Filipino-French Couple
Art by: Maui Del Rosario

10 Cultural Differences of a Filipino-French Couple

The courtship between a Filipino and French seems refreshing and thrilling. Their contrasting customs and traditions feel like a movie with an “opposite-attracts” narrative. But, as soon as reality kicks in, are “cultural differences” still adorable or just tolerable?

I’m Filipina and my husband is French. We live in Japan and we both dated people outside our race, so we are no strangers in adjusting to a foreign culture. However, as our relationship was getting deeper and it was time to introduce our family to each other, we became more aware that there are still a lot of things we need to know.

Without further ado, here are our top 10 surprising cultural differences: 

1. Cutlery

Spoon & Fork vs. Fork & Knife
Spoon & Fork vs. Fork & Knife

Spoon and Fork vs. Spoon, Fork, Knife

In the Philippines, we eat with a spoon and fork. When we need to cut our food, we just use our fork to pin down the piece that we’ll eat and then use the spoon to slice it. As a result, you rarely see a knife on a Filipino dining table.

The first time I served a Filipino dish for my husband, I naturally gave him a spoon and fork. He then told me that when he was in Thailand, it was the first time that someone gave him a spoon and fork to eat with. He first thought it was STRANGE because in France they normally use a fork and knife to slice their food and a spoon for soup.

I was a bit embarrassed because I thought spoon and fork were a common thing around the world. Therefore, even though he told me he doesn’t mind, I usually give him a spoon, fork, and knife, so he can just choose whichever he’s comfortable using. And when it’s his turn to prepare, he hands me a spoon and fork.

And then, we went to France.

I got overwhelmed with which cutlery to use because THERE WERE TOO MANY! Thankfully, my husband taught me and he never made me feel I was ignorant for not knowing, which I’m very thankful for


Boodle Fight Feast
Boodle Fight Feast

Aside from spoon and fork, Filipinos also do KAMAYAN—eating with your hands.

When we visited the Philippines together for the first time, I wanted my husband to experience a fun Filipino tradition and I immediately thought of “Boodle Fight”—it’s a big meal served on top of a long banana leaf, which you share with a lot of people and instead of cutlery, you use your hands.

It’s a great way to become more familiar with Filipino cuisine and to socialize. Hence I organized a Boodle Fight with my friends in the Philippines. It was in a restaurant where customers can either do kamayan with plastic gloves or without. My husband chose not to use gloves because he wanted the authentic experience. I was surprised and impressed that he did well with eating with his hands.

2.OFWs having a Long Distance Relationship with Their Partner/Spouse

Long Distance Relationship is one heck of a challenge!
Long Distance Relationship is one heck of a challenge!

The Philippines is a developing country, hence many people will do what it takes to have a better life and one of those solutions is being an OFW or Overseas Filipino Workers.

Working abroad provides a higher wage, which means a comfortable lifestyle. Therefore, it’s not strange for a husband or wife to be working in a different country, while his/her partner and kids are in the Philippines.

One time my husband told me that he has a Filipino co-worker, who visits his wife and children every six months in the Philippines. My husband said, “Isn’t it hard?” I told him that it is, but they don’t have a choice. It’s a very common situation back home and his co-worker is actually LUCKY because some can’t even visit go home for a year or even more.

3. Dipping Sauce (aka sawsawan)

Now let’s go back to food!

When Filipinos start putting soy sauce, ketchup, or fish sauce on the food you prepared for them, don’t upset because it’s just the way we eat. Filipino dishes are usually partnered with sawsawan, which allows you to tweak it according to the flavor that you desire.

There was a time that my husband cooked a meal for me and I put Tabasco (my favorite) on it. All of a sudden, I remembered a video I watched about adding pepper or salt to food can be quite insulting to the person who prepared it for you. I asked my husband if I offended him by putting Tabasco on my food. He politely said, “Yes,” and after that, I avoid it.

Similarly, when I do make Filipino food with sawsawan, my husband asks me how to eat it properly or where to put the sauce. Even if it’s a small thing, I appreciate that my husband makes an effort to learn about Filipino eating habits, so I also do the same with him.

4. Drinking coffee after a meal

After living with my husband for 2 years, I thought I already know his dining quirks, but visiting France proved I was mistaken.

Every time French people finished eating, they always drink coffee.

Enjoying a cup of coffee
Enjoying a cup of coffee

In the beginning, I thought it was just in restaurants, but when I met my husband’s family, they also do the same— although they only drink a small amount, like an espresso shot.

I do like coffee, but my maximum is 1 and a half cups a day because exceeding that amount will make me palpitate and dizzy. Hence, when I didn’t want to have a cup of joe, my husband’s relatives offer me tea.

5. Monthsaries

Yup, it’s like “Anniversaries” but you celebrate it every month! It doesn’t need to be grand, it can be a simple date or a gift for your significant other. It’s mostly celebrated by teenagers and young adults.

I don’t know whether this is only a Filipino culture, but when I was living in the Philippines, all of my friends, who had a partner, always celebrate Monthsaries.

