Home > Leadership, Uncategorized > Crab Mentality and Filipinos

Crab Mentality and Filipinos

I have been in business for a decade now and have dealt with many nationalities. The majority of my dealings have been fairly positive and I constitute that the negative dealings that I have had have been down to individuals rather than nationalities per se. However, one must be cautious of stereotyping nationalities. Some might say the British are pompous and autocratic.  Others may describe the Americans as obese.  Whilst others may see the Germans as icy, blond and blue-eyed.  These descriptions are stereotypes and are indeed not my own opinion.

However, taking into account that stereotypes is a belief system which needs to be overcome, there must also be an element where nationalities need to consider why they have been stereotyped. Being a Filipina myself, I am sad to say that I have met a handful of Filipino’s who have crab mentality. Crab mentality is a way of thinking best described by the phrase “If I can’t have it then neither can you”.  It is about envy and  can involve putting people down, not allowing others to flourish or when they do flourish, finding fault with their success in order to pull it down or simply having the mindset that “I’m better than you”.

Crab mentality is prevalent in most areas of life but I am going to emphasise it within the business realm.

I had a conversation with a good colleague of mine who was recommending our company to another organisation.  He conveyed to me their conversation. He was asked first off before even describing our principles and our work ethic, if we were Filipino to which he said ‘yes’. They replied ‘Oh, we don’t work with Filipinos’ which he thought was ironic and simply stupid because they themselves were Filipino.
I’ve worked with Filipino’s who try to learn every aspect of the business, try to steal clients and go off on their own business venture only to fall flat on their face.

Do Filipino’s have an incredible appetite for greed? Greed of success or money? If we could all work together and combine specialised skills and knowledge we could accomplish bigger and better things where everyone would and could benefit but it appears that the thinking of our race is one of narrow-mindedness.

Whilst on a shopping trip in the Philippines with my father, I was stuck in the supermarket line for not less than 30 minutes. When I went to inspect what was going on, I found one teller putting items through the till and one packer.  The customer or should I say a line of customers on various other tills waiting for the packer to finish packing. Is it so hard for the customer to assist with the packing in order for the time to pass quicker?  Four hands are better than two right?! I was so annoyed at the fact that the customer just stood there with their arms folded whilst their items got packed. Could this example of crab mentality be a minute reason or a contributing factor why Philippines is still a developing country?

‘It is said that we Filipinos have crab mentality and so we do not attain the progress and prosperity we have long been aspiring for, that it is practiced only by us Filipinos, and that we will remain a poor nation if it is not plucked from our selves’ says Royeca for The Philippine Studies

In light of that I have found 2nd or 3rd generation Filipinos who have been brought up in Western Culture do not have the above traits. Maybe education is the key after all….

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  1. nina
    July 2, 2010 at 10:37 am

    “Crab Mentality” is a chronic problem that has Filipinos have had to deal with for ages. It’s part of the “colonial mentality” many former 3rd world nations once colonized by 1st world nations seem to be inflicted with. I don’t think we’re alone in this, but I do know that at the very least we have been fortunate to be aware of it – the real struggle is to unlearn it.

    Tracing it back, I believe this “crabbiness” was learned by indigenous peoples from the colonizers. These colonizers insidiously used a “divide and conquer” strategy to win the hearts and minds of the natives whose land and honor they had stolen. The consequence was native vs native, separated by whatever tension and emphasis on “difference” the colonizers created; in order to stir enough disorder & disharmony to ensure their colonial leadership remain safe from coordinated attack, be an unquestioned power and even be a welcomed relief to the new “hostilities”. You end up with no one trusting each other, no sense of community spirit, rampant corruption and a skewed sense of hierarchy and ethics. Further, colonizers typically did their best to whitewash and/or assassinate indigenous character, values and nationhood…the sources of a people’s pride…forcing natives to consider themselves second or even third class citizens in their own land, the ultimate insult to a community’s confidence.

