Kwentong Chinoy

“7 Things Chinoys Say vs. What They Really Mean”

With New Year celebrations underway, Chinoy family get-togethers are in full swing! And with these, I sometimes laugh at why we act the way we do. 

The other day, my Filipino friend asked me why Chinese-Filipinos are so “pakipot.” (hard-to-get) Sometimes, we want something but we pretend to not want it – especially when it comes to gifts or paying for meals. Or even relationships! These are quirks we’ve picked up from our family and relatives, so please be patient with us! 

As a Chinese-Filipino, I can attest that we are a little bit confusing. And despite our cultural values, we can definitely benefit from more direct communication. Without further ado, here are seven things Chinoys say versus what they really mean. 

P.S. This does not represent all Chinoys, this article is simply a humorous generalization of Chinese-Filipinos who grew up with very traditional families and retain certain quirks. 

1. “We only prepared a small amount of food.”

If you hear a Chinoy say this (especially a Chinoy parent), then prepare your stomach! They have properly prepared a meal this big, or ordered this much food: 

It is similar to the concept of classic Filipino hospitality, where a mom might say “Kaunti lang ang handa namin pero kain kayo ah!” (We only prepared a little but please eat!) 

2. “I’m fluent in Mandarin” 

Assume that every Chinoy is at most a beginner in Mandarin, until proven otherwise! 90% of the time, we will not be able to help you read that Mandarin instruction manual for your Huawei phone. 

However, one area we can probably help you in are the cultural nuances in Cdrama or Cpop idol video content. Though we may not be fluent in Mandarin, we are usually familiar with popular Chinese sayings and expressions. We do have Chinese relatives after all! 

3. “Don’t you dare pay for the bill!” 

Photo credit: Off the Great Wall

Oh, don’t worry! You can pay for the bill if you want. It’s just that you’ll have to fight us for it. Chinese customs dictate that if you have a drop of Chinese blood and don’t want to disappoint your ancestors, you must fight for the bill at the end of the meal. 

But Chinoys won’t always give you that chance. If you spot your Chinoy friend “going to the bathroom,” it’s possible that they are actually paying for your meal in advance. 

Note that only those with traditional Chinoy upbringing are like this! If your friend is a less traditional Chinese-Filipino, their “going to the bathroom” might actually be “going to the exit.” So don’t assume all Chinoys will pay the bill! 

4. “Sorry I can’t go out again this month.” 

Photo credit: Turning Red

Please don’t think that your Chinese-Filipino friends don’t want to hang out with you. They do. It’s just that depending on how recently they last went out or factors such as their parents’ mood, they already know that they will not be allowed.

The stereotype of Chinoys having strict parents is mostly true. However, that makes it more special when your Chinoy friend can actually go on an outing! It’s possible that they cleaned the house, showed good grades, and spent a lot of time with their parents before popping the question.

Knowing all the effort that goes into asking to go out, give your Chinoy friends some slack when it comes to RSVPing! 

5. “You didn’t have to give me this!”

Photo credit:

It’s not that your gift is not appreciated. It very much is! It’s just that at family reunions, whenever we accept gifts, we have to act “pai seh” (shy) and seem reluctant to accept gifts in order to not seem greedy. Sometimes, we still do this out of habit when it comes to all gifts. 

You will never see a Chinoy happily snatching an “angbao” (red pocket) out of their grandparent’s hands. There is usually a three-step process:

  1. Surprise: “Oh my! You want to give us angbao?” (muahahaha…)
  2. Shyness: “Whoaaa, you shouldn’t have, angkong/amah!” 
  3. Acceptance: “Xieixie! Thank you so much!” 

6. “I’m a boring person, I only like Netflix and food, and my ideal life is to work in business.”

Photo credit: iStock

You might think that the above statement is true and that all Chinoys only like socially acceptable things. This is because of the value of “go bin” which means saving face or guarding one’s reputation. 

Due to this, some Chinoys were discouraged from self-expression at an early age in order not to be seen as strange by the community. Chinese people place a lot of importance on the value of harmony, so being too unique is sometimes seen as a liability. For this reason, challenging the status quo is frowned upon by the older generation. 

Therefore, Chinese-Filipinos are used to putting on a reserved and conservative front – and some are not used to saying their opinions to people they are not close to. 

However, if you get closer to your Chinoy friend, you will find out that they are also into highly niche topics and hobbies like you are!

7. Wala akong time sa love life…”

Photo credit: Getty Images

This is just our way of coping with the fact that our priorities will always be studying and/or work, but in reality, some of us are  marupok (lovesick). After all, we grew up in the hugot-filled environment of the Philippines. And while people around us were making landi, we were chasing the laude. 

However, many young Chinoys nowadays chase both and still get good grades! Sana all!

Hopefully this helped you understand your Chinoy friends more! Happy New Year!

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