Why Filipino tourists are most likely to get bad reputations abroad

We often harp on and on about Filipinos and the things they do and do not do in their own country. We also contrast this to Filipinos abroad, and how strikingly meek, compliant, and law-abiding most of them suddenly become when they live or work in foreign lands.

Somewhere in between these two groups, is the one consisting of Filipinos who have gained the means to travel to other countries as tourists, but do not stay for extended periods of time. I can make an educated guess that although the number of Filipinos who are able to invest in travel for leisure is increasing, it still remains but a faraway objective for many others. I can also surmise that Filipinos are likely to think like this: “if we can travel abroad, why bother coming back?”


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[Photo Courtesy Perfectdives.com]

Traveling for leisure is indeed a luxury, but to me it is an investment that is just as valuable or perhaps even more than the latest hi-tech gadgets or the latest line of designer clothes available. While gadgets and clothes are subject to trends such as obsolescence and the changing of consumer preferences and trends, I believe travel is not. Travel has been an enriching experience, as it gives me perspective and insight into other cultures and patterns of thinking different from my own, and it allows me to experience things I would never have seen staying here.

Of course, since Filipino tourists usually return to their own country after visiting others, there probably exists the prevailing thought among them that apart from not littering, not jaywalking, and putting forward one’s best English possible, there is no other adjustment to Filipino traits that has to be made. If you ask me, that’s where potential problems start.

Individual tourists may be smart, but it seems that with Filipino tourist groups, the larger the group gets, the lower its intelligence goes. The two are apparently inversely proportional.

There are certain Filipino traits that are downright annoying, if not detestable. And I aim to present a few of them here, the ones that are most likely to get Filipino tourists and tourist groups bad reputations abroad.

Filipinos have no concept of time

We are all familiar with this. Filipino time can be summarized in four words: no concept of time. Unfortunately other cultures are not so cavalier about rendezvous times and appointments. Some of them, the Japanese as a striking example, are particularly obsessed with it. Anybody who is from or has been to Japan will tell about how trains are accurate and synchronized with the official time, and will apologize for being even one minute late. Filipinos, on the other hand, rarely apologize for being an hour or so late, when it comes to informal gatherings!

There are two ways you can look at time: either as a precious resource or as a general guideline. I will give you one guess as to which one the Filipino naturally glides towards. You may even want to look at these guide questions:

Have Filipinos been naturally good at taking care of resources?
Are Filipinos fond of following simple guidelines?
Are Filipinos known for being considerate of others?
Are Filipinos strict when it comes to schedules or deadlines?
Are Filipinos naturally wasteful?

If your host is particular about time, meeting up with Filipinos is likely to drive him/her nuts. If not, good for both of you. But a good rule of thumb to live by, regardless of your host country’s view of time, is to be at least 5-10 minutes early for your appointment. At the very least, it will show respect.

Filipinos do not do enough homework on their destination

For me, researching on what to do, where to go when you’ve arrived is half the fun in preparing for a tourist trip. Unfortunately, one facet that gets often overlooked not just by Filipino tourists is that there are also societal norms that need to be followed which you may not necessarily agree with. Keep in mind that you are the visitor.

The degree of conservatism of the society, the importance of preserving face against the value of frankness, the particular strictness with time, the approach to group consensus, the stratification between seniors and juniors – these are just a few of the societal norms that one, as a tourist, have to be particularly concerned about. It may seem a daunting task to study all that, but it will make your visit that much more enjoyable.

Some languages are harder than others, and not all of us are born to be polyglots, but learning even the basic phrases will also make your visit a tad easier, especially if you plan to visit a place where the locals aren’t known to speak decent English.

Among Americans there seems to be a joke among themselves, yet the ever-changing ethnic composition of present day America is forcing them to reevaluate how they value both multilingualism and diversity in ethnicity:

What do you call someone who speaks many languages? Multilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American!

Perhaps Filipinos should reevaluate the same thing in them too.

One aspect that should already be common sense is the sense of being considerate. Certain Filipino tourist groups aren’t very good at showing it. They block the way needlessly (humaharang sa daan), they’re noisy, and some even act as if you should be grateful that you have Filipinos as visitors.

When in doubt, be conservative, but don’t be afraid to ask your host what is acceptable and what is not before you do it. The presence of the internet and other types of reference materials renders the excuse of “not enough resources” invalid.

Filipinos are judgmental

Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do is to evaluate a foreign place and experience without comparing it to something you are familiar with. Unfortunately, this requires a sort of maturity that many Filipinos don’t seem to have. When we say maturity, we refer to a certain detachment from ethnocentrism and a sense of ethnic superiority that Filipinos can’t help but exhibit. Without fail.

