The Americano from Europe

Without a doubt, this is a well worn and overly discussed topic among non American expats. So just to annoy you more, I am going to add my 3 pennies (note not cents) worth.

Is it petty to be bothered that so many Filipinos assume you come from somewhere else other than where you actually come from?

I’m not an American, so it’s quite possible that like me, some of us members of the non-Americano speaking community could occasionally get a little pissed at always being thought of as being one.

I confess although I know it’s silly, I don’t like it myself either.

Americans Can Switch to Another Channel

Now, if your name is Joe and you’re from Washington, New York, Chicago or anywhere in the USA, then this will not be much of an issue for you.

But if you are John, Mike or Barry from Europe, Australia or even the Caribbean, then get used to being an American. There is no other world apart from China, the Middle East and India.

Some are aware that there are other mostly white people that come from a place called Europe who talk such a weird tongue it sounds like another language.

If they hear a Germanic, French or Latin sounding lingo, then at least that’s a clue to most that you’re not from the USA. If you are an English speaker though, you’re now American in the eyes of many.

Get used to endlessly hearing “hey Joe, what’s up?” and more generally “where are you going, Joe?” All these remarks are frequent and some of us get seriously tired of it, others don’t. I’m just letting you know if you’re a non-American in the Philippines and you’re white or maybe even black, you better get used to it; you are now an American.

Give Me Back My Heritage

Should it bother me? Probably not.

Does it bother me? OK, a lot.

But it’s not anything particularly anti-American in me; it’s simply a little frustration and annoyance at feeling pushed off the Earth. It will become an everyday part of your world while you’re here.

If you’re interacting with locals, possibly at the store or market or even in a taxi, you may get overloaded with assumptions. Again, keep in the back of your mind that plenty of Filipinos don’t assume too much but at the same time, remember that many do.

A taxi driver could say something on the lines of “My sister is there in your country”. Don’t for one second think he has worked out you may be anything other than an American, and his sister is in Hampshire. Just take it as read, he means in America.

I play a little game to test my nerve. I see how long I can go without saying that I’m not an American. It’s a great game but one I usually lose as it becomes hard to not say it. I’m not someone that would consider myself to be overly patriotic, but as stupid and harmless as it is, it still drives me nuts.

I’m Labelled Non-Americano

SelfieIt used to irk me so much at one time; I had a tee shirt made announcing the fact that “I am not an American.” You can’t help but get tired of it and the tee shirt was a small way of trying to make the assumption makers think of the possibility that I’m not Americano. Did it work? Sometimes.

It had foreigners smiling at me; Americans giving me dirty looks, yet with expats from non-American parts, it seemed to strike a chord. I think they may be experiencing the same level of assumption overload and could identify.

Similarly, many Filipinos responded too and would often raise a smile. So obviously, it’s not the whole nation that makes that assumption and even some locals would straight away pick up on the point of the tee shirt and smile at the joke.

Putting Britain Back On the Map

At times, it can get ridiculous. Ok, it’s easy to inform and get round it that way. Simply say “I’m not American, I am from England” but when the next question is “what part of America is England” it kind of saps your spirit a little. Yes, that has actually been said to me. All I could think of to reply was “the European part”.

I’ve had it asked of me, “what language do you speak in England?” It’s so difficult to know how to answer it. I just say French.

Just for a little balance, I will add that some of us outsiders don’t know much about the Philippines or Filipinos before they get off the plane. Too much sniggering at this mindset isn’t really apt as I’ve known some who just think of Asian as being Chinese. The main difference being though is that it’s a few in the west who are that dumb. Here in the Philippines, there’s a lot who will automatically assume you’re American.

He Must Be Proud To Be Pinoy

Sadly, sometimes the point behind wearing the “I’m Not An American” tee shirt was all too often missed. Based on some responses, I realized it was giving the wrong message or at least its intention being misinterpreted by some locals. More than a few times, the reaction was “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, so you’re not an American anymore, you’re a Filipino now.” I tried very hard to not bang my head against the nearest wall and just smile. You know when you’re fighting a lost cause so why explain.

Obviously, it would get a favourable response from a local that misreads the intention behind the statement. They believe you’re so in love with the Philippines that you’re renouncing your American heritage and now feel and want to be thought of as Filipino. How do you explain to those that that wasn’t the meaning behind the message on the shirt? Just smile along saying yes, you will never make those ones understand but they will love you.

Assumptions, Assumptions, All Are Assumptions

So as spoken of before in previous articles, you are now not only rich, you’re also American. I deliberately exaggerate the extent of it for the theatre but there will be days that assumption of your Americanism as well as your assumed wealth will drive you nuts.

It’s not difficult to understand where it comes from. The Philippines has had a lot of historical interaction with the United States. I’m guessing there was a time that nearly every Caucasian or black guy here was an American.

Somehow, the assumption has got firmly lodged into the mindset even though these days many foreigners are frequent visitors to the Philippines. It’s the first thought many have when they see you; you’re an Americano.

I have taken the trouble many times to explain that I’m not a citizen of the United States. Most times, it’s clearly understood after explaining. It just gets funny when you hear of conversations after you have explained which run something like “have you heard, the Americano is not an Americano, he’s a British”.

So this is to serve as a warning to all non-American visitors to the Philippines, be ready for it, take deep breaths and go with it. I know it’s stupid to allow something like this to piss me off. I’ve come to terms long ago about losing my national identity whenever I’m here. I still wear the tee shirt for the sport and have reluctantly come to terms with the fact that for many, I’m an American.



Filed under Culture, Impressions, Philippines

6 responses to “The Americano from Europe

  1. KS

    I understand your frustration, to some extent. I’m a Filipino living in the USA and people’s assumption is that I’m Chinese. Most of the time, though, my regional identity disappears and I’m “just” Asian.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a good story and yes I can relate to this on so many levels

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike

    Ok why do filipinos assume all white people are american Simple they don’t know any other places. Geography was a class skipped by every known person in the country. If you ask them to name other countries around the world your lucky if they can come up with more then five. World geography was not the only lessons missed They don’t know the Philippines. I have a map of Phil up in my room. We live in Davao, just for the fun of it during a party I asked my G F where Mindanao was on the map. She had no idea, where is Davao in Mindanao. She also didn’t know where Cebu Palawan and Manila were, all places I have taken her, again she didn’t know. I marched a number of her cousins into my room and asked then the same questions of the six one one pointed out the island they loved on and the same one had an idea where Manila was. North, west, south and east are foreign concepts to them. A sense of direction is lost on them in general. Its sad.


  4. Yes Mike it would sometimes appear geography is not a subject anyone is taught much here


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