The Filipino “Crab Mentality” and how it may Affect your Marriage

Here in Rome there are some 50000 Filipinos. They constitute one of the largest groups of immigrants in the city and the Filipino community has been existing here for about 40 years.

Yet, almost all Filipinos here started out working as katulong or domestic helpers (many work live-in meaning that they are only free on Sundays and on Thursday afternoons) and to this day still work as katulong.

Many other immigrants set up shop such as the Romanian who run their own businesses in such fields as construction, plumbing, electrical installations etc. The Punjabi run dozens of bakeries in town. The Chinese have hundreds of eat all you can restaurants and shops and recently they’ve also started running cafeterias and, in some cases, they even hire Italians.

And yet Filipinos who have been here much longer than other groups hardly attempt going into business or getting a job that is other than katulong. Even their sons and daughters graduate from high school and, in most cases, follow in the footsteps of their parents and become katulong themselves.

There are a couple of Filipino restaurants in town and some sari-sari store but I am talking about a very small minority of Filipinos.

But what really amazes me is that even many Filipinas whom I know, who are married to Italians, and for this reason qualify for an Italian passport which would give them more opportunities to reach out for better jobs, keep working as katulong.

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that one of the reasons being utang na loob or “debt of gratitude” toward their employers who, somewhere along the line, helped them with their resident permit.

In addition to the “debt of gratitude” there is another psychological factor that keeps them from attempting different careers that would give them more time for their family lives (I am not saying that money and career are critical for the success of your marriage, my concern is having a job that does not get in the way of a meaningful family life and most domestic jobs, especially live-in work, do get in the way of family life). I am talking about the crab mentality, namely the idea that I am not supposed to get ahead otherwise other crabs will pull me down.

A few years ago a Filipina who used to run a sari-sari or grocery store, tried to set up a Filipino restaurant but no one would support her and it seems like other Filipinos were telling one another not to eat in her restaurant. Whether these rumors or tsismis are true or not, the fact is that the restaurant did not stick around likely due to the crab mentality.

So, it may occur that, although a Filipina is married to a Westerner, she will continue to do the domestic job she used to do before getting married.

Being aware of the two underlying reasons why often Filipinas stay with their employers, namely utang na loob and psychological fear of being pulled down or sabotaged by other Filipinos and their crab mentality will help you show insight and minimize your upset should your Filipino wife linger in the job she was doing before she married you.

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