“Parang Rockwell” (just like Rockwell)
“Parang sinigang” (tastes like sinigang, a Filipino tamarind soup dish)
“Mas maganda pa mga ganyan sa atin” (the ones we have back home are much better)
“Ang labo naman ng mga batas nila dito” (the laws in this place are so vague!)

I believe in taking in the experience for what it is, not for how superior or inferior it is relative to what Filipinos have back home.

I remember reading something from a book about Zen: empty your mind of all pre-conceived notions.

Filipinos take photos to excess

As I grew up I grew less and less fond of photos. For me, the purpose of a photo is to seal in the good memories that I experienced during the trip. With the advent of social media, however, it seems that the primary purpose of a photo has changed: to show incontrovertible proof that you went somewhere, and to show off where you’ve been (possibly where others haven’t). What has changed, then? It seems that people’s attitudes have changed such that they feel an urge or need to prove that they’ve been somewhere. KSP, as fellow GRP writer Gogs would like to say.


I don’t travel to show off to others; I travel for myself. If the trip was really memorable one’s dependence on photos wouldn’t be that much; the experience becomes part of you, inseparable.

As I mentioned above, travel, I believe, is one of the best investments one can make for himself/herself and for his/her kids. It is an enriching experience; not just for the sights, sounds, and tastes, but because of the insight one can glean from a culture with differences from what you’re used to. However, there is such a thing as being a good tourist, and though Filipinos are far from being the only annoying tourists in the world, we should never stop asking ourselves how we can improve even in small ways.

The Filipino wants a world-class reputation? He better start showing the world that he has that class!

34 Replies to “Why Filipino tourists are most likely to get bad reputations abroad”

  1. Some Filipinos can afford to travel. However mostly cannot, because of financial restraints. The higher upper class who travels, usually find themselves. That they cannot be always above the law, as in the Philippines. They may see the differences of the wide gap between the rich and the poor in our country. They can compare that, there is a well established middle class in developed countries.

  2. In parts of S.E.Asia the Filipino is not so highly thought of. A certain derogatory word kept surfacing in reference to Filipino’s, especially in Japan. To my surprise many Europeans thought the country was too violent to visit and they preferred staying in other S.E.Asian countries.

  3. To be fair, lots of other nationalities have plenty of people with these traits as well. Look at the comments that pops up everytime an article with the titles “Best Tourists in the World” or “Worst Tourists in the World” pops out! You’d be surprised, especially when you find out how people in what we call “World Class” countries get called out for bad behavior as well.

    On a personal note, I’m guilty as charged with the pictures bit! But then again so are the Japanese who are frequently ranked as among the BEST tourists in the world! But I can’t help it since I have photography as a hobby and hope to make a career out of travel photography.

    1. I totally agree with this comment. This is one article though true to Filipinos, is also true to most other tourists in general. Pictures, language, consideration… Just look at the tourists here in the Philippines, or when I’m with a group of tourists of multiple Nationalities abroad, I see the same thing. It’s basic human nature. That however should not be an excuse for bad manners. Even the lack of time discipline is not unique to Filipinos. There are some European countries and African cultures where people have an even more horrendous sense of time.

    2. I guess what the author implies, regarding photography, is the fact that there are too many ‘selcas’ or people photographing themselves in every nook and crannies of a certain place.

    3. The question for all of us to think about is:

      Just because other nationalities exhibit similar behavior, does that excuse us for it when we do so too?

      The natural Filipino reaction would be, yes, because our tendency is to validate something by how many other people do it. But is it right just because many other people do it?

      In other words:
      Is the commonness or popularity of an idea a strong indicator of its validity?

      1. I think human beings in general have that attitude, sadly. I should know as I’ve been exposed to many foreign people and I see the same flock mentality too the bigger the groups are – look at the way riots begin for instance. Not to excuse bad behavior but it is what it is…

      2. This mentality of “popularity of an idea” or “everyone does it so why shouldn’t I?” is universal in humans as a whole, let alone when big groups or mobs of people are involved. Yes, this is true even in foreign nations – I know that from my experiences observing and interacting with them. It is sad, but it is what it is and I think this fact is gonna stay with us till the end of humankind whether we like it or not.

        1. Whoops, pardon the double post. Thought my other post in this thread disappeared. Thanks.

      3. That is why it is unfair to add it. The article make it sound as if we are the only one taking pictures and as far as I know, Filipinos are the ones who study local languages more than other countries.

