Filipino Table Manners – The great oxymoron

Remember how we were brought up? This is aimed mainly at Australians and probably most of those of European/Anglo-Saxon type origins, and particularly I would think those older than 40. Because I know I was more relaxed at the dinner table with my kids than my parents were with me. They still had to act like they were reasonably civilized, but not quite so Victorian-English-Rules as some of us suffered through.


filipino table manners versus australian table manners



Yes, childhood was fun in many ways. We got to roam around, and getting dirty was OK. But the dinner table was an ordeal. The food was bland and repetitive, but it was the rules which we as kids found restrictive and often downright uncomfortable. Not so Filipino kids! I just told one of my girls before that she will model a photo about “table manners”, and she asked “What’s that?” I rest my case!

If you are in an Australian Filipina relationship you will certainly visit the Philippines and hopefully you will visit the family and will see what Filipino family life is all about, and will get a clear idea that every culture has its own living styles and its own views on what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Definitely time to humble-up and not assume that “our way” is necessarily the right way and to pass judgement accordingly. Filipinos themselves are remarkably tolerant. The average Australian visitor is going to break many a social rule, yet Filipinos will accept that and will very rarely be bothered by it as long as they can see you are basically a good person with good intentions.


Australian and English-style Table Manners

Eating the family meal around the table was a hotbed of strict rules.


  • Back straight, feet on the floor
  • Elbows off the table, and held close to the body. Wrists may be rested on the edge if necessary
  • Knife and fork only for main meal. No spoons. Definitely no fingers, even with chicken.
  • Food cut into mouth-sized portions. No gnawing off something on the fork. And no stuffing face full!
  • No talking with your mouth full, no loud chewing, no burping, no chewing with mouth open.
  • “Please pass the salt” No reaching for things.
  • And having to ask “May I leave the table?”


Filipino Table Manners

I guess most have experienced this. If not, visit the Philippines and you will!


I’ve been here for a number of years now. Yes, this is meant to be amusing and not critical. So please nobody think I’m being insulting. I’m in no way defending the extremes of table-manners that we were brought up with. Definitely more fun in the Philippines! And noisy, messy kids are happy kids!


  • Eat with spoon and fork……or just with fingers, even with rice
  • When using spoon and fork, may make a loud drumming sound on the plate
  • Never cut anything. That’s what teeth are for.
  • Always one foot on the chair, or fold both legs under you on the chair
  • Children may decide to fit as much food into mouth as possible. Why wait until you’ve swallowed? Cheeks are expandable!
  • Noodles? Must make loud slurping sound!
  • Bones may be cracked with teeth. Fish brains and eyes must be sucked and swallowed.
  • Enjoying what’s in your mouth? Let the others see, by eating with mouth open.
  • Small children should be running around the room whilst eating. They are fed by relatives who catch them as they run past, and food is stuffed into child’s mouth.


filipino baby feeding


I find cultural differences amazing, how something is OK in one culture but unacceptable in another. Keep the mind open, and try not to jump to conclusions…..this is my advice! These days? Nothing hugely bothers me. Noodle-slurping makes the cringe, but I’d rather see a happy and relaxed dinner table.

Christmas dinner at my Grandma’s was a pretty awful experience, having to sit still for course after course of steaming hot food in the middle of summer. Sitting still and basically being quiet. Stuff that! Families eating meals together is a nice ritual which should be encouraged, but I would never make them eat with elbows held stiffly. We certainly have a lot more fun and laughs here in the Philippines than I can ever remember as a kid.






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