4 Things: Why the Chinese Filipino are Successful

11 days to go and Chinese people all over the world will be celebrating the Chinese New Year. For us here in the Philippines, that means we’ll start hearing the greetings Kung Hei Fat Choi and Kyong Hee Wat Tsai more often and may already be receiving Tikoy (sticky rice cake for stronger, stickier ties) and fruits for this special occassion from our family and friends.

For the Chinese Filipino, often referred to as Chinoys or Tsinoys, this is also a celebration of thanksgiving. Giving thanks for the fruitful past year and also giving thanks in advance for the more prosperous and more fruitful year ahead. Families gather for a special feast, all required to wear red. It’s a plus if you wear a lucky charm of some sort. Elders give red money envelopes, called Angpao, to the kids, which makes this an exciting event for the kids. Of course, there will always be the well orchestrated and beautiful Dragon and Lion dance which to me is like a work of art, to ward off bad spirits.

All of these traditions are believed to bring in peace, luck, and prosperity to the celebrating Chinese Filipino families, and well, most of us would think the beliefs indeed work their magic. Why would one not think that? They have the most success and money in the Philippines. From large corporations (ehem, SM, Robinsons, Megaworld, PAL, and the list goes on…) to the small-scale businesses like hardware stores, one would not fail to see a Chinese Filipino family behind most of it. It is not only true in the Philippines, the same is true in most of South East Asia (including Singapore and Malaysia) as well. Those of Chinese descent are very successful.

Disclaimer: Before anyone gives off a violent reaction, I’m not saying that all Chinoys are successful and vice versa. I speak in general. My goal in this article is to identify the good qualities of the Chinese Filipino which all of us can learn from.

Yeah, those Chinoys might have really worked their traditions into magic! But nooo. It’s not only magic, people. I’ve seen other families having Lotus charms and Feng Shui in their homes, but it will never work without passion, perseverance, discipline, and unfortunately, a lot of work, like what the Chinese people have done. I tell you, those who have the lucky charms but never pratice these qualities will only be blindly hoping for success. It’s not like you wear a magic charm and then wake up with the whole world in your favor. It’s not like that. Yes, the charm will work, but you do have to do your part.

Ok, FrustratedBillionaire, you win. Ok, can you tell me now what it is that makes Chinese Filipino more successful? In addition to the above qualities, below is the list of other specific, and unique qualities that I notice are being practiced by Chinoys. These are their secrets by the way, and I hope you just keep this to yourselves (but you’re free to share on Facebook and Twitter hehe). These are just subtle qualities but if you’ll try to digest, it will really make sense and you’ll realize that these small stuff are the ones that make them successful, and not the lucky charms.

1. First in, last out – Ok this is different from the refrigerator rule (first in, first out), if you know what I mean. Have you noticed that if you go to Chinatown (a.k.a. Binondo / Ongpin), the business owner is always there, making sure that your needs are taken care of? The Chinoys make sure that they are the first to time in and the last to time out when tending to their businesses. This is for them to make sure that their business is in order, as if nothing will work properly without their supervision. I’ve seen other business owners open a shop that they leave to the attendant, and you know what happens next. Of course the case is different with larger corporations, but let’s focus on the ordinary Filipino Chinese family, where future corporations start small. Wait, what if they have another store or numerous stores to tend to? They are one step ahead of you. That’s what their spouse/children are for, which leads me to the next item.

2. Training as a child – For the children of the Filipino Chinese family, the family business is their classroom. To help me provide a clearer picture, let’s take the case of a hardware store business, where their children are required to do the dirty work from the lowest of the lowest level all the way up, no matter how dirty and hard the job is. They are required to experience literally being a kargador/tindera/cashier/driver/manager. This is where they learn to sell goods, negotiate, manage, understand how a business works from all the way down and how to be confident in dealing and speaking with people of all walks. The most important thing they learn from this is they experience how hard it is to make money. If they know how hard it is, they value money even more. The good thing here is they start to value money at a young age.

3. Living below their means – I know of rich Chinoys who’d rather cook at home than eat out, sleep in one room even if they have multiple rooms in their home to save on electricity (or because the other rooms are already converted to stock rooms), and be ok with a handy old phone than have the latest smartphone that can be easily stolen or decrease in value in less than a year anyway. They live waaay below their means. They’re the extreme cheapskates. Notice the Chinoys wearing simple clothes in the mall? Usually, they are the rich ones. I’m just not sure if they are just that thrifty that they avoid buying nice clothes, or if they didn’t want to flaunt their riches so as to not attract theft. Even if they have a great surplus in their bank accounts, they’d rather re-invest their money. They spend only whatever it is that is necessary and save whatever it is that can be saved. Very frugal lifestyle. That folks, is living below your means. Of course, they still splurge on something special every now and then (a Loius Vuitton, perhaps? C’mon, they deserve it.).

4. Business: Always on Their Minds – whenever my colleagues and I are on a short break, I notice them doing one thing, compete in the latest mobile gaming app (Clash of Clans, anyone?). That’s such a waste of your valuable time. Seriously. Money is Gold. Just ask my Chinoy friends. Whenever I’m with Chinoys, they always speak business. It may be an actual business transaction, or a random bankable idea. Regardless, if you think and talk business, you have that opportunity to earn from something. You see things other ‘gaming’ people do not see. You see the opportunity to earn from something that’s waiting to be solved.