11 Unique Things Filipinos Say to Foreigners

things Filipinos say to foreigners

After 6 months of volunteering for an NGO in Tacloban, as well as traveling around the country, we like to think that we have a pretty decent handle on local life in the Philippines. One thing we’ve really enjoyed discovering is all of the phrases and sayings that Filipinos say to each other and foreigners. It’s been a fun journey picking up these interesting Filipino phrases, but it hasn’t always been easy!

As an Australian I can’t really critique other countries too much about strange slang or funny phrases. I mean, even after all these years together Christine still has difficulty understanding me at times. So I’m definitely not having a laugh, but when it comes to Filipino language there are a few key phrases every traveller should get their head around before tackling these gorgeous islands.


things Filipinos say to foreigners


Hey my friend!

Everyone is your friend in the Philippines, so you better get used to hearing this. If you get the chance while they’re zooming past in a tricycle or shouting at you from a distant corner you should yell back the same thing and watch their smile stretch from ear to ear.


Sir / Ma’am

We’d heard Filipinos were famous for their politeness, but we could never have imagined just how nice everyone was, all the time. Any time you meet or greet someone you can expect a sir or ma’am added onto the end, without fail. This level of politeness is nation wide, no matter who you’re speaking with. After 6 months around the Philippines I think we’re now officially the politest backpackers going round Southeast Asia.


things Filipinos say to foreigners


Hey Joe!

Taken from the old World War II nickname for US soldiers (G.I Joe), this now accounts to pretty much any male who looks white and foreign. It’s not offensive, so don’t be shocked when strangers on the street pass you by and say…. Hey Joe! Sometimes to confuse them I just yell back… Hey Pinoy!


What do you think of the Philippines?

Filipinos are super proud people and always love to hear what foreigners think of their country. They’re also fairly receptive to constructive feedback, as long as it’s not too mean. They know their traffic in Manila is terrible and they know vegetarian options are slim, but they also want to know how amazing their island are and how they’re literally the most friendly culture ever!

things Filipinos say to foreigners

What is yours?

Literally meaning, what would you like? Expect to hear this phrase when you visit a sari-sari store, market stall or sometimes other places where you need to order. It doesn’t happen all the time, but the first time it did I had no idea what to reply. I just repeated it back to the lady and received some very confused looks as she ushered for her younger English speaking daughter in the back room to come and deal with me.


What is your name? Where are you from?

Most Filipinos speak amazing English, but even if they don’t have the confidence or ability to muster up a conversation, you can be sure they’ll find enough courage to ask you these two questions. It’s also a great way to engage the locals and start up a conversation.

things Filipinos say to foreigners

Out of stock

Either Filipinos aren’t restocking their stores very well, or they’re being polite because they don’t understand me, but if you go into any sari-sari, restaurant, grocery, etc. chances are 1 in 5 items will be… out of stock sir.


Nose bleed

The best way to explain this is through the following anecdote. One time at a bus station a group of young Filipinos slowly started to crowd around us. One confident teen approached us with a few English phrases and when we replied and engaged him in some conversation he suddenly froze, looked at his mates and then ran away as all the others laughed at him and shouted ‘nose bleed, nose bleed’. Basically meaning, when you have to think so hard that you get a nose bleed, at least that’s what the Filipinos say.


What else?

Kind of like that scene from Dude Where’s My Car with the Chinese take-out store: and then? And then? This one pops up more frequently in markets and smaller stores when ordering. Sometimes I end up ordering way too much because I like to see how far they’ll go… they always win!


things Filipinos say to foreigners


Welcome to my country

Whether you’ve been in the Philippines a week, or a year, Filipinos love to greet you and welcome you to their country. You’d be surprised how many strangers stopped us in the street or chatted with us in a Jeepney just to welcome us.


Thank you

When Christine and I came to the Philippines to help with the Yolanda recovery in Tacloban we definitely didn’t come for the praise or the thanks, but the amount of people who have thanked us for helping their country has truly humbled us. Everybody is always curious to know why we’ve stayed in the Philippines for 6 months, and when we tell them our story they almost always say a heart felt thank you for our help. But now we want to use this opportunity to thank everyone in the Philippines who has made this such an incredible journey and a life changing experience. From the bottom of our heart salamat po!


Hey Filipinos and Philippines travelers! Can you think of anything else to add to the unique things Filipinos say to foreigners? Drop us a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

things Filipinos say to foreigners


  • Pauie says:

    Hi there guys, salamat po for sharing Philippines to the world. We are glad that you both enjoyed your stay here. God bless the both of you on your future journeys! Mahal namin kayo! ???

