Trying to pull things together…

It’s hard for me to decide exactly what this article is about.  I have in mind a few different thoughts that are seemingly unrelated, yet I believe that for the terms of this post, and for my thinking, there is a relationship between my thoughts.  Let’s see if I can write my thoughts down in a way that both makes sense and also relates a couple of seemingly unrelated things.  I hope I can succeed in doing that.

A few days back, I was reading a blog of another expat.  Normally, if I write about something that I read on somebody else’s blog, I will link to the article, but in this case I am not going to do that.  Why?  Because what I say may be deemed by some people to be negative about that person, or what he wrote.  What I will say is not intended to be negative at all, only to ponder and consider his thinking and relate it to what I think.  Because of the possibility that some will think it negative towards the other person, I will not name him, although if he reads this, I am sure he will know that I am talking about him, and other readers here may feel the same.  That’s OK, but please know that I have no ill feelings toward the person who wrote the other blog post.

The Skin Tax Issue

Anyway, as part of that blog post I was reading, the writer was talking about the “skin tax” in the Philippines.  For readers who may not know what I mean when I say “skin tax,” let me clarify.  Many expats call it a skin tax when foreigners are charged a little more here in the Philippines, simply because they have “white skin,” or skin of some other color, and thus are obviously not Filipino.  Yes, the skin tax exists.  To me, it is a relatively minor inconvenience.  I rarely feel that I get hit with a skin tax at all.  Most of the time, I feel that if I go to the market, or elsewhere, the prices I am charged are pretty much the same as what Feyma would pay.  I know that from time to time I pay a bit more than she does, but it is such a minor amount that it just does not bother me.  You can bet, if I go to the market, I negotiate on the price of almost anything I buy, and I feel that I can get a pretty good price through such negotiation.

So, anyway, on this other blog post that I was reading, the person was talking about needing some repairs done at his home.  He said that he had hired a certain handyman in the past to do home repairs, but that the repairman overcharged him, but that in the interim, he and his wife had found a new handyman to help at his house when needed.  Anyway, this new handyman came and did some repairs, and wanted only a very small amount of money for doing the repairs.  The writer remarked that his wife was going to pay the handyman more than had been asked for (I would guess, based on what was written, that she was going to pay him about double of what he was asking).  When the writer heard about this, he pitched in even more, and paid the worker double what the wife was going to pay, making it, I believe, about 4 times the price that was asked for by the handyman.  What he said in his article was that because this new handyman was obviously giving a very fair price, he was kicking in some extra money for him… basically because he was so honest.

Filipino Handymen
Filipino Handymen

So, as I read this, it got me thinking.  I hear this same logic from a lot of foreigners who live here.  They find a Filipino worker who is charging them a very fair price for work that they have done, but since they are so honest in their pricing, they are given a bonus.  Think about it.  If the worker had simply charged the higher price (which he got in the end anyway), the foreigner would likely complain that he was hit again with the Kano Tax, or the Skin Tax.  But, since the worker did not apply the Kano Tax, they go ahead and give it to him as a reward!  Does that make sense?  To me it does not.

If it is offensive to be charged the supposed “Kano Price” for some work done, or for some fruit at the market, some fish, or whatever, then why would you give that same amount to a vendor or worker who is asking for half or even a fourth the price?  If you were going to pay that anyway, why complain about getting hit with the foreigner price?  I don’t know, it seems to me nothing more than creating something to worry about and fret over, even to raise your blood pressure, when in the end you were planning to pay the same amount anyway.

Caution: Left Turn

Now is where I am going to take a quick left turn.  It will seem that I am veering way off topic, but stick with me, I’ll come around full circle and hopefully tie these things together. 😉

Durian - The King of Fruits
Durian – The King of Fruits

Durian is Delicious

If you have been reading my site for long at all, you know that I like durian.  Durian is the King of Fruits.  It is, in my opinion, delicious.  A lot of foreigners, and a few Filipinos even say that it stinks.  I used to think it stinks, but now I love the smell of durian.  I am not joking, I really do love durian.  A lot of foreigners tell me that they don’t like it.  Know what I tell them?

It’s OK if you don’t like durian.  If you don’t like it, don’t eat it, no problem.

So, if I told you to not eat it if you don’t like it, would you be offended by me saying that?  I doubt if anybody would, because it is not intended to be offensive at all, it’s just saying that it’s no problem if you don’t like it, because you can eat something else instead.  Have a mango, rambutan or a banana instead, and enjoy life.  No biggie.


Do you like Adobo?

What about if you go to a restaurant in the Philippines, order Adobo, which is almost officially the national dish of the Philippines.  You are served your adobo, and you don’t like it.  It doesn’t taste quite right to you, and you think you know why… it needs more garlic!  Would you get up from your table at the restaurant and walk back to the kitchen and tell the chef that his adobo is terrible?  Would you take it upon yourself to show him how he should cook adobo?  I doubt if you would.  After all, he is a Filipino, cooking the Filipino National Dish, and you are a foreigner tasting it for the first time.  Odds are that he knows how to cook adobo, and you don’t.

Is all of this related?

So, what do all of these things have to do with each other?  Now, it’s time for me to tie them together!

A while back, John Miele wrote an article entitled “If you don’t like it, then leave.”  Basically, John talked about how a lot of foreigners complain about the Philippines, and to make a long story short, he suggested that if you don’t like the Philippines, just leave and go live somewhere else.  A lot of people got angry about John’s article, as is evident in the comments on that article.

