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I thought I might go off visas for just a bit to share my long-term observations about one of the key differences between Filipino culture and Australian culture, especially obvious as Australian culture is changing. I just turned 50, and I’d like to believe I’m not what you would call “old”, yet I’m definitely at an age where I can see that things have changed in Australia since “my day” (excuse me while I shudder). I certainly can say that I see this more now that I’ve been living here for just over 5 years full time. The difference is in how Filipinos tolerate imperfections in people and things.

“Me” culture versus “us” culture

People in the Philippines are more easy-going, and I think at the end of the day it makes Filipino people happier! That’s my observation.

I don’t know where it comes from or why. Maybe it’s due to the remoteness of how we live these days? The internet? The phones? The fact that people can go out to dinner with someone and sit there glued to a phone the whole time and think that’s OK? Instant gratification, and all with minimal actual human contact. Yes, we gain a lot and we can be in contact with information so quickly, but maybe it’s raised our expectations as to what we can reasonably expect from the world? We expect everything to be perfect, and we expect everything right now! It’s all about “me” and considerably less about “us”.


By contrast, we see something very different here in the Philippines. And I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to being critical of things not being “Aussie standard”. Most definitely. When things take too long, or when someone tells you they are “…on de way, sir!”, which means “I could be there in 5 minutes, or 3 hours, but I won’t be specific”, yes, I often get annoyed and impatient. However if in return we asked our Filipina (or Filipino) clients (which we definitely do NOT) to come to our office to sign documents and it took them 6 hours on buses in the heat and the traffic, most of our clients would not complain at all! As I said, we wouldn’t do that anyway! But imagine what would happen if we did that with Aussies? They’d be extremely annoyed!

Please note that this all just dawned me, and I’m fleshing this out as I write. I admit being guilty of judging things and behaviours that I consider to be slow and inefficient. Yet at the same time I live and work surrounded by the kindest and most patient people in the world, ie. Filipinos. I BENEFIT from this! The very nature that causes some things to be what I’d call slow and inefficient, this is also the source of the patience and kindness that is shown to me.

Philippines and Australia – Some differences

We have some builders here at home at the moment doing some renovations. Yesterday they assembled our new bed and brought the mattress upstairs. Not a problem for them, even though it was early evening. The other day one of them climbed a tree out the front to lop off branches that were getting in the way of the power lines. And years ago I remember a guard at the airport in Manila carrying carry-on luggage down some stairs because he could see we had our hands more than full. Would any of these things happen in Australia? Maybe with some older Aussies, particularly in the bush. But in the city? I won’t say “never”, but I will say less likely than you will find here. I can remember a taxi driver at Brisbane airport being so angry at having a short fare from us that I kept my mouth shut lest that he hit me! He was that angry, and he didn’t try to hide it! Yet I know of tricycle drivers here who will carry an elderly person up and down stairs because they can’t walk, and they won’t say a single word about it.

No one feels insulted at being asked to do something that isn’t “their job”. No one gets upset if you “waste their time” by arriving late, or keeping them back late. Yet as Aussies we seem to be increasingly impatient and so often upset when people and things around us don’t meet our (I think!) increasingly high expectations. We either feel disappointed, or we are copping a battering when we ourselves don’t meet the expectations of others! Here in the Philippines? No, not a perfect society. Not by any means. However a much more tolerant society, where people accept each other…..AND accept cranky Aussies…..with endless patience and kindness.

Maybe rather than wishing that everything here worked like clockwork as it sometimes works in Australia, maybe we could benefit by watching and learning from people who are probably much happier and more content with their lives and particularly with those people around them? Maybe we would enjoy our lives more if we did? Just my thoughts.

Onshore partner/spouse visa applications for Australian Filipina couples
Australian tourist visa applications and the Christmas rush. Be prepared!


  1. Robert Chorlton

    The problem with the normal attitude is that no one really bothers trying, and, as a consequence, businesses here tend not to be reliable. And then the Philippined gets held back compared to the rest of the world.
    Conclusion: Some benefits to the attitude but also some long term negatives.
    Oh yes, Some Filipinas are very intolerant, especially after being in Australia for a while.