  • J-Dawg says:

    A ‘Salamat’ too to you two for being cool friends. Gutted I didn’t get to see you off. But come back maybe? Or meet you halfway — if I don’t forget to move.

    I would add:

    “Let’s eat”, which they say when you catch them having a meal, even when they don’t really mean it.

    “You’re so white/fat/old/any other adjective”, because in areas where Filipinos aren’t being indirect, they’re too f-ing honest.

    Much love to the both of you.


    • Cheers brother! Thanks for all the amazing work you’re doing around Tacloban. Sad to miss you before we left, but I know our lives will cross again in the future mate. Let’s eat is a great one, or as Fred would say…. you eat now! Haha. And yes, Filipinos do have a knack for being brutally honest haha.
      Keep rocking out champ. Lots of love!

  • Gigi Williams says:

    Awesome post Jules. It makes me wish we had come to visit while you were there!

  • haydi says:

    hey there guys, thanks for helping philippines & thanks for sharing your great adventure in the philippines to world…keep going guys. I wish u all the best on your next adventure, wherever it is..god bless!

  • Jenia says:

    Ack so fun! We missed Philippines on our last adventure in SE Asia, and can’t wait to be back and spend a good long time in the country, I fully expect to swap the “what else?” for “where else?” while we are there 🙂

  • Nino says:

    You don’t ask for the directions to the nearest toilet/loo/WC you ask for where the CR is or the comfort room. Haha

  • Alfred says:

    What a great read! I enjoyed every word you wrote. That “nose bleed” part got me big time. More articles from you, sir.

  • Reni says:

    Hi Julian

    Wonderful post. I had to laugh a few times and I hope to remember these phrases and their meaning in a few weeks when we visit the Philippines.

    Totally looking forward to visit this amazing country ☺

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.


  • Butz says:

    Great observations Jules and Christine… You missed “ingat lagi” or take care always…

  • Homer says:

    One thing I’m guilty of is using ‘For a while.’ because it could mean a looonggg while. I always get a blank stare or a surprised look after. 🙂

  • Sheila says:

    Hi. I enjoyed reading your article 🙂 and it was always fun to see the reactions of foreign tourist when they blog about their experiences with their stay. By the way, I read the article becaused I recognized the pic of the guy at the start of the article, he is my brother’s friend lol.

    I just wanted to add something about the Nose bleed part, I met a foreign tourist when I was visiting Sagada and he had the confused face when we were engaging on a conversation and one of my friends shouted “wooh nose bleed”.

    It actually started as a joke from a movie (if I remember it right), when the lead started talking to a foreign tourist and when she had no more generic responses to offer like yeah, yes, sure, no thank you, her nose started bleeding as a sign that she can no longer speak english as a response. It seem really weird but it’s always been used as a term so it kinda stick and yeah, it’s funny. ? Although, in my opinion it’s also a way of letting us know that most of us are not very fluent with the english language, and as a Filipino, I don’t find it insulting but a room for learning. Cheers! 😀

    • Haha small world! That’s funny that you know him. He was a great guide and we really enjoyed our time in El Nido on the tours. Tell him we said hello and have been recommending the tours to everyone we met 🙂
      Nose bleed really is a funny term, it’s interesting to hear the origins of it haha. You might not be fluent, but your English is amazing! We were so impressed my all the Filipinos we met how spoke such great English. Certainly a lot better than my Tagalog or Waray-Waray haha. Thanks for stopping and commenting, it was great to hear from you!

  • Sheila says:

    Will do! Thanks for helping us promote El Nido! And the amazing english was through loads of practice! Haha cheers! ??

  • Sheen says:

    I head to the Phillipines next week – so excited for some politeness after spending a year in China!

  • Ahhh the never ending Ma’am Sir!

  • Miriam Sabado Moller says:

    Had a good laugh. Thanks for sharing your awesome experience! Did you also notice how we give directions or when you ask where or when you are looking for something or some place? It is by pointing the mouth to the direction you are suppose to go or where you can find the place… These are some funny things we Filipinos do. It is also cute in some ways. We hope you will come back and enjoy our beautiful beaches and people.

  • Cris Marinay says:

    Hi Jules and Christine… Everything you wrote on your post was so true…You really have immersed yourself to the Filipino culture… Thanks for the sweetest article… We’re glad you two enjoyed your stay in our beloved country… Please do come again…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *