Living anywhere in the world depends on your attitude to your new environment and your financial ability and your needs. So, moving here to the Philippines may be a challenge. Maybe moving to the Philippines will just be a ride in the park?
Here are a few comments from expats living in the Philippines from several expat sites.
The Filipino People
“The best thing about the Philippines is the people. I have never encountered a more optimistic group in all my life. They help one another when they are in trouble. Families are close. For the most part, the people are not driven by what brands they wear or type of car they drive (though sadly there are signs that this is starting to slowly change in the metro areas),” said one expat living in Alabang.
“The Filipinos are such a happy, family-oriented culture and I cannot believe how friendly our neighbors are. I have never experienced anything like this friendship in my 80 years living in USA. Americans are too busy and self-centered to even notice a newcomer until they really get to know him,”
” I learned in quick order that Philippinos are the nicest, most caring, gentlest people in the world. They are not what movies, books and the news would have you believe. The relationships I built will last a lifetime. I feel that I am part of a large family in the Philippines,” said another expat.
$2k in the Philippines sounds more comfortable, as you can save at least $500 monthly for emergencies. As one gets older, medical and/or hospital bills rise up and it’s a matter of when, not if, you’ll have significant issues. Then there’s the issue of natural and man-made disasters; expats should have a solid evac plan. Living on the edge at a young age is exciting, but past a certain age, one ideally needs and has earned a life of certainty.
If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?
The internet. The Philippines has very slow/unreliable internet speeds and yet charges more for these slow speeds than what you would pay in a western country, plus the connection is also very unreliable.
I’d probably also introduce better roads and transport links – even for me to go to the northern tip of Cebu takes 3-4 hours on a clear road, and it’s only 80km away. Travelling anywhere in this country is surprisingly difficult and I even endured a 7 hour bus ride once.
Why do some foreigners like to come and stay in the Philippines, but many Filipinos want to leave?Filipinos usually want to leave to improve their lives; there are many college-graduate-level Filipinos who are overqualified for the work they do, simply because there are not enough jobs and too many people. (There is an old joke about a “for hire” sign for a gas station attendant requiring a college diploma.) Even if there are jobs, it is difficult to earn a living: the rich are really rich, the poor are really poor, and the middle class bear the heaviest taxes: income tax (collected by companies before your salary hits your bank account) is anywhere from 30-35%, and taking that out of a middle class earner who can only set aside P5,000 or less for savings, leisure, etc. is a heavier toll than on the rich, who are taxed the same, but still has thousands of pesos over their basic expenses. These taxes are not very efficiently used for government services either (which is another story altogether). It’s common for many Filipinos to live paycheck-to-paycheck.
In addition to the difficulties in setting aside money, there are small things that make life challenging if you’re going about and trying to be productive. Transportation and road traffic is bad; I used to commute for two, 2.5 hours one-way to work. I’d get up at 5am and get home 8pm, 9pm, and five hours of that is spent getting to the bus station, waiting for the bus, waiting for the bus to go, sitting on the bus, etc. If you need government-related documentation and clearances, you need to allot practically one day for each, getting up at the crack of dawn to queue up, waiting for processing, etc (good luck to you if you need to return another day for pickup). If you work in the city, be prepared for the pollution that you will be subjected to every day and the impact it has on your health (though most Filipinos don’t notice this, at this point). If you have the funds, health services are good, otherwise be prepared for long waits and even longer claims procedures.
So why would foreigners choose to go to the Philippines, or retire in the Philippines?
There are two types of foreigners who come to the Philippines: travelers and tourists, and retirees. I am obviously not a foreigner, but I know plenty ever since moving to another country in 2007.
For travelers, Philippines can be paradise what with the 7,107 islands that makes up the Philippine archipelago. Not all of them are habitable, of course, but it is a country full of exotic things to see and experience (admittedly, for Asians coming from similar countries, probably not so exotic). There are a lot of beaches, active sports and recreational activities are on a steady rise, the food is awesome (AWESOME), and you can always head back to Manila if you miss the eclectic city life. The pace of life in the provinces are slow and leisurely, which is perfect for people wanting to relax, recharge, rejuvenate (and depending on where you come from, Manila city life itself may still be slower than your home city). The people are friendly and hospitable, and if you are visibly foreign, majority will take pains to make sure you are alright–Filipinos do have a fair amount of colonial mentality left over from our history. We are a very cheerful people; typhoons come and wreck our homes every year but you will see us smiling and “making do” a few months after. And of course–depending on where you are coming from–everything is cheap. Maybe not Manila, but in the provinces you can stretch your dollar a fair amount.
Despite how depressed I can get by the way I’m treated by close relatives in the Philippines, I tend to see the good more than anything else.
There are some foreigners who aren’t as open-minded as I am and some lack the maturity to see the country as it really is instead of the way they would like it to be. Here’s some advice if you’re a foreigner thinking about moving to the Philippines.
Before deciding to move to the Philippines, and give up the life you’ve always been accustomed to, you need to make sure you won’t end up being as poor as everyone else. If you have no permanent source of income, you have no business living in the Philippines.
The reason you see many older foreigners (40+) living in the Philippines is because of their financial situations. Like me, many are drawing government pensions — pensions that we’ll receive until we die. Others have solid businesses either here or there (their “home” country) that allow them to live almost anywhere they want to live.
If you move to the Philippines, you need to know in advance that you’ll never be in a position where you’re not financially independent.