street and you have to stop and wait. It’s annoying. You drum your fingers along the steering wheel. But she’s not doing it to personally harm or offend you. OTOH, if you stick your head out the window and yell, “Hey old lady, get the “f-word” out of the damn street,” – well that’s rude behavior.


11 thoughts on “Rude Foreigners”

  1. Great observations about rude expats et al. Like you, I’m not going to live in a mindset where every small inconvenience upsets me. I have spent my entire business life trying to meet customers expectations and i am NOT going to become less than polite when i retire there,thanks

  2. Sad that goes on, then realize those A-holes acted the same when here….Once an A-hole, always an A-hole. Sadly too it Can reflect on all of us when there if others associate that behavior to foreigners, whether it should be or not. Like you, I’ve always disdained it greatly when we are there. On a different note, you are missing our bit of snow here in the Pacific NW and a winter wonderland up here on Lake Whatcom! Our once upon a time plan to move to PI is canked for now as dealing with some ASD with our 3 yr old. Super smart, but some significant issues requiring lot of speech therapy, etc. Still look forward to meeting you when we come visit. Y’all are always welcome at our place up on the mountain top here.

  3. I have found after living in Philippines with family for 3 yrs some American expats can be extremely rude and condescending towards pinoys. While on the other hand Australians and Englishman are more patient and friendly. Upbringing I’d say.

    1. I think it’s tough to compare. Bottom line is there is a certain percentage (and who can say what percentage) of rude foreigners from every culture.

  4. My Wife Cindy has been here for about 3 years now and deals with customer service here. Fortunately she had several years call center experience dealing with “typical” American behavior. She’s been highly recognized for her calm demeanor and work ethic and has advanced rather quickly. She admits she will miss some things about living in the US, but dealing with the attitudes isn’t one of them. 😉

Leave a Reply