Cultural Problems, Misunderstandings & Couple Problems
How to stay happy and avoid unnecessary problems
This is an extremely important area. This is written from the perspective of helping couples (husbands, wives, fiancées & partners) from different cultural backgrounds to understand each other and not to waste too much time fighting over things they really don’t need to fight over. Despite this emphasis, we hope that this is also useful for anybody coming from the Philippines to Australia, and for those who will have a close relationship with a Filipino.
Despite the fact that you and your girl are obviously attracted to each other, you are both products of your own cultural upbringing. Despite the things you have in common, you both interpret the world around you through a different set of eyes and through different thought-processes. Remember that no culture has a monopoly on truth. And your Filipina girl marrying you does NOT mean she’ll suddenly become an Aussie girl. She will learn to adapt to your culture, but you at the same time need to learn to adapt to hers! Like all aspects of marriage, it is a two-way street.
It is NOT your job to “teach her the right ways to do things”. Our western, “white man’s” cultures have unfortunate histories of colonising and “civilising” the eastern and darker-skinned peoples, and this type of thinking is often more ingrained in our collective psyche than we would like to think it was. She has as much to teach you as you have to teach her. And in case it appears like I'm being overly critical of Filipino culture, note that I haven't mentioned all the positive things because positive things rarely cause problems.
So, make it your business to learn to understand your lady’s culture. And make sure you educate her in yours as well, because she’ll not only be living with you one day, she’ll be living within your culture too.
I want to deal with certain areas where you will probably end up clashing....ie. areas where the average Aussie thinks one way, and the average Filipina thinks the opposite.
Solutions? I’m going to mostly leave that up to you. We all have our own ways of fixing things. You will deal with these areas much better once you come to understand them in depth. And I hope we can help you to understand.
COMMON PROBLEM AREAS
Filipino society is based around the needs of the community, especially the needs of the extended family. The needs of the many will always outweigh the needs of the individual. Filipino people live in very close proximity to each other, and are interdependent on each other rather than independent.
Filipino society is not a society of rugged individualists. Australian society, much like American society, evolved from brave and independent men who headed over the hills into the unknown, complete with axe, crowbar, shovel, rifle, horse and wife. They tamed vast mega-acres of harsh wilderness and raised families to live these same values. They did it by themselves, and they did it without relying on the help or charity of others. That independence became part of the national psyche, and it remains today.
Filipino society is based on interdependent family, extended family and pseudo-family kinship social groups. They descended from Malays who arrived in large boats known as balangay, and these small municipalities are still know as Barangay today. If somebody is in need, they go to their neighbours and ask for handouts which are mostly given willingly. And in turn, when somebody has an excess of something, they tend to share it with family and neighbours. Borrowing incurs an actual and a social debt known as utang na loob (or just utang), which is taken very seriously.
Favours, loans and general acts of kindness are never forgotten. All acts of giving contribute to utang, and thus the complex web of societal interdependence is woven. This includes acts of kindness and giving within families, even to parents for the act of raising their kids. This is why Filipinos feel a sense of duty to take care of parents and other family members who have done good things for them over their lives. An older brother or sister who paid for a university education, for example, is higher “up the rung” when it comes to choosing whom to help in later years when opportunities arise. Everyone remembers who did what for whom and when. In a western society, we feel shame at accepting charity. In Filipino society the shame comes from not remembering acts of charity.
As westerners, we tend to be fairly direct. Filipinos tend to be indirect and/or evasive. We tend to speak, and ask. Filipinos tend to observe and say little. We tend to confront. Filipinos tend to avoid confrontation, and they tend to tolerate more. We like to get to the bottom of things and thrash things out. Filipinos prefer to smile and laugh things off. Therefore we have an instant set of differences. We want to confront issues head-on, and this is often totally unfamiliar to Filipinos and can appear to them rude or even scary.
A friend just pointed out to me that Filipinos are often indirect because they try very hard not to cause offense. This is natural in an interdependent society where people depend on one another. So it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Yet Filipinos need to also be aware that westerners regard directness and honesty as being one and the same. Your intention may be to be tactful and not to cause offense, but that may be interpreted as evasiveness, dishonesty and an unwillingness to address and fix problems, ie. weak, irresponsible and spineless. You need to learn to see the intentions behind a westerner’s directness. It is rarely an attempt to cause offense, particularly in a marriage situation. Try to look at the meaning behind the behaviour, rather than to judge the behaviour by the standards of your own culture.
Again, think of interdependence rather than independence. The family is EVERYTHING to Filipinos. Filipinos don’t grow up and move out. If they DO move out, it’s quite normal for them not to move very far. Concepts of “privacy” and “needing their own space” are unheard of. The concept of “loneliness” is also unheard of.....so don’t knock it!
Respect for elders, especially older relatives, is an integral part of Filipino society. Interdependent rather than independent. Parents, aunties, uncles, older brothers and older sisters give advice and instruction readily, and this advice is expected to be followed. Never underestimate the opinions of peers and particularly of those in authority. Independent decision-making is rare! Older sisters, aka. "ate’s" carry a similar authority to mothers. And don’t expect authority to cease when Filipinos turn 18. Most 40 year olds will still jump to attention when given instructions by their parents
The difficulty comes when SOME families (or some family members) take advantage of the situation where sister/daughter/niece/grandchild marries the “rich westerner”. Interdependence and often utang will cut in, and they will think that naturally they are entitled to a share of the good fortune. Western concepts of standing on your own two feet and not taking charity, these don’t exist. Many relatives will assume it’s not only OK, but it’s their right to sit on their backsides and live on handouts for the rest of their lives.
You will need to learn to deal with this by yourselves. But remember that it is YOUR decision (you and your wife) as to what you do with your earnings. Forget all this “marry the girl and you marry the whole family” stuff. This is a matter of choice. It’s not an essential “part of the package”. If you’re not happy about it, then say so. This is the one area where most fights and problems come from. My advice is to sort out what you’re happy with before you even get married, and you stick to it. Make sure your girl understands that westerners have different views and expectations, and also make sure she knows you don’t have the backyard money-tree. Chances are you will have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed and educate, and your own retirement to think about, and you will NOT have neighbours and relatives you can run to when you run short.