    Once these 3rd world nations became free of their colonial chains, what other type of “leadership” could they fall on and mirror? What else could they understand after hundred of years of servitude to a greater destructive power? Taking a look at these post-colonial nations now, most still struggle badly to build themselves up and prosper. They are often plagued with obscene corruption, failed leadership, disharmony & disjointedness with no common foundation and no solid source of respected values…no identity. With no real sense of nationhood, values and confidence in one’s own community, how can cohesion and progress be made for a people as a whole? On a micro level, respect for each other as countrymen becomes non-existent, resulting in crab mentality plaguing almost every endeavor and industry.

    It is these ingrained remnants of an abusive past that they must contend with…for resident countrymen as well as post-colonial immigrants to other countries. With the 1st generation so connected to their motherland – it’s understandable (to a point) to see why crab mentality has emigrated along with them.

    But as I said above, the affliction of crab mentality has been known for quite a long time. It is the responsibility of both the 1st generation and the following generations to understand & quit the vicious cycle – though this often takes great leaps of faith. And as much as I have been burned with crab mentality, after taking those leaps, I cannot force myself to stop. See, the thing is, I’ve also been thankfully rewarded for taking the risk on my community and have seen the benefits of paying it forward. Thanks to coordinated efforts by enlightened 2nd and 1st generation folks, real community IS possible & eradicating crab mentality is a reality, BUT it takes a lot of risks, a lot of work and a bucket full of faith.

    • mark anthony garcia
      July 3, 2010 at 4:28 am

      then how can we interpret Filipipino Crab Mentality from the perpective of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concept on the Inequality of mankind?

      • nina
        July 8, 2010 at 10:17 am

        Def an interesting perspective….pls expand and share;-)

  2. July 2, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Hi Nina, thanks for the historical background. Gosh looks like we Filipino’s need to be persistent, resilient and thick-skinned in order for us to progress. Many have done it so its thankfully not impossible……

  3. eyes_closed
    September 13, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Very few Filipino people are content to be at the bottom of the boiling pot and enjoy the success of others. Those crabs are just going on instinct.They are not trying to pull their brother down, they are doing their best to crawl out and survive because they have no faith that the brother that escapes will drop a rope to help the others climb out.

  4. July 22, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    I take pride of being a Filipina but there are lots of Filipino traits that I can’t be proud of and one of those is the crab mentality trait. Filipino appeared to be pathetic with this kind of mentality. Having an American husband, I don’t see this trait on him. Everytime his family members, friends, relatives and acquaintances become successful, I hear him say “I’m proud of him/her.” And I can see the happiness and pride in his eyes. On the other hand, I experienced being pulled down when I was trying to climb up but I don’t mind the people doing that to me, I am still good to them as much as possible because I just feel bad for them. I just hope that Filipinos are going to move on by eliminating this kind of attitude. Let’s move forward and be productive.

    • July 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks for your comment Elma where you raised some very valid points. Unfortunately there is a lot of education that needs to be taught to first generations coming into the western culture. I, myself am a second generation in the United Kingdom and like my Filipino peers who are also 2nd generation, there does not ‘appear’ to be this crab mentality amongst our peer group. I understand from family and friends in the States, that 2nd generation Fil-American’s and onwards also in general do not possess the crab mentality trait. Let’s be proud of our country folk and lift them up where they have achievements…..We can only start somewhere….

  5. Gary B
    January 16, 2012 at 1:57 am

    I am married but separated and my wife, who is filipino, I have only recently become aware but I know realise she has crab mentality. We have a 3 year old son together and her behavior is having a negative effect on my son most importantly, but also myself. I have been extremely generous and provide lots of financial support yet she doesn’t allow me time with my son and I have tried everything I can to explain to her how her actions are having detrimental affects on his future but she seems ‘blind’ to anything I explain, which is always done calmly yet all I receive is anger, resentment and blame whatever approach I take. If anyone has any helpful advice it would be greatly appreciated so my son has the opportunity to receive the love and time with his dad that we both desire and ensure his future happiness and security.

  6. XtrmeFdelity
    August 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I am generally proud of being a Filipino. But being a Filipino OUTSIDE the Philippines is a totally different thing. I have experienced being ganged at by my fellow country men. This saddens me. I just want to have a better future for me and my loved ones. The Filipinos I have met are backstabbers. I try to stay away and just do what I need to do but this Crab mentality has plagued Filipino immigrants here in the US. Its hard to trust and that breaks my heart.

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