Australian Filipina Relationship Problems – Nationalism and Taking Things Personally


Here’s Jeff Harvie again, going for the Long Title Championship! It was nearly worse, before i decided to leave out the word “generalising”. I will no doubt cover that word though, as I try to explain an area that only the brave or foolhardy will ever attempt. With that in mind, can readers please try not take anything I say personally either as individuals or on behalf of your fellow countrymen and women?

Glad we got THAT covered!

I was on a Facebook group the other day that I frequent. There happened to be a topic about a situation that happens in the Philippines when people try to be clever with the law, and where it can come back at you and bite you hard!   


Generalising, especially about matters that affect nationalism and hurt national pride, are areas to treat carefully so you don't hurt your partner

Sometimes innocent words can hurt, especially about sensitive matters!


The dangers of Generalising – Filipino Matters

Continuing on, one person who had experienced paperwork dealings in Philippines before, made a comment about how Filipinos get into trouble by listening to older people more than listening to a foreigner, and how this is especially prevalent amongst the poorly educated. Well, before you know it a few Filipinos got up in arms about this and how there are many educated Filipinos and how important education is in the Philippines. So there was this poor fellow left trying to explain himself and to defend himself. He had upset some Filipinos who thought he was being derogatory and condescending to the Philippine nation as a whole, and no doubt were taking it personally.

The Filipinos? They had gone on the defensive, and in this case I don’t think they were justified because on the whole what the man said was quite correct. Filipinos, like a lot of family-oriented countries, respects elders. It’s normal for older people (sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, etc) to give guidance to younger people and it’s normal for those younger people to listen. Where it goes wrong is when the older person is less than principled and uses their age-advantage to unfairly influence someone, or when the older person gives advice about topics they know nothing about. We have problems at Down Under Visa when we give some guidance based on our knowledge and experience only to find it overturned by an Auntie who tells them to do something different. Memory takes me to a partner visa refusal when an Auntie told a lady not to tell her fiance about her four kids, which meant they were left off the visa application. Not so good when the Embassy found out! 

So whilst I’m generalising when I warn clients to watch out for helpful relatives giving unqualified advice (or about wrong information on documents due to another national characteristic about not being especially particular about correct spelling and dates), I don’t do it to be insulting! I do it to help avoid mistakes that can lead to visa refusals! If I’m too careful about what I say, I may as well close my doors!

The odd thing about the Filipinos who were offended when they thought an Australian was insulting them was that one of them came back to say that “The problem with Westerners living in Philippines is that they think they are above and far better than the locals”! Another one said that a “…lot of westerners commit crimes in the Philippines and then skip bail”! Uuuummmmm. A strange response after criticising someone for typecasting and generalising, and a whole lot harsher I thought!  


Australia and Philippines – Both Former Colonies

Australians and Filipinos, whilst very different in many ways, we seem to get on very well as a rule. We tend to be warm and friendly, and we’re fairly informal and earthy. And one thing we both have in common is our nations both gained independence from foreign powers in the 20th Century! Yes both former colonies. And neither of us won independence by driving “the enemy into the sea” in battle. Our former rulers continue their influence to this day, and we tend to get offended easily when our nations are criticised. I guess we either feel inferior sometimes, or we feel that others think we are inferior. Yes, we both get overly defensive, and sometimes this is to our detriment. Australia is not perfect, and neither is the Philippines. And unless we’re prepared to admit a few faults and areas where we could improve, well guess what? We won’t improve! 

It’s one of the areas that I admire the British for. You can criticise anything about their country or culture, and they may even agree with you. They almost never take it personally, because why would they?

But this defensiveness exists in both our national psyches, and as sensitive spouses and partners we should do what we can to not hurt each other. In a healthy Australian Filipina marriage, everything should be open to free discussion, but at the same time we should try to avoid hurting each other.   


The REALLY wrong type of generalising!

I occasionally get comments made on BLOG articles which are really offensive, and I delete them to ensure the writers never get a broad audience. These are the men who make the “All Filipinas are gold diggers and you can’t trust them!” generalising comments. Yes, some Filipinas are gold diggers and will scam Australian men for money! Some Australian men are also addicted to porn, and some will beat up their wives and some are alcoholics. But it’s NOT fair to say that “all” or “most” Australians behave like that. It’s also not right to say “Filipinas are uneducated” or to say “Most foreigners think they are better than Filipinos”! Judging all because of the behaviour of a minority is about as unintelligent as it gets, and watch out anyone in my presence who says offensive things about “all Filipinas”, because that includes my wife!! They won’t even get time to worry about my wife overreacting, because I’ll be doing enough for both of us!

Judging an entire nation and an entire people because of a negative trait experienced, this is just another form of racism. It’s racism whether directed at Filipinos or delivered at Australians. Racism is particularly destructive because it doesn’t give an individual a chance or an opportunity. Whether that’s someone assuming the Filipina wife of the neighbour must have married him for his money, or to assume the white man who made an observation about a Filipino habit must be asserting his sense of superiority rather than considering he may have a valid point, it’s destructive and grossly unfair. 

Actually, Australians these days are generally a pretty accepting lot. And we are easily won over by warmth and friendliness. Most Filipinos are welcomed fairly quickly as new Australians. We weren’t always that way, but thankfully those days are long gone and todays migrating Filipinos will never know anything other than a warm welcome in Australia.

For myself, I like to think that I retain the Australian values and thinking that I choose to retain, and to keep my mind open to those better ways of doing things that my home of the last nearly nine years has exposed me to. I hope that all those in Australian Filipina relationships can keep their minds open, especially to each other.  


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Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it!
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