Be mindful also that there exists some terrible poverty in the Philippines. If you have no money, you don’t eat. If you can’t afford medical care for your child, your child may be sent home to die. There are three people alive today only because of our own interventions. There are liars and opportunists who will happily take advantage of western dollars, but there are also many real cases of need, the likes of which we never see in Australia.
Filipinos need to be aware though that westerners tend to take a fair bit of adjustment to this type of thinking. We also have a similar code to the utang na loob code of social indebtedness, but most of us try to avoid indebtedness to start with. We take great pride in our independence, and our abilities to take care of ourselves on our own. We despise the person who relies even moderately on others, and give them the derogatory title of “bludger”. We avoid taking charity because we hate the loss of independence. And we have difficulty in understanding others not feeling the same way.
You will discover that everyone is an expert in the Philippines. No one wants to admit they don't know something. And the more senior the family member, the more they're likely to give advice....even if they know nothing about it. Remember what I said about interdependence? It's normal for Filipinos and Filipinas to take advice from more senior family members, and not to question whether they know what they're talking about or not. This advice will involve visa application issues, and will also involve her relationship with you!
So be aware that you can help or hinder your relationship according to what impression you make on parents, aunties and older sisters particularly. So always treat these people well and treat them respectfully, and try to stay in the good books.
When it comes to advice regarding immigration issues, you really need to keep a firm hand on this. You need to keep well-meaning relatives out of the picture, or you may find your application hindered by fake documents or other short-cuts. You will also find yourself having to deal with scary stories she's been told, of wives being chained to kitchen floors and used as sex slaves, or the old classic of the husband taking out life insurance on the wife and then tossing her out the window. My wife was actually warned about this via a letter. (Fortunately for my wife our window was only 1 meter from the ground, so I couldn't have done much harm!)
But seriously, you simply must put your foot down when it comes to your visa application process. Rely on good advice (preferably from an experienced Migration Agent, and not from an online "chat" forum!), and insist that your lady do the same and NOT make what she is doing into an open topic for family discussion.
Jealousy and "Crab Mentality"
Jealousy is rife in the Philippines, and can get downright childish sometimes. Try to understand your lady's friends and relatives will consider that she has hit the jackpot in finding you (the wealthy foreigner), and in some the Green-Eyed Monster will be triggered. The Philippines is famous for Crab Mentality. Picture a basketful of crabs. As one starts to climb out of the basket, the others pull it back down again. Many a Filipino hates to see another one do better for themselves than they are.
So, be prepared for acts of sabotage!
Be prepared for the occasional friend or even family member to try to wreck your relationship or your chances of being together by destructive advice, or by gossip and backstabbing. You may get a letter from an unnamed relative telling you that your lady is cheating on you. Or she may have an auntie (maybe with a daughter the same age as your lady) who tells her she heard on good advice that you're a womaniser....or that you will surely murder her to claim insurance money, etc.
And remember that it's much easier for you to laugh this sort of thing off. For your lady to turn her back on her apparently well-meaning Auntie's advice will be difficult for her.
The Philippines is a religious country. The population is 80 - 85% Catholic. And apart from generally remote Muslim population groups, most of the others are Christian of some persuasion or another. It’s probably the most Christian country on earth, in other words. Christianity and things-religious are part and parcel of the country and the culture. It’s not just a thing that’s done on Sunday. Even state schools have religion incorporated. Therefore, the Christian Faith, and most likely the Catholic Christian Faith is most likely going to be a big part of your girl’s life, and will be very close to her heart.
If you happen to be not religious, then you will find she will be OK about it....as long as you lead a fairly moral existence. Mind you, I’m referring more to Catholics who are fairly tolerant. Some of the girls belonging to the other Christian religions may expect you to be part of their Church, but you will know this in advance most likely. If you make fun of her Faith and her religion, you will hurt her. Teasing and poking fun at her, her practices, her books, her crucifixes and statues, or her going to Church....you will hurt her.
You will find she will take wonderful care of you, and will be very supportive of you and the things that matter to you. Showing patience and support and understanding of her religious beliefs will be an excellent way of paying her back for some of this support. If you can drive her to and from the Church, this would be a very good thing. If you can even attend at Easter and Christmas, this will be better still. Catholic Churches particularly are very understanding of those who come along just to make family members happy, and no one will pounce on you and try to “convert you”, rest assured. Just show respect when you are in the Church, and do not actively participate in the receiving of the Sacraments if you are not Catholic yourself.
If you DO happen to be a religious man yourself, then all the better. However, if you are of a different religion, do not try to “convert” her either!
In Australia, we are accustomed to different foods. We are used to going out to restaurants and asking “Shall we have Chinese? Indian? Italian? Lebanese? etc etc...”. Filipinos are not. They are a bit like Australians in the 1950’s who lived on “meat and three veg”, and couldn’t cope with anything different. Chances are your girl hasn’t eaten a broad range of different foods, therefore her tolerance for different foods will probably be very limited. Plonking her down to lamb chops and mashed potato will most likely be a problem for her. And force-feeding her vegemite will probably make her vomit.
Those of you who have been to the Philippines will be aware that food means: rice plus something else. If they are very poor, it may mean: rice plus nothing, much of the time. The keyword is RICE. She will crave rice, and she will crave it at every meal....including breakfast.
Just be understanding of her needs, especially when she first arrives. But you need to also make sure she knows how people eat in Australia, or she will have problems. If 6 – 12 months after she arrives she cannot eat a meal without rice, you will find this will be a huge restriction on your lives. You will be limited in where you can go and where you can visit. If you have to pre-warn friends that there must be a fresh pot of steamed rice and a selection of fried fish waiting for you, you will soon run out of friends. You won’t even be able to visit Ronald McDonald! Give and take! Your diet should change, and so should hers.
Everyone in the Philippines (who has been to school) has been taught English. English is the second language of the country. All street sights are in English. Products in shops have labels in English. You can survive in the Philippines without speaking a word of Tagalog.
However, English is NOT the language of choice, and the ordinary everyday conversations of ordinary people take place in Tagalog, or whatever regional dialogue is spoken in the area. The less sophisticated, the less educated and the less rich the person is....and the further from Manila you get...the less that person will be comfortable in conversational English.
And most important to understand......no one learns how to speak or understand Aussie Mumble!
