The Money Dilemma

This is probably a very familiar scenario for people who go and visit a girl in the Philippines. I'm posting this so others can be better prepared.

As you know, we're (foreigners) all rich. The Filippinos know this too and they use it to their advantage.

I met a girl there (from the Internet) and we went out. It was nice. We went out the next day and I met her family. We went for lunch and had a nice meal. At the end of the meal the bill naturally came to me. No one else made any attempt to pay or offer to contribute to the bill. It was just expected. That really annoys me.

What made it worse was that after we sat down for lunch other members of the family appeared and sat down, some (the younger ones) not even saying hello to me.

After lunch we all went out and went on our way. No one, and I mean NO ONE, even said "thanks". Amazing. It was just expected that the rich foreigner would pay the bill for all these people eating.

Don't get me wrong, they were lovely people and very good to me but that ruined it for me. When we got back to the hotel my girl suggested we go out for dinner later with her sister. I said No, I wasn't hungry. What I really wanted to say was that I was sick of buying food for her freeloading family....but that would have been rude of me.

It wasn't an isolated incident either. I've met other girls there who like to bring their friend(s) along and I get to buy all the drinks/food. Those girls don't get a second chance with me either.

So, what's the correct etiquette for dealing with situations like this?


I Hear You!

I think the Santa Clause phenomenon, as I heard it called before,  is related to several aspects of the inter-racial, cross-class relationship.  Most of us from the "enlightened" places for the most part see one another as people first, who happen to be of such and such a culture second.  Whereas many people who have a different background, have a stronger identification with their tribe, and secondarily with the rest of humanity.

Another aspect is that many people here are essentially beggars, and they're happy to have you buy them a meal, or to buy them meals indefinitely.  They don't care whether you're a foreigner or a neighbor or uncle, whatever.  The local people who are rich - or even who have a meager-paying job - have to deal with this all the time: if they aren't firm with self-protecting what is in their wallet, they'll be penniless in no time.

As for the lack of verbal appreciation, I have gotten worked up about that quite a few times myself.  My wife is getting better about saying thank you and even insisting her family say thank you if we give them something - but it took my repeated insistence upon it to make that happen, and so I've also had to some extent to try to let go of my expectation of it.  I can't say I've got any of these things solved or resolved or anything, because a hair short of two years into our marriage we still confront them daily - especially when we're around other local people - which is one of the main reasons I had to fire each of the helpers we tried to employ - just a bad influence.

Because it's "against the rules" to be clear about one's boundaries, desires, and expectations in a "modern relationship" sense, most Westerners I think deal with this by having a strict budget, and whether they lie about it or are really limited to X dollars per day/week/etc, they stick to it strictly and it's always the "end of the week, etc" and there's "just 200 pesos left for lunch".  Those who don't figure out how to set boundaries, obviously can't last because the expenses keep escalating and even the richest one goes broke.

For my part, and on my budget, I'm ok with treating people a little - a toothbrush or sandals for my wife's sister or brother, ample food from cheap eateries for her immediate family when they visit occasionally.  I am fairly firm that my generosity does not extend beyond minor items and that it does not extend to extended family.

I remember before I met my wife that I quickly decided to be firm when meeting someone for the first time - I told them in advance that they could at most bring one friend or family member.

I suspect that with enough patience of meeting enough people, a person would meet a filipina who is appreciative, if that is a top criteria.  Although I really don't know for sure.

There really IS such a thing as a free meal

Thanks for the insights.

I'm all for people buying me a meal, that's great but what about the expectation part? They just expected me to pay. That's just rude in my book. No one else offered; in fact, even the waiter came straight to me with the bill even though I didn't actually do any of the ordering.

Next time I think I'd throw P300 on the table and say "that's my share". How do you think that would go down? LOL

As for saying Thank You, I didn't think that was a cultural issue, I thought good manners were commonplace across cultural boundaries.





I don't know how familiar you

I don't know how familiar you are with non-western customs, but it is generally expected that the higher status person pick up the check for everyone in many asian countries. 

Was the total cost under $40?


