Rick: Your Guide to Living in the Philippines
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to the Philippines, etc.
I’m a retired American expatriate residing with my wife Lydia in Quezon City. We relocated here in 2005 from California because living expenses are much more affordable here than in the U.S. (In fact, if we’d remained there, I couldn’t have retired.) Lydia is a native Filipina which made settling in much easier for me.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began “Your Guide to Living In The Philippines” in August, 2008 and have written 70 posts since then. As the title of my site indicates my goal is to help newcomers adjust to life here.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I love all my “children”, so that’s hard to say, but here are a few selections—one for each year since I started this site:
Tell us about the ways your new life in the Philippines differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
The lower standard of living, family narcissism and dependency, misplaced priorities, overpopulation, and the resulting public sanitation and infrastructure issues are the main differences that come to mind. I can’t say that I’ve become completely accustomed to them, but I just try to roll with it. Not much culture shock, however, as I’ve made previous visits to the Philippines.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in the Philippines? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I’d say that I was fairly well prepared because for one thing Lydia preceded me here by about 9 months and paved the way, e.g. selecting and decorating our condo. So when I arrived, everything was ready. Inasmuch as I had no big negative surprises, we must have done something right. So I can’t think of any major changes that I would have made, especially the most important decision of all: expatriating here in the first place (which BTW was originally Lydia’s idea). It’s worked out well.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The only one that comes to mind involved a store clerk who had to leave the department where I was shopping in order to check on the availability of merchandise in which I was interested. Instead of saying, “Please wait” or the equivalent Fil-English “Awhile”, she asked “Can I hold you?” I felt like replying “But will you respect me in the morning?” Instead I just held my tongue and nodded.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in the Philippines?
- Visit the country first for at least one month, longer if possible, before making up your mind to settle here.
- Have a local contact who can take the time to guide you around and help you acclimate.
- There is a high crime rate here. Common offenses are pickpocketing, robbery, and fraud. Don’t call attention to yourself by being flashy. Avoid carrying a lot of cash and difficult to replace personal docs. Beware of con artists and thieves, especially strangers who try to befriend you on the street or in other inappropriate venues.
How is the expat community in the Philippines? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Not really. There are friendship and social organizations for the various foreign national and ethnic groups residing in the Philippines, e.g. American Association of The Philippines.
How would you summarize your expat life in the Philippines in a single, catchy sentence?
I would rather awake each morning in the Philippines to face another fulfilling day in retirement than in the U.S. to face another dreaded day at work.