Aussies mutilate the English language. We pronounce words strangely. We run words into each other and make entire sentences sound like single (long) words. Entire letters are slurred away into oblivion. Our adenoids share the job that vocal chords were meant for. And we “swallow our words”, as the locals are fond of saying. No crisp and clear pronunciation for the Aussie. No way mate! And our poor girls have to try to decipher our mumbling drawl.
She will get used to it in time. In the short term? Speak slowly. Speak clearly. Try to rediscover the sounds of letters we have long considered superfluous. And encourage her to actually TELL you when she doesn’t understand you, or other Aussies.
The strangest thing is that she will walk into this strange world of mumblers and language-mutilators, and SHE will feel shy to talk because of HER “poor English”.
And here comes the first problem.
Filipinos will avoid talking to people, or even making eye-contact when they feel shy. To an Aussie, that is a sign of rudeness or contempt.
You will need to explain this to her, as this will cause unnecessary offense and misunderstandings with your friends and with relatives, who will think she is being aloof or ignorant. Ever wondered why, when you visited, there seemed to be so many relatives who simply ignored you? They did this because they felt embarrassed about their poor English. It had nothing to do with not liking you. You will have to explain this to her until she gets it, otherwise feelings will be hurt.
Talking in Tagalog in front of English speakers!
I hate this with a passion, personally! I have relatives in the provinces. I don’t visit any more. Why? Because (a) they won’t speak to me because they’re shy about their poor English, and (b) they speak in Tagalog (or in the local Bicolano dialect) in front of me, despite the fact they could speak in English if they tried. Try spending two weeks where the only people who speak to you are your wife and kids, and only when they get a chance to? Not nice! You feel completely in the dark.
Remember what I said about Filipinos growing up without being exposed to different foods? They also grow up not being exposed to speakers of different languages. You may be the first person they ever met who didn’t understand their language. It’s a new situation. No point of reference. So therefore they continue as they always have, and take the path of least resistance. You may be more tolerant than me, but you WILL feel left-out. And later on when you have a house full of chattering Tagalog-speaking ladies, you will probably feel cranky.
Set some ground-rules. Insist on some good manners, or you will soon run out of Australian friends and relatives who wish to visit. But at the same time, show some flexibility. If she’s off chattering to her mate in the kitchen in Tagalog whilst you’re watching TV, who cares what language she speaks in? And if you have a group of English-speaking chaps sitting out the back having a chat, and the ladies are inside discussing the joys of dried fish, who cares what language they speak in?
However, you need to encourage her to speak English as much as possible, because she is now living in an English speaking country. And Aussies can have this annoying and patronising habit of treating those with less-than-perfect English as being dumb and childlike. Don’t let this happen to her. Whilst it’s fun and cute for you to learn Tagalog, her learning English has more practical benefit. If she stays at home watching The Filipino Channel, and only socialising with Filipinas, the years will go by and she will remain a “foreigner” in her adopted country.
HUGE can of worms! We all love our kids, and we take our parenting very seriously. If you have kids, or if your lady is a single mum with kids, then you will have things you need to deal with. One thing is for certain and that is that NO kid will feel obligated to change and adjust to suit the situation. After all it wasn't THEIR idea that mum (or dad) married this person. But they are human beings too, and their feelings matter. And as a decent man, you have to make sure they feel safe, secure, loved and accepted as quickly as you can.
Filipino kids will generally have an innate respect for adults, so you generally won't have to deal with surliness or backchatting. But you will have other issues to deal with.
And please don't toss the baby out with the bathwater! I'm emphasizing problems here, but that's because no one has to "deal with" or fix something that's good. Try to identify the things in the child's upbringing (eg. respect for elders) which are good, and don't encourage the child to swap them for negative traits, just because they are Aussie-kid things. Aussie society is becoming increasingly permissive when it comes to raising kids, and (in my opinion at least) it can have some very negative results.
On that topic of respect, note that Filipino kids are accustomed to having to treat adults with respect. They may not have the same table manners, and they may initially make a mess in the bathroom, but they generally won't be surly or cheeky. And they will have grown up envious of other kids who had a dad at home. They need a dad, and a dad is what you need to become. They don't need an "Uncle Steve", or a large and hairy schoolmate-impersonator. If you let them do as they wish, with no rules, they'll lose all respect for you and will run wild. So make sure you talk about these issues with your wife-to-be, and present a united front.
You will have the language issue. Chances are that, just like mum, the child will have been taught English at school, but will speak Tagalog or the local dialect by way of preference. The child will have as much difficulty with Aussie mumbling as any other Filipino, and may not understand much unless you make a strong effort to speak clearly. And be prepared for the kid-habit of saying YES when you ask "Did you understand?" even if he/she understood nothing at all.
We brought our young daughter to Australia a number of years ago. I married a single mum myself, so I've been there and done that! Now, some may disagree with this, but we made a strict rule of English-only speaking in the house. The only time her mum would revert to the local Bicolano dialect would be if our daughter really didn't understand something. Within 6 months she spoke perfect English. In less than a year she had an Aussie accent you could cut with a knife! No one at school believed she came from overseas. Kids are wonderfully adaptable. But don't hold them back by not encouraging them. If you have a shy child with a language refuge at home, he/she may have trouble fitting in at school. Better to toss them in at the deep end and let them swim.
And also keep in mind that you as a new dad need to quickly become the second parent, and an equal parent. You won't do this if mum and child have their own secret little world they can disappear into. You will have no end of problems if this happens. The child may resent you, and you may end up resenting the child. Make sure that language is not a barrier.
And keep firmly in mind that kids at school can be very cruel. If a kid sounds "funny", they can make the child into an outsider. There were times when they made fun of my daughter for weird pronunciation. And this was one more reason why I turned up the pressure on her English improvement, and it paid off. Life moves forward and not backward. Despite what people say about advantages of second languages, being completely fluent in the language of your homeland is far more important. And Australia will be the new homeland of your new son or daughter.
Food issues will also come up. They will be the same issues as you will have with their mum. Give and take!
But I have to say that the Filipino diet, especially for kids, is often appalling. Kids are usually fed mountains of white rice, with little scraps of fatty meat and little or no vegetables. It's common to find Filipino kids, even from average families who can afford proper food but lack the knowledge, suffering malnutrition. Kids of 3 or 4 years old have rotting and grey-coloured teeth because of calcium deficiencies. There is often a very low resistance to whatever "bug" is going around. Kids are generally allowed to choose the food that THEY want to eat, and because it's often fairly bland they don't eat very much. And shrunken stomachs have low capacities anyway.
