What's it Like To Be a White Guy In The Philippines?

White guy in the Philippines - Sto nino mass during Sinulog - Cebu City, Philippines © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
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Well, as a certified white guy in the Philippines, let me tell you:

White guy in the Philippines - Nathan W. Allen via @idreamedofthis - Photo by Tiffphoto.com

By Nathan W. Allen

  •  Everywhere you go, beautiful women will stare, smile and giggle. Actually, some men will do this as well.
  • Filipinos and their bags are fully screened at security checkpoints. However, if you're a white guy in the Philippines, the officers will just greet you and smile. Then they'll wave you through without checking the contents of your giant, suspicious backpack. How could a white man possibly have bad intentions? (Think: Timothy Mcveigh)
White guy in the philippines - Jeepney on the colorful streets of Romblon island - Copyright @idreamedofthis


  • Taxi drivers will automatically stop when they see you on the sidewalk - whether you flag them down or not.
  • Speaking of taxis, if the drivers see a white man waiting next to a queue of Filipinos, they will often skip the Filipinos and pick up the white man first.
  • They won't do it for Filipinos, but drivers will stop so that you can cross the street (it seems that hitting a white person is every Filipino driver's worst nightmare).
  • If a white guy in the Philippines gets a job, he can be half as qualified as Filipinos, and still get paid twice as much.
  • Caucasians seem to have automatic credibility, and are instant celebrities just about everywhere they go.


Sounds good, right? Well, yes...too good. A white guy in the Philippines is treated like a king! The problem is that he can become quite unpleasant when he gets used to this...and starts acting like a king.


Foreigners Behaving Badly

I heard a story which, unfortunately, is entirely believable. At a bar in Cebu, a very drunk foreigner walked over to a group of Filipinos and tried to talk to a pretty girl who was with her boyfriend. Despite the fact that she was already with a guy, the drunk foreigner demanded that she get up and dance with him.


She politely declined and explained that she was there with her boyfriend and their friends. That was simply not acceptable to this man - he refused to accept that she wasn't interested in him. After all...he's white, right? Again, he demanded, and even tried to drag her from the table onto the dance floor.  


White Guy in the Philippines - Pint of beer at a foreign owned bar in Romblon - Copyright @idreamedofthis


When she firmly yelled "no!" to him, this jerk actually had the nerve to take his beer and DUMP it on her!


This is what I'm talking about - the kind of mentality that some of these white men develop in the Philippines. I had to leave the city because this sense of entitlement sickened me so much. I didn't feel like I fit in with much of the expat community there.


They Should Be Held Accountable

There is a certain mayor in the Philippines who is known for being tough on foreigners who behave badly. He backs up his word, too - he will just deport them! I applaud this man. Caucasians should have to abide by the rules just like everybody else - and not get a free pass.


Fellow Expats: This is Not Our World

White guy in the Philippines -  Nathan Allen in small doorway in Iloilo, Philippines

On a recent bus trip to Bacolod, I found the inspiration to write this article. You see, I am 6ft 2 inches tall, and my legs are so long that they frequently hit the back of the seat in front of me.


For me, legroom is hard to come by in the Philippines. I have adapted to it. Still, I thought about the many foreigners who would just complain in that situation.









This world was not made for us - for example, if the commuter buses in the Philippines had more legroom, it would be wasted on 98% of Filipinos who don't need it. There would be less people on each bus, longer wait times at the stations, and less profit to distribute to the drivers and employees.


No, I didn't come to the Philippines to mold and shape the culture to my liking...I came to observe and appreciate it - to find my place in the Filipino world.


If that means I have to squish into a packed bus on the way to Bacolod, then I will do it with a smile on my face. It's a small price to pay for so many incredible experiences I've had in this country.


White guy in the Philippines - Perfect Romblon Island Sunset, Bonbon Beach, Philippines © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Perfect Romblon Island Sunset (Pin it!)

If You Don't Like It, You Don't Have to be Here


I remember watching a youtube video that a white guy in the Philippines made after living here for 3 years. He ranted and complained about all the ways the country was "backward" and "disgusting". This video made me furious, because after all, this man was here for THREE YEARS! Why stick around and complain about it for 3 years when you can just leave after 2 weeks?


My guess is that he enjoyed the economic advantages and attention from young girls. Afterward, he enjoyed the staggering web traffic generated by angering the "social media capital of the world".


Of course, the Philippines also has its share of decent, respectful foreigners. For the rest of you, however, please don't forget that you can always go home. In fact, I'll show you to the airport.


White Guy in the Philippines - NAIA airport terminal with Philippine Airlines Flight on the runway - Copyright @idreamedofthis
See that plane taking off? That could be you, man

If You're Dating or Married to a Filipina...

I can speak a tiny bit of different Filipino languages. Sometimes I meet Filipinas married to foreigners, and this impresses them. They have been living in the Philippines for years, but their husbands barely know how to say say "thank you" in Filipino.


Perhaps they don't feel the need to learn the language. Perhaps they just expect the culture to adapt to them?



If you are dating or married to a Filipina, please make an effort to connect with her culture. For goodness sake, this is your wife...possibly the mother of your children.


At the very least, you will help to lift a barrier between you and her family. I'm sure you know by now, family is everything in the Philippines. Filipinos have opened their homes, hearts, and minds to us. The least we can do is treat them with the respect that everybody deserves.


A White Guy In The Philippines is an Ambassador...of sorts


In closing, there was a Chinese man who moved to the U.S. In the 1970s, he told his young daughters to always clean up after themselves and behave well. He said this because their actions reflected on all Chinese people.


For the same reason, I think being a white guy in the Philippines comes with some responsibility. Here in Asia, we represent not only our countries, but also our race. I try not to forget that.


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(Updated October 1, 2018)


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