01 July 2019

If I were a rich man...

White man in Philippines....MUST be rich

rich man in the philippines perception that all foreigners are rich

Regardless of how "rich" you are or not, you will always be seen as rich in Philippines. You're Australian, ie a "foreigner"? That makes you rich. And compared to the locals you are, and no one seems to be able to get past that. People see you, and they see dollars.

And yes, some wish to part you and your hard-earned money. Scammers are everywhere, even within families. But it's not always like that, nor is it necessarily meant offensively. Although I have to say I really don't like any reference to being "rich" and I'll explain why.

"Rich" - Philippines versus Australia

Different attitudes toward being "rich" between Philippines and Australia, you find. Philippines? I think the "rich" like being known as rich, and are happy that people treat them differently. Australians? Not so much.

Australians are egalitarian by nature. We believe in a level playing field, where everyone gets their equal share of rights and their equal share of respect. We have a natural disdain for "classes", and don't like it when we see anybody treated as lower than others or even as higher than others.

Philippines? Most of the time the rich are very showy about it all. They wear branded clothes....showy rings and necklaces etc. You will see them in S&R (imported groceries store in Philippines) with household helpers wearing uniforms pushing their shopping trollies for them. For many there is no "I'm just like everyone else" attitude.

Australia? Australians understand this, but Filipinos would not know unless they'd been to Australia and seen how things work for us.

We Aussies like to see everyone at the same level. We don't believe that wealth and human-worth have any correlation at all. If someone is less-affluent (we would NEVER use the word "poor"), we will lift them up. If someone is "rich" and acts in a proud (mayabang, for the Filipinos) manner, we will humble them. And we can be quite blunt about it and will refuse to bow down to anybody just because they have a bigger house or a better job than us. We have respect for humble people and contempt for arrogant people.

I think a lot of this comes from Australia being a former colony of England. England has long been a class-riddled society, with the "common" people expected to "know their place" and not to "get ideas above their station", ie the station in life. If you were born the son of a tradesman then you became a tradesman too and you humbled yourself before the rich-and-privileged. Australians reacted to this, and thus you have a society which appreciates the man who has money and power yet acts just like everyone else. Our politicians ensure that they attend football games and are seen drinking beer in the pub with ordinary people.

A humble rich white man in the Philippines

I'm an Australian in the Philippines. I've had to adjust to staff calling me "sir". I don't like it, but it's the way things work here. If you are TOO humble, staff can get the wrong idea and assume you have romantic ideas about them if they are female or think that you are a bit stupid if they are male. So you accept this, and you make yourself a bit aloof. It prevents future problems in most cases, although we still get it wrong regularly. Too soft, and people take advantage. They are used to rich people being hard and strict, so you need to at least hold back a bit.

I’ll explain what I find hard to take. I don’t like being identified as “rich”. I don’t like being seen first and foremost as being “rich”, and when people can’t look past that aspect of you. I wish more people could just see me as Jeff the person! Jeff the husband of Mila. Jeff the dad. Jeff the kind person. Jeff the soft-hearted. 

I had someone say hello to me the other week. They told me they wish they were like me, ie “rich”. She made it clear she wanted donations for the school where she worked, too. She will never know me....who I am....whether I’m even nice. Yeah, I’m sick of it. Love the Philippines, but miss the anonymity I had in Australia which allowed me to be seen as me.


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