PDA’s – Public Displays of Affection in the Philippines

Public Displays of Affection – Philippines and Australia


public displays of affection philippines


Public displays of affection! One of the challenges in a cross-cultural relationship is realising there are different “standards”. I’m sure I’ve discussed these things before. Something is acceptable in one society and not in another. I think if you’ve read enough articles here you will know all this.

And honestly, this never actually gets easy and requires a great deal of patience and tolerance on behalf of both of you, Aussie and Filipina. And this isn’t just in your early days. This needs to continue. And if you don’t develop patience and tolerance, you will end up hurting each other for no good reason.


Culture – How it moulds who we are


We are products of our own culture. We simply are. The formation of what we feel is right or wrong is forged in our subconscious mind when we are growing up. 

We learn:

  • Australia – Putting your feet on a chair when you are eating is bad manners
  • Philippines – Putting your feet on a chair when you are eating is comfortable, and means you can rest your elbow on your knee
  • Australia – Good manners means to eat with knife and fork, with elbows in and never resting on the table, and eating silently
  • Philippines – Eat with fork and spoon (and be sure to sound like you’re playing the drums on your plate) or with your hands if you feel like it, and eat with your mouth open. Always slurp your noodles (because it’s hot).
  • Australia – Don’t serve food at a party until all the guests have arrived so it’s freshly cooked and still hot
  • Philippines – Cook everything hours before the party, and display it all on the table before any guests arrive
  • Australia – Protect the dignity of your older family members (including parents) by respecting their independence and by never offering to support them financially
  • Philippines – Show your love to your parents by giving them money every time you visit
  • Australia – Parental authority is expected to wain the older you get, and you do not “obey” your parents at all when you are an adult (nor do they expect you to obey them)
  • Philippines – Deference and obedience to parents never wains unless your parents become senile
  • Australia – Never discuss salaries or how much something cost
  • Philippines – Feel free to ask someone how much they earn or how much something cost

And of course……

  • Philippines – Breakfast includes rice
  • Australia – Breakfast does NOT include rice

I could write 4 – 5 pages like this without even thinking too hard!

We all have a subconscious mind. This is how we can drive a car and have a conversation and still remember to turn into our street. It works away in the background without us even realising it’s happening. This is how we get up and go to the toilet at night and never think over all the necessary actions to make this happen correctly despite being half-asleep. 

Problem with the subconscious mind? It’s totally inflexible! It likes things as they are, and resists change even when faced with logic. This is why we get so stubborn, and why we are so uncomfortable when faced with a situation which is opposite to what we are used to. And this is the cause of many fights in a cross-cultural relationship like an Australian Filipina relationship.


The topic at hand – Public Displays of Affection


Public displays of affection! What is OK and what is not?


In Philippines: Affection exists, of course! This is a loving society. Family are deeply loved. Friends are held close and loved almost as much as family. “New family” are welcomed into the fold very easily. 

In Australia: Family? Welllllll, it depends on the family. Some are close. Some are distant. Some end up hated! Good friends are chosen carefully and are valued and trusted and certainly loved often more than family members. New friends are let into the “inner sanctum” when they’ve been known and trusted for a period of time.


In Philippines


Affection to friends and family are shown in (from an Australian perspective) sometimes odd ways. 

Hugging? Rarely. Children up until about 3 get hugged and cuddled by everyone, then are plonked on the ground and never hugged again. I asked my wife to hug her mother when we visited from Australia. Her mother freaked out! A parent can have a crying 10 year old in front of them, and the most the child will get is a pat on the back.

Kissing? Maybe a kiss on the cheek between girls, but more likely not. Kissing babies, sure. But otherwise kissing is seen as intimate and has sexual connotations. Ideally it happens behind closed doors (between appropriate couples) so as not to make anyone uncomfortable. Kissing anyone else, even your own kids? Often seen as creepy and inappropriate.

Punching shoulders? Slapping? Even grabbing genitalia? Sure! Why not?


In Australia


And note I’m talking about those who grew up post-Whitlam! Australia was a starchy, cold and conservative place before then. Trust me! I was born in the 60’s, and had parents who never hugged me either.

Affection is shown to those we feel affection for. Loved-family members and those close friends who’ve won our trust? Yes, absolutely! Kids? Yes absolutely. 

Hugging? Kids get hugged! Not hugging a kid is seen as child abuse! Yes, I feel strongly about this for reasons hinted at above. We all need to be hugged, or at least touched. Thus the punching and slapping thing. We DO need to have physical contact with other human beings for our sanity and sense of self-worth. But yes, in Australia you may hug your friends. Women and women hug. Women and men hug. Depending on the men, some men feel OK to hug each other. Some don’t. Meet a friend or family member? You hug them. You hug them when you have “a moment” where a hug seems appropriate. You hug them when they leave.

Kissing? Well, there are two types. 