We have three kids. Two of them adopted. They all arrived with hollow cheeks and legs like sticks. We reduced the rice intake to about 1/3. We supplied about the same quantity of vegetables and same quantity of meat as the rice intake. They attained healthy weights and stopped getting sick within weeks. And they probably eat about double the previous quantity these days. Please do the same! Fill the plate for them. Say "finish what's on the plate". Problem solved. And reduce the junk snack food, and have a ready supply of fruit on hand.
Wussiness can be a problem. Filipino kids are often babied. Remember the point about lack of independence? It starts from childhood. 7 year olds can still drink out of baby bottles. 8 year olds can still sleep in the same bed as mum, and be terrified to sleep by themselves. A 13 year old may still have mum fussing over them at the dinner table. I met someone with a 7 year old who, after arriving in Australia, was happy to be pushed around in a baby stroller. How to deal with it? Patiently! You'll have to deal with mum first, to make sure she can see that giving a kid a sense of pride in their independence is not an unloving thing to do.
The sleeping alone issue is a major one, and should be dealt with ideally before the child arrives in Australia. If you have the chance, try to bring it up before they even come to Australia. You REALLY don't need an 8 or 9 year old in your bed! You definitely do not want a 13 year old in your bed either. Apart from the fact that you and your wife need time for romantic things, you simply can't have kids in your bed in Australia. Yes, it's considered quite normal in the Philippines. But in Australia we relate "sleeping with" somebody with having sex. One inkling getting out at your child's new school about him/her "sleeping with" anybody, and you'll have welfare people bashing down your door. And this includes siblings sleeping together too, remember.
Fear of aswangs, wak waks, onggus, white ladies, hairy men who smoke cigars and live in trees....these sorts of beliefs are common in the Philippines, especially amongst the less sophisticated provincial people. Hard to stop kids being terrified of creepy things in the night if their parents also believe this rubbish. You won't be able to deal with the sleeping-alone issue until you can deal with this fear. Otherwise you'll have a terrified kid! I had to deal with this one. Fortunately her mum had ceased to believe in this nonsense, otherwise I wouldn't have had a hope. I used a combination of humour, with logical reminders that there are no photographs existing of flying aswangs, and that there are no clothing stores for aswangs, and that there are no aswang-food aisles in the supermarket. It took a few months, but we got there.
When should the child come to Australia?
Your wife will have culture shock when she comes to Australia. She will also have to adjust to being married and living with you, as you will have to adjust to living with her. She may freak out a few times. She may cry. She will miss her family, her previous home, her previous lifestyle and all she was familiar with. You need to have time and space to deal with these things. You'll also be in this blissfully romantic state where you'll want to be together all the time, and no doubt will spend a lot of time having mummy-and-daddy-cuddles.
It's not fair on a child to have them trying to adjust to their new life while mum is doing the same and no one has the time to devote to helping THEM adjust. The child will not feel secure if mum is having a wobbly, or if she finds mum sobbing in the kitchen because she doesn't know how to cook lamb chops.
Strongly consider you leave the child with granny in the Philippines for at least 3 months! Make sure that you and your wife are able to give the child the attention they need and deserve when they arrive.
Aussie kids and all kids
And I sincerely hope that you start your whole process of your new life without the step-parent concept. I started off my relationship with my wife stating that I was a single dad, and that I expected our family to be a real and complete family. She would be a mum to my kids, and I would be a dad to her daughter. No "your kids/my kids" thinking. My daughter called me Daddy from the day I met her when she was 4 years old. Fortunately she never knew another father-figure, but I would have still insisted on this. And I also made it clear to my sons that Mila was not a guest in the house. She spoke with my authority, and that if she spoke then they should obey her as if her words were mine. Establish ground-rules with your wife and with all kids right from the start, otherwise they'll soon become a wedge between you. You can't have any "don't speak to MY child like that" or "you're not my father" attitudes if you want to become a fully functioning family.
With any kids of your own, no doubt they will feel that they're being invaded. They will resent changes. They will resent somebody taking up their dad's time and attention. Deal with them patiently but firmly. Your relationship with your wife must be paramount. Your kids will grow up and move out. Your wife won't. Yes, you should put your kids basic needs first. That's normal. But your loyalty and your solidarity must be firmly with your new life-partner. Make sure the kids understand this. The longer you've been a single-dad family, the harder this will be. And the same will apply to your wife if she's been a single mum for a long time.
This is really more of a Western-stemmed cultural problem than a Filipino problem. Filipinos and Filipinas themselves have very little problem in this area, but the mentally-castrated male can have all sorts of problems. And this can and will affect the relationship.
I've already partially covered this topic at the start of the Myths and Cliches page, but I'll elaborate on what problems it can cause.
Western men have spent the last 40 years under a cloud of guilt. When we try to be decisive, strong, reliable or merely by breathing, we risk being patriarchal and dominating. "Male" has almost become something of a swear word, eg. "That's just so male!", and "discovering our feminine side" is apparently always a positive thing. We're even supposed to believe that having a visit from the Queer Eye for Straight Guy people can fix all our testosterone-induced problems. And every soap opera tells you that wife and kids are the smart ones who hold the moral high-ground, and dad is a buffoon. And don't forget the bad dad in movies who can't take Joey camping, or watch Jenny's trombone recital because he has to work late all the time (to PAY for the tent and the trombone).
So what do we get? Men scared to be men. He visits his girl in the Philippines. He agrees to everything. He has no opinion about anything, lest he be accused of being patriarchal and dominating. When the relatives try to take advantage, he meekly opens his wallet. He's proud of his cooking skills and his willingness to share the household chores (or even to do most of them). And he's also scared of being a racist, therefore he surrenders his cultural identity and conditioning to hers. Whatever she wants, she gets. And this only becomes more bizarre when he's 20 or so years older than her. (And no, I have no problem with age-gaps, but I do have problems seeing mature men losing their dignity).
She, on the other hand, has grown up in a society where men are men and women are women.....and unlike us enlightened westerners, they're quite happy with this scenario. Men in the Philippines don't want to discover their feminine side, and girls are happy to be girls. They expect their man to be masculine. They don't have a problem with him relaxing over a few beers at the end of a hard day, and they're happy to make him dinner and wash up the dishes afterwards. No, again, they're not slaves or "trained to please men". They have little time for tyrants and insensitive clods, but they are happy that their man wears the trousers. They WANT him to take care of them and protect them, and they EXPECT that he has an opinion and has the @@ to express it. They never dreamed of a "Queer Eye" graduate for a husband!
