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Cultural differences between Filipinos and Australians

Cultural differences between Filipinos and Australians

By Marion Branellec, Account Manager

With Christmas creeping around the corner, I’ve been delighted to start hearing Christmas music in Sydney. I grew up in the Philippines, where Filipinos like to celebrate Christmas as long as possible. In the Philippines, Christmas music dominates everyone’s eardrums in the “ber” months, so starts playing as early as September.

When people know that I come from the Philippines they sometimes ask me what some of the differences between Filipino and Australian culture are. So I’ll be sharing a few insights into Filipino culture. I also usually get asked why my English is so good but that’s another story (note: asking a Filipino why they speak English is the same as asking an Australian why they speak English :p).

This blog does not accurately describe every individual Filipino as it’s difficult to generalize everyone into one category especially given the fact the nation is made up of 7,107 islands with distinct characteristics found in every region. It’s more of a light-hearted description of typical cultural differences between Australian and Filipino culture.

Some background

Australia has a large Filipino community, and it has been increasing over the years. According to the census, the community has increased by 42% from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, there were over 171,000 people born in the Philippines that were living in Australia. Australia’s career opportunities, lifestyle and proximity to the Philippines are key factors that make moving to Australia attractive. Most Filipinos live in NSW (42%) followed by VIC (22%) and QLD (16%).

Without further ado, let me jump straight into the differences between Australian and ‘Filo’ culture.

Balancing respect for authority vs expressing yourself

In the Philippines, if you disagree with authorities (i.e. teachers or your manager) you have to think twice about how you express yourself or you can be perceived as insolent or disrespectful. In Australia, debate is encouraged and remaining quiet may be viewed as shyness or indifference.

Independence vs interdependence

Australians are encouraged to move out of their family home to live independently as soon as they can support themselves financially. Filipinos usually won’t leave home before getting married (even when they can afford to) as they are content living interdependently with relatives (and you get to eat all the delicious family food at home for as long as you want!).

Titles vs first names

In the Philippines, people will automatically refer to elders using various forms of honorific titles such as sir, maam, Mr, Mrs, tita (auntie), and tito (uncle), kuya (brother), ate (sister), depending on their relationship to them. Referring to someone who is an authority figure or significantly older than you by their first name is a no-no and usually considered rude (even within your own family). Referring to elders by their first name was a strange practice for me to get accustomed to when I first moved to Australia!

The examples above are just a snapshot and the list of cultural difference can go on. Despite cultural differences, Filipinos are known for being flexible and easily adapt to the customs of other countries. However, it is useful to know that Filipinos are still rooted in their own sets of strong values and beliefs which they carry with them when they migrate.