SEXY kissing between affectionate couples. We all know what this is! Husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends (when they’ve reached that stage). In private OR in public (as long as not excessively “moist”) is OK and seen as quite natural. 

Platonic kissing! That means a harmless non-sexy kiss-on-cheek or even kiss-on-lips if both parties are OK with that. But this is “peck on lips”. Mouths closed. One quick kiss. Nothing lingering, or yes that’s an intimate kiss. 

When I grew up? No hugging (although fortunately Australia society has generally changed since then)! But parents and relatives would kiss you on the lips. Same with close friends, and yes between men and women. Not distant friends or acquaintances like the French do. Those who are in the inner-sanctum where you feel close to them. Yeah, as a small boy I didn’t particularly like kissing Grandma or various Aunties, but that was what you did. In Philippines the kids don’t always like doing mano po (the hand-to-forehead “bless” thing), but it’s expected. We were expected to put up with Grandma’s kisses. In Australia? NORMAL!!


Should you judge? Or should you tolerate?


To this, I would say that if you are judgemental and not prepared to tolerate each other’s cultural differences and culturally-acquired values, you should stick to your own kind! Maybe you’re actually a racist who believes your culture is right, and everyone else must be wrong!

If you can only tolerate Australian values? Stay at home! 

If you can only tolerate Filipino values? Meet and marry a local, preferably in your home town where you will experience no challenges at all!

If you don’t? You will make life hell for your spouse! 

Tolerance? Yes, it can be hard! You have your own subconscious mind. You have your own “conditioning” from growing up immersed in certain values. You’ve spent your life thinking RIGHT and WRONG about certain matters. But this is part of the deal! Live with it!

Judgement! A wise man once said “Judge not!” Good advice! It takes a high level of audacity to be so sure of yourself that you are prepared to judge another according to your own perceptions. It’s very unfair when the other person has no bad intentions but is merely acting according to their own acquired view on the world which is different to yours.

Yes, I’m talking about expressions of affection here. But I think it’s obvious that this applies to many many different things. And you need to show some flexibility and compromise on both sides.

I remember a European man asking me once on a “Filipina relationships” forum I used to run in the Dark Ages. He asked how he should great her parents when he met them. He said “Her mother I suppose I will kiss her when i meet her”. I responded with “Sure, if you want to freak everybody out as part of their first impression!” 


Clearly flexibility is needed on both sides.


Oddly enough my mother in law hugs AND kisses me these days! She’s 80 and had a stroke, so her journey to me reminds me of a scene from Austin Powers. Verrrry slow walk across the room to greet me. Still doesn’t hug her daughter! And expects mano po from the kids, or she gets annoyed. My kids are used to hugging these days!

TRY to look at the meaning behind actions before you start condemning based on your own culturally-acquired values! Is your husband kissing your sister because he finds her desirable? Or is it just how he grew up? But if, say, your wife grabs a handful of her brother’s Family Jewels as part of a group photo? If it really freaks you out, then SAY so! 


To those who don’t know? Here’s a term to learn. VALUE JUDGEMENT! This is where you (a) know what you don’t like, and (b) have already decided that the other person did it because they are very very bad! You don’t give them a chance!

There’s a right way and a wrong way to explain something that you don’t like.

One way: “Dear? I know it’s normal to you to grab your brother in that way and everyone finds it funny, but it’s just where I come from it’s upsetting to see your wife touch [insert your own pet name here] on another man, even your brother. In some ways, ESPECIALLY your brother! I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t do it.”

Another way: “Why did you DO such a disgusting thing?? What’s wrong with you? Is there something going on with your brother? It makes me sick! In don’t even want to LOOK at you now!”

OK, which one do you think will get some positive results? No-brainer, right?

But how often do YOU confront cultural differences the second way?? 

A common Filipino habit is to (a) say nothing, and then (b) when this plus a whole lot of other minor issues have built up you explode in an emotional flurry of VALUE JUDGEMENTS! A fight ensues, and both parties start wondering if they made a mistake in marrying the other! 




A wonderful word! 

I hug my kids! I grew up not hugged and with no one telling me they loved me. (Yes, I hear a long “Awwwwwww” sound. Thank you!) I hug my kids. I tell them I love them. I tell them how proud of them I am, and I can see they know their own value as unique human beings.

My wife does NOT hug the older kids. Can’t bring herself to do it, because to her it feels weird. The kids are fine with it, because they know it’s “just Mum!” and they know she loves them by everything she does. Easy compromise for them.

Important thing is we’re both OK about it! The kids DO get hugged and told and told…. 

No, my wife isn’t a genital-grabber! That’s her sister and others. Yeah, I know! If she was, yes I’d expect her to compromise! But I would do it “the FIRST way”, and thus avoid a fight because I would not impose MY cultural upbringing on her. Peace prevails!



Jeff is registered migration agent who has been helping couples with visas to Australia ... Jeff is the owner / operator of Down Under Visa. If you would like to SUBSCRIBE, please click HERE.

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