Now, let’s look at the points I made above in relation to John’s article.

  1. Regarding the skin tax, or the kano tax, i.e. paying a higher price than Filipinos pay.  As I pointed out above, I hear a lot of foreigners complaining about this skin tax.  I also hear a lot of the same foreigners talking about paying more to a Filipino who does not overcharge them.  In effect, they are volunteering to pay the skin tax, as a reward to the Filipino whom they consider more honest.
  2. As I said, I like durian.  I said that if you don’t like durian, don’t eat it, have something else instead.  I don’t think that is offensive.  But, on John’s article, he said that if you don’t like the Philippines, you should not live here, it is best for you to go live in a place where you will be happier and like the place.  Really, John and I are saying the same thing, just about different subjects.
  3. Regarding the restaurant example where you were served adobo that you did not like, let me explain how that works in.  I hear a lot of Americans and other foreign nationals here who complain about different aspects of life in the Philippines.  They sit around with other foreigners and say that they want to teach Filipinos how to do things correctly, so that the country can prosper and improve.  Since they are foreigners, they believe that they know better than Filipinos do.  Let me give a clue here… this country belongs to the Filipinos, they run it the way that they like.  When they go abroad, they might think that the way we run our countries is not proper either.  I won’t speak for other countries, but if you take a quick look at how things are going in the USA, I think it is pretty obvious that we are not experts and don’t have a paradise, in fact we have a lot of problems in the US right now.  So, instead of going to the kitchen and telling the chef how to cook adobo, it might be better to either adjust to the taste of adobo, find some other food that you like, or go live in another country where you enjoy the food more.

My final thought on this is that if you come here to live and find that you don’t like it, if you sit with a group of expats and can only complain about how things are here, if you feel like the only way you can like living here is if you first “teach” Filipinos how to do things in a way so that you feel happier… well, perhaps the Philippines is not the place for you.  You know what, there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  There are plenty of countries in which I would not be happy living, but I am not ashamed of that.  If you are not happy in the Philippines, why sit around and be miserable?  If paying P5 extra for a kilo of carrots will get under your skin, well, you might be happier if you do what John Miele suggested a while back… leave.  Paul Thompson also has a saying, he says that if you don’t like it here, he’ll be happy to drive you to the airport. I tell people that planes come and go every day.  Nothing shameful about deciding to move to Thailand, to South America or Spain.  How about the Azores or Malaysia?  Do what it takes to be happy.  If the Philippines makes you happy, then you will even be happier if you look for the positive sides of life here, instead of complaining about the few things that you find odd or uncomfortable.  If you don’t like Adobo, order a bowl of spaghetti or a steak instead.

So, how did I do?  I think I brought each point home to a point where you can see what I am talking about.  Maybe you don’t agree with my reasoning, and that’s OK, but I hope that you can at least see the logic in my reasoning.

Wanna have a bit of adobo, and some durian for desert?  Maybe we can hire somebody to cut the grass while we eat! 😉

Post Author: MindanaoBob (1345 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

Live in the Philippines Consulting


  1. Ron says

    Bob I think it got it. If you don’t like it don’t complain-adjust. If you can’t adjust consider alternative living arrangments. (-: Ron P.S. Marlou has durian in my freezer. That however does not mean that I am eating it. I might as I have never reallyl tried it. Perhaps its time.

    • says

      Hi Ron – Yeah, I think we all complain, but in the end it is healthier to adjust. Those who can’t adjust are best to go elsewhere. It will be healthier for them to do so, rather than continue to live in a place where they hate!

  2. donna west says

    Well said Bob. I agree with you completely. People dwell in negativity. It is like cancer that spreads through their soul. america is filled with negative people. If every little thing isnt perfect then they complain, complain and complain more. they dont like living here and the way things are here, the prices of stuff, the government, and etc. but if I tell them many people are choosing to move to a foreign country and are much happier there, they think I am bonkers. but it does end the subject quickly. My son and I get more negative comments about our plans to relocate to the RP then we do sincere well wishes. It takes a lot of strength from us to overcome their negative remarks and personal verbal attacks. So now we isolate ourselves in our rural here and rely on the internet for communicating. I am sure we are not coming to the Phils to associate with people who complain too much. I am hoping to leave those behind when I board that plane and fly over the ocean. As for paying the worker more than he asked, it is not a good practice unless every expat there wants to pay more for services rendered. I think if you are pleased with the service you get from them and pleased with the price they have charged you, then show your appreciate by giving them a gift of some rice, fruit or a cold beer. and also tell them you will tell your friends and neighbors what a good job they did and you will give them a good reference. thanks for sharing some good thoughts. enjoyed the article

    • says

      Hi Donna – I think that the whole world has plenty of negative people, not only the US. I know what you mean about getting attacks over your plans to move to the Philippines. Been there… experienced it. When Feyma and I told people of our plans, people thought we were crazy. A few people supported us, but mostly they just looked at us like we were idiots, and that includes my family too. Well, things worked out for us, and we are so happy with the move that we made!

      • Neal in RI says

        Perhaps if all the bitchers and complainers would spend some time back here in the US they would realize that things here are not all they remember it to be. Not 1 single Friend or Family member is supportive of our plans to relocate to the RP and they are negative to the point that we no longer talk to them of our plans, we have herd thousands of What If’s from them all and sick of hearing it. I would think people would want you to try to live your dreams out, but most want you to suffer along with them in the dull drums of day to day life like Cattle being led to Slaughter. Sorry Bob a bit off topic!