  4. “the larger the group gets, the lower its intelligence goes”

    I think this is true in most situations.

    1. Yup, not only for Filipinos abroad. Let me site an example, I was driving to the North with my family, just a lazy long afternoon drive to Baguio. Somewhere in Pangasinan, I caught up with a bunch of scooters/underboners (whatever its called), lots of them. They had marshals, shirts/jackets with same logos…the works. As I have to maintain my speed if i expect to make it to Baguio by sundown, I got the opportunity to pass them all at once as they are relatively slow. Later on on the same highway, one of their marshals overtook me and made a hand signal for me to slow down, I figured, he wanted me to let them all pass, which of course I didn’t, my logic being if they were really faster than me, then why did I caught up with them in the first place. If they can pass me then just do it, why should I slow down for all of them? This caused altercations later on when I stopped for fuel their reason being I should slow down to let the herd pass for the sake of safety. I told them that I am maintaining a fairly constant speed and that catching up with them only means that they are slower than me overall, hence didn’t warrant me being inconvenienced by them, because their marshal was faster and wanted the whole group to pass me.

      And jeez, they were all very brave and very stupid because of the large number in their herd. I left that place in a hurry for fear of getting mugged in my father’s home town.

      1. Stupidity at its finest. And this isn’t just the lower intelligence and “courage”, it also shows they believe that are in the right because there’re more people on their side.

  5. Don’t expect to get the red carpet treatment in the US, it won’t happen that includes you clever Doctors and lawyers. Philippine people think it’s so easy to speak Tagalog but they fail to recognize that most states have no such thing as a Tagalog channel and not everyone will have cable and most Americans don’t live in California, Las Vegas or NY all area’s to avoid at all costs.

  6. I will give credit to filipinos as tourists. They are generally respectful and well behaved. ( i exclude the los angeles/las vegas crowd). The more who travel the better. The more they experience the better.

    Here’s the list of the world’s worst tourist, according to the
    LivingSocial’s survey:
    1. U.S.-20 percent
    2. China-15 percent
    3. France- 14 percent
    4. Japan- 12 percent
    5. Russia- 11 percent
    6. Korea- 9 percent
    7. India- 9 percent
    8. Germany- 8 percent
    9. Spain- 7 percent
    10. Britain- 5 percent

    The Germans, at an all you can eat buffet, or securing pool side loungers at 3 in the morning with towels, exhibit their natural tendencies of trying to control the world – but end up losing.

    The English, in ibiza or prague or anywhere, show that drunken hedonism takes priority over anything else.

    The Americans display their natural naivete and lack of style, with shrill women, and men as loud as the shirts they wear.

    The French just complain about everything

    The Russians expect to be treated as VIP’s, instead of the criminals they are.

    The Koreans are rude in the Philippines, but told to shut up everywhere else

    The Thais have a word/philosophy – sanuk (enjoy the moment) – and combine style with grace – pattaya is a special place of enjoy!, but not representative

    The Japanese are annoying – usually because always in large groups, giggling and taking endless photos of everything.
    Highest spenders and quickest eaters. Restaurants love them. And the anime girls are cute.

    The Chinese just need to be pointed to the shops. I guess they do not buy cheap chinese copies/rip-offs.

    A tourist takes home souvenirs and snapshots. A traveller takes home knowledge and questions.

    A tourist thinks as a foreigner. A traveller thinks as a global citizen.

    1. LOL. The Japanese stereotype for Americans is funny, being boisterous and all with funny accents.

      And speaking of the Japanese, that description looks quite similar to how they describe Filipinos in SG.

        1. PS: Though there’s a caveat with my agreement with the “be a traveller, not a tourist” statement – we can’t expect every single of the millions of travellers from our country (or anywhere else) to all be “travellers”. Everyone can be a “tourist” but not everyone is open-minded and/or adventurous enough to graduate to “traveller” status.

          Anyway, we and other like-minded people have our work cut out in increasing the numbers of “travellers” in a sea of “tourists”. Perhaps, reaching out to people who are open-minded and/or adventurous enough but for one reason or another haven’t been able to graduate from “tourist” to “traveller” should be a great start in fostering the “traveller” culture on our shores…

  7. I was in Bangkok once. After a few days I left getting the impression that they were like a polite Manila. Congrats to them. Everybody has that disillusioned relative that can never accept a fault of a group they are part of. Of course she disagreed with my point of reference. This is a woman who went to Assumption and has lived in Makati all her adult life and has never even taken the underpasses in Ayala. Some people can be so sheltered in their own town.

