If it’s Imported, is it Better?

I read an interesting post by Bob Martin in his Live in the Philippines blog. In the article titled “I know better than they do!“, Bob recounts his experience with a fellow American who was planning on living in the Philippines. As they were driving around town (General Santos City), his friend quipped that he was gonna teach “these people” (Filipinos) how to grow tomatoes. He reasoned that most tomatoes sold in the market are green, and if they were sold riper, they would be able to sell more. Bob quickly rebuffed him by saying that Pinoys actually preferred green tomatoes. If they were too ripe, nobody would buy them! Bob couldn’t have concluded it more aptly:

The lesson here is that the way we (Westerners) do things is not always right. Maybe it is right for us – for you and for me. But, that doesn’t mean that it is right for Filipinos. We are living here in the Philippines, their country, and we can’t presume that we will come here and change 80 million people to start doing things our way. More likely it is us who will need to adjust. But, hey, when it comes to tomatoes, there are enough red ones in the market that you can still enjoy doing it your way, and let everybody else do it the way that they like!

To my chagrin, I have dealt with several people not from here who are a lot like Bob’s acquaintance. I won’t name names, but you’ve probably already heard of them before. Two of them in particular made quite a stir in the local SEO scene. They instantly lost everyone’s respect after their 15 minutes of fame notoriety were over. One recently, albeit desperately, tried to make a comeback, but failed miserably.

I’m not at all saying that foreigners are not allowed to be the best at what they do in a foreign land. In fact, Bob’s doing a better job blogging, and perhaps promoting, the island of Mindanao than anyone else I know. But it’s a different story altogether when a foreigner thinks he’s immediately better than Filipinos the moment he steps on Philippine soil. Some go at great lengths to bully, swagger and deceive thinking that’s the fastest way to achieve their goals. Those things don’t work on us. Filipinos are very hospitable but hospitality can only go so far you know.

We live in a world of clashing cultures, religions and races. By a matter of a few miles we are but aliens. That means that your way of doing things isn’t automatically the way others do it in another country. If you come from a first world country, that doesn’t give you the license to be a first class bitch in the third world. Utmost respect goes a long, long way. I think that’s all a foreigner needs to bring besides his passport.


  1. Hi Andrew – We haven’t met before, but I think you are a friend of several of my friends, so by extension, although we have yet to meet, I consider you my friend.

    Thanks for highlighting my article, I appreciate it.

    Unfortunately, I think that the attitude that we are both talking about is something that almost all of us foreigners go through when we move here. It is something that you have to experience and learn from your mistakes.

    I am not sure who you are talking about when you mentioned about the SEO community, but maybe those foreigners will learn from their mis-steps. Give them some time, and give them another chance to see if they have modified their views!

    Thanks again!

  2. @Robert: Thanks, but note that when I say ‘foreigners’ I’m not singling out Americans. Also, I’m not sure if it’s true that they speak better because Filipinos are good conversationalists too.

    @Bob: Yeah we’ve never met but I’m fully aware of all your great contributions to Mindanao. Thanks for that Bob. Hope to meet you at the MBS. 😀

  3. Hi Andrew – Ha ha… yep, and Macky is the one who showed me YOUR article! That guy is sneaky! We better keep an eye on him! 🙂

    See you at MBS, for sure!

  4. I think understanding and appreciating rather than criticizing foreign cultures should be foremost on our minds when we visit other places.

  5. I’d hate to point this out, but some Filipinos do think they’re inferior to the foreigners. It’s a widespread mentality/belief among our people. Some Pinoys will do anything for, and are in fact more accommodating when it comes to people not of their own race. Most of the time even at the expense of a Pinoy’s discomfort. It’s something I don’t understand (and probably never will).

    Other than that, I applaud Bob for what he said. I couldn’t have said it better than he did.

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