        • says

          Hi Neal – Like I said to Donna… been there, done that, or rather heard that. When we decided to leave the US and head to the Philippines, I got all of those “what if’s” too, got a lot of warnings from people, got questions about our sanity, etc. You know what.. I’ve been here 12+ years now, and from time to time I still hear from friends in the States that I was stupid to move here…. ha ha… if it has been working well for more than 12 years, I think it turned out to be a wise move! ha ha

  3. AmericanLola says

    An excellent article! I too, bargain a bit when I buy things, but frankly, most people I would buy from in the market work hard, give me friendly service and are very poor. Why should I dicker about an extra peso or two? If someone is really trying to gouge me, I move on and buy someplace else. Pretty simple.

    But overpaying contributes to the skin tax problem. Workers will automatically jack up the price to what they got from the last foreigner. Our policy is to pay workers what they ask (established before the job is begun in written form) and if they do an excellent job, give a small bonus with an explanation of what was especially good about their work. Last time our tile guy worked for us, he got a bonus. This time he will not, since he didn’t call to our attention a different batch of tiles and just installed them, even though there is a difference in color… 😛 This will be explained.

    We have had kano friends who paid their house helpers more than other foreigners in the community and this immediately created all sorts of discontent and problems for everyone else, who were already paying a little more than locals paid. Being ‘Sir Bountiful’ is not always a good idea.

    But yes, I agree. Don’t stay if you are miserable, and if you come, make sure you have the resources to make a move if it isn’t working out. The worse whiners feel stuck.

    • says

      Hi AmericanLola – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have to say, when I negotiate at the market, it really doesn’t have much to do with saving money, I mean if I save P5 on something it really has little impact on my budget… but rather I find it fun, and also it is a cultural thing. It is what Filipinos do, and I like to try to do it too.

      You are so right that when one expat overpays, it creates the impression among many Filipinos that what the overpaying expat is paying is what all foreigner should pay. It creates problems for those of us who have lived here for a long time, like you and I.

      Interesting to hear about your tile guy… I would like to hear about his reaction when he does not get that bonus! 😉

  4. scott h says

    Bob, well thought out article. I think a lot of the (I can only speak from an American prespective) expats are 1) used to complaining (its in our nature, look at the revolution) 2) used to identifying the problem and coming up with a fix. Is it possible, do you think that part of the misery of those who complain the loadest is the sense of hopelessness they might have at identifying a problem and that they are powerless to effect change? They know that if they make a suggestion about how to do something to make things better their friends and neighbors will give them that “he thinks he is so much better than us” look? ME? I have been in the Army so long, and am so used to nonsensical orders the Philippines is a cake walk lol….I might be way off base, but worth a thought

    • says

      Hi Scott – Perhaps you are correct in your thinking. I am sure that at least some expats think that way. But, think about this… when somebody complains about being overcharged for an item, then they get charged a low price and they give a tip that equals what the “overcharge” would have been in the first place… is that thinking straight? Is it fixing a problem? To me, it just seems almost backward. I mean, they sit and complain and complain and complain about getting overcharged, but then when they are not overcharged they pay the price voluntarily? ha ha…. I don’t get it!

  5. says

    Hi! As a newcomer, I want to start off by thanking everybody who writes here! It’s a wonderfull sorce of information about the Phillipines and I have become addicted to read here every day.
    I have only visited PI for five days. I went to my cousin on Bantayan island for three days and then we went to Cebu city for two days. During this time my cousin talked about the diffirences in culture non stop, but i never thought about it as complaints. It was very funny and interesting to hear of the PI culture and it’s made me determed to go back and spend more time there. (And so has all the stories I read here :))
    I guess that what I’m trying to say is that there is a very thin line between when a story is interesting and when it is boring complaints.

    I have noticed that people tend to think higher about their old country, the further away from it that they live.

    • says

      Hi Mats, thanks for joining in, nice to have you here.

      I do not consider talking about culture to be complaining, talking about it is healthy, and that is how we learn about such things. However, when a group of expats sit around daily complaining about how stupid Filipinos are, when they cuss and swear about the Philippines, when they say that Filipinos are brain dead, that sort of thing… Well that is complaining, it is unhealthy, and it really serves no good. I hear these kinds of comments daily, and this is the type of thing I am talking about.

  6. Lenny says

    You know Bob your correct…I however only bargain (and sometimes only) about tricycle fares it seems every driver has their price, as an example most drivers charge me 60-70P for my ride home, where sometimes a driver will tell me 100P and I tell him no I will give you 70P and he will come back at me for 80P and then I say ok…hahahah…I live here and I generally pay what is asked, everyone seems so good and nice I deal with, I have had work done by handy men…………. for instance replacing a bearing on a motor and he charged me 20.00 usd for 4 hours work I gave him 30.00 usd to me its a foregone conclusion everything is priced very cheap here to get things done so i just live with the prices and am happy to do so…And of course if I was not happy I would leave, the only thing I am concerned about is that I have family back in the states and I do not see them for years at a time and that bothers me and them to some decree also….Good article

    • says

      Hi Lenny, tricycle fares here in Davao are fixed at P7 for most distances, and tricycles are only allowed in residential areas, not on the main roada, so no negotiation needed. :-)

  7. Steve Ames says

    I agree with most of what you are saying but I have a thought that you did not seem to include in the part about paying voluntarily paying more than charged. What about this third possibility, you think the first charge is way overpriced so you find some who may be much cheaper so you give extra, but only something between the overcharge and what you think is a fair price? Also I agree with Scott that some of us can’t help but try to come up with a fix for a problem we see. I also spent many years in the military so I understand what he says about the Philippines being a cake walk.