And I'm not in any way suggesting that you become a tyrant. This is not about getting your own way. They say that a smart man makes the major decisions in his family.....but he makes sure the decisions he makes are the ones his wife will be happy with. Or more directly, it means he remembers that he's making the decisions that will bring about the right outcomes for the betterment of his family, and is highly mindful of his wife's opinions. But it's a known fact that men are better at handling tough decisions and situations, and that women are better at fine details. Men are more logical, and women more emotional. Rather than anybody apologising for their nature, or anybody blaming anybody for being "so male", isn't it better to simply respect and enjoy each others strong points? Those areas that your wife is better at? Leave her to it, and don't fight for supremacy. And if she's Filipina, she will normally let you be yourself and to do what you do well.
However, if you act like a Male Eunuch, or a doting, spineless jellyfish whom she can't rely on or respect, then don't blame her if she takes over and becomes dominant herself. Respect is something that needs to be earned.
And don't be scared to speak your mind. Your have a mind. You have intelligence and experience. Use it! If she has an idea that you don't agree with.....one that will affect your relationship or your future? Then TELL her!
Don't give more money to relatives than you're happy with.
Don't try to sponsor relatives if you're not really happy to do so.
Don't put off her immigration because her mother doesn't want her to leave, if you're not happy with it.
Don't just agree to a wedding in the Philippines rather than Australia simply because it's what she wants, if you actually feel strongly otherwise.
Don't wait three years before you apply for her to immigrate, because her parents want her to finish her university studies first, if you feel strongly otherwise.
Don't have your bed full of 7yr old and 8yr old children if you don't agree with this.
Don't change your entire diet to Filipino food, while she makes no dietary changes whatsoever. Just because our white ancestors mindlessly trampled any Asian culture they came into contact with, this is no reason for you to make up for their past sins.
TALK about things. Start your relationship off with joint-decisions, and make sure you BOTH do plenty of compromising. That's what good marriages are built on, and it will ensure you have a close relationship (where BOTH of you are happy and fulfilled) for many years to come.
You went looking for the love of your life, didn’t you? You want to believe that she is with you purely because she loves you, right? She’s not with you for the money, is she? Despite all the stories you hear of Filipina gold-diggers who take up with men they don’t care about because of money, you are certain that your relationship isn’t like that, right?
Well, how could you possibly be certain when you’re sending her large amounts of money?
I had a client ask me the other day if there was a problem with him paying P30,000 per year for school fees, for contributing to the funeral of his father-in-law, and helping a sister-in-law who’s house was damaged in a typhoon. Of course there’s nothing wrong with this! In this case’s he’s married to the lady, and he’s in a position to help. So why wouldn’t he?
However we get others who send a thousand dollars or more every month, who’s ladyfriends stop working the moment they form a relationship. A thousand bucks may well be small change to an Aussie with a good salary, but it’s a lot of money in the Philippines, especially for somebody who would have earned less than 10,000 pesos a month before he came along! A thousand Aussie Dollars is worth between P42,000 and P45,000 by the way, and is probably 8 times what she was living on before. It means instant easy-life, with lots of shopping for fun and cute things. It also means your future in-laws are going to love you too, but for all the wrong reasons.
The big question:
Wouldn’t you prefer that she loved you for you and nothing else?
Think VERY hard before you throw money at a girl! If you think she won’t stay with you without you doing this, then good! Let her go! This is a big decision….THE “big decision”. You want to be 100% sure before you take the plunge. You want to be certain that she wants to be with you for you and for nothing else.
Many years ago when I was still looking for my own Filipina bride I had some advice from somebody who had been there and done that. He told me that years before he was writing letters to several Filipina ladies at once when he rang into some financial trouble. He wrote to all of them and told them of his problems. ONE lady kept writing to him. Guess who he married? Think about it!
Two scenarios here……both true stories:
“I’m nearly 70. My kids are all grown up. I own my own house, and I have plenty of money in the bank. I just want somebody to take care of me, and when I’m gone she’ll get the lot.”
He went to an SM mall in Manila, and told this story to sales ladies until he found one in her 20’s who was happy to go back to his hotel with him, jump into bed with him, and become his instant fiancée. It only took one day! A sincere and loving relationship? What do you think?
“I’m 64. My wife died. I have a big house in the country, and one in the city. Here’s a photo of my holiday home in Europe. I don’t need to work anymore. My kids have their own lives, and I’m so lonely.”
This man also sent her money a few times, the equivalent of several thousand dollars, supposedly for a tourist visa application that never eventuated. He pulled the pin when she kept requesting more money. She had bought a new motorbike and some fashionable clothes for her Filipino boyfriend, who didn’t mind the attention she was getting from her wealthy western admirer. At least he was smart enough to not marry her!
I contrast, when I met Mila, I was nothing like that. I arrived in Manila wearing my usual unstylish clothes. I needed a haircut. We didn’t head for the best hotel in town. I don’t believe I bought her anything in particular. No new phones. No laptops. No jewellery. We didn’t go to any flash restaurants. We stayed in a comfortable-but-ordinary resort in a place called Balogo in Cararines Sur. She actually paid for the airfares to from Manila to Pili (Naga), and I didn’t object. The first time I sent her any money at all was when we organised our visa, which was about 12 months later. If she was a gold-digger she would have given up on me a long time before!
How much different would things have been had both of these men not waved wealth around? They hooked gold-diggers because they used gold-digger bait! If they’d projected themselves as simple and ordinary men, the gold-diggers wouldn’t have hung around. It might have taken them longer, but they could have found themselves some good women.
Basically, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! She and her family survived before you came along. If you didn’t come along when you did, they would have continued to survive. Don’t ruin her by tossing money at her. If she has a job, let her maintain that dignity. Turning her into a lazy lump who plays all day on the laptop you gave her, and only goes out to go shopping……you’re not doing her or yourself any favours.
We meet a lot of couples. It goes with the territory, obviously. We see them in our office. We communicate with our clients by email all the time. It doesn’t take long for us to see how they relate to each other.
