Philippine Crab Mentality
No, I’m not talking about the ubiquitous sexually transmitted crab lice. I’m talking about a phenomena that anyone planning to move to the Philippines had better be aware of. For the technically minded this is also known as Schadenfreude.
I don’t often use Wikipedia as a source, but these few paragraphs sum things up much better than I could:
Crab mentality describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs in which one tries to escape over the side, but is relentlessly pulled down by the others in the pot.
This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to “escape” a so-called “underprivileged life”, but kept from doing so by those others of the same community or nation attempting to ride upon their coat-tails.
In different cultures
For Filipinos, crab mentality is the tendency to “outdo another at the other’s expense” or to “pull down those who strive to be better.” An overzealous leader becomes morally shamed. It “became a call for community leaders to acknowledge indebtedness to others and to work for the good of the entire community and not just for themselves.”
Many Americans (and other “Westerners”) come here to the Philippines enthused about all the many ways they are going to “help” everyone with their superior knowledge, wealth and abilities. It’s nice to help, wonderful and Christ-like to be generous at heart and always a ‘good thing” to find ways to keep your skills sharp. But don’t blow into town like the answer to everyone’s prayer.
Rushing in and telling everyone how much you want to help is kind in one way but it also conveys a distinct message that you, as a foreigner, consider everything you want to “help” with as sub-standard and defective.
Who The Hell Asked YOU to “Fix” Things?
A very common reaction (almost always unspoken) is “Who the hell asked this noisy and rude character for his help? Why doesn’t he go back and fix all the stuff that’s wrong in his own country? We Filipinos got along without him for 400 plus years already and we can get along for another 400 years without his insulting criticism.
As a Noobie You Really Don’t Know Jack Shit
In the first place, no matter how much you think you know, you don’t know squat about the way things are done in the Philippines. And, you may think the way things are being done here is all wrong (sometimes you may be right) but just because you may know better doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear from you all the thinks they are doing wrong.
Even when you do know a better way and Filipino friends want to learn how, you have to think twice about the very real “crab mentality”.
Temporarily “helping” someone … let’s say buying a tricycle driver who is knowledgeable and accepted in his local community a taxi and sending him off into the new world of the local taxi drivers _may_ not be doing him any favors.
Just because _you_ know a nice new taxi is a much better transportation tool than that old smokey tricycle he was driving, and he should be able to make of so much more money, etc. doesn’t mean that:
- His former friends won’t resent him
- He really doesn’t know the “ropes” in his new situation and routine planning tasks may cause immense hardship (remember, having to admit you don’t know can be VERY embarrassing to a Filipino)
- He won’t now be expected to contribute much more to helping people in the family just because you have suddenly “made him rich” without any actual increase in profits. Even though the taxi may have much higher “carrying costs” and business for a taxi may be much less frequent than regular tricycle fares, you now have made this guy “rich” in everyone’s eyes and a “rich” man is always expected to give more.
A great place to visit and learn more about the Philippine crab mentality is in this article I wrote. Filipino Crabbiness
Be happy, enjoy yourself, but go slow and learn by doing. It’s fine to consider giving help, quietly and individually, when asked, but avoid “blowing into town” and trying to “fix” everything.
And beware the Philippine Crab Mentality.