  8. Scott Fortune says

    You know, it wasnt’ so long ago that I was a closed minded person, never considering moving to a foregin country. I didn’t try new foods, and stuck to the same old routine. Routine is good to a point, but after a while, you need some change. I liked the article Bob and agree with you. The same thing can be said for “Living in Michigan”, or “Ohio”. Where I live, people complain all the time about the weather, taxes, politics, etc. And what do they do about it? Nothing! So, I’m tired of living in this cold state, and I’m moving next year to the Philippines. I’m looking forward to the changes, and welcome the different experiences. I am sure that I will not like all of the things awaiting me there, but I hope that the good will outweight the bad.

    BTW – I almost had durian fruit the other day. I found and Asian market selling it, but it was expensive. The Jackfruit(which I have yet to try) was 5.99lb and the smallest piece they would sell me was goign to cost $13!!! I decided to wait until I am in the Phiippines and can buy it for less money in case I don’t like it. Or, for that matter, in case I do! If I do like it, I’d have to pay HUGE money to keep myself happy until we made it there.

    Sorry such a long reply.


  9. Jack in Davao says

    I agree 100 percent with everything you’ve said here. Except maybe the part about the Durian, haven’t quite progressed that far yet in my development as an Am-Fil. (Filipinos in the US are referred to as “Fil-Ams”, so I figure that makes me an “Am-Fil”.)
    So does this mean you’ve come around to my way of thinking on the matter of what is variously referred to as “fixers”, “corruption”, or “tips”? :) It’s been a couple years since our previous good-natured exchange of views on that subject (, and, which was shortly before my wife and I moved here permanently, but now with the benefit of a couple years living here, it still seems to me that the expats I know who come here and adapt are happy, and those who don’t are angry and unhappy, and also make own their lives more difficult by trying to do everything the “American” way instead of the Filipino way.

    • says

      Hi Jack – I do recall our discussions, perhaps not in detail, but in general I do. I don’t have time to actually go back and review it. To be honest, my views on this topic have been pretty consistent for the past 8 to 10 years I would say. I tip people, and sometimes I tip them pretty good. Does that make me a hypocrite based on what I wrote today? I don’t believe it does. What I wrote today was that it is hypocritical for a person to complain about skin tax, then pay the same amount in a tip. But, I don’t complain about any skin tax. I believe in tipping people who give me good service, and I do that. I don’t tip huge amounts, but I do tip. Tips are generally not expected here, so even a small tip is greatly appreciated. I guess my feelings are much like what AmericanLola described… I tip if the service is good, but if there is some problem with the job that was done, I don’t tip at all.

      Like you, I am quite happy here, and have found strategies on this kind of thing, and other things in life, which work for me and make my life here enjoyable.

  10. Mitch says

    So true, to you Bob and all the other readers. I think I will be the type that will look for the “fair street/ market price” for an item or service, then depending on the polite / qualitiy service or job etc, give “a little extra” to that little old lady or sales girl or handy man, just because I know I can and they di too. Not so much as to flaunt my money, but to just to reward quality and kindness. I’ve spent 22 years in the military, lived in a dozen or so other countries, and feel that after a few months of “total culture shock” I will again begin to adjust and fit in. I ( then my wife and I) lived near and on the old Naval Base back in 80 – 85. I think if the area was the same as then (just a big playground/liberty port), I don’t think I would want to return, but since I belive things have improved dramaticaly, I/We are on our way back….. 552 hours until wheels up!
    See Ya……

    • says

      Hi Mitch – Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by my site. I appreciate it very much. I wish you the very best in your coming move! It looks like you are very close to getting on that plane!

  11. says

    I sometimes complain about life here but I love it here and won’t be moving back anytime soon. I will admit to being guilty of exactly what you say, but I feel it is fine. Example, I asked a trike driver at the mall to take me to my hotel, it should be P20 but he wanted P100. I went to the next driver in line and the first driver then started talking to all the other drivers and no one would reduce the price. So, I walked to the street and asked a trike there who had just a family trike, not commercial and he said P25. Close enough, so I say OK.

  12. says

    He had heard the other drivers trying to screw me over and he didn’t overcharge to much. He wanted to practice his english and we had a wonderful conversation on the ride to the hotel. Because I had such a good trip I decided to go ahead and give him a tip. He got the P100 the others were asking for. I really don’t feel bad about it. He was nice guy.