Age differences CAN make a difference…..although they don’t necessarily make a difference, and they shouldn’t make a difference. I think it really comes down to the intentions of the men who went looking for a future bride. Were they looking for their soulmate, or were they looking for a pretty face and a curvy young body? Their soulmate COULD very well have a pretty face and a curvy young body, but the point is whether that was just the icing on the cake or whether that was the whole issue!
My wife is my best friend. She was when we met, and she is even more so today. No one understands me and trusts me and stands by me like she does, and I miss her even when she goes to the shops for a few hours. We work together, and we’re practically never apart…..and that’s how we like it. This would NOT have happened if this wasn’t what I was looking for. Looks fade, and sex drive diminishes over the years. And if your lady was just after money, once she’s in Australia and technically owns half your assets, that desperate need will have diminished in her. Then what?
We get couples whom we meet in our office who sit there and finish each other’s sentences. They playfully tease each other. You can see a real connection. You can see a mutual respect! They love each other for WHO they are, and not for WHAT they are.
Then we get others where it’s not there at all. Instead we see awkwardness and a lack of understanding. And we see an overprotectiveness from him towards her. She’s his pretty little doll, and he’s her guardian and protector. She’s not his life-partner or his soulmate. He’s like a father figure.
Filipina ladies are NOT made of egg shells. They’re remarkably tough and resilient. Yes, they remain feminine and sweet, yet they can endure hardship and hard work that would leave their western counterparts gasping for breath. Young ladies regularly work jobs where they work 10-12 hours a day for 6 or more days a week, and either commute back and forth to home or they’ll rent a “bedspace” (a patch of floorspace that’s enough to sleep on in a private home) during the week and commute home to see their families on Sundays. Or they’ll work for decades in countries like Saudi Arabia so they can send their siblings through university. And you know what else? She’ll still keep on smiling!
If you think she’s too delicate to organise the documents she needs for a visa application, you don’t know her at all! If you think you need to fly over to hold her hand whilst she undergoes her medical check for her visa, you know nothing about her! You don’t have to find out how to organise her documents for her. In most cases she already knows, and if she isn’t she will have the resourcefulness to sort it out. Don’t treat her like she’s stupid or incompetent!
And if she bursts into tears and makes a fuss over every little thing that happens, then maybe she’s playing on your attitude! She’s becoming a spoilt brat, basically. This is her fault for being selfish, and it’s your fault for letting it happen. It’s no basis for a good relationship! Combine that with tossing money at her, and you have a real problem brewing.
We find the father/daughter syndrome couples very painful to deal with. These are the ones where the girl:
♦ Doesn’t respond to our requests for information and/or documents
♦ Is very slow in gathering requested documents or completing questionnaires and other forms
♦ Cries and plays the victim whenever we get a bit tough with her
Then HE will:
♦ Contact us, often very quickly after we’ve been a bit tough with her, or simply after we’ve asked for something from her
♦ Tell us how she is “so scared”, “so worried”, “so confused” about the particular issue, or about the whole process
♦ Expect my wife Mila to call the girl and to “hold her hand” through something often very simple because she is “so scared”, “so confused”, etc. Mila will invariably call the girl and find out that all is fine, ie. she was putting on a performance in order to either get out of doing something, or to somehow “punish” us for supposedly being so mean to her.
Honestly, we have no problem in helping clients. Please never think that. Our job is to help, and we can, will and do go the extra mile for our clients. Sometimes language barriers necessitate Mila calling a lady and explaining things to her. This is fine! But we don’t like silly games that only stand in the way of us doing our job, and we don’t mince words!
I have a 13yr old adopted daughter who wants to be fussed over and protected when something troubles her. That’s OK. She’s my daughter and she’s 13! A future life-partner and mother of your children, whom you trust with paying bills and keeping the lives of you and your future children safe is NOT somebody whom you should be treating like a baby! If the love and caring and support is all going in one direction, then this is not right. This is NOT your soulmate!
Again I will state that age should NOT have anything to do with it. You can find your soulmate in a woman who is many decades younger than you, just as you can find a gold digger in someone the same age as you. Find that person who will become your best friend and a true life-partner, and age won’t come into it. If you look upon her as a sex object, or if you look upon her as a china-doll that you need to protect and nurture, then your future will be bleak.
We get a few of our clients and enquirers who say they want to move to the Philippines, buy a house, start a business, and to start living the easy life.
It’s not necessarily a silly idea, but it’s not for everyone. It’s definitely not something you should rush into. We live here ourselves, as you’ve probably gathered. And yes, I don’t mind saying we live a comfortable life. We have a nice house. We have household helpers. We have a driver. We have administrative staff in our office. We have no plans to go back to Australia. However, we also know plenty who are struggling here.
As the husband of a Filipina lady (husband….not de facto partner), you may apply for permanent residency here. It’s not overly difficult. You may own a condominium unit. You may then work or start a business. As long as you remain married, and as long as you behave yourself, you may stay.
However, living here and visiting on a romantic holiday, it’s not the same thing.
Main issue is that of money! And running businesses! Or getting jobs!
I had somebody asking me what “the wages were like” here a month or so ago. The only honest answer is “woeful”. It’s a third-world country. Filipinos can live on the smell of an oily rag, and are OK living simply. Living in crowded conditions with leaky roofs, and on diets of rice and dried fish (in quantities that are OK for a 5’3” male who weighs 50kg) is acceptable. It won’t be for you!
And if you wish to start up a business which competes with Filipinos, you are competing with those who are OK sleeping on the floor in the business and living on dried fish and rice. You can’t live like that. You don’t WANT to live like that! And you also don’t have family members who will help you out when you don’t have enough money for your dried fish and rice either.
The other issue is that there are a lot of businesses here in markets that are oversupplied.
Just down the road from us you can see somebody with an umbrella over a cart with a pot over a gas burner with a pile of sweet corn on the cob. Yes, they’re selling sweet corn by the side of the road. 40 - 50 meters from them is somebody else selling…..yes….sweet corn. Then the same distance is another one selling sweet corn. I think there’s about 6 or 7 of them. And they’re not very busy!
We had tinting put on our first car. We went to a place that did tinting. There were about 4 similar places doing car window tinting in the same block. They were happy to shut up the shop, hop on a tricycle and to come to our place to do the job. I also have a barber who is happy to close his barber shop to come to my home and cut my hair. Business is not always booming! We bought two very nice glazed pots (plant pots) the other week. The owner was very grateful, because he hadn’t had a sale for three weeks!