  8. alam nyo sa abroad ang pinoy gong-gong pa rin. halimbawa na lang sa “travelator” kadalasan pinoy ang naka-harang sa daan at makipagchikahan during rush hour pa iyon ha. ika nga ni bongv “you can take the pinoys out of the barrio but you can’t take the barrio our of the pinoys”. at sa lahat ng ASEAN, pinoy lang ata ang ramdam mo ang hambug, kaso kadalasan ampaw, walang ibubuga.

  9. Bakit puro pintas sa Pinoy ang karamihan dito. Sa cruise ships, faborito ng mga stewards and Pinoy travelers dahil galanteng mag-tip, considerate, appreciative sila. Ang ibang lahi, particularly India tinatakbuhan ang mga stewards, waiters at iba pang servers para hindi makapagtip.
    Re: hindi pumipila, mas grabe ang Intsik, naniniksik pa.
    Americans because they think they deserved it because they paid for it.
    The saying “you can take the pinoys out of the barrio but can’t take the barrio out of the pinoys” is applicable to a lot of travellers not only for pinoys.

    Libertas did a very nice defense of the Filipino travelers.

    Have some Filipino pride people!!

    1. Ok, so you say it’s applicable to a lot of other travelers aside from Pinoys.

      So What? 😀

      Does that justify our doing it?

      “Have some Filipino pride people!!”

      Have pride in what? That there are people whom we arbitrarily judge as worse than us?

      Right. I should have pride because other people’s supposedly worse behavior makes mine not look as bad.

      Pathetic mediocre thinking.

      1. Again, your comment is fair in that we should strive to improve our image abroad and not have that “everyone else is doing it so what’s so bad about us doing it”, but always remember no single culture (like any single person) is perfect and every single one of them will have its bad cultural habits and no matter how hard we (or any one them) try to eradicate every single one of those ugly traits, we’ll NEVER eliminate all of them. I guess it’s up to you which bad cultural habits are you willing to live with. Just my two cents.

        1. PS: Why did I say the “I guess it’s up to you…” bit? Cuz other than the fact humans will never achieve perfection, humans will always find something to complain about no matter how good they have it or things are. Just my two cents.

        1. Read what I said above: “Pathetic mediocre thinking.”

          Does that mean the same as “Pathetic mediocre person”?

          Well, it does, to Filipinos who can’t separate a criticism of the idea from a criticism of the person.

          Tsk tsk.

  10. Just been passing by/happened upon this site. Skimming over whats being said. I’d say that it is true that travelers/tourists (SAME) can often be perceived to be rude or uncaring of foreign surroundings or people, but it is only really stemming from the most basic of human nature.

    If we as humans see/experience something that is outside the square of what was the normally encountered, then we are confused, this is combined with any number of other reactions or emotions.

    Most of these comments and examples of incidents are one-sided… To be fair – this can occur anywhere in the world, among any people of the world with no boundaries of race, cultural or religious beliefs.

    The quoting of ‘statistics’ based information to support these claims is comedic. How can it be possible to place a value of any kind be it numbers,percentages or even a star rating etc. onto nations of people. That’s just impossible. Ridiculous even. Ha ha…

    I agreed with some of the comments, but really this touches on something so much larger than a singular people. Its almost touching on how people interpret something unfamiliar. It’s even working in 2 ways… the foreign traveler/s actions, and the local/s who observe, communicate with or in some other way interact with said foreigner/s.

    1. Been a tourist in a foreign country and I was part of a group of adults. Technically, I was extra baggage since the trip was sorely for the group and someone paid my bit. You might be right in general but there were some things that made me really ashamed when we were traveling. We were in Japan and the so-called adults people in the group act like spoiled teens. Nobody listened to the tour guide even though she did her best. There was a little appreciation except for shopping and pasalubong time.

      I guess I might be a little hard on my companions but travelling aboard (especially for the people who could afford the luxury) I guess some level of decorum and respect is entitled to the host country and its people. Other people might also do this. Each country has its own stereotype (even on people coming from as tourists) and we Filipinos have ours. For majority of Filipino tourist, it’s like a being starstruck or like finally landing on fantasy land every time. A little grip on one’s self and less standing out might beget less annoyance and respect from locals. We already have a reputation in our region and this attitude isn’t helping.
      As for the numbers and ratings, it’s up for the author to include them in the article. If he feels that it has bearing and related, why not. I’m not sure but in Europe, perhaps, Americans are rated as more annoying tourist people compared to us.

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