  13. corjo says

    Oh I dont know.I love a good moan and I think everyone needs to blow off steam every now and then.Sitting around moaning is however counterproductive, you need to take action to change the things you dont like,Trouble is the Philippines will not allow foreighners to take part in local polatics or join the Tonod in fact most areas where foreighners could make a difference locally are forbidden to them. As for expats moaning well it happens everywhere even O.F.W.s moan about their host countries
    .Can you believe that O.F.W.s moan about not getting local discounts,not getting paid the same wages and not enjoying the same conditions as locals and even more surprising is that when we recieve a complaint as a government department,we investigate and put the matter right.My god if that caught on in the Phils
    I dont think I could ever live full time in the Phils its just too wearing the crowds the dirt the poverty.Lets face it there is so much to moan about that a lifetime of moaning would not be enough.The skin tax exists it may be P5 on a kilo of carrots for some but for others of us its P50,000 to get building permits or the Governors expressed wish we buy all our electrical fittings from a certain supplier.Perhaps those who moan about paying extra for the little things will make my life easier in the end.
    Untill the Phils become rich and I am posted elsewhere I will continue my 25 year moan and if they dont like it they can all move,ha ha from the number of visa applications we get each year most are trying to move
    Constructive moaning is a major driver for change.So long live the expat moaners they are far braver than those of us who just jet in do our moaning and jet out again

  14. PapaDuck says

    The bottom line is some people will complain no matter where they live. It’s just in there nature. Just don’t complain to me, don’t want any drama. Enjoyable retirement is all i want. Take care and have a nice day.

  15. Gerry Gambone says

    Hi Bob,
    excellent article, wherever you go in the world the tourist pays a premium. Sadly in some countries a foreigner will be expected to pay more, even if that person lives in that country. I was born and live in England, both of my parents are Italian and I am fortunate to speak excellent Italian. In Italy tourists pay a hefty premium for everything, move away from the tourist areas and the price of everything really drops, unless you are not local, even though my Italian is excellent I don’t have the local accent, and where there are no fixed prices the traders will try to charge extra, no problem for me, if I see something I want my relatives will buy it for me at the local price.
    I presume this is similar in the Philippines, if an ex-pat has a Filipino spouse, then I presume his Filipino family will look out for him .

    Finally I cannot understand ex-pats slanging off their adoptive country, no-where is perfect you can find fault wherever you live.

    • says

      Thanks, Gerry. I have found that being able to speak Bisaya allows me to have a good rapport with local vendors, and almost always gets me the same deals that the locals get. It shows them that I am not a tourist, and also helps fulfill my life here.

  16. says

    Hi Shawn – I’m glad that it worked out for you. I really don’t understand the logic of being offended by those who asked for P100, and then giving P100 to another person, but we just disagree on that. I could certainly understand giving the guy a tip, maybe P50 in total, as a reward, though! 😉 Take care, and have a nice day!

  17. gerry says

    Here we go Bob, everyone so far has agreed with you so I guess I am going to have to be the bad boy :)

    First of all the skin/kano tax. I simply believe that no-one should be treated differently just because of the colour of their skin… be it financial or otherwise.
    As anywhere in the world if someone gives me a price for fruit/veg or for services I have a choice to go elsewhere if I don’t like the price…. but it still disappoints me when the price quoted is more than my Filipino friend is asked for 5 minutes later.

    Regarding someone deciding to pay more when he thinks the service provided is worth more…well that is his prerogative as it’s his money…. this shouldn’t be compared as equal to the provider asking for too much ( in the buyers opinion) in the first place.
    I can give you an example here. When I hail a taxi in Manila and the driver doesn’t use the meter but asks for some silly amount to go across town, I simply decline and move on to the next cab til I find one that is honest and uses the meter, in the scenario above I would usually double his fare as a tip for his honesty and to encourage him to continue that way.

    Regarding complaining. Are you saying that we should never have any negative views about the Phils or that we just shouldn’t voice them ??

    The scenario you described with a group of expats sitting around moaning about Filipinos in general is distasteful…. but we do have free speech… even though you and I would both probably avoid people like that.

    I do dislike the “if you don’t like it then leave” mentality. I do have an opinion, good and bad and share it sometimes with friends. I have read on many sites including this one writers complaining about something or other in the Phils, even you have said before that you have lost your temper in certain situations and shared it on this site.

    As I have said before I believe it is ok to have an opinion and share it when I feel comfortable to do so. My filipino friends here in the UK have some negative opinions about here which I agree with… I wouldn’t dream to suggest that they should think about leaving.

    It is possible to have SOME negative viewpoints as well as positive about a country, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unhappy overall.
    I am very unhappy with lots of things here in the UK but overall I think it is a great country.

    The above is just another point of view…. hope you see it as such.

    Peace :)

    • says

      Hi Gerry – Actually, my friend, I don’t think that you and I are as far apart as you imply that we are. You see, I don’t have a problem with voicing concerns. What I am talking about is that there are a lot of expats that every single time you see them they are bitching and moaning. They constantly complain about the Philippines. They talk about things like “the F-ing Filipinos” and such. To me that is more than voicing a concern, it is way, way out of line. I mean if they are that miserable, why would they want to live here? That is what I am aiming at with my comments.

      The skin tax? Sure, it’s not right, not in the least. I just don’t get worked up about paying an extra P20 or P5 or whatever, and as I pointed out, it rarely happens to me anyway. It should not happen, but to me it is just not something that irritates me to the point that it seems to irritate some other expats.

      Overall, Gerry, I think that we are not so far apart. Of course you are entitled to your opinion, as we all are, I have no problem with that! 😉

      • gerry says

        Hi Bob yes I agree about that level of bitching and moaning, if anyone was to say f….ing Filipinos to my face… I would offer them my opinion then walk away from them, I don’t need company like that :)

        I also agree that I wouldn’t be too bothered about being charged 20p extra in a market (disappointed though) … I really mean when it is 100’s of pesos or in some cases 1000’s.

