Monday, February 21, 2011

Tips on Talking to the Locals (Updated 5/2/11)

How do you break the ice when talking to locals? 

Everyone says that when you travel to another country, you have to "Do what the locals do." But how is that possible when you find it difficult to talk to them?  Aside from knowing a few basic phrases in the local language, Lonely Planet shared other tips that can help break the ice when you are in another country.

How about when traveling to the Philippines? Do the same tips work?

First, let me start by saying that the Philippines, being an archipelago, has more than 100 languages and dialects. Second, in informal conversations or conversation with folks who live within the community, Filipinos speak the language in their region, such as Cebuano (in Cebu), Bikolano (in Bicol region), Kapampangan (in Pampanga), etc. Third, you don't need to learn all those languages and dialects because it's stated in the 1987  Philippine Constitution that the country has   2 official languages:  Filipino and English. With English as an official language, this makes it easier for you, as a foreign traveler, to communicate with  the people, understand government documents and read signs.  However, you will definitely break the ice and earn the admiration of  Filipinos if you speak in the Filipino language. (Filipino, by the way,  is a dynamic language, but its mostly based on Tagalog and other languages or dialects in the country.  There are even a few Spanish words in the Filipino language, since the country was a colony of Spain for 300 years.)

Now, what are some other things that you can do to help break the ice? Here are a few ideas I got from asking around:

  • Asking or complimenting Filipinos about local food will definitely work. Filipinos love to eat and they love to share their food with others. 
  • Ask about famous Filipinos.  A lot of Pinoys  enjoy talking about local celebrities. Some would even point out the "Filipino connection" or the Filipino roots of some international celebrities. 
  • In line with that, don't forget to ask about one person: MANNY PACQUIAO. If you have been living under a rock, Manny Pacquiao is a Filipino boxer who was earned many boxing titles and is considered as one of the highest paid athletes in the world. 
  • Mention "San Miguel beer" and the faces of Filipino men will light up. Better yet, offer them a drink if you're feeling generous.
  • Praise the country's natural resources (the pristine beaches or the scenic countryside).
  • Ask about bad words. Yeah, you read the right. And I'm sure a lot of young travelers do that. Just don't shout those bad words at your hosts. 
The bottomline is that there are a lot of things you can do to talk easily to locals. It's up to you if you want to sit uncomfortably or blend in.

P.S. For those who were asking, here are a few greetings or compliments in Filipino:
    • Good morning    - Magandang umaga
    • Good afternoon -  Magandang hapon
    • Good evening    - Magandang gabi
    • Thank you    -     Maraming salamat
    • You're welcome -  Walang anuman
    • You're beautiful - Maganda ka (to a woman).
    • You're handsome. - Guwapo ka (to a man).
    • You're kind. - Mabait ka.
    • Delicious  - Masarap!


  1. beer!! tagay na!!

  2. drink with the locals! especially in the provinces :)

  3. Agree with you on that Journeying James! I guess a drink is the universal way of breaking the ice.


Got something to share? Leave a comment.(Just make sure it's not nasty.)