Upon telling this to my husband, he refused to do it, because for him you don’t need a celebration to do something special to someone, you can do it every day— which he does most of  the day.

Plus, if you want something extra memorable, you have anniversary for that.

6. Mano vs La Bise

Respecting the elders is an important part of Filipino culture. MANO (or pag-mamano) is a custom in the Philippines that asks for the blessing of an elder, thus it’s also called “bless” in English. The person that is asking this “honored gesture” needs to first ask for permission  by saying “ (pa) bless po,” then he/she bows while gently pressing the hand of the elder being greeted to his/her forehead.

Note: YOU CAN’T DO IT TO SOMEONE YOUNGER THAN YOU. Some might get offended when you try to do Mano to them because it makes them feel old.

Nonetheless, my family never did that, but instead, we greeted each other by doing “beso-beso” or kissing on the cheek, because of our Spanish lineage. But, I did use Mano to pay respect to people who are not related to me like my teachers and godparents.

Just like in Spain, the French also kiss each other on the cheek as a form of greeting and it’s called “La Bise.” Before meeting my in-laws, my husband briefed me about this custom and I told him that I’m no stranger to it, because my family also does it.

Despite that, I still feel awkward doing La Bise, because I haven’t used that to greet someone for a while.

7. Men always pay for dates

When I started dating in Japan, I did my research on how Japanese and other nationalities date. Based on my experience, Western guys split the bills and the Japanese usually pay it all.

In the Philippines, Filipino men are still quite conservative. They want to be providers and would like to have a wife who stays at home cleaning, cooking, and taking care of kids. That’s why when they go out on a date, THEY ALWAYS PAY.

In the past, I had a conversation with my Filipino friends about dating. I told them that I sometimes pay for dates, which shocked them. I explained to them that it’s pretty normal if you go out with a Western guy and handling the bill isn’t something to feel ashamed of.

During my husband and I’s first meeting, he asked me, “How do Filipinas date?” I honestly answered, “Men always pay for dates.” Surprisingly, he didn’t get scared and still asked to meet up again, LOL.

At the beginning of our relationship, my husband always settles the bill. After a couple of weeks of dating, we split or either of us pay. However, when it’s too pricey, my husband doesn’t let me handle the bill on my own. We divide it 50/50 or he’ll pay more because I earn less than him and I was sending money back home. He didn’t want to ruin my budget.

8. Courting

Filipinos are a romantic people, that’s why KDrama (Korean Drama) is very popular with them. Men are expected to be chivalrous and women to be demure like Maria Clara (a character in Noli Me Tangere).

When a man likes a girl and wants her to be his girlfriend, he must confess his feelings and ask her permission to court her or sometimes even her parents. During this phase, the guy does many things to please the girl (e.g. buying gifts, sending her home, helping with her chores, etc.) and he could only court ONE girl to show that he is serious.

Cherry Blossom Date
Cherry Blossom Date

Despite these grueling tasks, a girl could have A LOT of suitors. The courting period could last a week or even years. Guys don’t have a choice, but to wait for the girl to choose.

After telling this to my husband, he told me that this custom will not work in France.

I personally don’t like courting because some girls abuse this to get free stuff and more. That’s why when a guy wishes to court me, I decline, especially if I already know I don’t like him. I want to save him from a slow-pace heartbreak by immediately saying “no,” thus he could quickly find his perfect girl and stop wasting time on a girl who will not say “yes.”

9. Starting Christmas Season on September

Normally, Christmas Season starts in December, but in the Philippines, we go crazy with it and start in September.

Upon knowing this fact, my husband couldn’t believe it and thinks it’s funny.

Christmas in Bordeaux, France
Christmas in Bordeaux, France

I don’t know why we celebrate it too early. All I know is that Filipinos love it and even call this season the “Ber Months,” which is from the -BER of the months September to December. Additionally, people around these months are already putting on their Christmas decorations, and few Night Markets start to open, inviting people to do their Christmas shopping for their families as soon as possible.

In Japan, Christmas is an event for couples. It’s like Valentine’s Day, thus my husband and I don’t celebrate Christmas unless we go to the Philippines or France to see our family.

10. Cheese and Wine

Growing up in the Philippines, the cheese that my family usually eats is Eden Cheese and Cheez Swiz—which are both processed—and occasionally the Christmas staple, Queso De Bola.

Of course, my knowledge about cheese broadens because of my husband. I now rarely buy processed cheese after I was introduced to its various types—my favorite is Camembert.

Wine, cheese, and bread
Wine, cheese, and bread

Regarding wine, as far as I can remember, my family rarely drinks wine until my mother got fond of it during my college years. She sometimes drinks a glass of wine before she sleeps.

Despite becoming a common item in our pantry, I didn’t like it. Funnily enough, I married someone who was from Bordeaux—a city in France known for its wine. And since it’s a big part of my husband’s culture, I gave the wine a second chance. Now, I drink it, but not as often as my husband, LOL. I do prefer white over red though.

And there you go our top 10 surprising cultural differences! How about you? Have you ever been in an international relationship?  What’s your opinion about union of two different cultures? Comment down below!

“I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being–neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.”

Malcolm X, 

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