        So you are not banning me for my comments :) :) thanks Bob :)

        • says

          HI gerry – Banned? Not much chance of that happening. This site is more than 6 years old now, and the number of people who have ever been banned can be counted on one hand, and they had to do some pretty bad stuff to get banned. That’s just not gonna happen to you, my friend.

  18. John Adams says

    Bob, your article was “spot on.”

    I have been in the Philippines for 18 years this coming November. I have, also, spent most of my life living in countries outside of the USA (my citizenship “home”) and have found that your referred “skin tax” is a very common feature of living abroad.
    I think the problem is, in the Philippines there is a strong history with the USA and the use of English as a common language so the feeling is they should be like “us.”. What people don’t understand is we do NOT share a common culture. It must be remembered, also, that Filipinos were simply “transferred” as “property” from the Spanish to the Americas at the end of the Spanish-American War. There is really a huge difference between westerners and Filipinos. It is just that Filipinos “adjust” so well to foreigners not the other way around.

    Having said that, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) to accept things that really don’t matter that much in my day-to-day life. My focus has always been on the love of the women who shares my life as my wife and our wonderful children. We are loyal to each other and we watch each others back in all situations.
    In all the countries I have travel to (40+) and the 17 that I have lived in by far the Philippines has been and continues to be the best.

    With all the problems in the United States and even Europe, it is the last place in the world I would want me or my family to live understanding that my children hold US citizenship.

    In the end, I would say with 18 years of living in this wonderful, imperfect country with its wonderful imperfect people, my advice is this: embrace the Philippines and its people with all your heart or find a place where you can.

    I think in the end; if you leave the Philippines and move to another country, your Philippine memories will become more soft and positive the longer you are away and your heart will want to return. What is the saying, “This place just grows on you!”

    • says

      Hi John – Been a while since I heard from you, I hope you are doing well! Yes, the Philippines is not the only place on the earth that has a skin tax, it can certainly be found elsewhere. Like you, I enjoy my life here. Yes, there are ups and downs, there are pluses and minuses, but overall, I can’t think of a place where I would rather live!

      • John Adams says

        Thanks Bob! I hope that you and yours are doing well. Yes, I do follow your blog at least a couple times a week. I have been busy getting back into business after a few years of sitting on my ass doing nothing. Couldn’t stand doing nothing!

        I have not been back to the USA in all of my 18 years and still can not find one good reason why I should go there. I have everything I need here with only 10% of the hassle. I have long ago embraced (both in heart and mind) that the Philippines is my home and I will live the rest of my life here and one day (not too soon I hope) be laid to rest here. What affects the Philippines affects me personally. As you and I agree, this is our home -good or bad. It is what gives us life.
        My best to you and your family, stay well and stay blessed. John

  19. says

    I wasn’t trying to make up the difference, I just felt like rewarding the guy. On the other hand I have truly been the ugly American a few times when dealing with less than honest people here. I won’t get into the gory details but it wasn’t even because of the skin tax, this is just the way these particular people did business, they screwed their fellow Filipinos over as well. I can afford to take a hit but the Filipinos might not be able too. It just disgusts me sometimes how they treat their own people.

  20. Bob New York says

    Kano Tax ? As a visitor I try to go by what I read in a travel book long before visiting for the first time, try to buy things in places where the prices are marked on the item or posted. I realize it may not always be that easy for those that live there full time. The same kind of thing happens here, especially in New York City where there is just about any kind of Skin tax you could think of at shops that specialize in tourist trade. I recall when one of my UK friends came for a visit and we saw a deep discount on a ( then ) new digital camera which I think was called ” Elf “. Sure enough it was a deep discount on the camera but you had to buy the battery with it. The real cost of the battery was about $10, they wanted $49.95 for it ! Obviously my friend did not buy. On my visits to The Philippines yes, I feel I may have been Kano Taxed, but only slightly by a couple of cabs. One wanted to charge me 1000 peso more for the ( known to me ) going rate between CDO and Iligan. The driver handed me his card and I replied thank you if I need you tomorrow I’ll give you a call. Obviously I didn’t call and chuckled to myself that the cabbie thought I did not know any better.

    There was one shop in Iligan that I wanted to get things from but from a previous visit I knew the prices were not marked. I had my Filipino friends go in while I waited outside the shop out of sight. After the items were rung up on the register my friends came out and got me. I looked very carefully at the shop keeper as I entered the shop to note the expression on their face. Instead of a frown, I got a very welcoming smile and when the shopkeeper realized it was a Kano buying the stuff, a few accessory items were thrown in at No Additional Charge ! It is places like this that make more of a profit from me than they ever would from Kano taxing me, through my repeat business, and believe me, I don’t have to live there to give them repeat business !

    Durian ? Regular readers will know my reaction to my first experience with Durian as it was published right here on ” LIP ” . Commentors suggested I try it in a different form such as Durian Candy, Durian Cake etc. On my last visit I did just that. One of my friends had Durian Cake in a resturant that I enjoy so I ordered one for myself, before I finished it I ordered a second one, need I say more LOL. I found some Durian Candy brought it home with me, I am glad I took the advice of others suggesting I try Durian in another form than I had on my first try. The Durian candy said on the wrapper ” Made in Davao ” .

