Living in the Philippines is not so bad. Most things you need, you can buy here. The malls are big and with a large variety of stores. There are many restaurants everywhere. Practically every street corner has a McDonalds or Jollibee or other (fast food) restaurant. Moreover, they are cheap.
I love the Philippines and it is easy to live an expensive life if you are entering this country with enough funds; with lots of money, you can live an easy life. If however you are not that well off, you can still live comfortably if you know what you are doing. Many expats are living in the Philippines receiving a pension of 800 to 1000 dollars a month and they do fine. It all depends on your life style!
Living in the Philippines could be better if…
After you have left your home country, you might start missing some things from home. Maybe you would like the roads to be in better condition, the weather not that warm and humid, more open spaces, your family and friends and so on. You might like better services like phone or internet and cable TV. Even electricity and supply of water could be better.
Traffic in the Philippines really sucks, especially the region around Manila and other larger cities. All kinds of transportation are using the same road and although there are traffic signs and rules, nobody is following them. Traffic signs, if there are, are merely street decoration.
Due to bad maintenance from motorcycles, Jeepneys, busses and trucks, air pollution is terrible. You can see many people holding clothes to breathe through it or wearing masks like the ones being used in hospitals by doctors and nurses. Even the government knows about this problem, but fails to do something effective against it so far. Yet, living in the Philippines is a choice for many.
Safety while living in the Philippines
Personal safety is an important issue. However, this is not just a Philippine thing. In all major cities in the world, you will have the same problem. Just be vigilant and do not show your money in public. Do not even bring a lot of money with you. Just a few hundred or maybe a few thousand pesos will do.
As long as you take proper precautions, you will be quiet safe everywhere. Just do NOT go out alone at night or even during the day in remote areas. If you need to be there, always bring one or two locals with you. Better, do not go there at all.
Do never stick your arm out of the cab or in its window if you are wearing jewelry on that arm or hand, better keep doors and windows of a car or cab locked all the time. Stay in places where there are plenty of people and where police or army is present. And just like any other city: beware of pickpockets or snatchers.
The Philippines is no different from any other place with respect to safety issues…. All malls, banks and bigger stores have safety guards in the entrance and often inside too. All these are to keep the place safe and for the safety of their clients.
Just try to avoid the countryside (the less populated areas and smaller islands) of the Mindanao region. Terrorist groups reside there and foreigners are not very safe there.
Changing of life style
Overall though, living in the Philippines is definitely a huge change of lifestyle, some people can adjust while others just cannot. Even if you live in a high-end house and subdivision, and have all the “luxury” you want, you still will not be able to avoid the third world issues and the life in poverty that more than 80% of the people live here. You have to accept everything in the Philippines, the reality of vast poverty, their love for karaoke, the traffic, pollution, but also the (most of the times) delicious Filipino food, the friendliness of the people and the weather (either rainy and hot or hot and dry.. and humid). The Philippines has its own culture and way of life.
Remember that you are a guest in this country
When you live in the Philippines, you have to remember that you are in a new country with its own culture and way of life. Once you accept this, you will be fine. I do, so you can too. As long as you do not want things like home but accept the Filipino way, you will easily manage to live here.
Celebrations and fiestas
Filipinos like parties and fiestas. They take every opportunity to celebrate something. If it is not a birthday, baptismal, wedding, graduation; they will always find an occasion or reason to party. If they do not have the money, they just borrow it somewhere and they will pay it back sometime or never. As long as they can eat, drink and party. They often use karaoke as amusement, sometimes until early morning. You may want to check the Fiesta pages on this website, divided per month, to see if you like to go there and celebrate a fiesta with the Filipinos.
Education and Tagalog
Education in the Philippines is good, especially the private schools.
Most of those schools have their own websites so you can check which one would be most suitable for your child. You should not have a problem with the language as the medium of instruction will be in English (American, most of the time) and your child should adjust in no time. However, there are also international schools for Koreans and other nationalities. Search the Internet to find them.
People more or less expect you and your children to learn the local dialect even though English is a ‘national language’.
It is not necessary to learn the local language, but it helps a lot to integrate in the community if you know a few words and / or sentences. See also my other posts Learning tagalog 1 and Learning tagalog 2
Living in the Philippines and privacy
The lack of privacy. Everything you do will be closely monitored and compared to the Filipino way of doing things. Not only by your (extended) family, but also neighbors and other people. Remember always their thinking: “You are rich and ‘we are poor’ and I’ll pay you next week (or never).” You also may want to check my page Filipinos and money if you have not done it yet.
Difference in culture
Every foreigner, living in the Philippines, will get his share of culture shocks…
Chickens run free everywhere and destroy any chance of a garden, cats also ruin your garden by doing their business in the soft soil (even in flower pots), dogs bark the whole day and night, and poop everywhere and the cocks start crowing at 4 a.m. Moreover, if these are not keeping you from sleeping, it will be a karaoke session somewhere nearby or loud passing tricycles in your street.
Hiring local help
If you hire local help, sometimes they will show up late, leave early, or may not show up at all. And expect them to hold out their hand for a cash advance at any time, even before start working.
Aside from that, most ‘skilled’ laborers did learn what they know from other ‘skilled’ laborers. Proper education in electricity, plumbing or other skills hardly exist in the Philippines. The moment a Filipino owns a screwdriver and a ‘Lineman’s pliers’ he calls himself an ‘electrician’, or one who owns a hammer is a ‘carpenter’.
One advice for hiring Filipinos: take care that you always know what exactly needs to be done. Be skilled yourself. Just let the Filipino do the work for you, but instruct him how to do it. And never leave them alone working! Always be there, instruct them, tell them how things need to be done, over and over again… The only reason why you hire someone should be: It is too hot for me to do physical work!
Living in the Philippines is not difficult if you know how to handle things.
Living in the Philippines, dealing with corruption
The Philippines has big problems with corruption. In every layer of the population, you will find it. From just laborers to the highest government employees. It is also a Filipino way of life that probably never can be stopped. Go to the market and you will be robbed from your money, because everything is over priced for you. White people have to pay a kind of ‘white skin’ tax. Everything is more expensive when you ask yourself. It is wise to have your Filipino partner buy things for you. They usually know how much should be paid for an item, and they know how to haggle.
The Philippines have big problems with “Juan Tamad”. (click on the picture to see a larger one!)
A famous character in Philippine folklore is Juan Tamad or “Lazy John” who is noted for extreme laziness. Portrayed as a child in many stories, Juan Tamad was often described as lazy and at the same time stupid that he usually appeared as comic.
In one of the stories told about Juan Tamad, he came upon a guava tree bearing large ripe fruit. Juan, being too lazy to move to climb the tree, he lay down instead under the guava tree and let nature’s gravity drop the fruit. He remained there waiting for the tree to fall into his wide gaping mouth.
There are many more stories about Juan Tamad on the internet. They are funny to read, but they all have a kind of true in them. In general, many Filipinos are just like Juan Tamad.
I hope my Filipino friends and family do not blame me for writing this. Deep in their heart they know it’s true. I only like to give a better view on the Filipino life for those who want to live or retire in the Philippines like me.
Not all Filipinos are like Juan Tamad. I know many Filipinos who are hard working people taking care for their family. But unfortunately, I also know some who are lazy and live on the pockets of their family and friends. This is also a part of Filipino culture.
Check also the website of the painter of the Juan Tamad picture.
Check also wikipedia about Juan Tamad