Conversation in the Philippines: Tips ‘n Taboos

Generally speaking, most women use about three times the number of words in a day than most men.  Me, I can go an entire day and not say one word.  Or, I can go into a mall and spend an hour talking with a complete stranger.  I’m not much for mindless chit-chat about weather or sports.  When I converse with someone, I want to interact.  I want to learn or teach something.  I want to do some good if possible.  To me, words and communication are very important to daily life.

Considering how friendly a place the Philippines is, it’s no wonder I often find myself in many conversations here even as I go about my day in town.  I may run into an ex-pat and we find ourselves chatting.  Or some cute girl or a taxi driver as I’m crossing over to the next island via the bridge.   But what is discussed here is just a little different than topics covered while I was in the U.S. so, to save you perhaps a bit of awkwardness I’ll go over a few of them here in no particular order.

In general, just keep in mind that pretty much all Filipinos are Catholics.  Some to a greater degree than others of course.  I’ve seen ladyboys at the church here so, it’s a wide range here of what’s considered ‘religious’ but just know that pretty much all Filipinos no matter what their lifestyle are pretty much Catholic.  Which means that some topics are -only- discussed in private and never in a public place.  You may run into an exception once in a blue moon but, hardly ever.


The first topic of course is.. Sex.  In a private setting, I can discuss sex with some women here, but not all.  To even bring it up kinda puts you into a whole other light.  As foreigners they do give us a bit of leeway since we are generally more open about discussing sex, but they themselves will often bow out of the conversation and prefer to change the subject.  Even the women I do discuss sex with prefer not to discuss it in public where others might overhear the discussion.  Baby, on the other hand.. well, she’s in a category all her own.  We laugh and make randy jokes all the time.  But not many women are like her out here so, kinda tread into those waters in a private setting with a woman you already have a good friendship with.

On a related note, here in the Philippines women are not into the whole PDA (public displays of affection) like we are in the West.  Only at night in the ‘lovers park’ have I seen couples embracing or kissing in public.  Other than that, you rarely if ever see couples, married or not, hugging or showing affection in public.  It’s not considered ‘proper’ behavior in a public setting.  Holding hands is about all I’ve seen and that’s usually in a Filipina-Foreigner relationship.  (Most likely, at his insistence.)  Now.. the good news is that they more than make up for it in the privacy of their own homes.  They very much believe in showing the man they love all their affection and passion in privacy.  So if you do have a Filipina girlfriend here and she seems slightly ‘distant’ physically when in public, don’t take it personally.  Around here, the only Filipinas seen hanging on some foreigner while walking in public are perceived to be prostitutes.  And that is not the impression your girlfriend wants anyone to have of her.  So, just chill out and she’ll make up for it when you get home.

Now, with the Filipino men regarding talking about sex.. it’s a bit different.  The men will surprisingly bring up sex more often than my own buddies back home.  And these are total strangers such as taxi drivers who want to be chatty during the ride.   I usually don’t start conversation in a taxi but will participate if they feel like talking.  For one thing, the way traffic is here, I’d prefer they focus on the road.  But I won’t be rude so I find myself talking  to them if they feel like talking.  One taxi driver offered to take me to visit his sisters on my way to the bar.  Another taxi driver told me far more than perhaps I wanted to know about the sex life of his wife and daughter.  That was kinda strange, but I just went with it. So it’s mostly with the women anytime they are around or in public that you should err on the side of being conservative while with the men, it’s about the same as anywhere else.

Send Your Filipina Gifts Safely Securely

Before I ever got on the plane over here I made a decision about Philippine politics; “I’m not a voting citizen.. it’s not my homeland.. I’ll leave the politics of the Philippines in the hands of Filipinos.”  I don’t get into discussions on local politics here.. at all.  I studied their history so I have a general understanding of today’s environment.  I watch the news so I know of financial issues that may affect me as an ex-pat.  I read the tech news and laws such as the recent Cyber-crime Prevention Act that was recently passed in the Philippines just so I know what’s going on with Net activity here and what’s monitored or allowed.  But I don’t have any discussions with Filipinos about their legislation, bills or foriegn/domestic policies.  It’s of concern to me, but it’s really none of my business is the way I look at it.  Nothing good will come of criticizing a Filipino over local politics so, my advice.. just leave it alone.