    Yes, there have been times when I have had to bite my toung when some of my Filipino friends try to do things to assist me during my visits but more times than not I am pleasantly surprised at the result. The way most things are done there are ” Normal ” to them and any other way might seem foolish so in more situations than not, why should I try to change their ” Normal ” way of doing things, who then, might be the ” Fool ” ?

    Adobo ? I don’t know if I have tried it or not but after reading this article I am sure going to try to remember to try it. Many of the Filipino menu Items I can not always remember and many times I will order something I know, especially when in a restaurant for the first time. There have been times when I have been a guest and have little or no choice in what I may be served, the only thing I might refused is some kind of meat or fish that is totally uncooked. I have had more than a few pleasant surprises this way. If I had to tell a cook how to make something for me, I might as well just stay home and cook it myself.

    On tipping, I remember long before visiting for the first time reading that visiting foreigners that overtip can make it bad for foreigners that live there and although I try to keep that in mind there are times I am just so elated over something that personally I would not feel good if I tipped any less ( like the 100 peso hair cut tip as I wrote about here on ” LIP ” ). When I am with my Filipino friends and I am in doubt about an appropriate tip I will discertely ask them what they feel is appropriate, add a few peso to that, and feel I have tipped appropriately. Of course there is always the 10 to 15% standard for restaurants that I sometimes go by as well.

    As a visitor I have had a lot of fun, enjoyment and have learned a lot of things. I realize it is not the same as living there but that was never my intention in the first place. If i ever seriously consider that, I think I would try it for at least 6 months without parting with what I have in the USA, re-evauate, and take it from there.

    I enjoyed your article Mindanao Bob and I am not making these comments just to agree with you but rather taking these examples from my own first hand experiences, many of which you very well know LOL !

    • says

      Hello BobNY – Nice to hear from you again.

      Seeing the smiles of the Filipino people, as you did with that shopkeeper is always a nice thing for me to see… it lightens my day and makes me smile too.

      I think you will like adobo, I know that I do. I don’t recall ever hearing from anybody that they did not like adobo. I don’t eat it often, but I do enjoy it when I do. I had some adobo a few nights ago, and enjoyed it. Chicken and Pork adobo.

      Thanks for the comment, Bob, and I am happy to hear that you enjoyed the article!

    • John Adams says

      Hi Bob(NY)! Being raised as a child in New York (Long Island), we both know the routine of NYC taxi drivers to take “non New Yorkers” via the “tourist route” to their destination. I lived my first three years in Makati (came to the Philippines as a businessman/investor) and didn’t see much difference in the way taxi drivers hustled riders. Like I said in my reply, I have seen every trick played on a foreigner here played the same way in other countries I have lived in. Everyone must remember the God Father movie saying, “It isn’t personal it it strictly business.” The Filipinos are just trying to use the “edge” to get ahead.

      After 18 years living here, I don’t take any of these traits personal as the good far out weighs the bad. Actually, the rainy season upsets me more than anything else! And we all know that we have to leave the weather up to Mother Nature and God!

  21. Steve Davenport says

    A kilo of carrots? :) Wow, that’s enough to start a rabbit farm…

    I think that no matter who you are or where you live, you’ll have some complaints about the place you live and the people in it.

    I agree with Bob that some complaining is inevitable but when the occasional complaint becomes a never-ending b……h…session, then it’s time to move or adjust your attitude.

    Yes, the Philippines does have it’s draw backs such as the Kano Tax. Even my Filipino family complains about this. However, in my wife’s compound in San Mateo, Rizal the resident trike driver charges me “homeboy” prices. If we go to the the local market, my wife or other family member is there to negotiate the lower prices.

    There are plenty of fixed price establishments in the bigger cities so you don’t have to worry about the skin tax.

    I find that, skin tax notwithstanding, the filipino culture suites me well. The people are fairly tolerant of foreigners and don’t look at me like I’m a freak of nature. I also appreciate how filipinos cherish their kids and treat them kindly.


    • says

      Hi Steve – Ha ha… I live in a house full of people, 10 to be exact, so a kilo of carrots is something that is common for us to buy! 😉

      Like you say, even though it has drawbacks, the Philippines is a great place to live, and to enjoy life! You are also right that if you don’t want to deal with the skin tax, just to go SM or some other fixed price outlet where there is no haggling. 😆

  22. RandyL says

    Hi Bob. I guess I agree with most of what you collectively put together except one thing. There is a huge difference between making concessions with money or extra pay to workers and the actual tipping of workers for a job well done. Out of all the places I’ve been, tipping is considered a reward for going above and beyond normalcy (excepting Japan where tipping is not the normal and the USA where tipping is considered a “right” and not a “privilege.” For example, if a contractor quoted me a price for a job and then ran into unforeseen difficulties completing that job, and instead of sacrificing quality for speed of completion, I could justify paying more and above what I originally agreed upon. That is my prerogative. I’ve been on the receiving end all too often and know first hand that cost/time overruns can be costly to the contractor or worker. The hard part is recognizing the “above and beyond” as compared to what was expected in the first place. I guess everybody has their own take on this and I have learned over the years that you always take care of those who take care of you. And, as long as it doesn’t become the “expected”, then it is most times the rightful thing to do.