    • Jeff Harvie

      Correct on both counts, Robert. Not perfect by any means, but we can and should all learn from each other.

  2. Mike Trotter

    Jeff, your last paragraph hits it right on the nail! In my years of visiting and travelling the length and breath of the Phils., I too have experienced the big difference in tolerances of Aussies and Filipinos. It has taught me that just because we are Aussies tolerance to our fellow man, whomever they be and where ever they may be, and if exercised in the right manner, we DO find that people are more readily prepared to accept whatever the situation is in a more friendly manner. The upside is that our heart levels are not increased which is good for us “oldies”! Yes, Filipinos have shown how to live happily, no matter what the circumstances are.

  3. Murray william Smail

    I agree. We aussies can get short with the Philippines system, I do and poor Alma just says thats their way. They wait in line to pay bills and it doesn’t faze them, same as the legal system ,i have to learn more patience,like her name Paciencia. She’s a wonderful woman

  4. Graham

    Absolutely spot on Jeff ..I have been blessed to have met and lived amongst the kindest and most tolerant Filipino people, Regards Graham.

  5. Peter

    Well said Jeff! As soon as my wife has Australian citizenship, we are going to try living in the PI ourselves for the many reasons you mention!

  6. Adam Rowe

    So true that exact thing happened to me today for us Australians time is always so important but for Filipinos not so much

  7. Ricky Ray

    Hi Jeff and yes Filipinas are very patient they don’t like to rock the boat. Filipina time and Aussie time are two very different meanings. I couldn’t imagine an Aussie going to source a legal document and taking number 2,349 and standing in line the whole day, not just once but several times. I knew then that there tolerance level must have been high. A beautiful kind race of people that the average Aussie could learn a lot from.

  8. Jeff Williams

    I really am not qualified to comment on Filipino culture because I have only been there twice and so far have traveled little apart from around Manila and out to Cavite. This will be remedied in my imminent visit in the coming week.
    I have traveled through SE Asia from Timor,d up to Thailand and live in Malaysia for two and a half years so I have some understanding of other cultures. Indonesia is a country of deep contrast, noticeable as one goes from island to island. The Philippines is markedly different again and yes, the language does give me a nose-bleed.
    I agree the people in the Philippines are patient as they wait for hours in line while petty bureaucrats ponderously process endless pages of documents. They are patient because they have never known anything different. Perhaps they should be a little less tolerant and begin demanding a little more efficiency and respect from the govt departments.
    With one exception, everywhere I have been in the Philippines I have been treated with kindness, respect and people go out of there way to be helpful. The exception is the taxi drivers. One cannot negotiate a fare before getting into the taxi because there is a meter. Then they argue about turning it on and when arriving at the destination they try charging more. While I refuse to argue with them, my Filipino lady goes off like a packet of crackers.
    All in all, I have always felt very comfortable in the Philippines.

    • Robert Chorlton

      Comments from my Filipina Girlfriend: Just arrived back in Australia, my 2nd visit in a year. Everyone we meet in the Gold Coast is very friendly, people in the supermarket aisles move out of the way when needed, compared to back home where no one cares. They just stand in our way, doing what they want there. The cars stop for pedestrians. Australians seem much more courteous. Shop cashiers all seem happy. Australia is just as I remembered. I like it here. People seem friendlier and without expecting anything for the friendly attitude.

  9. Chad Moffatt

    I have fallen in love with Filipana girl over here in Australia we have known each other for almost 2 months. She heads back to the Phillipines early next month. How can we be together when she goes back? Because she was here on a 12 month tourist visa.What will it take for her to come back to Australia to settle down with me? She doesn’t know if she’ll come back or not or if she wants to support her mother & daughter over there. If she’s talking of marriage already what does that mean? Is that the only way she can get permeant residency here in Australia? If that happened would she get sick of me take half of my possessions & head back home very wealthy? My family is a bit weary of her. What do I do because I want to be with this girl over here in Australia for all the right reasons.

    • Jeff Harvie

      Not the right place to discuss personal matters, Chad. Can you please complete the assessment form on the website? Then I can see if I can help you. Cheers.


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