There’s an abundance of “spas” and massage places nearby to us. I’m sure they’re not all busy all day. Over the last few decades I’ve stayed at a number of resorts where we were the only guests for a week.
Those who do OK here are either (a) those who are employed by multinational companies who give them jobs, (b) those who like myself are dealing with Australians or other western clients, and (c) those who are pensioned or superannuated or otherwise living on investments.
I have yet to meet anybody who comes here and “shows them how to do it properly” and competes with Filipinos on their own turf. It doesn’t happen. Not only do you not know the market, you also don’t know the culture enough to know how to do business. I was discussing sugar cane juice with an Indian (he worked for Citibank, I think) once. Sugar cane juice is commonly sold by street vendors in India. Delicious and very refreshing when served cold. They DO grow sugar cane here. My Indian friend thought it would be a great business to start up here, with a chain of franchises, etc. I disagreed! The chances are the locals wouldn’t like it, and would stick to their old favourites like buku (coconut) juice. I’d love to see pie vans here, like we have in Australia. But maybe I’d be their only customer? Don’t assume the locals will clamour for your “great western ideas”! And your sales technique, your ways of building rapport, your slam-dunk sales closes…..they probably won’t work here either. Don’t kid yourself.
If you get a great job offer, with a high salary, relocation expenses, house, car, maid and driver tossed in, then you should seriously consider it!
If you have a business where it really doesn’t matter where you are in the world, then yes you should consider it. Do your homework re. internet connections and any other infrastructure that you need first.
And if you’re pensioned, superannuated or have investments you can live off? Consider it too. Just be realistic about what you can live off. Come up with a household budget, and then double it. Don’t kid yourselves. Yes, we buy most of our meat, fruit and vegetables from the local market. It’s cheap compared to Australia. But I can’t stand the local sugar-infested bread, and I can’t eat tiny fish full of bones, scales, etc which stare back at you from the plate. We get imported beef. We get imported bacon. We get imported ham. We get Aussie wines, imported brie and gorgonzola, and some really nice (but not cheap) bread from Santis delicatessen. We don’t ride jeepneys or tricycles either. As I said, come up with a budget and then double it. Again, don’t kid yourself!
Ideally, keep your house in Australia. Rent it out. Don’t burn your bridges. Come and rent a place and give yourself a year before you make any firm commitments.
And keep yourself safe! Don’t rent (or buy) a place in a poor neighbourhood. You stick out like a sore thumb. Regardless of your bank balance, you will be seen as a rich westerner. There will be plenty who will see you as a target for scams or worse! You may also get burgled, violently robbed or kidnapped. Or you may be set up for blackmail, ie. neighbourhood girl (or even boy) gets alone with you, tears clothes, runs out and screams rape. Policeman (who is probably part of it) says they will drop the charges for ½ a million pesos on the condition that you get on a plane immediately after paying up. Find a nice gated community with security guards at the gate and bars on the windows. You will ALWAYS be a target for the have-nots. Once again, don’t kid yourself.
I believed before and I believe now that Filipina ladies in general are the finest women in the world, and if you’re lucky enough to form a loving relationship with one then you are indeed lucky. And MOST are honest and genuine in their intentions. If you meet a good Filipina, and she loves you, she will stand by you through thick and thin, ‘til death you do part.
However there is also a different approach toward “truth”, ie. a more “flexible” approach which I’ve covered extensively before. And you, as an Aussie, will have a completely different attitude toward truth, one which is far less flexible!
Yes, I’ve just had a couple of issues with clients where truth is called into question.
The first one, she is needing to organise an annulment. They’ve been a couple for quite a while now, and have a baby together. She had to apply for her CENOMAR (Certificate of No Marriage, from the National Statistics Office, aka NSO) as part of the visa application. It showed that she was still legally married. The Aussie fiancé knew nothing about this! On further discussion he discovered she also has a 10yr old child living in the province. He’d visited the family. Who knows if he may have even seen the child while he was there? Maybe the husband too? Obviously everybody knew except him.
Was she being terrible and evil by doing this? Probably not. She was no longer in a relationship with the husband. They’ve been apart for many years. She was just hoping it would go away by itself, and considered it to be embarrassing and shameful, plus she would have worried about losing him. And no doubt mum, aunties, sisters and/or cousins would have also advised her to keep quiet about it all.
Another one, I won’t go into the details as they’re a bit complicated, but the applicant asked us not to tell her husband something! Again, it was just something she was embarrassed about, and was hoping would go away by itself. In this case we’ve told her bluntly that we don’t keep secrets from husbands, especially as the husband is usually the one paying the bills!
As husbands or fiancés or Filipinas, you will have to deal with this issue. Lies and withholding the truth, you won’t be able to tolerate. They will damage your relationship. And from a visa application perspective, lies will cause major problems and possibly visa refusals. At worst it could lead to fraud charges.
So you MUST insist on complete transparency in your relationship. Insist on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Build your relationship on trust and transparency. Let her see that you won’t run away at the first sign of something “shameful”.
The other issue is that of family interference.
Girls here are accustomed to toeing the family line. They do as they’re told. Mums, older sisters, aunties and older cousins……they all give instructions, and these instructions are followed mostly to the letter. And everybody is an expert, regardless of whether they know nothing about the subject area.
YOU must establish your presence, and not as a spineless grinning man with an open wallet! You may ruffle a few feathers, but so be it. If you don’t, then expect family interference for many years to come.
I’ve included this in the “lies” section, because family interference and lies often go hand in hand.
Be sensitive. Understand that you will be taking her into scary and unchartered territory. She’s been doing as she is told her entire life, and the family don’t necessarily realise that this can/should/will change once she becomes involved with you.
But make it clear that you and your lady are forming your own family together. You are not an afterthought. You are her husband or future-husband. She is leaving to go to Australia and the two of you will build a life together. Before that happens you will make decisions together that will affect your future lives. If she has a child or children, they will also become a part of your new family. Make it clear to your lady, and if necessary make it clear to the significant family members that this is how things are and how things shall be.