>I don't know how familiar

>I don't know how familiar you are with non-western customs,

I've lived and worked in Asia for over 20 years so I'm fairly familiar.


>but it is generally expected that the higher status person pick up the check for everyone in many asian countries. 

Yes, I've seen this but it doesn't make it right. I think the point of my initial post was to question these "expectations" and examine the inherent rudeness of this. I know it's dangerous to compare Asian standards with Western standards but given that most of us on this site are Westerners I thought I'd post the entry as a discussion point.


>Was the total cost under $40?

Irrelevant really. Doesn't matter if it was $4, $40 or $400 - the fact that it was expected and that no one said thanks was really what I was writing about.


paying for lunch in the Philippines

i am a filipino.  what should have been done prior to the invitation was ask  around or maybe from the internet what is the culture or expectations when it comes to inviting a girl or any Filipino friend/s.   not just one source.. but from several sources - both from the locals and from your friends who had been in the Philippines.

when we invite someone.. let's say not necessarily a boyfriend or girlfriend, but also a co-Filipino, even with my close friends as a matter of fact, it is always understood that the one who is inviting is paying.  it is a positive way of saying, ok i'm going to treat you today. it's on me.. for a reason.- maybe a birthday treat, or something to celebrate about.   it is always almost like a pride to us that we can treat our friends without having to obligate anyone. it is the same both for the rich and the poor Filipinos, if i may say.

if you are close friends, then it is not an invitation. it is going to be an agreement among us that we will share.  we do that only when we are already acquainted with each other. otherwise, if you are inviting me for lunch and we are not close, i will have to ask why.. or sense that you are interested in me.  when we are already friends and you invite me, i will go out with you, and already at the table i will say, ok i will pay for the drinks. or i like to add some dessert; would you want some? i will pay for this.  that's how it work.s

your treating the family for lunch- free on their part is understood as, especially in the first few dates- that you are wooing the girl, you can afford to marry her (that advance), and it is your generosity and interest to know them better is the thing  moves you to treat them.

the ingratitude of the family members.  apologies for that.  those in the province are usually not as straightforward and vocal as you can expect them to be.  the "yes" can mean "no". the "no" can mean "not totally no". in time as the family get to know you better, they will respond by showing you in some special ways how much they appreciate your good gesture towards them.  it was not rudeness..  just a need for you to allow some time for them to also know you.   besides, you are wooing the girl. should they be thankful that you are going to court her?

  up to now, even in the jeepneys when i receive the coins passed to me from a passenger to the driver, usually the passenger does not thank me.  i have made it a point to demonstrate appreciation by ALWAYS thanking the person passing my fare to the driver. i always think that it is already an understanding that when i'm in the jeep, there's no other way for the passengers to deliver the payment to the driver but by passing the payment through the other passengers.

hope this brings some light on the ways of the Filipinos that are  not  in the books.


money delimna

What's the status of your family's girlfriend? You can tell if they can afford to pay the meals?  Are you the one who invited them for lunch?  In that case, don't complain if you pay the bills. Just be open to talk about this thing to your girlfriend and let her know. In western countries, if you go on date it's common for 50-50 share in paying the bills.  Not here in Philippines, if you ask someone on a date, you pay the bills! Unless you make it clear that's it's 50-50 share.

Very Interesting about the filippino Culture

I had a school teacher that told me that he travel  most of the 3rd world countries and the only 2 countries he didnt go to was the filippines and India because they were very poor countries.After reading the comment of the of the filippino culture I will redirect my plans to other countries instead them two.

True Intention

After all that I hope you got what you really looking for...(wink, wink)

The money dilemma

It is common everwhere in the world for the person who invites guests to pay the tab.  No question.

Many people just haven't been taught the proper manners due to their station in life, so a simple thank you just may not be in their mindset.

I guess when I am in those situations, I expect to pay the tab and I"m glad to do it.  On the other hand, it is also understood that I know who is coming to dinner before I make that invitation.

Seems a short discussion with your girlfriend could eliminate a lot of the grief.