Now, since I am an American and my adult children still live in the U.S., I take a very keen interest in staying up to date regarding current politics and legislation’s effect on their ability to get by in life financially.  I am very vocal on Facebook about American politics, but not in local conversation here.  Which brings me to the issue of conversations with ex-pats that I run into.

Every so often I find myself running into a fellow American from back home and we’ll sit down for some roasted chicken, beer and sometimes.. politics.  I really don’t ever enjoy it.  I’d rather talk about women, food and.. well, women.  The beer and chicken are good.  But the conversation either goes in the direction of my conservatism versus their liberalism (a total waste of time) or if we are both conservatives.. a downward spiral of sorrow over how badly our country is being mismanaged.  Both are a total kill-joy to my bliss here in the Philippines.   Like I said, I’d rather talk about where there’s something cool to do locally, some nice beach to find or.. women.  Now, I will entertain some politics with a foreigner who is neither Filipino nor American once in a while just for the hell of it.  The other day I spent 90 minutes over lunch with an Iranian-German in a gentleman’s debate over Capitalism versus Socialism.  It was  a fervent yet civilized conversation but.. we eventually ended up talking about women, shook hands and remained friends.  But Filipino politics.. not touching it.

On a related note, I’m always glad to stop what I’m doing and have some good convo with just about anyone, especially someone from ‘back home’.  I’ve even run into a few residents from Southern California and it’s nice to talk about places we are both familiar with.  But you won’t see me out at Ayala every morning hanging out with Americans outside the McDonald’s.. I came to the Philippines to be out in the streets getting familiar with the local environment.  ha!  Besides, I can’t stand McDonald’s.. on any continent.


As I mentioned before, pretty much all Filipinos consider themselves Catholic to one degree or another.  If someone ‘asks’ me my thoughts on religion, I’ll share it with them.  But I pretty much let them just do what they do and leave them to be happy with it.  Arguing over religion is probably even more fruitless than debating politics.  Life is too short and there are way too many other things to do here than go about pissing off everyone I run into over religion.  Besides, more Filipinos daily practice the ‘golden rule‘ here than just about anywhere else so.. kinda hard to argue from that standpoint.  If someone loves God and treats others with compassion, they are A-OK in my book.

Now, while I have some very definite issues to bear when it comes to Islam.. the wise thing around here is to just stay out of the whole religion area of conversation with them.   I know many people in Southern Mindanao have lived there for years and say they “never have problems” there.  Well, there’s a reason for that.. they’ve learned to keep their opposing opinions to themselves.  Perhaps for so long that they actually empathize with the Muslim position.  That’s all fine and good for them, they can do that if they want.  But for me.. there are over 7,000 other Philippine islands that are far more to my liking.  I’ll take the nice Catholic people and even put up with the occasional Jehovah’s Witness at the mall if I have to rather than live on an island that comes with it’s own travel advisory from several countries, all stating that it’s not the place to be if you are a foreigner.  It’s a simple choice to me.. would I choose the beach.. or East Los Angeles??  Not a tough choice but, to each his own.

So if you want to just chill out and enjoy life.. I’d say stay off the politics and religion discussions and only discuss sex with the ladies who show some curiosity to learn a thing or two.  Aside from that, discussions that always are welcome are on topics such as family, how you chose to live in the Philippines and which are your favorite Filipino dishes.  You can’t go wrong there.  So enjoy the beaches, cruise the malls, explore the marketplaces and just have a good time here.

Henry V.


Author: Reekay

About Me.. In 2011 I made the decision to move to the Philippines within a year. Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat. (Mactan, Bohol, Panglao, Moalboal, Dumaguete, Bacong, Boracay, Cebu) I recently spent the year living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Share with me here my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Dating, vlogging, cooking, traveling and sharing the information with you needed to make your own plans for living as a full-time expat in Southeast Asia.
— Reekay


  1. don't discuss who is the better boxer pacquiao or mayweather. also do not discuss who rendered the better version of "My Way" when at the karaoke bars. People get shot discussing those. Cheers!!

  2. You have written your observations well. I came across this article while I was surfing the net for articles about sex education, which is considered taboo for many filipinos because of the culture. Thanks for what you have written, it's not much, but it does confirm what I know of. Keep on writing. I am currently writing a dissertation along this topic.

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