Filipinos aren’t “natives”, they are “locals.”

You guys, I just got told off, and I am going to try to save you the same grief.

Any English speaker who has lived in an English-speaking country other than their native one knows that some words have different meanings and different nuances. I ran up against this yet again recently, so let me help you out.

In American English, a local is someone who lives in a specific community. I am a Metro Manila local. However, I cannot claim to be a Metro Manila native, because I was born in the United States, and natives are people who were born in the specified area. I am a native American. (Not a Native American, though, as that’s a term used to describe the indigenous tribes of North and South America. I’m lower-case native American. See how fun this is?)

I referred to someone as a native Filipino the other day and was informed that that was rude, and politically incorrect. Native has a different nuance in the Philippines. It doesn’t refer to people born in an area, it refers to people living out in the jungle in primitive circumstances. People born in the Philippines are local Filipinos, not necessarily native Filipinos.

Now I could get all huffy about proper word choice and the preservation of English, but the bottom line is: not my country, not my rules. Interestingly enough, I met a man in England once who was offended when an American stopped him to ask for directions by asking, “Are you a native?” It seems the English have the same nuance for native as the Filipinos. So they aren’t alone in this interpretation.

Remember: awareness is a kindness.

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