If you are going to the

If you are going to the Philippines, find out a bit about the country and the people living there. Don't you understand that many Filipinos have no money, cannot or do not work, do you think they like to spnge. Count your blessings Mr USA, don't be tight.Its better to give than to receive!

As I prepare to go to the

As I prepare to go to the Philippines for the first time, I spend alot of time reading other people's posts in an effort to prepare myself for alot of things including the culture.  I don't understand how anyone could be caught offguard by the type of situation described by the original post.  Didn't you do any reading up on the country and people before you went?  I have read hundreds of posts at many sites at this point and that is a frequent topic.  I don't find it interesting or unusual that they behaved that way but I am very interested in why you were causght off guard by it.  I know this post sounds like I am attacking you but I am just interested in what type of preperation/how much time prepairing you did.

I'm the original poster so

I'm the original poster so let me try to answer your question, Anonymous.

I read a lot too and I had been to The Philippines many times (more than 10) before that time in question so it wasn't a case of me going in blind. You can read all you like and think that you're prepared but you'll still get surprised when you go there.

At the lunch I wrote about there were 4 of us that went out. During the lunch other people drifted into the restaurant and sat down - all members of the extended family. I didn't invite them and I didn't know they were coming. What was I to do? Refuse to pay and create a scene and embarass the girl I was with? No way, you can't do that. So I just paid up and talked to the girl about it later and said I wasn't happy.

I wasn't happy with two things:

1. People turned up without being invited

2. No one said thanks.

That was the whole point of my initial post.

I'm sure after your extensive research you think you're well prepared but The Philippines is an amazing country that continues to throw up surprises for me - even after more than 20 visits there now.

Just as a matter of interest - what would you have done in that situation? And before you answer, bear in mind that I was in Zamboanga at the time, a long way from the city and dependant on my girl to get me back to the hotel safely.

Well, to be honest I have

Well, to be honest I have been in that situation a few times not only here in the states but overseas as well.  No I have not been in that situation in the Philippines because I have not been there...yet.  I am OK with your reaction.  Now that I have re-read my post, it does seem like I was attacking you and I apologize. 

No problem

Hey...I didn't take it as a personal attack, it was a valid query. I even asked myself the question. Ha ha.

I think the point I want to make is that no matter how prepared you think you are something new always comes along there. That's ok, we can deal with surprises, BUT, in that environment, what do you do? You choices are limited so sometimes you just have to cop it.

There's another way I look at this. The girl I was with had a good chance with me but she blew it. In typical Filipino style she won in the short term (free lunch for the family) but lost out in the long term (killed the golden goose).

Anyway, was your question "I don't understand how anyone could be caught offguard by the type of situation described by the original post" answered?


Tony, I know how you feel on


I know how you feel on this and your right! at least they could have said thanks even if some extra showed up, I was reading some of the other people thoughs on this post and was wondering where you and they where meaning what city when things like this happen? As for me i have been there in philippines 3 times first two times for my first filipino wife and the third for my filipino wife now, they both were from the country but lived in Davao city. The first being more the out going girl probably why it didn't work out for us in the marriage, but my wife now is more the home type as a matter of fact she didn't know where anything was in Davao and had been living there for 5 years. Totally two different girls but on the lunch/dinner thing when i went there for the first time i never had anyone show up uninvited and was always thanked for anything and everything i did weather big or small. Same on my visit to see my wife now was treated like a king! Even when we had a engagement party i only had to buy the lechon which was my idea they brought everything else and didn't ask me for anything. So what i'm saying is i guess it who you meet there and where? I hate Manila it's crowed and the people don't seem to be as friendly and Cebu is overrated didn't care for it much but i have always liked Davao and my wife and i have already decided to move back there when i retire from here in America. I love the philippines and the people there. will be going back every other year until then for sure!


Thanks Todd. Sounds like you

Thanks Todd. Sounds like you struck gold in the end with your new wife. Congratulations.

My wife is also from Davao and it is indeed a great place to live. I plan to move there permanently in a few years and settle down/retire. For the moment we visit there a couple of times a year to see the family.



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