When it comes to the visa application, you MUST insist that there be no interference. No withholding of information. No hiding children born out of wedlock. No hiding of overseas travels and/or work. No hiding of former marriages. No hiding of fake or falsified information contained in birth certificates, and no getting “fixers” to cover up previous fraud. If you’ve engaged a Registered Migration Agent this is even more essential, as we expect our advice and instructions to be followed.
When your wife first arrives in Australia, everything is exciting. It's so nice to wake up with her next to you instead of a big patch of emptiness. You get fussed over. You get things done for you. It's all very sweet, and you're floating on a cloud.
Enjoying this is easy. Making it last, this is the hard part!
We see lots of happy couples, but from time to time we hear back from clients from years back and we see them struggling. And sometimes I wish I could just shake them, because most of the time the problems are not real problems at all. They're caused by their own stupidity and inflexibility. And it's horrible to see, especially when we remember how much they struggled to get where they are only to see it start to wither. Let me share a few thoughts, and I hope it will help.
This is my view: You were given a special gift when you fell in love with your lady, and your wife was given the same gift when she fell in love with you. If you can't see it like you did before, this is your fault.
The special gift is that you were able to see your loved one in a way that nobody else could. You probably used to find yourself wondering how all these people around her couldn't see it like you could. You saw so much goodness in her. So much kindness. So much sweetness. Were you wrong? In some cases, yes. But if you were honest with yourself back then, yes you were completely correct. Others didn't see it. You did. That was your special gift! In my view it's a gift from God, and therefore something especially precious. You got to see someone the way God sees everyone, and He gave you a glimpse of what He sees all the time.
So stop and reflect. Think back. Remember what it was that you saw. Put your grumbling aside, and put your ego aside. Forgive the small things. Me? I'm so glad my wife has faults! Because she has to put up with plenty of my own faults, it's only fair. Same with you? Yes, I would say so. Let them go, and remember what you saw before.
Now, for a few other important points, especially for the gents:
Making the right choice at the start!
Maybe this is too late in the game for you, but I'm hoping that some gents can read this before they make a poor decision!
Make sure you make a good decision right from the start! Sometimes, yes, the cliches of the "poor girl who will do anything for a good life" can be absolutely correct. She's young....not very sophisticated....family is poor. Aussie man shows up. She thinks he's a gift from God. She falls head over heels, and he can't believe his luck. They marry.
Years go by. The memories of poverty fade. She takes another look, and thinks "What was I thinking??" The future is suddenly very bleak.
I had girls "fall in love" with me back in the 90's. I knew they hadn't really, because they didn't even know me. If you use the head on your shoulders and push away the fog of romance (and horniness), you KNOW when somebody's in love with you. You really do! And you know if there's not enough substance. Sometimes you need to think for the girl, and you need to back off and do the right thing.
Wearing the Trousers
I've touched on this before, and I'll touch on it again. Filipina ladies generally prefer their men to be men. If you let this go, someone has to wear the trousers. She will go against her nature and take the reins of the family rather than let it all fall apart. And if this happens, it's YOUR fault.....not hers.
My wife works side by side with me in our Practice. She's a great partner. But I continue to be the man in the drivers seat, and I make sure I take more on my shoulders than she does. It's important for so many reasons.
1. It's important for her. I remember when we moved here to the Philippines in 2010. I told her I was a bit worried that all would turn out fine. She told me that she was NOT worried, because I'd always provided for us and she had every confidence that I would continue to do so. It made me feel ten-foot tall, of course. But more importantly it meant that she felt safe and protected, as she richly deserves. That's my job.
2. A man values himself by what he produces. That's a man's nature. If we don't produce, we cease to value ourselves. Our self-esteem goes down. Our wife will pick up on our low self-esteem, and find it so much harder to respect us.
I've seen families where the Filipina wife comes home after a hard day working, only to find her husband (often an older man) watching TV in his underpants. She gets cranky with him because he hasn't hung out the washing! There's something very wrong with that picture. Don't let it happen. Pick yourself up, and make yourself someone your wife can respect. Do that, and she will respect you. When she respects you, she gives you confidence. Things work well. Do the opposite, and you're on a downward spiral.
Vasectomies...and inability to have children!
Maybe you had a vasectomy years ago? Maybe you feel you're too old for having children? Women....especially young women.....want kids! Filipina ladies most definitely want kids. The hormones rage away and the desire to reproduce is very strong. Don't kid yourself! Three points:
1. Don't lie about it! If you don't want kids, or if you CAN'T have kids due to having "the snip", tell her right from the start. Give her a chance to back out. If you lie and she finds this out later, don't expect her to laugh it off. She will probably leave you, and who could blame her?
2. Don't believe any young woman who says "Oh, it's OK if I don't have kids."! She may convince herself now, but it will come back to haunt her.
3. Consider marrying a single mum! If she's already had kids, she will be far more understanding, and yes you CAN believe her if she says it's OK. Plus, you get two (or three or four) in the one beautiful package (and not, I'm not using mail-order-bride thinking....it's just a figure of speech.) More to love. And you're giving a child (or children) a dad, which is a precious thing. Think about it!
Other Women: ie. "perving" at other women, looking at internet porn, etc.
Men can look at beautiful women, whether it's that pretty young piece in the skimpy shorts, or whether it's the porn on the net, and we don't get emotionally involved. I know this. Men know this. Women? They GET emotionally involved before they "perv". Therefore they do NOT get it. They never will. Get used to it!
When I was married before, I had a wife who didn't care if I looked at other women, or even if I commented favourably about their various body parts. At the time I thought it was great. Little did I know it was basically because she didn't value me. I found that out when I least expected it. I also suspect it was partially to cover up a guilty conscience too.
Jealousy is healthy in a normal relationship! If a lady values you, she will be jealous. She doesn't want to lose you or share you with anyone. Once she doesn't care about you perving, this is the day she stops valuing you. AND she's a lady too! Try to understand this. Make comments about other women, or perv at nudie pics on the internet, and you will HURT her! Regardless of whether your intentions were harmless or not, you are HURTING her. Stop it!
No doubt I'll add to this when it's not after midnight like it is now. But please try to always understand each other. Forgive the small things. Understand that she is not you, and she looks at many things differently to how you do. Forget trying to defend yourself or to point fingers. If she's hurting, your job is to care. And feel privileged if someone values you enough to be jealous. And always try to be the man she deserves. And remember that special gift you were given, and that vision and perception you had of that person and all their goodness. Never forget it!