    • says

      You are absolutely right, Randy, tipping is your choice and your prerogative. However, what I mentioned was somebody tipping an amount that was 4 times the asking price, which goes a bit overboard, especially when that amount was basically given not because the job was well done, but because that is that the people who wanted skin tax were asking. Tipping is something I do often. Paying 4 times the price for this reason, though, is something that makes no sense to me. Tipping is not expected, and not normal here, so when I do tip people is it greatly appreciated, which is something that I enjoy.

  23. Greg says

    Well said Bob! Whenever I go to the Philippines I constantly hear others complaining about all sorts of things. Go home if you want to complain! Exactly the reason why I am leaving Australia (The lucky country?) people do nothing but complain here and its even not safe to drive on the roads now unless you want to be a victim of road rage! As for the “skin tax” there is an easy solution. Recently I purchased land at Toledo so I got my wife and brother in law to handle all the deals and paperwork. Like my wife said “dont you come showing your face or the price will double” Philippines is a great country, so relax and the people are very friendly. Enjoy it!!! PS – Love your articles Bob

    • says

      Thank you so much, Greg. I am happy to know that you enjoy my articles. From what you say, it sounds like many things in Australia are about the same as in the USA?k

  24. Wayne Chocklett says

    HI Bob. I enjoy your articles. I want to move to Cebu next year so I hope you don’t mind me joining in.

    Having worked in India for a few years I can tell you the “skin tax” is alive and well there too. (As it probably is in most places in the world). It never bothered me because I love to haggle. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never beat the price down to the local level. I asked a merchant about that once. He gave me a big smile and said: “You have more so you should pay more.”

    If it bothers you, like someone said, you should stick to the fixed price stores (where you will always pay more.. haha) or get your Filipino/Filipina friends to do the shopping for you (and make sure they don’t extract a “shoppers fee” — haha).

    Go with the flow .. don’t take it personally. Enjoy life. It’ll all be gone before you know it.


  25. sugar says

    Hi Bob – Hail adobo! He he it’s the best! just had it for dinner earlier and it’s yum! And actually it’s the only dish I know how to cook! he he. If an expat can cook adobo Pinoy style.. congratulations!.. Start cooking, expats! :)

  26. David S. says

    Well said Bob! It’s nice to see someone handle a delicate topic well. So much nicer than the usual rant about all of the horrible, bad mannered foreigners. Thanks for sharing.

  27. dans says


    very simple solution, there are 196 countries in the whole world, and a million if not hundreds of thousand of food varieties in the whole world. so why complain??, there’s a lot of choices to choose from..

  28. dans says


    a new yorker man who was transferred to ohio – would complain about the place, and we are just talking a different city and not a country.. hahahaha

  29. DanielY says

    Durian – you will either like it, or not. No in-betweens. It smells like cockroach shit, but the flavor as it is inside your mouth is different, and tasty. For those who does not like the smell, try Jackfruit. It is similar kind of pulp fruit, without the smell. Jackfruit is Langka or Nangka in local parlance.

    Adobo – is cooked differently depending on what part of the country you are in. Some are more dry, some have more watery sauce, some are more sour, some are saltier. You will like some, and dislike some.

    • Royce says

      For an article that starts off giving the impression that it’s not sure of it’s own point, this is actually a solidly insightful (and entertaining lol) one. It reminds me of a reply I made to an Australian expat friend many years back who seemed to be coming undone with his woes and complaints about the state of the things here: It is what it is. For whatever reasons one has for being here that are positive are the only true things to hold to, regardless of the cons. Being aware of the realities of living here is just being smart and informed, but if it bothers someone to the point of unhappiness and general depression then it is probably time to introspect and ask oneself if the reasons that drew them here still exist. Unhappiness knows no geographic location, as your article clearly illustrates. Neither is there accounting for all the simple things that DO make us smile anywhere we are.
      No like durian. Hence I no eat.
      Love adobo lol.

  30. Mimi_dearest says

    Dear MindanaoBob,

    I pay the ‘kano’ tax, but I don’t remotely look ‘kano’.

    I was born to Filipino parents; spent the first 18 years of my life in the Philippines; was sent to upstate NY for college; lived there until forced into early retirement 37 years later; then moved back to the Philippines last year in November to retire permanently.

    Anyway, to return to my first sentence, I pay the ‘kano’ tax because I speak Tagalog with a god-awful upstate NY accent.

    Filipinos will charge what the traffic will bear. If they know me or know my family, they will charge me a lower price because they will want my return business. If they do not have any reason to believe I’ll be back, they’ll charge me what they believe they can get away with.

    I don’t believe any malice is meant by the practice. Nor is the practice isolated to the Philippines. It’s not really any different from buying a used car or negotiating with self-employed handymen in Monroe County, NY. It certainly doesn’t compare to the practice of “redlining” neighborhoods to keep out minorities which is still done covertly in the US today.

    So maybe we should change the ‘kano’ or ‘skin’ tax to the ‘inglesera’ tax or ‘you look rich enough to afford it’ tax? By the way, the sales tax in Monroe County is 8%. It all comes out in the wash. Keeping sane is more important than sweating the small stuff.

    So thank you for articulating best how to remain healthy and happy on the planet — not only in the Philippines.


    • says

      Thank you for reading my article, Mimi, and for commenting. You are so right! When we first moved back to the Philippines, Feyma had trouble negotiating too, because of her American accent. Now that we have been back here a long time, she doesn’t sound American any longer, and can negotiate better! 😉

      Thanks again for your comment.

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